Catamaran master Glenn Ashby is bracing to be tested by his pupils as a classy fleet including some America's Cup heavyweights line up for the A-Class world championships in Auckland over the next 10 days.
The event starts with the New Zealand nationals tomorrow at Takapuna Beach with the 79-strong fleet from 12 nations using that as a warm-up for the actual worlds that commence next Tuesday.
Ashby is a seven-time world champion in this single-handed 18-foot class and it was that record that saw him poached by Team New Zealand for the last America's Cup campaign once multihulls were the chosen craft where he had the key role of wing-trimmer.
Australian Ashby was instrumental in upskilling the Kiwi syndicate on the intricacies of catamarans.
That even included tuning youngsters Peter Burling and Blair Tuke for the smaller AC45s where they won the Youth America's Cup.
Burling and national champion Tuke are contesting the worlds, as is Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies and Artemis Racing helmsman Nathan Outteridge (Australia).
Other high profile entries include Team New Zealand's round the world skipper Chris Nicholson, defending champion Mischa Heemskerk (Netherlands) and American Pete Melvin, the man responsible for shaping the new America's Cup class and a designer who had major input into Aotearoa, Team New Zealand's giant AC72.
Dean Barker had hoped to sail but the looming start of the Extreme 40 series in Singapore on February 20 means he has to concentrate on Team New Zealand's preparations for that.
"It will be quite a hot fleet I think. Whoever wins is going to have to sail a pretty tidy regatta. The top 20 will be tightly contested," predicts Ashby.
World 49er champs Burling and Tuke are in top form, having just blitzed the Sail Auckland regatta on top of their recent signings with Team New Zealand.
Ashby is looking forward to tangling with them.
"I'd be very happy for them to give me a good dust up to be honest, because having taken those guys on board is fantastic. They're young and enthusiastic and obviously very talented," Ashby said, before adding some hope for the older brigade.
"Youth and enthusiasm is one thing but experience and a little bit of age under your belt doesn't go astray sometimes either.
"If we can blend the two together, we'll end up with a pretty solid team going forward."
Ashby showed he hasn't lost any of his magic touch by claiming his 10th Australian A-Class title last month
"I hadn't done a lot of sailing in the A-Class before that because of the America's Cup but it was certainly nice to get back on it and stretch the legs a little bit."
He likes the freedom of solo sailing: "It's a simple, pure type of sailing where it's just you and the boat and you're connected to it with your feet and your arms - it's just an extension of your body really.
"It's nice to have a change of scenery and a change of pace."
Ashby's last world championship was his successful campaign in Italy in 2010 and he's eager to pick up where he left off.
He described Takapuna as "absolutely perfect" for A-Class sailing.
"You get a variety of conditions. You just don't know what you are going to get. There's a bit of pressure on because you only measure in one set of equipment for the whole week, so you have to set up for the whole range of conditions."
- © Fairfax NZ News