Posted 29 March 2012 - 12:50 PM
Here's the top ten finishers at the Hall Spars Admirals Cup and their platform-mast-sail choices. "NG" indicates a new generation mast or sail (i.e. the newer masts that have more fore/aft deflection and are stiffer sideways and the fuller, more powerful sails designed to fit those masts):
1. Bruce Mahoney DNA, NG Fiberfoam, NG Glaser (Den Ben)
2. Bob Hodges DNA, NG Hall, NG Glaser (Den Ben)
3. Ian Lindahl Lindahl LR2, Fiberfoam, 2010 North
4. Ben Hall Barracuda V3 (very similar to DNA), NG Hall, NG Landenberger/Glaser (Ben used two sails in this event which was allowed)
5. Woody Cope Rogers "O", NG Hall, NG Glaser (Den Ben)
6. Jeff Linton Bim XJ (modified with Hall/Cogan curved daggerboards), NG Fiberfoam, NG Glaser (Den Ben)
7. Bob Webbon Marstrom Mk V, NG Hall, NG Landenberger
8. Brett Moss Flyer II (modified with Marstrom curved daggerboards), Fiberfoam, 2010 Landenberger
9. Jonathan Farrar A2 (modified with Hall/Cogan curved daggerboards), Hall, Glaser (Lars1)
10. Tracy Oliver Barracuda V1, NG Hall, NG Glaser (Den Ben)
Bruce Mahoney (in addition to his skills as an excellent sailor) probably had the best upwind speed of any sailor at the regatta. This verifies the upwind performance that Ben Moon had with an identical rig at the 2011 WC where Ben rounded the first weather mark in the top ten in nearly every race. As second place finisher at this event, I am trying to obviously match that performance with a different mast that is very similar in static bend testing. At the last event we sailed (the Ronstan Midwinters), I sailed with more spreader rake and seemed more competitive to Bruce's upwind speed. For this event I sailed the first two days with less spreader rake (5 mm less). I changed back on the last day and felt the upwind performance for me was better in the last two races. I also need to sort out the right amount of diamond tension for the spreader rake setting. The new generation sails with more luff curve and/or seam shaping seem more critical in getting this combination right. I'm not sure there is any advantage over a NG rig/sail upwind versus a recent "conventional" rig (example Fiberfoam Medium with Lars1 or 2010 generation Landenberger) if you get the spreader/diamond setup optimized for the mast and sail.
Offwind, I think the new generation rigs and sails had a slight advantage in the 6-13 knot races (Races 1, 2, 3, 7, and 8). In races 4, 5, and 6 all sailed in 14-18 knots with very short and steep chop, I'm not sure the extra power available downwind was any advantage. Ian Lindahl, Brett Moss, and Jonathan Farrar showed good speed with conventional masts and sails (especially Brett and Jonathan who were sailing modified older designs). It will be interesting to see if these sailors upgrade their rigs as the season progresses (I know Farrar is). The North sail Lindahl used is a bit of an unknown for me. It seems to perform very well for Ian.
Platform wise, I think the DNA is showing itself to be a very balanced design that performs well in all conditions. Bob Webbon (who sailed his Marstrom in this event but has a new DNA platform waiting to get on the water in Houston) was delighted with the boat's light air performance against the Marstrom which is a good benchmark performer in light air. I was not surprised that it did OK in light air as it's bottom profile is very similar to the Barracuda sailed by Ben Hall who got great results in light air races last year (the current North American champion). The Lindahl LR2 looks to be a very competitive design (and it seems to follow the design trend of the DNA and Barracuda)and it will be very interesting to see how its performance could change as Ian sorts out his rig and sail choices. Back to Bob Webbon, he felt like he had to work harder upwind in the windier races with larger chop on the Marstrom Mk V but in the last race on Saturday (Race 6) that had the most wind and worst chop condition, he was blazing on the final downwind passing me and taking a big chunk out of Bruce Mahoney's lead (Ben Hall was also pretty fast on that downwind leg). Jeff Linton had a strong event and showed excellent speed on the Bim XJ modified with Hall/Cogan curved boards. He struggled in the breezier races (races 4, 5, and 6) but he felt he still had to sort out his rig and sail tuning for those conditions. It will be interesting to see how he progresses with the boat at the next event in Houston which (for the time of year) is expected to have some breeze. Jeff is a former ROLEX Yachtsman of the Year and his resume includes an Etchells 22 World Championship and a Lightning World Championship. If anyone can optimize a boat, it's Jeff. There is also the OH Rodgers "O". Woody Cope sailed a very consistent series getting all top ten finishes. The boat is very similar to the DNA in concept with subtle differences. I would expect OH to do a tweak of the volume distribution and profile sections on this design before the WC in October.
Brett Moss and Jonathan Farrar also seem to have some cards to play. I'm not sure what Brett's plans are with his Flyer II as he is still sailing with a conventional rig and getting decent results with it. It will be interesting to watch his rig choices if he keeps the platform and I am sure he is considering his options for further modifications to the boat (perhaps similar to what has been done with the aft sections of some Flyer I's). Jonathan Farrar also has the option to graft the new aft sections on his A2 that have been developed for the A3 to upgrade it to the A4. The A4 looks very competitive as proven recently by Pete Melvin dominating the New Zealand A-Class Championship on his A4. Lars Guck is currently finishing two new A4's in Rhode Island and Jim Godbey is currently converting his 2011 A3 to an A4.
Finally there were a couple of other platforms and rigs that also seemed to do well in specific races. Bob Curry had a 4 and 6 on the last day with his recently upgraded EVOHT (addition of Hall/Cogan curved blades). Bob was changing sails every day and seemed to hit the right combination on the last day with a 2 year old Skip Elliot sail that is very similar to a 2010 Landenberger. Ron Roth literally finished his ASG3 to ASG4 upgrade a week before the event (same changes that Ben Moon and I to our ASG3's last year) and told me he had the best speed and performance ever with the boat. Regarding the ASG4, I believe I would have been competitive with the one I still own at this event as it has already proven itself against the Barracuda V3 and LR2 in racing last year with a conventional rig (Fiberfoam Medium and Glaser Lars1).
To summarize, I believe there are still a lot of choices for US A-Class sailors including economical choices on recent and older boats that have the potential to be upgraded with rig and sail updates. Given that the WC will probably have a diverse range of conditions that is expected to be mostly in the light to medium wind range, that should keep the door open for a diverse range of equipment to be competitive at that event. That is good for the class and for sailors who want to get into the class.
Next up is the US Nationals next month in Houston. Stay tuned.