37 Seconds between 5th place and 8th place shows how good the handicaps are working. On Passion X we managed 7th place but will include our drop of 6th place in the progress scores. Joli with a 4th place will catch up two of the four points difference. Utopia still out in front will use her 8th place drop in the progress scores and we will pull back just 2 points on her 10 point lead.

With four races to go and the flukey end of the season ahead it is still open for many to overtake Utopia for the season crown.

In the light sub 10 knot conditions we made a good start on the western side of the fleet and kept tacking to keep to this side of the fleet. It worked well for us and we made it into Humbug behind just Infotrack and Dump Truck.

Conditions were very shifty on the way to Goat Island and courtesy of some shifts that went our way we were up with Much Ado V and Utopia as we went around Goat Island for the first time. Much Ado V managed to tack away from the Goat Island shore in clear air and pull out quickly while we were pinned down by Utopia waiting until we had to call water on the Goat island Shore. We called loudly so all the yachts to windward of Utopia knew our intention and tacked when our call was acknowledged. Now on starboard Utopia tried to go behind but could not bear away enough so had to go hard about with the inevitable consequence that her stern gave us a good fright on board Passion X. With no harm to crew we sheeted on and recommenced the race but lost enough time on Much Ado V to account for the margin she beat us on handicap.

Ausreo took advantage of the mayhem to catch up to Utopia and Passion X and threaten for a good handicap place which they won by 1 second over Agrovation. Cannot get closer than that.

Our challenge was to limit the time Utopia pulled out and not let Ausreo past. This we achieved by courtesy of a good lift along the Balls Head shore where we lifted towards the Goat Island turning mark while Ausreo below was headed and this was enough to keep our nose in front of them for the run home. Around Goat we could see Fireball coming well back in conditions that did not favour her nor Lisdillon.

Ausreo was not about to give up and blanketed Passion X with good effect until the breeze swung enough for it to come over our port quarter and allow us to reach away with clear air for a safe margin that blew out to 3 minutes by the light air drifting finish.

As we ran into Humbug with the pole out to port we could see the middle of the fleet off Onion Point all heading in different directions on different gybes. Alas there was no last minute gust up the middle for Passion X and our drift from Onion Point to the finish line was in confused air swinging from port quarter to starboard quarter but mostly refusing to come at all. All we wanted was one gust to go from 7th place on handicap to 5th but it was not to be.

Alas for the brave Lisdillon and Fireball who finished 15 and 22 minutes behind Passion X respectively and took over the role of back of the fleet that Ausreo filled last week. Indeed it was a credit to Ausreo to do so well in the light conditions tonight and it is amazing how just a few knots of breeze makes such a difference to this big yacht.

Thank you to the course setters who listened to our pleas and set a relatively short race out around Cockatoo island, down to Goat island and home. Even with this short course the last of the Black division yachts limped home with less than ten minutes to spare.
We had a good start relative to the fleet but threw away any advantage in the wild wind swings around Onion Point on the way out. In the ultra light conditions we have trouble getting the main to go through under the backstay owing to the stiff long upper battens. At times the only solution is to drop the main halyard and then hoist again after the tack. We have a new main on order with only one long upper batten and that should reduce the problem but in the meantime in any wind strength under 5 knots tacking is a big issue and therefore not done quickly. As a result we missed the phase of two very short shifts off of Onion Point and sailed towards the back of the fleet. Only Fireball, Ausreo and Agrovation did worse and to be fair to Agrovation we did put them about onto starboard sending them further into the wind shadow.
Once out of Humbug and settled down to the beam reach we pulled back Lisdillon but she was to prove very difficult to pass. Close behind Agrovation was catching and around Cockatoo she passed with a timely tack to starboard to take advantage of a shift along the Cockatoo shore.
We were then able to follow and chase after Lisdillon who had pulled out well around the end of Cockatoo.
We went low and allowed Agrovation and Lisdillon some friendly interference to windward so that by Long Nose we had passed well ahead of Lisdillon.
The shifts off of Balls head were very frustrating and the little lead that Agrovation had on us stretched out while Meridian, Joli, Jackpot and Utopia were enjoying some jockeying for position just ahead and across a patch of no wind..
It seemed to take forever to get around Goat island with the wind refusing to tend east as promised. Instead it went further South and kept fading.
Around Goat the lead yachts were invisible in the distance while Ausreo was still to round the red marker and Lisdillon and Fireball were obscured behind the island.
Now we had some competition from the Blue fleet with Koko travelling very well and refusing to act like a Blue division yacht. After a long side by side run we managed to reach up from under and eventually square away for the run across the bay to the Onions Point Shore. The Blue division French Connection gybed onto starboard below us and while we had our nose in front we were anxious to avoid being in their wind shadow so we followed suite but kept as low as possible.
Finally the sterns of some Black Fleet yachts were visible. In particular we could see Joli not far ahead with Agrovation giving chase. While the distance looked pretty insignificant the time was three minutes to Joli and somewhat less to Agrovation. Joli picked up a nice header that allowed her to reach into the finish line rather speedily while Agrovation held out their genoa to windward and ran straight to the line. Just behind we had insufficient wind to hold the genoa out and had a very slow finish.
Further back the finishers were slowing even more. Koko stalled somewhere between Long Nose and the finish and was ten minutes behind and in good company with Lisdillon and Fireball. Much further back and showing great perseverance was Ausreo who finished 35 minutes behind and just inside the time limit.
Alas the promised Easterly breeze did not spring up and at 10pm it was just 3 knots from the south at the airport.

For our persistence we finished third on handicap behind Meridian and Joli and a minute 20 seconds in front of Agrovation and Jackpot.

The light winds and rain forecast discouraged Infotrack, Dump Truck and Much Ado V so our three points should put us back into second spot a long way behind Utopia and with a large contingent right on our tail.

Sorry Agrovation
Utopia with top batten issues too
Joli reaching to the finish, Agrovation genoa out and running. Passion X limping home

It was a night for the big genoas and we set our No1 heavy which was still damp from a fortnight ago and needed a good airing. As the breeze tended to be less than the forecast 11 to 12 knots we could have set our light No 1 and possibly achieved the same result.
The trip through Humbug was frustrating as we all sat becalmed. Unfortunately for us we were becalmed the longest and Lisdillon above closer to the wind shadow managed to find a puff and pull away while Fireball and Sweet Chariot just a few metres to leeward managed to sweep past and point up into the breeze. By a long margin we were stone motherless last out of Humbug and humbled by the experience.
Once intot he breeze we settled down to chasing the fleet.
Infotrack was out in front followed by Meridian, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Joli. Further back was Ausreo, Fireball,Sweet Chariot and Lisdillon and it was this tail that we were chasing.
Our first break was a lift along the Snails Bay shore that lifted us above Lisdillon and on the knock back we were able to cross Sweet Chariot. Around the corner of Goat Island we were chasing Fireball and managed to put our nose in front on the reac back to Long Nose when Fireball and Ausreo went low and we went high for a streak of wind coming down the course.
At Long Nose the four last yachts converged on the point so we opted for the middle of the channel and eventually were able to reach up from under the tail on the approach to Cockatoo Island.
To our surprise the leading yachts had stopped along the Cockatoo shore so we made some substantial inroads into our time deficit.
Joli and Meridian managed to extricate themselves from the wind shadow off of the end of Cockatoo Island and reestablish a couple of minutes lead.
We stayed close for the work back to Goat in a position mid way between Joli and Meridian and the tail of the fleet with Lisdillon the most threatening.
Once around Goat Island we looked to have a big break on the tail and were closing in on Meridian and Joli while a little further ahead we could see the dark green hull of Dump Truck. As the wind bent around the headlands we managed to carry our genoa poled out into the middle of Humbug and were now just a few yards below Joli and Meridian.
Had the wind been a little kinder we would have shot past Onion Point in fresh breeze like the tail behind did but alas we were becalmed and headed and both Meridian and Passion X had to tack away and tack back .
From what I could see it looked like Joli managed to round on starboard tack and get a handy jump on sistership Meridian. Across the finish line we looked back to see the tail charging in on fresh winds and being carried swiftly to the finish line.

It was no surprise then that the tail wagged and got all the good points.
Joli by clearing Onion Point was the first it the front runners then Passion X, Meridian and last were the real front runners. And the first fastest Infotrack was last on handicap.

Lisdillon won by 2 and a half minutes from the close Ausreo and Fireball and to emphasise that it was a night for the tail to wag, even Passion X was over 9 minutes in front of Dump Truck on handicap and we could still manage only sixth place.

The forecast conditions of 8 knots was close to the mark and the sunny 21 Centigrade temperature made for a very enjoyable twilight race. For the light conditions we set the sails on the full side and reached out of Humbug near the front of the fleet. Agrovation pushed us up to windward forcing Dump Truck above us to respond and head up into the wind shadow. We were pushed so far that the sails inverted but eventually Agrovation got the same backwinds and had to pull away. That detour into the doldrums was a bit expensive particularly as Utopia several boat lengths to leeward sailed around the windward yachts and pointed up above our line to be clear ahead. Agrovation and Much Ado V tacked back towards Greenwich baths so we followed. Passion X on starboard had rights over Agrovation tacking back into mid stream but she tacked with just enough room to get onto starboard clear ahead forcing us to tack away prematurely. On the next tack Jackpot popped out in front and then Agrovation but further ahead was Infotrack, Dump Truck, Utopia and Much Ado V.
Meridian and Joli having their usual one on one duel approached Goat Island better than Passion X and rounded just in front. On the trip around Goat we went lower and enjoyed better breeze to make us some ground. From Long Nose it was genoas poled out for the run down to Cockatoo Island ane here we managed to pass Joli to port and Agrovation tp starboard with the benefit of our own breeze down the middle.
Hard as we tried we could not pass Meridian and she rounded Cockatoo Island a few boat lengths in front..
We settled down for the usual beat past Clarke Point and reach into Humbug when we were headed just off the point and grazed the bottom of the keel on the rock. it took less than 2 minutes to reverse off the rocks, tack away from the shore and tack back for the reach home but in that time Joli and Agrovation sailed past in deep water. On the last beat through Humbug we regained a few seconds on Meridian but they were a minute and a half ahead at the finish.
For our troubles we dropped two fastest times places to Joli and Agrovation and one handicap place to Jackpot.
Utopia beat Much Ado V over the line and took second on handicap behind Infotrack.
For the progress results Utopia will move 4 points further ahead of Passion X, Infotrack will slot in behind them and Jackpot will close a point closer.

Photo courtesy John Ewing on Utopia

To be fair the thirty knots was post race as we were providing a water taxi service for one of the crew and the thirty degrees was on the way from West Pennant Hills to the water but all the same it was a warm and windy session.
For today we had two of my sons crewing and that added firepower for the windy conditions. In deference to the wind we set our new Carbon No 3 and put in one reef in the main. This appeared to be the rig of choice as Odyssey and Avalon seemed to have the same set up.

For some odd reason I clicked on the wrong link to the start times and gave away a minute at the start. We did think Odyssey started early but it was Passion X starting a full minute late. That minute gap to Odyssey varied very little for the work to Goat and the long run back to Spectacle Island but once on the work we slowly pegged them back to about 30 seconds.

Avalon with shiney new antifouling was not so close for the work to Goat and around Balls Head we picked up a strong gust which seemed to keep the distance fairly static. Along the Balmain shore to Cockatoo Island Odyssey managed to pole out their genoa and drew away and it was only a set of strong gusts along the Cockatoo shore that kept us in touch.

Around the eastern end of Cockatoo island Odyssey did some rounding up in the gusts which allowed us to peg back a few more boat lengths and at Spectacle Island we were right on their tail.

It was quiet around Spectacle Island and Avalon with genoa poled out was cutting into our lead at alarming speed.

Not wanting to take any chances in the 24 knot gusts we followed Odyssey around Snapper island and settled in for a drag race to the finish. Today the shifts went our way and we passed on front of Odyssey on the second last leg into the finish. Avalon was now charging up to our position but a header at the finish allowed us to flip to port and clear the line .

Allowing for our starting mistake we finished four and a half minutes slower that Avalon and that is a good result for us.

Giving away a minute at the start
A hard windward work along Balmain shore
Catching Odyssey around Cockatoo

What a difference a week makes as the contrast with last weeks wet cold race could not be more stark. Tonight we had around ten knots and warm sunny conditions making for a most enjoyable evening. Our prospect had already improved when the divers removed the large plastic bag from the feathering propellor on Passion X. I am certain we picked this up half way through last Wednesday’s race as we were performing well and mid race dropped off the pace.
We set the same sails as last week in part because the genoa was still dripping wet and in need of a good airing and the breeze was almost in the right range for our No 1 heavy genoa.
The start was a bit tricky as we had limited room between the moored yachts in Gore Creek and the fleet running back towards the port tackers making for the line. Dump Truck left no room between the moored yachts and Sweet Chariot was left circling in a very confined space off of the wharf and doing a fine job too. Some of the fleet opted for a starboard beat down the line and depending on the wind shifts they were looking good or bad. We opted to start on port mid line and would have taken sterns but for the fleet bearing away giving the appearance we were going to cross easily. As it was Jackpot graciously took our stern as the breeze left us almost stationary in their path. That allowed us to pull away from the header and still clear the rest of the starboard tackers.
Infotrack and Dump Truck were playing out in front in Humbug pushing up into the moored yachts and then Infotrack turned 90 degrees and headed back to clear air away from the Greenwich Point wind shadow. While this was going on Jackpot forced us up towards Dump Truck and while we pulled away as soon as we could clear their stern we were passed from below by Meridian and left in Jackpot’s dirty air. The only bright spot was that Utopia and Agrovation seemed to follow into the wind shadow of the point and take just as long to emerge. The gain that Jackpot made in this phase was shocking. In a matter of minutes she was three minutes ahead and seeming to be having a great race.
We were sailing well enough but in the fresher breeze approaching Goat Island Ausreo was trucking up to our position and almost passed as at the red navigation mark. We did manage to bear away around the island with our nose in front only to be run over on the exit as we were blanketed by their rather large sails. We drifted through the gap in tandem but once the breeze came on the nose we had clear air again and took off after the fleet.
As the breeze faded a little we drew away from Ausreo and had a rather lonely race chasing Meridian on the long work from Spectacle Island back to Goat. Our boat speed and height was fine and we frequently saw over 5 knots VMG but did not always have the best wind direction. Meridian on the other hand picked some nice angles going into Goat the second time and drew further ahead.
On the reach back to Humbug we could see two Sydney 38’s moving slowly through the gap and Meridian with better breeze making some progress from behind.
We followed Meridian’s path with the extra bonus of breeze a bit further aft so we could carry the genoa poled out quite a long way down the broad reach to the Valentia street Wharf. Mid way it became too shy so we lowered the pole and stayed wide. Luckily for us we lifted along the Onion Point shore and had to tack only at the point to clear some early fleet yachts that looked to be about to run aground. The time lost in this was immaterial as it did not affect the fastest times or handicap places.

With a clean prop and some clear air sailing we managed third place on handicap behind Dump Truck and Infotrack. We were a minute behind Infotrack, a minute and a half in front of Jackpot and two minutes in front of Fireball. The two Sydney 38’s had a close race with Utopia prevailing on time but Agrovation on handicap.

In the series we picked up six points on Utopia who are still 5 points ahead but we have broken out of the tight pack for second place if only for a short reign.

Winning Crew from the Summer Series making a good start for Autumn
Dump Truck and Infotrack in the doldrums and Jackpot pushing Passion X into the same calm
Pulling behind Utopia and missing the big lift ahead
Meridian off Onion Point ahead of Passion X
Out by ourselves a couple of minutes behind Meridian and concentrating on VMG

The weather forecast overshot the wind strength by 10 knots and undershot the rainfall by lots. Consequently the supposedly quick trip to Goat Island, around Snapper and Spectacle Islands and back to Goat and home took a lot longer than expected and produced a dripping wet crew.
The worst part was the tell tales sticking to the wet sails making steering to the breeze and sail trimming very difficult.
We did get some things right. The most important was choosing a large genoa in spite of the forecast. Without the No 1 genoa we would have struggled around the course as many patches were very light and certainly less than five knots. After a respectable start and work out of Humbug we found some 12 knots of steady breeze for the work up to Goat Island. In this early stage of the race we settled in well and drew away from Lisdillon, Ausreo, Fireball and Sweet Chariot while limiting the lead Utopia was creating out in front.
Some choices are debatable and we did debate it a lot on board. From Goat we were running quite square to Long Nose and could see Utopia in light air off the point. At least the air at the water level was light as there were few ripples to be seen. Out wider there was ripples on the water but the breeze was quite light.
One half of the crew wanted to keep running across the course and try to pick up breeze on the other side out wide while the other half wanted to reach across the light patch and follow Utopia.

Ausreo, Lisdillon and Fireball from quite far behind adopted the cut the corner approach and gained a lot of Passion X who was running quite slowly to the wind on the other side of the point.
At six knots of wind speed our boat speed downwind is at most 3 knots while on a beam reach it is twice that at 6 knots so apart from a shorter distance the speed is twice as high as long as you don’t fall into zero breeze.
At 12 knots of wind strength the difference is less dramatic going from 6 knots running to 8.5 beam reaching. So paradoxically it is more important to take a conservative wide berth in light airs than in heavy.

We did manage to keep our nose in front of Lisdillon and Ausreo for the trip to Snapper Island with some patches quite tight and a rather nasty header going into Snapper which left us quite close to the shallows off the western end.

Around the end of Spectacle Island Ausreo carried her speed through the wind shadow well and tried to pinch up above us but we kept our nose in clear air and started to work out in front again.

Now the wet tell tales were making steering to the breeze and sail trimming close to impossible and that is important on a relatively light boat. Ausreo kept up momentum through the shifts and pulled ahead giving Passion X a good dose of dirty air to boot.

This time being wider of Cockatoo Island paid off as we managed to creep ahead of Ausreo along the Hunters Hill shore only to again be passed and gassed off of Balls Head. Once Ausreo drew away and we had clear air we began to work to windward and that paid dividends as we were able to reach into the mark in lifts and pinch up in the knocks to cross Ausreo and tack for the run home. Fortunately the light air in the lee of Goat was not so light as to kill our boat speed and on the east side of Goat we picked up a nice lift to assist with the overtake.

At some stage in the run home Lisdillon put in a guest appearance or pun intended a gust appearance but once the breeze reached Passion X we pulled ahead again.

At the finish we were 6 minutes behind Utopia which left us 40 seconds shy of their corrected time but the big winner was Sweet Chariot then Utopia followed by Fireball just 6 seconds in front of Passion X and then Lisdillon 7 seconds further adrift and Ausreo just another 7 seconds behind.

Apart from Sweet Chariot it could have been anyone’s race and it is a credit to the handicap system.

Out of interest I recalculated the results based on the handicaps from last week and Sweet Chariot would have still won but Passion X would have been second followed by Fireball, Lisdillon, Utopia and Ausreo. This confirms how well the handicap system is working.

Next week it is back to the Twilight series where we pick up the handicaps from the Spring series where my forecast is we will all be cleaned up by Infotrack.

Wet conditions for the last Summer Series race

For the 8 knots forecast we set our largest, lightest genoa and planned to deploy our longest whisker pole. With that in mind for later in the race we made a good start and were well up with the fleet after the run through Humbug and down the side of Cockatoo island. We were going so well we were just astern of Dump Truck and Agrovation and looked to be in for a close race all night. We went wide around the end of Cockatoo hoping to stay clear of the wind shadow while Sweet Chariot took the inner line and emerged well in front. For a while we could not pick a lift and so worked our way to the back of the fleet with Fireball and Ausreo who was not enjoying the lighter conditions. Being wide started to pay dividends off of the Balmain Sailing Club when we lifted along the shore for a period and long enough to make inroads on Utopia but eventually the breeze knocked and we headed back towards the tail of a group including Utopia, Joli and Meridian.
In the changed of the wind direction Fireball caught us on port twice in the work and enjoyed sending us tacking. We did find a lift of our own to recover most of the lost ground and round in front of Fireball but like last week they had a very good run around Goat Island and just shaved our transom but we were already on starboard gybe and had all the rights for a change. Not far ahead we could see most of our fleet although Infotrack and Much Ado V seemed to be missing somewhere out front. We could see Jackpot, Utopia, Joli and Meridian reaching to the concrete dolphins in Snails Bay and then poling out their genoas so we prepared our long pole.
At the dolphin we whipped up the pole and held the genoa out to windward with good effect. By going low we kept well to leeward of the big blue fleet yachts and snuck through. Sweet Chariot went high for the freshening breeze and we followed and then were able to run away in the puff for good effect. All the while Fireball was threatening from close astern and looking to take our breeze at the first opportunity.
This last gust which we bore away on persisted for long enough to take us to leeward of Meridian who was becalmed off of Greenwich Point. To leeward at least ten boat lengths was Joli doing much better than any of the higher yachts and sailing through the lee of big brother Jackpot so it seemed like a good line to take.
Sweet Chariot opted to take the short cut but on this occasion it was a very slow trip through the doldrums and a very expensive one handicap place wise.
We kept hugging the Onion Point shore and could see Utopia out wider pick up some breeze but we now had bow ahead for the same breeze and it kept us moving up to a flotilla of becalmed yachts off of Onion Point. We correctly guessed that by the time we arrived at the distance mark off of Onion Point the tail of this pack would have just cleared it and so we were able to run deep away from the point and get a safe leeward position on a fleet of a dozen yacht including some big Blue division competitors like Worlds Apart. In this passing maneuver we eclipsed Utopia, Meridian and Jackpot. We pulled away from Fireball for the first time of the evening and finally broke free of Sweet Chariot. Ausreo enjoyed the fading breeze even less than the earlier light start but she has had some good breezes and even Passion X deserves a turn.

For a second week in a row the finishers took an hour off of some results and with such abbreviated elapsed time the published handicap results are up the creek. Some quick manual calculations with the correct elapsed time suggest that Passion X will finish fourth again just ahead of Fireball and Joli.

Without doing the calculations I estimate that Infotrack will win from Agrovation and Much Ado V which suits our case as these three for one reason or another have missed much of the Summer series.

If I am correct in these estimates Passion X will remain on top of the leader board and pull away a couple more points from Joli. Fourth place suits us nicely as our handicap stays pretty much the same while and we live to fight another day.

There are some photos on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page for the evening and when I get a chance I will see if the GoPro feed has anything to offer.

The fleet in close company around Cockatoo Island
Catching Utopia off of Balmain Sailing Club until the breeze knocked
Running below Sweet Chariot with Utopia and Meridian ahead
Crew hard to leeward, boom eased and footing to the fleet off of Onion Point
Passion X transom just visible to leeward going for the finish. Worlds Apart most windward

We are just home from a most enjoyable Friday sprint around the islands in the Balmain Sailing Club Friday afternoon series. The 15 knot breeze took the heat off the day and provided ideal conditions for a quick race. The A team was Elaine and our Grandson Otis and between the three of us we kept Passion X moving in good fashion. To make life easier for the small crew we vanged down the boom hard and left it on all day. That let us drop the boom to leeward so we could power through the gusts without playing the main. Quite frequently the genoa was backwinding the bottom half of the main but this seemed to have no adverse effect on the height or speed. With the vang on hard the top of the mainsail was controlled and providing lift. With the boom angled out I let some depth creep back into the foot which seemed fast up to the 18 knot wind range after which we did flatten it out.

For the day I had the GoPro camera mounted on the stern facing aft to capture some of the yachts that we might pass or catch us. What is most noticeable from the video is that we sailed on a consistently large angle of heel without rounding up.

So ideal were the conditions that we consistently saw over 5 knots VMG to windward and the rare 6 knot pointing up into the stronger patches to stop the yacht heeling too far.

With only one helmsman on board I was not about to abandon the helm to pole out the genoa on the downwind legs but we sailed the wind shift to keep it flying to windward and while not as quick as properly poled out the conditions helped to keep it flying

In the conditions no one was going to catch Riders of the Storm but we did make up 12 minutes over the course of the race and did stay in front of Avalon who gave us a 6 minute start. It must have been one of our better days as they typically take 7 minutes out of us around the course and today it was just under 5 minutes so we are pretty pleased with that effort by our little A team.

Our first pass of the day
Our second and last pass of the day
Typical angle of heel on the windward works
Avalon catching but not enough today

The Greenwich Flying Squadron fleet was greeted by warm gusty conditions for the Wednesday twilight race which made for interesting if stressful sailing.
The black fleet bunched up at the exit to Humbug with Fireball taking the risky inside track but escaping unharmed from this tactic. Passion X was widest hoping to see the inside fleet becalmed but it was not to be and so we had a tightly bunched group tacking at very close quarters in very gusty conditions.
Eventually Dump Truck and Much Ado V worked out ahead using every gram of their 2.5 tonne keels to punch into the strengthening conditions. Utopia also drew away while Fireball, Joli, Meridian, Ausreo and Passion X had an absorbing trip to Goat Island. By the reach and run down to Snapper Island only Fireball had slipped behind this tight group and we were feeling pretty pleased with our position. We were still pleased on the work back to Goat except for the impressive windward performance of Ausreo who left Joli and Meridian behind with Passion X slipping back due to some heavy traffic off of Spectacle Island. We were still happy until the last 100 metres into Goat where the timing of the lifts did not go to plan allowing Joli and Meridian to slip away. Our run around Goat was disastrous as the light patches followed us around the island allowing Fireball to gain minutes and come up within cooee.
When we did get going Meridian and Joli were reaching away at high speed already well past the concrete dolphins in Snails Bay.
At this point wind decided it needed to give the crew of Passion X some encouragement so it hotted up for the reach past Long Nose drawing us away from Fireball and up much closer to Meridian and Joli than we deserved.

The wise move would have been to tack and follow the J112 twins but we headed hard into the Valencia Street Ferry wharf and had to tack away from a very big, very late lift while Meridian and Joli out mid stream were able to use the lift to advantage and recover some of their lead over Passion X.

The very last set of lifts were also unkind as we were headed well below the finish line and were forced into two more tacks before we crossed the line. Compounding the problems was the nature of the gusts which were short and sharp rounding us up repeatedly on the way to the line.

Despite these setbacks the early part of the race when we matched it with Ausreo, Meridian and Joli was enough to give us fourth on handicap behind Infotrack, Ausreo and Fireball. Fireball did well from cutting the corner off of Greenwich point and from the second rounding of Goat and hung on for the well deserved third place.

Infotrack completed the course in record time but the time of 6 minutes 57 seconds is slightly suspicious and may catch the eye of the race committee for review. Nevertheless the relative positions of the rest of the fleet will stay the same and Passion X should move up the leader board until the discards kick in when Ausreo will be able to drop their DNS and take over the crown. Meanwhile we escape with a good place and our handicap unsullied ready for another race

Fireball doing particularly well after taking the inside track around Greenwich Point
Passion X chasing Meridian
Bob doing a great job holding out the genoa

After the short Christmas break it was good to be back on the water and with a respectable breeze. The forecast was in the fifteen to eighteen knot range which has been a a tricky one for sail genoa selection on Passion X. It is a bit light for our No3 jibs and a bit heavy for our No 1s so we tried the old No 1 from the original Passion. Now the old No 1 from Passion must be at least seven years old and has seen a lot of races. We retrieved it from storage when the Covid 19 virus struck as it is high clewed, slightly smaller in area and we can sail more easily short handed. This is the genoa we have been using for the Balmain Friday afternoon races in most conditions so I thought it worth a try this evening.
One way or another we missed the start. Lets say it was a huge shift in the wind direction than let Ausreo on starboard lift to our line on port. That left us tacking below Ausreo along the line all the way to the inner distance mark off the club and stuck there until Ausreo tacked. That hurt and as a result we were last into and out of Humbug except for Fireball. On the way to Cockatoo we had to take a stern of one of the early fleet and that wasted quite a bit of windward height and cost at the corner where we had to slow pinch around the end. Once away we took off after Sweet Chariot and the rest of the fleet further ahead down the run to Drummoyne.
Sweet Chariot was still ahead at Snapper Island but once we held out the genoa to windward we raced down the alley between the islands and the ever encroaching moored yachts for a handy lead on Sweet Chariot at Spectacle Island. Now there was a long tight reach to Long Nose and then a work to Goat ahead. From behind we could see the gusts lifting and knocking the fleet and from this vantage point we worked well to windward. On the tight reach we were consistently over eight knots of boat speed although we had little time for watching the dials. Most of the time was taken up by working the main vigorously sharing the load between three crew.

To our surprise we managed to do more than hold the fleet along the windward work and by Goat Island we were close to Joli and Ausreo while Meridian was a small gap further ahead. John Ewing has a great photo of the fleet on the way to Goat on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page and the different angles are quite evident. Alas we had to pinch to clear the corner of Goat and that cost a lot of time. Indeed the yachts in the earlier fleet further out from the shore than Passion X were knocked right down to the piles so we were lucky to get through when we did. The next chance for some time recovery was off of Long Nose but here Meridian went well wide and Joli worked some magic to get past Ausreo while we came out about the same distance back as we went in.

The reach around Cockatoo and back to Humbug was uneventful but very enjoyable with over 9 knots of boat speed in the gusts and with the hope that Humbug might have some surprises in store. Alas there was no Christmas present under the Humbug tree for Passion X and while we were closer to Ausreo than at any other point since the start it was not close enough.

Ausreo took the handicap honours from Passion X which is a much better result than we have had when we have been first into Humbug. Perhaps Ausreo got us all fired up for the race but whatever it was we did work well to Goat and would like to bottle whatever it was we had tonight to serve up on another evening.

Pasion X on the left on a lean and doing well to windward

The strong wind on the harbour pre race and the forecast for the breeze to freshen all evening was enough for us to set our new No3 jib. It has a little more area than the old No 3 and is fuller off the wire for a more forgiving steering angle but that was not enough to off set the lighter conditions that prevailed through the race.

While the winds were fresh on the work to Goat Island we kept with the pack or rather dropped back less than usual. This was aided by a very well timed start low on the line and a first into Humbug and second out of Humbug. Utopia did a great job with their whisker pole on the short run through Humbug and carried it high around Greenwich point to lead the fleet. Dump Truck and Much Ado V suffered from overly aggressive competition on the line and a clear break from which they were recalled so they were late to the party on the work to Goat.

Eventually Joli and Ausreo went below Passion X and lead us into the mark but the gap was small and I was unconcerned given the forecast. From Goat the breeze faded and the fleet drew away on the long run to Cockatoo and the work back to Goat Island. We were 2 minutes 11 seconds behind Meridian and 1 minute 20 seconds behind Ausreo at the second rounding of Goat Island but after that the breeze faded more and we fell further behind on the run back to Cockatoo.

It was most apparent as we rounded Long Nose that the fleet had drawn well away in the second transit of Goat Island and the reach back through Snails Bay. When the race results are out I will know how far behind but for now it seemed like a very long way. Indeed on the last run Fireball came charging up from behind in close company with Lisdillon so we were more intent on staying in front than worrying about the ones that had got away. Around Cockatoo we held Fireball well but tacked for Humbug too soon. Fireball went further and tacked onto a nice lift to pass Passion X.

Our next move was to be to take the stern of Passion X but the wind had other ideas and a gust prevented us bearing away enough so we tacked back below Fireball to avoid contact and they tacked away. For the next pass I aimed below their stern from a long way out and successfully tacked for Starboard rights. Fireball tacked below aiming to come up from leeward but the wind had other ideas and to make matters worse Lisdillon was getting a nice lift from behind.

At the end we managed to keep in front of Lisdillon and Fireball while Sweet Chariot had the benefit of some late stronger breeze to catch up somewhat through Humbug.

In the tricky conditions we struggled to find a comfortable setting between too much heel and not enough helm to keep high. A larger genoa may well have helped and it would have helped on the downwind legs where we suffered tonight.

Passion off Robinsons Point Birchgrove – Patrick Medley Photo
Joli goes through to leeward and Dump Truck to windward on the work to Goat Island
Much Ado V scoots through while Passion X tacks.
A variety of rigs and reefs out on the course
The fleet getting away after the rounding of Goat Island

After a couple of weeks of sailing into wind shadows we went wide on the corners and skirted the worst of the doldrums to claim third place on handicap just three seconds in front of Joli.

Joli also skirted the corner into Humbug by going on a great circle and all we had to do was go a bit wider, stay in the wind and get through Humbug as fast as we could to take advantage of our more generous handicap.

As generous as our handicap is it was not enough to overcome the elapsed time lead of between eleven to twelve minutes of Dump Truck and Much Ado V and they must be cock a hoop at beating the MC38 over the line.

We enjoyed the beat to Goat Island and did not lose too much time on the short work. With a reasonable reach to Long Nose we would have been among Joli and Meridian but a ferry on the corner came between us and cost us some distance. We did make up some time on the fleet on the run to Snapper Island but on the long work back they extended their lead and so it was quite a lonely beat back to Goat. By the time we reached the rounding mark at Goat the fleet was out of sight around the corner and the tail of Sweet Chariot and Fireball was quite some way off in the distance. To be precise Joli was 2 minutes 30 ahead at Goat and 2 minutes 40 seconds at the finish. Ausreo looked to be half a minute in front of Joli and but for breaking the line on the way to another handicap victory.

Ausreo who had broken the line was still sailing on and was a good guide to how we were performing on the beat to Goat but it did seem that the leaders all pulled away substantially on the beat. It was fitting then that they all fell into a hole off of Greenwich Point at the entry to Humbug and waited for us to catch up a little.

At the finish we were happy with our choice of sails for the evening, with our crew work and how we found our way around the course.

A new face on the course was the Xp38 Solveig II who slotted in in front off Meridian and Joli on a night where I imagine they enjoyed the conditions. Time will tell.

Infotrack blasts away at the start
Passion X trailing the fleet into Humbug
Infotrack gets the first big gust after leaving Humbug

It was a long race tonight and the longer the race the more time allowance we receive which resulted in a surprise sixth place on handicap.
At times the sailing was satisfying with good boat speed in the ten knot conditions and then there were times when a favourable lift brought a smile to our faces only to be wiped away by the next self inflicted wound. In true Python fashion it was only a flesh wound but at the time the distance lost was disappointing.

From the start we reached Humbug in good company only to have the fleet sail through to leeward just a boat width or two below. That would be ok if they did not then point up from under and take off in clear air while we languished in disturbed air waiting for the breeze that never came. The only consolation was that Dump Truck was stuck behind us in the same disturbed air and was making just as little progress. So disadvantaged were they by this unpredictable lack of air that it half way to Goat Island before they finally passed us and went off chasing their peers.

We were generally sailing well in the fresh conditions with the No1 heavy genoa and satisfied with boat speed and position until the last dig into Goat Island for the second rounding. As we tacked away from Goat we were knocked badly and should have tacked back in a few boat lengths. Alas we held on sailing at right angles to the rounding mark only to be also knocked on the way back and lost time pinching to clear the red navigation mark.
That indiscretion let Joli slip away at least a minute and put Ausreo right on our tail.

From there Ausreo did their best to blanket us but we held them off all the way back to Cockatoo Island where the wheels fell off. For some inexplicable reason we languished alongside Cockatoo while Ausreo, Fireball, Sweet Chariot and Lisdillon made up ground.
Around the end of Cockatoo we picked up some pressure and charged off towards Humbug and the stern of Joli who was becalmed off of Onion Point. At this stage we were happy that we had recovered almost all of our previous mistake when we too ran into nothing and the big Ausreo sailed through our lee possibly using momentum. While we wallowed in the eddy off of Onion Point Fireball, Sweet Chariot and Lisdillon enjoyed some of the pressure we had earlier and closed the gap.

At the finish Ausreo was the winner by three and a half minutes from Sweet Chariot and Fireball. The came the two Sydney 38’s Agrovation and Utopia followed by Passion X. We would have moved up only one place with a minute less elapsed time so our sixth place was meant to be. Next was Jackpot, Lisdillon and Joli. Bringing up the tail end was the fast end of the fleet Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Infotrack. Still the two Ker 11.3s had a very close tussle with the two Sydney 38’s all finishing within 30 seconds. now that would have been nice to see.

Finally the course was too long for the forecast conditions and it did not get any better as there was plenty of light patches as there always is. Sure we finished before 8 pm but the club was locked and alarmed before half of the Black fleet were back to discharge crew. It takes the edge of an otherwise enjoyable evening to have to unlock and disarm the club alarm to be able to discharge the loyal crew.

The fleet gets into the breeze while we are backwided in the disturbed air
Dump Truck finds her mojo and goes through to leeward
Joli passes is front. We should have followed.
Ausreo glides by to leeward. Joli becalmed at Onion Point
Joli at the finish with Ausreo well in front of Passion X from the inside pass

What a fine way to spend an afternoon. Had a very pleasant pursuit race around Goat Island, Spectacle Island, Cockatoo Island etc and just finished a few seconds in front of the Sydney 38 Avalon.

As a bonus a GFS sailing friend snapped some great shots of Passion X on the water.

Catching the middle of the fleet
Watching the chaser Avalon
Crossing the front runner
The finish just in time
Thank you Ian for the lovely photos out from Drummoyne