Helena Darvelid / SailRocket

Groupama and Hydros Lombard Odier through

Low-riders come into their own as full fleet racing at the International C-Class Catamaran Championship comes to a close

Wednesday September 25th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Full fleet racing is now over and after a drizzly grey day on Falmouth Bay the finalists have been decided. These two boats will go through to the match racing the winner of which, over the final three days, will claim the 2013 International C-Class Catamaran Championship in a best of seven competition.

Franck Cammas’ Groupama C continues to be the class act of the Little America’s Cup adding two more bullets in today's first two races, and was so far ahead in the second that she was lapping boats (the courses are three laps of a windward-leeward with mile long legs). However the autumnal seven knot winds of the first two races, dropped to four in the final race and it was then that, finally, the ‘lowriders’, the non-foilers, came into their own. Nonetheless in this the impeccable Cammas still came home third (his second discard) to finish the fleet racing with a 12 point lead on net points.

The ultra-sophisticated French C-Class catamaran will now line up over the next three days with F18 World Champions, Billy Besson and Jérémie Lagarrigue, of the Swiss Hydros Lombard Odier team.

The Swiss crews came acropper today when they attempted a ‘nice try, no marks’ manoeuvre, putting into practice a feature of their daggerboards that allows them to be inverted for races in non-foiling ultra-light conditions. Inverted, the draggy lifting part of the foils are above deck leaving just a Nacra 17 C-shaped foil in the water. This configuration represents substantially less drag, or so the theory goes.

The Swiss team was prompted into this when in the first race they were overtaken by Cogito, a low rider. So after they then asked the race committee for time to perform this operation. Unfortunately they ran into unexpected difficulties and ran out of time.

“The forecast suggested the wind would get lighter and lighter and our boat was already in the final,” explain Lagarrigue, as to why they made this call. They had previously attempted this operation on dry land, but it didn’t go as smoothly on the water. In particular they had to fit a special filet into the bottom of the daggerboard case to absorb the 900kg side loads from the boards (at 18 knots). This didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, they were late for the start of race two and then the filet on one side broke. To add insult to injury the wind did not decrease, but built in that race, which they then chose to abandon. 

Hydros team mate Mischa Heemskerk and Bastiaan Tentij also changed to this configuration with equally little success and they too reverted to their foiling configuration. “Because if we had the opportunity to fly, then it would be a big advantage,” explained Lagarrigue. In the last race they finished fourth despite getting a bad start as Lagarrigue was still fixing the board back over the course of the first lap.

Had it not been for their capsize on day one, then it would be the Hydros team’s Dutch crew of Mischa Heemskerk and Bastiaan Tentij that would be in the finals. They had an excellent day yesterday and continued this with a third in today’s first race, before the foil inversion cock-up and went on to finish eight in the last race when the wind did in fact drop, as they had forecast.

“We feel like we are improving every time with the boat,” said Heemskerk, who also had issues carrying out the board inversion process on the water. “It was a lot easier on dry land than on the water...” The problem was that it was even harder to get the board back in the right way up for race three, with the boards having to be inserted from underneath requiring Heemskerk to go swimming or “half drowning” as he put it. “It was a great idea. It was just a bad decision to do that. We should have been smarter today with what we did. We should have never taken the risk in hindsight.”

The star act today was Team Canada’s Billy Gooderham and Christian Pavey on Canaan. After blowing up their boom box on Monday, they have been in the repair shop ever since. However today they got back on the water just in time for the third race...which they won!

“The Clysar was still hot from shrinking it,” quipped Canaan’s helmsman Billy Gooderham, who previously mounted a 49er campaign for London 2012 and after that campaigned an International 14 with his present crew, Christian Pavey. “Most of the credit has to go to the boys in the tent who were working all night for the last two days to get the wing back in one piece. The boom box was in about eight pieces, there was about three ribs broken along with most of the web in the leading edge of element three... so the last 36 hours was taking everything out and gluing it all back in...”

They worked through the night for two nights on the trot, finishing at 0500 on Monday and at midnight last night, starting again at 0500 this morning... “We got her out on the water and said ‘keep it simple’," continued Gooderham. "This is the first race I have won in a while – it felt pretty good.”

Thankfully the conditions in today’s last race suited Canaan, Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke’s 2010 LAC winner. “It started in about 6-7 knots and died off to 4/5. It got pretty light which is what this boat is designed for,” said Gooderham.

Canaan overhauled Groupama C on the last beat, when with both boats heading out to the left, Cammas chose to tack back, leaving Canaan to bang the left side. “When we tacked back, we crossed Franck by 5-10 boatlength,” said Gooderham.

The non-foilers came into their own on the second beat when the wind had dropped off so that the foilers could no longer foil. It was perhaps for this reason that the venerable (and non-foiling) Cogito had a great, great day, posting a 2-2-2 scoreline, only outshone by Groupama C.

“It is quite a good boat for these conditions although it was tough sailing, really wavy, and spotty breeze,” said helmsman Lars Guck. “The first two races we had good starts and were right in there. In the last race we didn’t have quite as good a start and my tiller extension accidently hit the leeward mark. The last run we had nothing to lose so we buried it in the corner and came out okay – it was one of those days. The last beat fell apart for everyone. Downwind we went inshore. We were happy with today.”

Guck, who runs a catamaran building company in Bristol, Rhode Island, said that the transition where the low-riders come into their own proved to be around 6-7 knots today. Crewman Max Kramers spent most of the day trapezing to leeward and there were occasions when Guck slid down there too to do 'the wild thing'. “It is a little bit risky with you both being down there, particularly with the chop – you don’t want to roll it over.”

Invictus Challenge was back on the water today with son of Brian, Tom Phipps, and Cedric Bader, a young Frenchman who works for Airbus (like the rest of the team) and is also, usefully, the current Hobie 16 European champion. Unfortunately the crew didn’t finish within the time limit in today’s first race and in the second faced a problem with the tiller bar snagging the trampoline. Howeever they got their first points on the board with a fifth in today's final race.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s match, Jeremie Lagarrigue felt that tomorrow’s forecast might suit them better. When the wind is more than 10 knots the Swiss can double trapeze downwind, giving them the advantage. But they are aware that generally they have a  speed deficit compared to Groupama C. They feel that this is due to the French boat's supreme aero-package - her canting rig and her stiff, flat 3Di trampoline that not only acts as an endplate to the wing, but also if correctly positioned can provide substantial righting moment.

“It is not the foils otherwise we would be slower downwind,” said Lagarrigue. However they intend to overcome one of their deficits and overnight they will be fixing a canting mechanism to their wing. “We have worked a lot to be able to close the gap against them,” said Lagarrigue. “The boat was built to take the loads.”

So doing an Oracle Team USA? “We are going to try, but I don’t know if we are as good as they are...”

And then there is the match racing – when was the last time that they tried that? “In the three last races at the F18 Worlds, we were far ahead of the other ones and we had a match race, but it was not the same as a pure match race," continued Lagarrigue. "Tomorrow we will have 10-12 knots and a match race between two foiling boats. We are faster than them in the manoeuvres and for match racing that is good. It is like a dream, to be in the final against Groupama, because it is one of the most toughest teams you can beat. They beat TNZ [in the VOR] and they are almost winning the Cup... I know Franck and he is very good.” Lagarrigue crewed for Cammas when they finished second in the F18 Worlds a few years ago.

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