From Roger McMillan covering the Australian A Class nationals on Lake Macquarie
Although 14-time world catamaran champion Glenn Ashby missed the last A Class Worlds because of America’s Cup commitments, it was business as usual in his first race back.
As a fleet of more than 60 in this invitation race roared off the line at Wangi Wangi on Lake Macquarie, Ashby, the Emirates Team New Zealand wing trimmer, and America’s Cup winning skipper, Jimmy Spithill, were seen lifting above the rest at the pin end of the line.
Although Spithill showed superior upwind speed, it is downwind that most catamaran races are won, and it is downwind that Ashby is the undisputed king. Ashby increased his lead on every leg to win by more than 50 metres from Darren Bundock, with whom he won an Olympic silver medal at Beijing.
In Ashby’s absence, the last World Championship was won by Australian Steve Brewin. It looked as though it would be a race in four, with Brewin pushing Ashby, Bundock and Spithill on the first three legs. But a spectacular capsize just past the top mark saw Brewin break his mast and his day was over.
Spithill also went for a swim, costing him a top three finish but showing he will be very competitive in the coming week. Ashby said that Spithill was “70 to 90 metres quicker” going uphill, but that because he (Ashby) was prepared to stand on the back in the first downwind leg he was “knots faster than the guys sitting in the boat”.
Spithill agreed with Ashby’s comments, saying: “I’m OK upwind but Glenn is out on the trapeze while I’m in the boat just trying to keep it upright.”
Although it is already obvious that Ashby will be hard to beat, as always in an A Class, it is too early to make predictions.
The Nationals start on Tuesday with two races and continue until Saturday.