The forecast for the breeze on Sunday for the second West Harbour Winter Series race was perfect. By that I mean it happened just as forecast because right on cue the wind dropped to nothing leaving us drifting to the line. What was less than a few minute arrears on the leaders ended up eight and without that lost time we might have been second placed thanks to an improving handicap. On ORCi we were less than two minutes away from the third placed Flying Tiger and while the ORCi fleet is tiny the corrected time differences are a good gauge of how we are improving.

We did get to fly the big yellow mast head spinnaker twice and while still slow on the sets are getting the take downs closer to the mark. Notable we made up time on the beam reach which was a bit too tight for the symmetric spinnaker.

In the light conditions it might be possible to drop the sock into the hatch leaving the clews attached to the sheets ready for the next hoist so there is a thought to play with.

In the light airs the sail settings are still a compromise as we need forestay sag to get flow near the luff of the genoa but need the backstay on tight to bend the mast and free the leech of the main. The next project will be to see how we can sit the boom on the vang strut so we can sag the forestay.

It is a late report but only because I have been very busy working for a client and for Elaine. I worked to 4 am Friday morning for a deadline and today painted the lounge room. I hope both the paying client and the non paying one are happy. Now for the report on the sailing on Wednesday. We had another lovely Autumn day on the harbour and a visit from my brother from Perth to augment the crew. The extra crew was desirable as the forecast was on the margin between No 1 genoa and No 3 jib. We opted for the No 1 genoa but left the lazy jacks up in case we needed to reef the main in a hurry. At the start we were as leeward of the fleet as we could be but found Joli even further to leeward aiming to be the first to the pin. Unfortunately for both of us there was a very large header just before the start which found us both pinching to make the mark. We would have cleared but Joli was so low they were stuck head to wind on the pin and we had to hold back for what seemed like an age for them to round the mark and restart. By the time we were able to clear the bow of Joli the fleet was well away. A broad reach is our best angle and we quickly caught all but Fidelis. As the wind died Hitchhike pulled through to leeward and we rounded the mark in third place. Now this is where things took a turn for the worse as we tacked right on the mark back into the starboard running fleet coming up to the mark. We could not go above the windward boat if it headed up but if it headed up we could go to leeward through the gap with Krakatoa to leeward. Unfortunately I misunderstood the intention of the windward right of way boat which left no choice but to shoot the gap and hope for the best. Unfortunately Krakatoa had boats to leeward and could not give us more room so we had a collision. Don on Krakatoa was most gracious when we went over post race to apologize.  It was our first at fault collision in all the years we have raced at RANSA and I have no excuse. It took time to find a clear area to do the mandatory 720 degree turns and we set off after Amanti and Allegro who had passed us in our tribulations. The two turns allowed Joli to catch up quickly and she caught us on Port and Starboard which required an unplanned tack with the crew still on the rail. The tack away from Joli took us too close to Steel Point and we suffered in the wind shadow. That was the last of the incidents for the day and we made a cautious way home. Ignoring Fidelis which is a rocket ship in the reaching conditions we finished three minutes behind Hitchhike and Amante, two behind Joli and one behind Allegro. After some recalculations we finished 12 out of 16 on handicap and would have needed three minutes to finish in third place. The two incidents were disappointing as we sailed well on the reach when the wind was fresh and did the return windward work better than we sailed last year. I saw some VMG to windward up at the 6 knot mark for the first time and the tighter back stay, flatter mainsail and tighter forestay seem to be working in the heavier winds. Top wind speed for the day was 22 knots but there was plenty of light air as well. Top boat speed was 10.4 knots. On the bright side we get a bit more handicap next week and on the dim side I have a repair to do to the sugar scoop stern at the deck level. It is not structural and for now is taped up to keep the moisture out of the timber.

Today was almost a repeat of last Wednesday only a little lighter but just as sunny and pleasant on the water.

We started towards the pin this week with just Trim below us and were able to climb above her for the first part of the beat. Once we were headed the backwind from Trim started to affect our performance so we tacked to port to cover the fleet. Looking back Trim had now fallen into our dirty air and we had a clear lane ahead.

Joli tacked early to port and when they came back on starboard we had to take their transom. After a few minutes they tacked to come with us to the south side of the harbour. The line that Joli took carried them above the island while we had to tack away from a lift. Then on the next shift to the right Joli was inside the whole fleet and steaming away. We also lifted but were crossing tacks with the Flying Tiger and just rounded the top mark inside Hitchhike.

On the poled out square run back to Steel point we held our position and made up a little ground on Joli but they managed the reach into Rose Bay particularly well while we had interference from the Div 1S fleet which took the wind out of our sails literally and figuratively. The Flying Tiger passed us just at the Point Piper mark. From then we were in her dirty air and so lost a little ground on the beat around the Island.

A light patch on the way home did not help our position and we could see Allegro in breeze behind making up ground. Hanni slipped past on the long square run so that we finished fourth fastest on the day.

Some very good tacking angles against a small incoming tide.

Some very good tacking angles against a small incoming tide.

The good points were that we played the backstay well but the wind was a little too light and we needed the higher tension for very short periods. We started well and but for the forced tack away from the Shark Island on the first work seemed to pick the breeze well. The tack away from the lift can be seen on the tracks below. We ran well in the slightly fresher breeze at the top of the course but not so well in the dying breeze approaching the finish.

This was the first time we have beaten Allegro and Amante and that put a smile on the faces of the crew.
Joli sailed very well and used their strong windward performance to establish a good lead over the fleet. On ORCi they would have given us a beating however on ORCi the Flying Tiger has to give us time and I estimate we would have beaten them be a minute. We were around 10 minutes faster than the we would have been in the old Passion judging from the performance of our competitors from two years age.

Now all this better performance did not translate into handicap results where we finished with the same 10 points as last week. Thank to the tiny increase in handicap from last week we managed to take 10 place by one second from Izzi.
Whatever the handicap result it is great for the crew to be somewhere near the front of the fleet and finishing 25 minutes earlier than last year.

Passion X big yellow spinnaker in the first of the West Harbour Winter Series for 2018

Passion X big yellow spinnaker in the first of the West Harbour Winter Series for 2018

After an hour delay we started the first race of the West Harbour Winter Series in a very light breeze. It was much sooner than expected and while light was enough to get around the shortened course. We were mid fleet in the off the stick results and mid fleet on the very close handicap results where a minute would have made a big difference. While we were last on ORCi we were only five minutes out of first place and close enough to believe that with a bit of slicker crew work we might be up into the prizes.
It was good to match the Sydney 38 for the first beat but we were a bit slow with the spinnaker which let them get away.
Most importantly we had a very pleasant afternoon and enjoyed the competition with the strong West Harbour fleet.

A late arrival of a couple of nice photos taken by GFS volunteers on the Committee boat was another above expectation surprise. Thank you Phil Hare.

Passion X and Tana on the long run down the Hunters Hill shore. Phil Hare photo.

Passion X and Tana on the long run down the Hunters Hill shore. Phil Hare photo.

After a season chasing the super yachts in Division 1s it was great to be back in Division 1 among yachts of similar capability. In a fleet of 17 yachts we were able to start 5 minutes later and finish 20 minutes earlier than we would have in Division 1s. On the day we made a good start at the boat end of a very well set line and mixed it with the fleet to windward in a way we could never do in Div 1s. A third of the way up the beat Izzi showed form and tacked just below our line. At the same time Amanti decided to tack right in front of us giving us a very big dose or disturbed air. Stuck between Izzi and Amanti it took some time to get clear air and wind back up to boat speed.
Crosshaven picked the wind shifts perfectly and made a good break on the fleet and Allegro powered away in the fresher patches of breeze.
We played the back stay as best we could flattening the main in the gusts and easing the back stay in the lulls and arrived at the windward mark in the top half of the fleet. Trim and Hanni were close behind and Hanni made a good charge up to take our wind. Once we had a bit of separation and had clear air we drew slowly away from Hanni and made up a little ground on Amanti, Allegro and Crosshaven. Foreign Affairs was being very foreign and cleared out from the fleet while the very lightly handicapped First 40, Leeward was enjoying the close racing among the lead group.
We never quite made up for the dumping Amanti gave us and finished a minute behind her and Allegro but it was a much more enjoyable race for all the crew .
The handicap place down at 12th out of 17 might look better as 10th out of 15 if the two casuals are really casuals but it was a bit of a disappointment being beaten by both the top and the bottom of the fastest times yachts. We needed to be three minutes faster to make it to a podium position and that was never going to be.

A happy crew back in Division 1 and mixing it with the fleet.

A happy crew back in Division 1 and mixing it with the fleet.

This is as close as we got to Allegro on the reach home

This is as close as we got to Allegro on the reach home

A wider shot of the fleet in front on the way home

A wider shot of the fleet in front on the way home

Most of the tacking angles were good but Crosshaven picked the shifts better.

Most of the tacking angles were good but Crosshaven picked the shifts better.

We did have a couple of very good races at the Sail Port Stephens regatta and considering it is our only spinnaker regatta for the year we should be happy with the result.

The biggest winner of the regatta had to be our code zero sail and while it cost a lot in the rating department most of the time we are sailing Performance Handicapping Systems and just want to be closer to the front of the fleet. Every time we flew the code zero it we had a good result and the one time we flew the asymmetric spinnaker in lieu we had our worst result. To be fair to the spinnaker it was the first time we had flown it and we were on the wrong side of the course for the freshening wind. Still the code zero would have let us fight for clear air and point higher towards the freshening breeze. In one race we thought the asymmetric might have been better than the code zero we flew but judging by later experience that may not have worked for us.

Our weakness in the regatta was still the heavy air working to windward but I felt we made some progress. Even with a years experience we are still learning and over the post race discussions with fellow skippers and crew we picked up some more advice to try. I have already tightened the cap shrouds and put a little pre-bend into the mast. That has improved the sail shape off the mast and even when short handed on the way home we managed to handle 20 knots with the full main and No 3 jib. While I did put in a reef for comfort the full crew would have been pressing for speed records and may have done better than the 13 knots recorded as the maximum hull speed. I am not sure how accurate that is but we did see an 13.7 max speed during the regatta in lighter conditions. On both occasions we saw 10 knot briefly on the live instruments and I think a jump to 13 is probably a very short spurt down a wave.

The big yellow mast head spinnaker was certainly a winner in the light running conditions but it is a bit heavy for the dead drifts when the foot tends to droop into the water. The spinnaker snuffers worked well except when I packed the small runner incorrectly. We took that one down and put up the big mast head runner which was packed correctly and as it turned out was the correct one for the conditions. I was more comfortable using the old No 1 genoa and the full mainsail for the whole regatta even when we saw 20 knots and after seeing a mast bending demonstration on one of the competitors I now know we have been too conservative in the back stay tension area.

On the last day of racing we had a second on handicap in the Performance Cruising division 1 and an eleventh fastest overall. We started well and were fourth to the windward mark and for the first time in the regatta were matching Amanti to windward. Their crew work was too slick downwind and we were becalmed on the way home when the second last placed yacht in the fleet sailed around the hole and went on to fourth fastest. It was rewarding to be in front of so many larger yachts in that race.

After the racing on the second last day we had a violent hail storm that rained down mini golf balls denting cars in the parking lots and stripping leaves off trees. Accompanying this was a powerful gust that freed the awning from the lifelines and left the deck exposed. At first I thought we had escaped any damage but later noticed two stanchions had been bent in. A small price to pay for a most enjoyable week.

On the way home we sailed away from some of our competitors as the beam reach suited Passion X well. We just need more of these conditions. For the Newcastle to Port Stephens race we did have tight reaching conditions for the first half of the race and with the code zero flying we were making a strong showing. Once the breeze headed the fleet we had to drop the Code Zero and go into tight beating mode where the heavier boats slowly overtook us.

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots

Well that is cutting it fine because the updated ORCi Club rating for Passion X with the jib set flying just came through on the email. It is pretty well as expected as I ran a few trials before committing to the purchase. I have the speed targets from the trial ratings and they are so close to the official ones that I will save the paper and ink and use the trial ones as a sail selection guide. In some very limited wind angles the code zero is a potent beast adding half a knot over that very narrow range. The speed targets show very little angles and wind speeds where the larger asymmetric spinnaker would be more useful and then only if on the pole and not tacked to the centreline.
So I have voluntarily added sail area so that our terrible ratings under ORCi Club and IRC are even more terrible. If the wind is fresh we will be carrying a penalty for sail area we cannot use so we have to hope for very specialist conditions where the breeze is light and just in front of the beam.
The new ORCi rating is 1.0987 up which I thing is a fair increase. We could not however sail to the old rating and in a breeze will find the extra .006 a difficult addition.
As expected the IRC rating was extreme due to the code zero being treated as a head sail. The rating has gone from 1.111 to 1.127, an increase of 0.016 or almost three times the penalty under ORCi.

It will be interesting to see how we fare against these ratings over the coming season but our interest is just in going as fast as we can in whatever conditions we meet so it should be fun.

 

Running the code zero out to windward. We can do this because it rates as a headsail with a massive penalty rating.

Running the code zero out to windward. We can do this because it rates as a headsail with a massive penalty rating.

It is good to have a deadline to motivate one to complete a few tasks. The upcoming trip to Port Stephens was the perfect motivator to get a few tasks ticked off the list. The list includes topcoating the primed areas of the V beth, more filling and fairing of the galley drawer surrounds, reinforcing on the chart table support and on the shower seat in the head.

The reinforcing timber was pre painted in the workshop and needed only to be glued into place and have a final coat of epoxy paint to hide the glue join. In the head I did some more filling and fairing of the vanity unit face and Elaine made up a new curtain for the opening. After 12 months of pretty robust sailing nothing has fallen out of the cabinet so I feel a hard door is not needed.Under the edges of the floor I fixed hatch gasket tape to take away the wood on wood sound and a small amount of tape goes a long way.

There were a few tiny tasks to complete like lubricating the lip seal on the shaft and topping up the coolant that both cools the engine and heats the hot water. In the circuit I have a tiny drip which over the course or a year adds up to half a glass of coolant. That is about the same as on our Jeanneau SO 37 and in eleven years never found the source of that drip. At least on Passion X I do know the drip comes from the inlet and outlet of the hot water system and will perhaps one day attempt to make a better seal. In the meantime I topped up the system ready for a long motor to Newcastle on Saturday.

Our jack lines were attached ready for our Category 4 race from Newcastle to Port Stephens and for good measure the hatch and washboard were polished. As I worked away the fridge was on cooling a beer for later in the day and as I sat looking at the interior of the yacht I felt contented with the appearance. I did think hard about the finish of the interior and in particular the cabin roof and items that would be up at the eye level. The laminated room beams were made wider at 27 mm so that I could join the cross sheets on the line of the beams. While that meant trimming each sheet to a precise width the result was no visible joins in the sheet inside and no glue joins to open up under load.

In the V berth I used four layers of 6 mm ply on the ceiling to achieve a clean and strong structure where other wise there would have been timber framing. The frame between the  galley and saloon was kept as small as practical to open up the saloon and the finish result is bright and fresh. Under the deck where reinforcing ply was needed for butt joins or hardware backing I bevelled the edges of the timber with a 45 degree angle and that has made the backing  pieces blend in well with the base layers.

Well satisfied with my review of the finish I took a few photos for the record. I am still working on a saloon table for the future. The plywood table top is cut out from 9 mm ply and a box structure has been commenced to support it however the position of the support over the centre line means that one side of the box has to be tapered to follow the line of the berth. That needed a site measure and the marked up box is sitting in the garage waiting for a future deadline. I am hoping to have the table support made from a set of tightly matched oblique boxes that will be securely bolted through the king plank to take heavy loads when the table is raised in the table position or lowered into the convertible bunk position. If it proves strong enough I might add a teak hand rail along the walkway edge for some additional support in a seaway. Anyway that is the idea and time will tell if it works as planned.

The low height of the saloon seats leaves little room for error if the table is to be high enough to be practical. The king plank ended up the full 250 mm wide as instead of putting small spacers under the keel bolt washers I ran the 19 mm hardwood the full length of the cabin to give a neat finish to the floor. Also the keel washers were replaced with 80 mm wide full width backing plates to increase the bearing area. These were hot dip galvanized and then painted with white epoxy which can be seen poking our from under the sail bags on the saloon floor. It is this 19 mm hardwood which will take the table loads

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

A close up of the clean lines of the 24 mm thick moulded ply V berth ceiling

A close up of the clean lines of the 24 mm thick moulded ply V berth ceiling

A little gasket tape under the floor supports makes a quiet boat. Note the position of the battery switches including one for the neutral.

A little gasket tape under the floor supports makes a quiet boat. Note the position of the battery switches including one for the neutral and the keel bolt backing plates sticking out from under the sail bags. The hardwood strip along the king plank is also shown.

 

As we prepare to set sail for Newcastle, the Newcastle to Port Stephens race and Sail Port Stephens the forecasts are all very quiet.
The forecasts on Windy now go out to Friday which is the first race of the second series and by then there may be breeze to sail but in the intervening period there is little to trouble the sailors.

For the first time since launching over a year ago the fuel tanks are showing full on the dial and I have an extra 20 litres in the fuel locker which should be enough for the trip there and back and for charging the batteries in the meantime.

The trip up on Saturday the 7th looks a very quiet affair with a ghost of a breeze off shore in the morning shifting to a North East closer to Newcastle and strengthening for a tight beat. I think it will be No 3 Jib hanked on ready for the beat with the Code Zero deployed in the morning if there is any breeze.
For Sunday’s race to Port Stephens both wind models have a light southerly for the start but so light the heavier spinnakers will be hanging limp from the mastheads. Later in the afternoon the wind swings more easterly but the two models have the strength from 2 knots to 4 knots which is going to be a challenge for the race organizers. We might just get to deploy the Code Zero and make headway against the current.

Day 1, 2 and 3 of Sail Port Stephens have forecasts from 2 knots to 9 knots so the order of the day will be plenty of sunscreen, water and patience.

I am looking forward to the quiet trip up the coast and on arrival at Port Stephens, morning coffee with the crew and catching up with fellow sailors.

For the final race of the season we went out all guns blazing with the largest genoa up and high hopes but these did not last long. Our first mistake was being too low on the leeward end of the line and getting a header in the last 20 seconds. That left us pinching to make the mark in very slow mode while the more conservative fleet reached away to Onion Point.

The breeze through Humbug was a bit stronger than forecast so we and the tail of the fleet caught the leaders who went in a bit close to Greenwich point into the doldrums. We skirted the fleet and were sailing along to leeward of Lisdillon when the fleet sailed into the breeze all at the same time. Jackpot, Joli and Meridian did best being to windward of the returning breeze but at this stage the fleet was well bunched. Fireball managed to come between Lisdillon and ourselves but we eventually pulled out from below them in a less windy patch.

When the breeze was stronger our 140% genoa would have been better suited to the windward conditions and not much slower downwind. Much Ado V was within striking distance but they made no mistakes and with the soldiers course there was not a lot of room for passing. Lisdillon kept a healthy lead from Passion X while we had Fireball right over our shoulder all night with Soundtrack and Sweet Chariot very close behind.

Out in front there was plenty of action with Joli catching Meridian and Jackpot for line honours and taking out the daily double with a first and fastest. Joli also took out the series scratch prize for the black fleet. Fireball finished second on Handicap while we scored an eight which became one of our drops. That left Lisdillon out in front on the handicap series from Passion X and Fireball in equal second. It is tradition not to break the ties at Greenwich Flying Squadron but Fireball would have bragging rights if we did break the ties. I was surprised how far Joli finished in front of Much Ado V and Passion X. Both Much Ado V and Passion X had to tack away from Goat Island to clear the rounding mark and perhaps the leaders sailed through without a tack but they were well gone by the time we rounded Goat Island. I was also surprised how close Fireball, Soundtrack and Sweet Chariot were at the finish and they fared well in the handicaps with Soundtrack fourth and Sweet Chariot fifth.

It has been over a year since we launched Passion X and while we do have the hull scrubbed regularly there was quite a bit of growth around the waterline on Wednesday night. However in other fleets yachts with similar growth did OK so I am lost for words. The raft up after the race was equal to the most I have seen and the 340 members and guests enjoyed a fine BBQ and a very successful end of season function. There are lots of photos on the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page.

The forecast for Wednesday evening was a bit challenging with up to 28 knots predicted for Sydney but west of Goat Island we had a much gentler sail in not more than 15 knots and often much less. The rain too stayed light during the time we prepared the yacht to sail and only returned at the start of racing. Then as the fleet started the rain abated leaving us with a very pleasant sail in a much reduced fleet.

In deference to the forecast we set the No 3 jib and during a few of the stronger gusts we were grateful for the reduced sail area but as the race progressed and the breeze lightened we missed the power of the bigger genoa. At the start Joli and Passion X approached the line on starboard and tacked to clear Onion Point. A big header had us both heading for the shoreline and Joli ahead was forced to tack first calling starboard on Much Ado V. That left us with clear air and a sudden lift to clear the point and gain a small early lead. For a while we hung in to leeward of Joli but they eventually sailed over the top and lead the way up the river to Goat Island.Much Ado V had a reefed main and in that configuration we were holding them in the light patches.

Past Long Nose in stronger winds they accelerated and also picked up a very handy shift off of the western end of Balls Head which gave them a big break from us and gains on Joli. The photo from the chart plotter shows our tack into Balls Head to be out of phase with the wind shifts and that is where Much Ado V got their first big break on us. Lisdillon was lurking close behind by the time we all rounded Goat Island and we had to concentrate on keeping them at bay. The run back to Cockatoo was pretty quiet and we were not pulling in the leading yacht who both had full sail area working now.

Around Cockatoo Island Lisdillon kept challenging but we managed to stay clear ahead and free up for the reach back to Humbug with a small lead. A spell of fresher air on the reach back helped us establish a small safety margin over Lisdillon for the tight squeeze back through Humbug and a 15 second gap across the line. We were exactly 2 minutes behind Joli and a further 2 minutes behind Much Ado V.

Meanwhile back in the fleet Soundtrack, Fireball and Sweet Chariot were having their own close race with only a minute and eleven seconds between the three. Handicap honours went to Passion X by a mere 7 seconds over Joli, with Lisdillon only 19 seconds further back and another 23 seconds to Much Ado V.

Some good some not so good tacking angles on the way to Goat Island

Some good some not so good tacking angles on the way to Goat Island

What a perfect night for a twilight race! The rain cleared up early in the day and while a few clouds hung around we had a pleasantly warm rain free evening for the race and the BBQ on the deck back at Greenwich Flying Squadron.

During the week I had a very minor modification made to our old faithful carbon genoa off Passion. We had been flying it from a short hank on the tack to get the clew up higher so that the sheets were further back on the tracks. This allowed the foot to skirt the side stays without too much interference. I had the short hank replaced with a wedge of sailcloth tapering from 250 mm at the tack to nothing at the clew. If nothing it makes the sail look like it was designed for the yacht, it does look good and the new tell tale window in the luff was also handy. This was the perfect sail for the breeze.

We made a good start to windward of Meridian and matched them to Onion Point. We poled out the genoa to port and made good progress along the Cockatoo Island shore before gybing to starboard to head up river. The fleet seemed to be going in a different direction from the course forty eight we were sailing and no other yachts had gybed so I asked Stephen what course he was sailing and thought I heard forty eight. I went below and radioed the starters and again I thought they said forty eight. As no one followed us I checked again and was told four zero A. Looking back over the Gopro video I can hear one of the crew saying that they thought they heard forty A. Post race John said that they always designated one crew to double check the course as they crossed the start line and Stephen volunteered that we should have used the binoculars. All very true in retrospect. That was a big oops moment for by now we we had to drop the pole an head back to the tail of the fleet.

The whole episode was captured on the Gopro camera on the transom and from the time stamp it was well over five minutes before we were back to where we deviated from the proper course. By a bit of luck Ausreo, Soundtrack, Sweet Chariot, Fireball and to a lesser extent Joli were becalmed in the lee of Cockatoo Island and we were able to sail low and wide to make up a bit of ground.

The chase started in the lee of Ausreo who were fast but a few degrees off our pointing angle which eventually let us get clear air. Soundtrack was not going to let us get through easily and after a few calls on the edges of the sailing course for room to tack she picked a very nice lift along the Balmain shore to prove the point. Only a bit of interference to Soundtrack from another fleet yacht gave us the opportunity to sneak ahead. I don’t know when we passed Sweet Chariot and Fireball. Perhaps it was one of the several large shifts on the way to Long Nose. Joe Walsh was out on the course with a potential new Beneteau 40.7 we are encouraging to join Greenwich and while he kept well clear of the fleet I did try to see how they were travelling or if they matched Fireball for speed. A few shifts in our favour and we were up near Joli for the Goat Island rounding.

On the run back to Cockatoo Island we did slightly better than Joli and did a bit of match racing around the end to keep them behind. It was probably not smart sailing as we were both slow in too close to the wind shadow but at this stage we were going to try to keep any place at any price. For the beat back to Humbug we had eyes only for Joli but they were a bit quicker through the tacks up Humbug and managed to slip though our cover right on Onion Point.

Back in the fleet we lost track of the competition up front between Meridian, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Jackpot. The Ker 11.3 twins had a birthday party with ten potential sailors spread over the two boats and congratulation to the winning team of five youngsters on Much Ado V.

The handicap results were a surprise as we managed fourth place despite our over five minute excursion. Once there is this much gap comparisons are difficult so the five and a half minutes we finished behind Much Ado V is not the same as the five and a half minutes we dropped with our course mistake. I am however happy that we matched it with Meridian on the way out and matched it with Joli on the way back.
Lisdillon had another win on handicap and beat us by three and a bit minutes. Perhaps tonight was to be out night and we lost it in translation.

Meridian to leeward at the start

Meridian to leeward at the start

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course  mistake

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course mistake

Starting the chase in the lee  of Ausreo

Starting the chase in the lee of Ausreo

Following Joli around Goat Island

Following Joli around Goat Island

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

It was indeed a pleasant evening for a BBQ on the deck back at Greenwich Flying Squadron but first you had to endure some pain on the water. The forecast had been for wind fading from 14 knots so it was marginal No 1 genoa conditions and those who set the largest headsails in their wardrobe would have done well.
Our start was good enough and we followed Jackpot into Humbug and drew alongside. Unfortunately for both of us the wind disappeared from the middle of Humbug and favored those yachts that went low along the Onion Point shore and wider out from the Greenwich point.
Joli went low and wide and was soon a speck in the distance. Jackpot picked up a bit of wind and took off while we sat and waited. While we waited everyone except Ausreo sailed around us.
Once we were out in the breeze we started to catch everyone except Joli and Jackpot. By Goat Island we had caught Fireball and Soundtrack and were closing on Lisdillon but the flow of the breeze was not in our favor as we took the sterns of Soundtrack and Fireball when the tacked to starboard to round the island and then took a header all the way to drop another 50 metres.
Now we had the long run back to Cockatoo where we passed Fireball and Soundtrack and caught up to the transom of Lisdillon. Again we missed the first tack back to Cockatoo Island and this time it was the turn of Lisdillon to get a 50 metre break. Soundtrack and Fireball were close behind having been the recipients of some freshening breeze from behind.
At the corner of Cockatoo as we turned for the tight reach home Lisdillon stalled and we again were on their stern but could not break through their defensive moves.
We bided our time for the drift home though Humbug and went inside Lisdillon only to be forced out be a barging blue fleet yacht. The heavier blue fleet yachts were coming through with momentum and we had to wait until they ran out of that momentum before we could recover some ground. In the windless hole around the blue fleet we watched as Soundtrack and Fireball came back with a nice freshening lift. Soundtrack carried the lift all the way to the finish line beating Lisdillon by a few seconds. When the puff finally reached us we accelerated ahead of the blue fleet yachts and Fireball to finish well behind Lisdillon. What could have been a third fastest ended up a fifth and a lonely last on handicap 2 minutes behind the second last placed Ausreo.

A photo from the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page perfectly captures the moment through Humbug with Passion X surrounded by Worlds Apart to leeward, Aggrovation in front, Fireball to windward and Soundtrack chasing Lisdillon to the finish. Also shown is how close Sweet Chariot caught up. The only missing Black fleet yachts are Joli and Jackpot way out in front and Ausreo not far behind.

We paid the price for not getting out of Humbug cleanly and for missing two tacking opportunities and while the Onion Point shore was the right way to sail back into Humbug we were perhaps one boat width too low and that was the boat width that Soundtrack and Fireball sailed into.  We were never going to make up the time that Joli and Jackpot had on us but we might have secured that third place if we had sailed better.

It was a night for the front runners Joli and Jackpot who seemed to get further and further ahead while we battled it out in a dying breeze.  I am sure they enjoyed their battle but we were too far away right from the exit from Humbug to see the battle. Soundtrack made a spectacular passage through Humbug to join them on the podium for and all J boat success. Only Fireball sneaked in by 13 seconds to stop it being a J Boat 1, 2, 3, 4.

The drift through Humbug to the finish

The drift through Humbug to the finish

 

 

 

 

Last year we took Passion X to Port Stephens just a month after launch and she was very much still a work in progress. We sailed well in the light airs but were no match for the fleet in heavier conditions. On the square runs our small spinnaker off Passion was undersized for the competition and the asymmetric off Passion could not be flown from the bowsprit.
Our trip home from Port Stephens in 35 knots was a bit difficult with the No 3 jib and triple reefed main so we dropped the jib and proceeded on triple reefed main alone.
This year we are better prepared for a wider variety of conditions. We have fitted the bowsprit which can now carry the asymmetric off Passion and a new headsail set flying which is a generous 60 m2. We have a larger mast head symmetric spinnaker of 130 m2 which is the largest we can fit on the rig and may even be too big if the air is really light.
For heavy air beating and cruising we have a No 4 jib which we used quite often over the winter in the RANSA Winter Wednesdays and in the Balmain Friday afternoon pursuit races. For light air we have a 149% No 1 genoa and the 140% No 1 off Passion is now officially our No 2.
All the sails are measured and the updated measurements are with the rating office waiting for the shock result to come out. I am over rating shocks as both the IRC and ORCi Club ratings seem unreasonably harsh and we have been unable to sail to the polars output from the ORCi VPP program except for light conditions beating and heavy air conditions off the breeze.
Our non spinnaker OSN rating is in between the rating of the Ker 11.3 twins, Dump Truck and Much Ado V, and while we have had a few rare wins against them it has generally been because of a lucky wind shift or a drift through the fleet. In a fresh breeze when they are well sailed they are significantly faster. A few data points from the ORCi certificates show why I have been perplexed at the rating. Dump Truck is 500 kg lighter and because it has no cabin and a lower centre of gravity bulb it has an overall centre of gravity half a metre deeper than Passion X. She has less wetted surface area, a carbon mast and laminate mainsail. Passion X only positive factor is 9 cm longer water line length I doubt that is much of a contributing factor since when the rating office by mistake used a longer water line length for Passion X by 70 cm the rating hardly changed.  The sail areas are almost identical although Dump Truck gets their genoa area with a longer J and I measurement while Passion X gets hers with more overlap.

But back to Port Stephens where I hope the wider range of sail options will be a plus and let us perform over a wider range of wind conditions and wind angles than last year. If we are lucky there will be a lot of very tight reaching in light airs for our furling jib set flying to do its magic.

The new 130 m2 symmetric spinnaker is ready for the light air runs at Port Stephens

The new 130 m2 symmetric spinnaker is ready for the light air runs at Port Stephens

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

Tight reaching to the heads with the Code 0 set on the bowsprit

Tight reaching to the heads with the Code 0 set on the bowsprit

The new 149% LP  genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

The new 149% LP genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

Last year our small symmetric spinnaker could not match it with the regatta competition

Last year our small symmetric spinnaker could not match it with the regatta competition

 

Crew with new crew shirts posing on the back of Passion X

Crew with new crew shirts posing on the back of Passion X on our first race day in 2017

It has been a year since we first raced Passion X in race 5 of the Autumn series. In that first race we were second across the line to the old Meridian, the 44 ft Dehler yacht, that usually took fastest time.  We had a few second fastest as last year came to a close and were pretty happy with the performance. This season in the first series we were one point out of second place on the most fastest times with the good places shared around among new yacht, Much Ado V, and old ones sailing  better including Flashback and Lisdillon. Jackpot returned with new owners and after a tentative start they now have her back near the front of the fleet. In the more casual summer series we were second on the fastest times table with some average results and were helped by the absence of some of the better yachts. After four races in the Autumn series we are second on the fastest time table but other have a big number to drop and we will end mid fleet unless we can pull a rabbit out of the bag. Our target in building Passion X was to be somewhere near the J122, Jackpot, and while we have had a few narrow wins while they were getting used to the new yacht they have had many more wins by a larger margin. Based on handicaps the pecking order appears to be Much Ado V, Dump Truck, Jackpot, Flashback and then Passion X with Joli and Meridian yet to have enough races to establish a base reference. As of now we still have not hit the target of matching Jackpot and the improved Flashback and new starters Much Ado 5, Joli and Meridian and a more consistent Dump Truck will make difficult to stay near the front of the fleet. It is hard to know if we have learnt anything over the past 12 months. The overall improvement in the fleet and the generally heavier air conditions mask any changes. We have now four races in what should be lighter airs to see how we go compared to last year.

Passion X enjoying first us e of the new breeze

Passion X enjoying first use of the new breeze in a good December race