The breeze from the North East came in over an hour earlier than forecast so pre race we were enjoying 7 knots. Right on the start the breeze faded and shifted north so that the pin was favoured but so short was the line the pin advantage was marginal. Opting for room to tack we started on the boat end and tacked away as soon as we had room. That was a good move as the fleet was pinching up the line and seemed not to have dropped back to a close haul course on the start gun. On port and with freedom to sail a fast lane we were soom pulling ahead of the fleet. Agrovation tacked over to starboard crossed our bow and went to the windward side from where she eventually worked out ahead. Amanti tried to go over the top but I moved into height mode and managed to sail out from under until they too tacked away on starboard. Once we were headed we too tacked away to be careful to stay with the fleet and stay we did.
Back and forth up the windward work we took our gains and tacked back to cover. Perhaps the one mistake we made was to cross Crosshaven and Amanti at the top mark and then have to reach down to the mark when we could have tacked under and been clear ahead.
Agrovation had stretched her legs well out in front of the fleet while Amanti, Crosshaven, Passion X and Meridian followed in a tight group down the course to Steele Point. Meridian and Amante did best going either side of the course with Amante out wide and Meridian along the shore. We kept taking pressure when we could and managed to round Steele Point alongside Crosshaven. Initially we went low to clear the wind shadow of a bit Div 1s monster and once clear came up a little. Crosshaven in close died a painful death in the wind shadow of the hill while Meridian went even wider than Passion X and reached up from further out to be ahead at Rose Bay. That was possibly pay back from us running past them on the same leg last week so I guess that settles a score.
Over the radio the race officials announced a shortened course at Point Piper and as we crawled along that leg we began to realise why. Crosshaven had fallen further behind as the breeze died and she took the rest of the fleet with her.
Now we were chasing Meridian to keep the gap under our handicap allowance and that we did to the tune of 8 seconds.
So close were the first four yacht on handicap that only 37 seconds separated us but then there was a gap of three minutes to the less fortunate ones who had suffered the dead patch in Rose Bay.

Good angles all the way up the course as we covered the fleet

Monkey Magic held on for a fifth place to protect her position at the top of the leader board while Agrovation with a second and Amante with a third pulled further ahead of Meridian and Passion X tied for fourth. Then there is a break of ten points back to Britannia and the consistent Allegro.

For our part we are pleased to pull off a fourth fastest and third on handicap on a day when it was mostly windward working and a quiet run home.

The title is a synopsis of today’s Winter Wedneday race at RANSA and despite the results everyone should be happy for a fresh breeze on a sunny day with a finish before the storm clouds arrived. Indeed at the finish the black clouds over North Sydney looked threatening so we stowed the sails as quickly as possible only to have big bright white cotton wool clouds appear from the South.

Fidelis won the reaching duel to the top mark followed by the Sydney 38 Agrovation or the First 40 Navy One or Amante. We had started on the boat with a better reaching angle but the wind shadow of the fleet was impenetrable. We ran away for clear air when we could and courtesy of ISuper going high we got a bit of clear air and pulled away from Philosopher and Joli. At the mark we were intent on establishing an inside overlap on Monkey Magic and not running up the backside of Meridian or Foreign Affairs. At the turn we were delighted to have pulled clear of ISuper, Philosopher and Joli who all had a share of our wind shadow. Overtaking lanes on the way back to Steele Point were very rare. We went up to get some clear air on Meridian and to stop Allegro running over the top and we did achieve both of these objectives. Despite the clear air Meridian rounded Steele Point ahead and only our tactic of holding out the genoa to windward and running deep into Rose Bay allowed us to reach back just clear ahead of Meridian.
On the work to Point Piper we had Meridian tucked away below and were chasing Foreign Affairs when our only mishap of the day happened. On the tack back to the Point Piper lay line we caught the genoa sheets around the end of the spinnaker pole and had to mark time until the tangle was untangled.
In the delay Meridian popped out ahead but fortunately the delay was not long enough for anyone else to overtake us.
Now we had to follow Foreign Affairs and Meridian around Shark Island. This time the trick of holding out the genoa to windward was not as effective so we turned for home half a minute behind Meridian.
The leg back to the finish line was tight but with a few lifts available most of the fleet did it on one board. Fidelis was an exception and we could see her tack back on port way past the lay line to the finish.
We pinched a lot on this leg thinking that the yachts in front knew something we did not know and were expecting a big header. A really big header did not come so we might have given away a few seconds but when we headed down to fast mode we saw over 8 knots to windward and a VMG of 5.1.
Despite this good speed Joli was gaining from behind and Meridian was pulling away a little.
At the finish we drew with Meridian on handicap and beat Joli by a few seconds.
The silver lining in the results was the different yachts that did well in the conditions. Amante did exceptionally well on fastest times and won on handicap from Fidelis, Navy One and Leeward.
Passion X was back in equal eighth with Meridian just 20 seconds behind Agrovation. Reve was a further eight seconds in front of Agrovation.
Depending on how much time we lost with the genoa sheets tangle around the spinnaker pole we might have been a few places further up the ladder but I am sure everyone had similar issues on the course.
Overall Monkey magic with their big drop for today are in the lead from Amante, Agrovation, Meridian and Passion X. No feasible result would have had us further up the ladder than one place so we are pleased with our day’s work.

We had one of our better West Harbour Winter Series races today in a breeze that started at seven knots and faded to nothing. The results always look better when your competition is becalmed after you have crossed the finish line but nevertheless we were in front of most of the fleet with a fifth fastest out of thirteen starters.
Our start was particularly good except for the rampaging First 40 that tried to run down the line on top of a fleet of yachts half her weight and size. It took a while for them to acknowledge their sins and tack away but once we had clear air we picked the breeze better than most and were third to the top mark.
At this point the big spinnakers come out and while we were contemplating our next move the breeze headed too much for the spinnakers that were already hoisted on the yachts behind. The front of the fleet had already charged down the leg with spinnakers up so they pulled away while we with no spinnaker pulled away from those behind struggling to get up to the mark.
The next leg was pretty square where our oversized big yellow spinnaker works well until the same rampaging First 40 with a giant masthead asymmetric decides to reach at right angles to the course direction.
As leeward boat they have a pretty wide range of options for sailing a proper course but any course at right angles to the next mark would be moot. To be fair the breeze had swung behind so to keep their asymmetric filled they had to sail higher and so we were stuck on starboard with the pole out the port side and the spinnaker pulling us over until they bore away.
At this point the breeze was now square behind and pulling Passion X down the course as fast as the First 40 and the Pogo 36. in the photo you can see Passion X appearing to be squeezed between the above two yachts but it was not that close. The First 40 went deep to have good reaching angles for their asymmetric spinnaker while the Pogo 36 reached up to our line.
With weapons (spinnakers) away we proceeded onto the long work back to Spectacle Island in a fickle breeze. As the breeze faded we worked forwards in the light air relatively better than the Pogo 36 and for the leg held our position or worked out further on the fleet. The exception was Avalon who we held out until we reached the turn mark off Spectacle Island. As Avalon rounded the mark behind Passion X they had their spinnaker flying sooner and promptly caught us well before the next mark off Birkenhead.
With another switch in the breeze what on the last lap was a square run now became a tight two sail reach and a follow the leader home.
After the finish we could take time to look back at the fleet becoming progressively more becalmed ensuring we had a good result for the day.

Asymmetric spinnakers on the First 40 and Pogo 36 doing well compared to the big yellow symmetric spinnaker on Passion X.

The forecast fading north west breeze went AWOL well before the start and allowed a sea breeze to settle in at about six knots. The favoured end was switching around in the pre race preparation so we opted for a start on starboard towards the boat but away from the pack. At the start the starboard tack was tending to lift and as we had good boat speed with the rig powered up we held on for as long as possible. Below Philosopher tacked to port and tried to cross where there was insufficient room. The result of us avoiding contact was that we ended in their dirty air needing a bear away to get clear air. Eventually Philosopher tacked away from Bradley Heads so we could follow but on port we drifted down into their dirty air.

Crosshaven went for the Steele Point side and mindful that we had lost out to that side a few weeks ago we followed suite as the shifts allowed. Over on the Vauclause shore we trades places with Philosopher, Meridian, Joli and Crosshaven and on the way passed Monkey Magic, Foreign Affairs and Agrovation who were already running home.

We were the last of our little group to round the top mark and head back to Steele Point. To windward Meridian and Joli had run out of breeze so we stayed square behind Philosopher for the run home. Meridian gybed out to the north and when we took her stern we did wonder how it would work out. Well it did not work out well as the breeze died mid stream and filled in from the Vauclause shore.

Along the run back to Steele Point we kept watching the following fleet for signs of freshening wind. Allegro and Amante were a good guide and we were pleased that they did not make up ground.

Joli rounded Steele Point the first of our group followed by Crosshaven and Philosopher. We went widest of the group and passed Crosshaven but could not get past Philosopher until the mark in Rose Bay. To our good fortune Philosopher stopped just beyond the mark allowing Passion X to pass to windward and from there keep a few metres ahead. Joli pulled out for a small lead amongst our group of four while we had trouble passing a lower division yacht around the Point Piper mark. Learning from past mistakes we kept on heading north from the Point Piper mark to clear the disturbed air as soon as possible. Crosshaven tacked along the shore behind us and allowed us to get a mini break and hold out Philosopher, Crosshaven and Meridian to the finish.

In the dying breeze the front runners took all the silver while the tail enders fell further and further behind in the handicap places.

The first six places went to Monkey Magic, Agrovation, Foreign Affairs, Joli, Passion X and Philosopher while Crackerjack, ISuper, Larrikin and Leeward retired gracefully from the twenty two boat fleet.

At this stage Monkey Magic is blitzing the fleet on points score followed by Britannia, Agrovation and Meridian. Our fifth place brought us up one point behind Meridian into fifth place.

On scratch we are equal sixth with Monkey Magic well behind Agrovation and Foreign Affairs.

For Passion X it was a good race as we concentrated hard all day on keeping moving and at the same time picking the right side of the course. It was a long work from the start to the heads and a shorter run home to the finish line a windward work from Point Piper to the top of Shark Island. While we could not keep up with Agrovation, Monkey Magic and Foreign Affairs in the windward working stakes we did hold our own with the rest of the fleet.

Some good tacks on the way to the heads.

The fickle westerly breeze toyed with the fleet for the first half of the RANSA Winter Wednesday race today before the forecast southerly arrived.
Except for Meridian who established an early lead on the downwind and retained it through all the lulls and puffs the rest of the fleet was tightly bunched. As soon as we were accelerated by a puff we ran into a quiet patch and the fleet from behind caught up. At first the windward yachts did well but eventually those who went hard for the Steele Point shore lifted under the fleet and gained a significant break. Chief amongst those were Crosshaven and Britannia who went on to win the day on handicap.
Almost everyone had a nibble at our heels and Foreign Affairs did more than nibble and sailed straight past.
At the turn we were in company with Navy One, Allegro and ISuper with Larrikin hard on our heels and ready for the long work back to the finish line. At Steele Point we were too close the the rocks requiring two quick tacks to clear the point but we came back clear astern of another division competitor and still had to pinch. In this manoeuvre Allegro, ISuper and Navy One drew ahead enough to be clear in front at the Rose Bay turning mark. As we had a big gap behind we tacked on the mark for clear air but lost on the wind angle which favoured those who held on.

That is about the story of the day. Being back in the fleet because of the downwind leg we never had a clear run at the wind shifts . Around Shark Island we made one last attempt to go wide and catch Allegro and ISuper but could not bridge the gap.

The work to the finish did not present any opportunity to overtake so we ended the day with 10 points for scratch and 12 for handicap. On the progress points we drop to 6th on scratch and 7th on handicap.

While we were disappointed that we did not get the fresh downwind leg we need to have a gap for the beat home we nevertheless pulled out four minutes on Larrikin and finished in the middle of the two First 40’s. Fidelis too must have been disappointed with the anemic downwind leg as they managed to beat only Crackerjack who likes it much fresher upwind and down.

Today we sailed our first race of the West Harbour Winter Series having forsaken the first of the series for a Mothers Day get together. As if to be rewarded for our homage to mothers we started on the pin end and worked into clear air while Avalon behind was stuck in traffic. Far off to windward Odyssey picked up a huge lift and was first into it so she steamed ahead. On our side we enjoyed a tussle with Another Planet at first and then Irukandji next and for our careful wind picking we were rewarded with a spot close to the front of the fleet at the first mark.
Now for the second act of this play we were pretty well becalmed for the run down from Spectacle to Snapper Island and while at first slow with the spinnaker held our own with the ones we would expect to while the slicker crews like Avalon sailed past. At Snapper Island the breeze headed so we were flogging the big mast head symmetrical spinnaker trying to point up above the moored yachts. While we missed the moored yachts the fleet in front which did the leg in more free conditions sailed away into the distance with a huge and somewhat demoralizing lead.
Eventually we capitulated and pulled the sock down over the spinnaker until we reached Long Nose and could bear away.
On the square we went over square for a while to good effect as the wind was so light the mainsail seemed useless while the poled out masthead symmetric spinnaker was doing a good job of pulling us back up the fleet.
Act three was one for redemption as we rounded the mark and after a short flop around in no breeze lifted up from under Omnishambles and took off. From here it was all catching as we had our own fresh southerly breeze that kept trying to fill in to reach the fleet in front but kept getting pushed back. We rode the front of the new breeze all the way up the Hunters Hill shore neither going too close to the Cockatoo Island wind shadow not too low to the old breeze. To our surprise we now close reached past Irukandji and then tightened up for the last stage into the mark.
The final leg to the shortened course finish line was a work up the Drummoyne shore when the last lap had been a run. In this third act we picked every shift to perfection and pulled away a couple of minutes from Irukandji and closed the gap on the front runners by a greatly undeserved margin.
So great was our fortune in this last act of the three act play that we scored fourth on handicap.
As much as I enjoyed the catch up in this race this was the sort of good fortune I would rather save for a heat of the World Laser Masters championships. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful in saying it seems a waste to use up this good fortune on a West Harbour Winter Series

A very lucky set of wind shifts up the narrow channel off Drummoyne

The title says it all but despite that major problem we did manage 11 points for the day out of the regular fleet of 17 starters.
At the start we were squeezed out at the pin by Meridian shooting the mark which slowed us and let the yacht above carry over the top. Despite this set back we went as fast as possible for clear air and seemed to be doing something right as we worked into clear air and were pointing up on Allegro and Joli. Out ahead we could see Foreign Affairs leading the fleet and picking all the right shifts while we were bogged down in a large group. A quick tack to port meant we had to take a few sterns and each time a boat length was lost so that when we came back we had lost a few places. Now we carried on on starboard tack chasing Mr Mojo and watching his lifts and knocks. Allegro had tacked to the Steele Point shore along with a group which included Crosshaven, Agrovation, Amante, Monkey Magic and Meridian. Where we were we could see that we were working out from under Joli and felt that was a good guide so we hung on realising that the race was lost to the Steele Point side fleet. At the Sow and Pigs we opted to tack back to the shore which looks to have been a poor choice as we were headed on port and just managed to clear Joli. However to our surprise we were not far behind Allegro and did manage to keep in front of Joli.
For the run home we had some traffic including Britannia,Rum Jungle and Senta whom we had to avoid. Just ahead Allegro was holding a slim lead and behind Joli and ISuper were threatening. At Steele Point I wanted to cover the fleet while going as far to away from the wind shadow as the fleet would allow. That meant a fairly close rounding into the same doldrums as Allegro where we all flopped around for a moment or two. To aid with wind flow in the very light conditions I hauled on the backstay to flatten the head of the main and twist off the leach and with the main looking more like a reaching spinnaker we pulled out from the group of Allegro an ISuper.
At the Rose Bay mark we rounded behind Britannia but Joli came in with a late overlap and took our wind.
Now we had a group of yacht including ISuper and Star Ferry come around the mark behind and gybe away above us. With few options we followed Britannia out to port and clear air. When Britannia gybed back to the fleet we continued in our own wind all the way to Point Piper and only gybed back close to the moored yachts along the shore and with speed approached the mark.
This one leg allowed us to establish a lead on Allegro, Joli and I Super, Senta and Britannia which we were able to carry home to the shortened course finish line at the bottom of Shark Island.
At the finish we were four minutes behind Crosshaven who was four minutes behind Agrovation which is understandable given the huge persistent shift we were sailed on the way up. What is less understandable is the result showing Star Ferry two minutes in front as we thought he was back with Allegro and the group of yacht that went right on the run to Point Piper. If the recorded result is right then John deserves first place on handicap and equal second with Passion X on the progress scores.
On the progress scratch scores Amante moves to the lead from Meridian and Passion X but we are waiting for those faster yachts with DNS in their scores to reach enough races for their first drop and a return to the normal order of places.

Caught on the outside of a persistent shift. The tack back angle should have been better given the outgoing tide

Winter is Sydney can be finer than summer in parts of the world and Sydney is one of the few places where one can sail year round in relative comfort. Friday was a case in point where the temperature never got below 10 C rising to 17 C in time for our start in the Balmain Winter series. The wind however was gusting to 20 knots and the chill factor would have made the conditions feel much colder were it not for the physical work rate required to tame the beast called Passion X in the gusty winter conditions. Yes the winter westerly breeze is off the land and the only thing predictable about it is that it is capricious.
We set the carbon No 3 jib for the ease of tacking in the windy conditions and started with a full mainsail flattened out for the conditions. We calculated correctly that we could manage the sail area for the short work to the first island rounding mark and then carry the sail downwind. Depending on the wind strength we could reef at the turn or struggle home with full sail.

As the afternoon progressed the wind abated a little and apart from the occasional gust we managed the course without the optional reef. Indeed as the day progressed we caught the reefed yachts but with a crew of just three we could not hold the more crewed up Avalon who as usual executed flawlessly to beat us by a couple of places.

One of the regular crew took a short video from Birkenhead Point showing our rounding of Snapper Island. The video shows a snappy tack which was one of our best for the day and also shows the amount of mast bend. Given the amount of backstay I had wound in for the windy conditions the mast bend looks modest at best. Perhaps I need to try harder but now that I have seen the real life evidence I will pay more attention to this control.

A good 5th place on handicap backing up from our 2nd place last week puts Passion X into the lead on the progress scores by one point from the nimble little Monkey Magic.
Meridian blitzed the fleet and with Crosshaven and Monkey Magic took first, second and third places respectively. This was a big turn around by Meridian from last week and probably no coincidence that they started at the pin end and managed to get clear air ahead of the fleet.
We watched the Division 1S start where the windward yachts did better and opted for that end. It was a good choice given the short start line and as soon as we cleared the Committee boat we went high for clear air.
soon Britannia was urging us to hurry up as the used our stern wave to good effect. Amante tried to go higher but we pulled away and only conceded places at the turn mark to Agrovation and Foreign Affairs.
the first tack on the windward work gave us a small gain on Crosshaven and in hindsight we should have tacked with her as she and Foreign Affairs proceeded to lift inside us all the way to Steele Point. Ahead Meridian was charging on in clear air and behind Amante and ISuper were pressing hard.
At the top of the tight reach to Point Piper the wind died leaving us wallowing in the disturbed air. Eventually wind returned but not before Amante and ISuper had passed us never to be caught again.
Around Shark Island Monkey Magic put in an appearance but once we were on the tight reach to the finish line we pulled clear again.
At the finish there was a long gap back to Allegro and Joli but the time difference was not so much which shows we were all moving at good speeds along the course.
Luckily we held Agrovation to less than a two minute lead which gave us a small margin in handicap. We will need that once the course turns to their favour.

These photos are from Andrew Richardson’s blog over at Crossfire Photography. Andrew is a fellow GFS sailor on Lisdillon and we compete on the GFS Wednesday Twilight series through the summer.

Andrew having a chat with the crew of Passion X
Passion X on a bit of a lean
Not leaning too far here

Pop over to Andrew’s Blog for lots more photos and some pretty nice video footage.

We were too busy for photos today due to the occasion shower that drifted across the harbour. (However a fellow club member captured the start chaos) Being water shy the yacht preparation was left until we arrived at the course and while the preparation went well an eagle eyed crew spotted a missing split pin that needed a temporary repair. Repairs were effected with ten minutes to go and then the wind died. Cautiously we worked our way back to the start boat where the Div 1 s fleet was becalmed along the line and our division becalmed to the shore side of the committee boat.
Due to the lack of wind and incoming tide we were able to hold a spot mid line on starboard and come up when the fleet reached along the line. Unfortunately Coco was becalmed on port and unable to move so we had to call rule 14 on the otherwise entitled starboard reachers.
It took minutes to untangle the mess and while I felt sorry for Larrikin who was the unwilling meat in the sandwich we had nowhere to go and the yachts to leeward of Larrikin should have given more room.
A whiff of breeze over our right quarter pulled us ahead of Coco who was still stalled and with that little puff we broke cover and headed off after the fleet which had started a couple of minutes earlier.

Thanks Andrew for the perfect photo to match the commentary

It was our good fortune that the clear starters ran out of wind just as the Div 1s yachts had so we could catch the fleet with following wind and with a bit of luck.

Ignoring strategy I followed the swirls in the breeze which by chance took us to seaward of the fleet and in our own stream of breeze.

Little Britannia was also in the stream of breeze so we sailed side by side for the whole downwind leg never more than boat length ahead or behind.

Inshore out of the tide the fleet occasionally looked threatening so I tried to work to that side. As we left the Rose Bay area we crossed the Division 1 S yachts Euphoria, Wild Thing and Blue Chip which was possible after some negotiations with Britannia as we both needed to sail to leeward of the fleet who were over on port gybe locked in by our starboard gybe rights.

We never got over to the line of the following yachts but managed to pull clear ahead of all except Britannia on whose stern we rounded the mark. on the wind we were matching Britannia and could see the menacing stem of Allegro chasing us up the course. By Steele Point we were in Britannia dirty air and had Allegro looming on our starboard quarter but pulling below Britannia we were able to point up from under and also get a few metres on Allegro.

The tight leg to Point Piper was tricky as the breeze was light off the wind shadow but the angle called for pointing high. Try as we might we could not avoid a short tack to clear the mark and in the process we seemed to gain a few metres on the fleet. Now we had a poled out genoa to the mark above Shark Island and a tight reach around the island and home.

Execution was pretty good on the day and enough to hold on for a fastest time and a second on handicap to Britannia and just one second in front of Allegro.

Well done to Britannia for an excellent run and a strong work to windward for a well deserved win and well done to Allegro for getting to within a second of our handicap. One small lift on the last work and they would have done it. As it was we had to endure a lot of dirty air to get over the finish line and were pleased that we avoided a late tack or having to shoot the line as Allegro did.

It was a pleasing team effort with lots of trim adjustment to get the best out of the conditions. That included crew weight forward and back and windward and leeward as the breeze changed gears.

I discovered some great shots of Passion X on the Port Stephens in Pictures facebook page.

Great Action shot of Passion X with yellow mast head spinnaker
Out by ourselves in Race 2 of performance cruising
Action reaching at Sail Port Stephens 2021
Passion X with red white and blue fractional spinnaker in the middle of the fleet
Getting a good start with the big yellow spinnaker
The only one I could find with the asymmetric spinnaker flying

The Covid 19 restricted RANSA presentation night went off well despite the reduced attendance. Also present was John Conroy from Div 2 and Don Young from Krakatoa who took off the prize for our division.
We were rewarded for last year’s efforts with second place which is the engraved mug and laser cut plaque.
More surprising was to receive a second plaque for Passion X from our first year in Division 1 s when except for when the fleet went the wrong way we finished last in every race. The prize we received must have been a specially minted Race Committee trophy for persistence in the face of insurmountable odds. It may also have reflected our consistent appearance in a division which has had some inconsistent appearances due the the disparity in the performance of the yachts ranging from TP52’s to custom harbour racers to stock Sydney 38’s. We possibly stole the award from Blue Chip who was also a very consistent starter but whatever the circumstances it was a pleasant surprise.

Our haul from 2017 and 2020

After last years cancellation due to Covid 19 it was great to see a fleet of over 100 yachts, crews and supporters descend on Port Stephens for the regatta. As if to make up for last years cancellation the weather was kind although we would have liked more consistent breeze in several races where the dying breeze favoured the faster front runners while the tail struggled home.

Rare occasion Passion X ahead of Wangi based JAB

In the lead up to the week of racing we raced in the Newcastle to Port Stephens race and were pleased to finish 12th fastest in a fleet of 43 entries. Most of our placings were gained in the final stages of the race when the breeze filled in and we could sail out from under the fleet which had come down with new breeze from offshore. The breeze took a long time to fill in over the course and in that time the yachts to seaward made good grounds on the ones inshore while we were more or less on the rhumb line in the middle. The 31st place on handicap was not unexpected given we had done well two years ago and the handicaps were based on the performance in that one race.

For the Commodores cup we were in Division 2 and had 9th, 10th and 14th fastest placings in a pretty hot fleet. To be fair the first race was a lottery with the back markers from the non spinnaker division starting 15 minutes after our fleet catching the division 1 leaders. In such circumstances one can be grateful for any finish. Such was the conditions that handicaps were not adjusted for the second day which hugely favoured those yacht that had had the good fortune of a great handicap on day 1.

Day 2 had its problems too with the breeze dying on the fleet making our way home. We were happy with the 10th fastest but the time differenced dragged out so our handicap result suffered.

Day 3 had some good breeze which called for the No 3 jib. After the first work, and two reaches we were right up with the front of the fleet but on the hard beat into Corlette we dropped back to 14th fastest while the heavier yachts did better. nevertheless we enjoyed the day and the moments of optimism.

After the lay day we had three races in division 2 of the Performance Cruising event. For the first race there was solid breeze out in the ocean and we were very pleased with out windward performance. We were still pleased on the spinnaker reach back to Tomaree Head. At the Heads we could see the fleet becalmed in the wind shadow and opted to go wide. That did not work out as we were left low on the fleet for the work back and were passed by four yachts in the process. Despite this set back we were buoyed by our windward performance and ready for race 2.

Race 2 was the highlight of our regatta where we started on the marina wall on port gybe and sailed out from under the fleet. We retained our lead out to Yacaaba head where a line of breeze just to windward allowed Jab to sail around. It did not help that we were blanketed by Division 1 yachts we had caught and Jab made the better decisions on skirting the fleet.

The breeze died on the way home allowing another yacht to pass but we held on for a third fastest.

From the height of race 2 we sank into the depths of race 3. It did not help our optimism when the handicappers took an axe to our rating and set an insurmountable hurdle to a good series result. Jab was treated even more harshly so it was no surprise that we were the two last places on handicap.

We did make it easier on Jab by catching our spinnaker in the rigging and taking minutes to retrieve it but how we got to that stage is a longer story.

Trying to emulate our port gybe start from the day before we hung around on the rock wall only to be charged by a fellow club member who decided their best interest was served by aiming right at us and calling “starboard.”

To an extent that tactic worked as we were delayed in deploying the spinnaker and lost the small amount that would have put us ahead of the fleet at the bottom mark. Instead of a clear run to the mark we had a group of starboard tackers come across and force a gybe to starboard. That would have been ok but for the decision of one of them to continue well below the mark making a gybe back with spinnaker difficult.

With hind sight we should have hoisted the genoa early in anticipation of this but it was only a matter of a couple of boat lengths and we would have been clear.

It took 6 minutes to get the spinnaker untangled and the genoa hoisted but by this time we were so far below the mark that we had at least eight minutes to make up and were now deep down in the division 3 fleet with plenty of traffic. We followed the fleet out to the relative shelter from the tide on the edge of the sand banks and made good progress to the deep water mark. About that time the wind and tide conspired to put us about and about and about without making a lot of progress. We had plenty of company from the division 3 yacht who were all enjoying the same challenges.

We had no idea that Koko had made a good passage through this section and was on the way to a 4th fastest and their best result of the regatta. Still we were pleased to catch up to 14th fastest after such a long interruption to our race.

The other nice outcome from our problems was that Jab finished in front of Passion X on handicap with just enough points to beat Koko on a countback. Now Jab’s owner is a long time friend from Laser Sailing and they sail their First 40.7 spectacularly well and we are pleased with their success.

With a daughter and two grandsons on board Elaine and I blitzed the fleet for the first race of the Balmain Winter Friday series. It was their first race on board Passion X and they performed admirably in the light and tricky conditions. Of particular note was the tacking to windward up the narrow channel behind Snapper and Spectacle Island when there was a little breeze and the drift around Goat Island when there was none.

As background I had been disappointed with our light air performance in recent weeks and attributed some of that to having moved the anchor from the bow to the stern locker and inducing more stern down trim. The idea had been to keep the weight low but the improvement in righting moment may have been more than offset by the increase in wetted surface at the stern. In preparation for a light series at Port Stephens I returned the anchor to the bow locker and also installed the second Cat 4 anchor in the locker inducing a lot more bow down trim. Again in preparation for the transit to Port Stephens I added 200 litres of water for hot showers en route. The water tanks are generally forward of the centre of buoyancy of the yacht and add to the bow down trim. Judging by today’s performance the extra bow down trim more than offset the increase in weight.

While the skill of the novice crew and the extreme bow down trim may be credited with some of today’s performance there must have been an element of starting at the right time.

When Krakatini started she was on a tight work and seemed unlikely to clear the moored yachts along the shore. Shortly after Moonbeam took off and was pointing well above the islands. When Odyssey and Passion X started side be side we had a loose work to Snapper island and a nice lift after passing the shallow water of the western end. We were lucky to be inside Odyssey so that as we tacked away from the moored yachts on the Birkenhead shore we left Odyssey clear astern and dealing with our dirty air.

By luck or good management we were on a lifting tack all the way up the shore allowing us to make gains on the fleet.

The long broad reach to Long Nose was a painful affair where we struggled to go to leeward of Kelly2N. It was only post the corner of Cockatoo Island that we could get far enough to leeward to break through their cover.

From Long Nose the leg was square to the Goat Island navigation mark with insufficient air to blow the top batten through. I did not seem to matter that the main looked terrible. It was out there and the genoa was poled out to windward and most of the crew were camped on the very nose of Passion X in which fashion we drifted down on the fleet.

Our big move was around Goat where we went wide and eventually lifted up to round the island. Guwara went wider and sailed through our lee but we dropped down to their wind and eventually pointed up to their stern. A couple of tack later we came out from the gap to the island a nose ahead and there we started to pull away.

As we were sailing back into breeze and were first to get to it we extended our lead by a large margin and finished with our largest margin since launching Passion X four years ago.

A big thank you to the family for entering into the spirit of the race with such enthusiasm. The skills learnt at the Richmond River Sailing Club were put to good use with good calls of the telltales and proactive trimming. They were quick to the leeward side in the calm and quick to the bow for the downwind drifts all contributing to a good result.

Reuben rowing home after the race

Two grandsons enjoying the afternoon. Winners are grinners