The Forster Wild Cat Regatta is the first major catamaran regatta of the new sailing season in NSW. It is mixed regatta, and in its past glorious years has attracted upwards of 150 catamarans of various classes.
The A Class Catamaran is usually well represented, but this year numbers down to 13 boats, with the weather literally putting a big dampener on proceedings. The weatherman/girl unfortunately got it right with rain, rain,and rain, as well as temperatures ranging between 13 to 16 degrees celsius. Those of us fresh from the Aarhus World A Class Championships (held in August) thought that we had left those cold temperatures well and truely behind. Whilst 13 degrees celsius may be more the norm in late summer at latitude 57 degrees North, it ain’t normal at 32 degrees South in mid Spring. Two weeks before, the Forster area had a run of days in the low 30s.
The Wallis Lakes, just south of Forster normally offer a superb venue for off the beach catamarans. Camping is on site within the boundaries of the Booti National Park, in amongst the paperback trees, and the occassional Palm Tree. Boats rest on the white sandy beaches of the lake forshore. Yes usually idealic. This time,the campers, some of whom had arrived two or three days prior to the regatta, had to establish their sites on the high ground, as the low land hollows were clearly delineated by pools of rainwater.
The A class division proved to be a very closely contested contest between the first three boats, with Steve Brewin (sailing a DNA, 9.0 points) just prevailing over Chris Cairns (Tool with straight boards, 11.0 points) ,with Andrew Williams third (DNA 12 points).
Racing commenced noon on the Saturday with A class being the last fleet in the starting sequence. By the time it was our sequence the wind had swung around to the left, and the fleet started on port tack, meaning a long port tack leg to near the starboard layline and short hinch to the top rounding mark. The first downwing leg started in wild thing mode, but as the wind increased, it morphed into more conservative safety mode. After another windward leg, the wind was up to about 30 knots, which meant downwind survival technique in the race to the finish. The race was won by Andrew Williams, Brewin 2nd , and Steve Brayshaw 3rd.
There was approximately a one hour break before the start of the second race. During that time of inactivity, the damp and cold had creeped into our bones. Dry suits would have been very nice.
Race 2 proved an interesting one. We started once again on port tack on a compass bearing which meant a reaching start, but oscillating wind direction meant swaps to a headwind and and then a run to the first mark.
Chris Cairns proved to be the best assessor of the shifts and rounded the first mark in position uno numero. The wind had now settled into a steady 5 to 7 knot south westery breeze, and Chris maintained his lead to the finish, ahead of Andrew Williams. After the finish, the wind died, and competitors headed ( very slowly) back to the beach to the comfort of some warm clothing.
Day 2 dawned with another cold wind, after a night of torrential rain. The spirit in the camp was one of desire to remain in a warm sleeping bag ratherthan face the elements.
The race committee had scheduled a day of 4 races, starting at the unusually early hour of 9:00am (8:00am biological time after the switch to daylight saving time a mere 6 hours before hand). Racing actually commenced 1 1/2 hours late. Julian Jenkins was the first to
benefit by a shift to the left on the first leg, and rounded the top mark in the lead, ahead of Mark Johnson. Steve Brewin in characteristic style flew downwind to snatch the lead by the bottom mark. This order was maintained for the remainder of the race with Mark Johnson just holding off Chris Carins for third. Soon after a heavy downpour returned, the winds strenthened, and racing was abandoned for the day.
The inclement weather lead to many abandoning the regatta.
Only 9 A Cass Cats remained for the final day of racing. The winds were of moderate strength from the south west, somewhat shifty, which made for interesting racing, and the leading boats were typically involved in close confrontation.