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

Infotrack politely came up from leeward and blasted off ahead

Infotrack politely came up from leeward and blasted off ahead

Clear skies and a refreshing 12 knot sea breeze promised a great evening sailing but a failing breeze disappointed leaving the back of the fleet limping home with ever lengthening finish times.

Team Beck or Infotrack Inc demonstrated the advantage of superior boat speed with Much Ado V taking the gold and Dump Truck the silver. Jackpot and Utopia held on to the leaders well but then there was a gap to Joli, Passion X and Lisdillon who were having a good battle until the breeze finally ran out of puff off Long Nose and the finishing times expanded to embarrassing levels.

On Passion X we had the right gear up for the night, a clean bottom and no excuses but at best could have finished mid fleet but finally managed only 9th out of 11 starters.

We started well but not as well as Jackpot and Utopia. In fact the breeze died at the start and we were probably too slow to power up. Soon were run over by the fleet taking our wind. Infotrack did the sporting thing and reached up from below before pulling away and scooting clear ahead. Then Much Ado V took our wind then Dump Truck and Joli in turn gave us dirty air. We managed to keep clear air below Joli but to leeward of a fleet that lifted strongly. We stayed with Joli but low on the course and did not recover as the lift was a progressive one which only reached us as we tacked away from the earlier fleet on starboard around Long Nose.

On the beat to Goat Island we crossed tacks with Lisdillon who was enjoying the earlier fresher breeze and kept chasing Joli who was half a minute ahead at the navigation mark off of Goat Island.

Around the island we held out our larger genoa and picked up Lisdillon while negotiating a gap between the ferry and the fleet. The reach back to Cockatoo seemed promising as Utopia was just a minute 20 seconds ahead at the concrete dolphin in Snails Bay but the breeze now started to play tricks. Lisdillon ran up along the Balmain shore to our stern but then fell into a hole so that we could reestablish the prior gap. Joli drifted into the wind shadow of the earlier fleet heading for Snapper Island which allowed us to run down to their stern but no further. At this stage it appears that Utopia and jackpot had a better run as they were by now nowhere in sight.

We did the long work back to Goat Island keeping pace with Joli and keeping an eye on Lisdillon and were pleased to be just 35 seconds behind Jolia at the Goat island mark the second time however this is where the wheels fell off. By the concrete dolphin in Snails Bay, Joli had extended her lead to a minute 20 seconds before finally pulling away to a four minute lead at the finish and eclipsing our corrected time by four seconds.

The wheels really fell of our wagon on the way from Long Nose to Humbug where we languished with no breeze. A shift northward in the wind left us pointing at the Woolwich wharf on starboard while ahead already on port Joli was sailing straight up Humbug.

Once in Humbug the mood improved as we had a very safe passage with the Blue Fleet being particularly careful with port and starboard crossings and we had some breeze to keep moving. Our mood got darker again off of Onion Point where we needed to tack away from the rocks but were prevented from doing so by a port handed yacht motoring past after the finish. We were forced to stall off the point until the yacht passed and then had to tack into the path of Salty Sea Dog. The tack to port and back to starboard took 35 seconds during which we made almost no progress other than to slip down the handicap place rankings behind Joli, Lisdillon and Fireball. Sweet Chariot and Ausreo could not overcome the effects of the dying breeze on the elapsed times and drew up the rear.

The dying breeze is a characteristic of sailing in Sydney and gets worse further inland and it is tough when the difference between promise and disappointment is 43 seconds.

Much Ado V goes over the top

Much Ado V goes over the top

This is getting boring. Dump Truck and Joli go over the top

This is getting boring. Dump Truck and Joli go over the top

The lift finally arrives and Joli lifts ahead

The lift finally arrives and Joli lifts ahead

Lisdillon opts to give us their dirty air. Thanks Andrew.

Lisdillon opts to give us their dirty air. Thanks Andrew.

Overtaking Lisdillon around the back of Goat Island

Overtaking Lisdillon around the back of Goat Island

Very careful Blue fleet yachts through Humbug. Thank you.

Very careful Blue fleet yachts through Humbug. Thank you.

Last tack to the finish line in almost no breeze.

Last tack to the finish line in almost no breeze.

After last Friday’s chaos it was a return to a steadier conditions and an uneventful chase around the islands. A later forecast change to windier conditions caught me with the big genoa hanked on and after feeling the full brunt of the breeze out mid stream we motored post haste to the mooring for a change down to the No 3 headsail. There was a big drop in wind strength the further inland you were so we were nicely powered up for the work to Goat Island but underpowered for the two runs around Cockatoo Spectacle and Snapper Islands.

By the second circuit Guwara with a larger headsail was holding us out and Avalon gaining quickly but we held on for second place in the diminished fleet. Perhaps last weeks blow out kept them at home or perhaps the warmer weather did it but for sure it was a better breeze than they will have enjoyed for the twilight race.

The wind direction for the afternoon was very consistent and out chart plotter tracks for the two laps of the islands show an identical path leaving little room for Avalon to show their wind picking and fast tacking skills.

Having farewelled John last week we welcomed back Mal to the team for the Wednesday Twilight at Greenwich Flying Squadron. Expecting 12 knots I hanked on the No 1 heavy genoa and was surprised when the breeze blew in at 18 knots.

Not surprisingly we did well downwind with the sail area set and as the breeze backed off a little we opted to continue the windward leg with a full main. We watched as Utopia, Jackpot and Joli sailed past to windward and watched as Much Ado V powered away to leeward and tacked to cross us by a good margin. Working along the Hunters Hill shore we settled into a routine and were well ahead of Sweet Chariot, Caliban and Fireball. A knock as we approached the ferry wharf at the end of Cockatoo forced us to tack away and that is where the knot brought us undone. The genoa sheet tangled into a tight bunch preventing us from continuing on starboard tack. Now we were forced to tack away from the lift so we could work on undoing the knot which took considerable time and manpower. By the time the knot was sorted we were ready to tack away from the next lift as we were approaching the Balmain shore.

Our chart plotter tracks show what awful angles we sailed while undoing the knot and on the water we were passed by Sweet Chariot and Caliban or should I say Ausreo as she is shown on our results sheets. Fireball having shaken out the reef from the mainsail was also making up ground on Passion X.

For the rest of the work to Goat we recovered our lead on Sweet Chariot and Caliban but could see the rest of the fleet way ahead on the distance. The next time we got a good look at Joli and Meridian was on the work back into Humbug. They were clearly having a tight match race some four minutes ahead of Passion X and in no danger of being overtaken.

Now we were drawing away from Ausreo and Sweet Chariot and Fireball but not by enough for the handicap result. Despite a good set of shifts and some ideal windward working wind speeds on the way through Humbug we were relegated to 10 on handicap in front of only the late starting Dump Truck. That becomes our drop and we hang onto 3rd place on the progress scores now well adrift of Utopia who scored a second and Joli who scored a fifth. Also the rest of the fleet is closing in on our points.

Joli Crosses along the Cockatoo shore

Joli Crosses along the Cockatoo shore

Oops that's what knot to do

Oops that’s what knot to do

The late starting Dump Truck powers by

The late starting Dump Truck powers by

Ausreo crosses

Ausreo crosses

We catch Ausreo again

We catch Ausreo again

We catch Sweet Chariot

We catch Sweet Chariot

Some of our best windworking of the night sailing towards Humbug

Some of our best windworking of the night sailing towards Humbug

Nice shot of Much Ado V powering past to leeward around the end of Cockatoo Island the first time

Nice shot of Much Ado V powering past to leeward around the end of Cockatoo Island the first time

After drifting around Goat Island in the Balmain Friday afternoon series we had a minute of chaos when a 40 knot gust came out of the storm clouds and flattened us. The one saving grace was that Avalon had already passed us and was directly ahead so I could see them lay flat with the breeze and prepare by having the novice sheet hand dump the main ahead of the gust. Dumping the main was not enough to stop us laying on our side so we had to dump the genoa. That got us back on our feet but heading for the rocks on the Balmain shore. Prudence called for a start of the motor to have steerage to get away from the shore which we did all within a minute of the gust hitting.
From 3:30 pm to 4 10 pm the breeze at Sydney Airport was above 19 knots peaking at 43 knots at 3:40 pm but it hit us much faster with no time to prepare by dropping the genoa. I had to do this once we cleared the Balmain shore under motor and while the wind was still blowing 30 knots.
Fortunately all was captured on the Gopro camera and so the minute of chaos is accurate. From the time the 40 knots hit to motoring into the wind safe from the Balmain shore was just one minute and the only damage was a single eyelet on one of the genoa piston hanks.

There was some damage to my pride as I had thought Avalon had taken down their genoa and retired also but alas they just soldiered on around the course under main and completed a shortened course while the rest of us retired. I am quietly hoping they get no wind for their twilight tonight but don’t blame me if that happens that is what is forecast.

There were quite a few firsts this afternoon. Our Grandson had his first yacht race and first as mainsheet trimmer at which he did a great job including handling the storm well. The second first is to be laid the flattest on record since Passion X was launched. Also a first was to start the motor in a race for safety reasons and the last first was to retire from a race for other than lack of wind.

Short and furious storm

Short and furious storm

In the thick of the storm

In the thick of the storm

More of the one minute of the storm

More of the one minute of the storm

Calm before the storm

Calm before the storm

About to hit

About to hit

More water over the Gopro

More water over the Gopro

Passion X from the deck of Tartan showing the light air at the finish

Passion X from the deck of Tartan showing the light air at the finish

we got what was promised which was 17 knots of wind for the Wednesday Twilight at GFS. Using an excess of caution we set the No 3 jib and applied plenty of backstay to flatten the main. In this mode we had a quite pleasant sail around the course if you exclude the heavy work of the mainsheet hand managing the gusty conditions.
The fleet made a very good start spread out along the line with perhaps the exception being Sweet Chariot who was a bit high on the line and possibly in the wind shadow of the hill behind the start line. The rest got away well with the ones lower down the line doing comparatively better again due to the wind shadow combined with a bit of a lull at the gun.
Through Humbug there was also a good line across the river with Jackpot directly to leeward and Utopia a bit forward.
Our run to Cockatoo was in fresh conditions and we particularly enjoyed surfing down Meridian’s stern wave but they were not about to let us pass.
Along the back of Cockatoo Island we did better wide out until the three J boats picked up this huge gust right against the shore and jumped ahead. Fortunately that ran out before the corner and we caught them again at the point but could not sail around Jackpot. Meridian having nosed ahead of the group of three J boats did best around the end of Cockatoo and emerged with a substantial lead.
We setted in for the long leg to Goat Island following Joli as best we could making ground in the lifts and losing in the knocks such that by Goat Island they had pulled out at least a minute and did another minute around the back of Goat and down the Snails Bay shore.
From Long Nose it was our turn to pick up a bit of fresher breeze and do some catching so that by the time Utopia entered the wind shadow of the end of Cockatoo we had gained on her and the three J boats. Then it was our turn to fall into the wind shadow and it took quite a time to emerge due in part to us being in too close and in part due the the small size of the No3 jib which does not like anything under 15 knots..
Back into the breeze we stabilised our position to finish eight over the line and sixth on handicap.
We were happy to be around 3 minutes behind Utopia, 2 minutes 20 seconds behind Jackpot, 2 minutes behind Joli and a minute and a half behind Meridian. That was enough to beat the three J boats on handicap but not the Sydney 38 who now must be heading for the top of the leader board and with a good drop to go. And while we did gain one point on Joli they have a bigger drop so realistically we are third.

Much Ado V and Infotrack in first and second place today must come under the influence of the handicap algorithm. Sweet Chariot obviously got going as they finished ahead of Passion X on handicap and Fireball suffered from a reefed main as the breeze faded and finished last fastest and last on handicap. A bit more courage from the fire fighters is on the cards for future races.

Perhaps it was not as windy as I indicated in the opening paragraph as the big Ausreo finished three minutes behind Passion X but did improve on their result in the light air races with a third on handicap and we would have had to sail a minute faster to match them on handicap.

Dump Truck just ahead off the first corner of Cockatoo Island

Dump Truck just ahead off the first corner of Cockatoo Island

Passion X tacks away from Joli on the work along the Hunters Hill shore

Passion X tacks away from Joli on the work along the Hunters Hill shore

Joli tacks for the Goat Island navigation mark having pulled away a minute from Passion X

Joli tacks for the Goat Island navigation mark having pulled away a minute from Passion X

Close encounter with jackpot off of Cockatoo Island

Close encounter with jackpot off of Cockatoo Island

The Friday afternoon pursuit race from Balmain Sailing Club was conducted in the best breeze of the week. The conditions were perfect with sunshine and a consistent 12 knots of wind from a direction that gave the only true windward work from Long Nose to Goat Island. We made good progress and felt Avalon had not eaten too much into our seven minutes handicap by the corner of Goat Island but by the time we reached Long Nose on the way home they had surged up to our stern.

It did not help that we went inside the work boat too close to the lee shore but once we were out in the fair winds we resumed the chase on the long handicap yachts.
The run down the Drummoyne shore worked well as we were able to catch the fleet with the genoa winged out to windward and then gybe with just enough room for a clear ahead on Guwara and then a clear ahead on Riders of the Storm.
That left us concentrating on making up ground on Avalon which we did in the last flip to port of the leg around Cockatoo Island when we got just enough lift to clear the corner and make up some lost ground. Alas not enough lost ground but satisfying all the same.

Shaving the corner of Cockatoo hoping to catch Avalon

Shaving the corner of Cockatoo hoping to catch Avalon

Chasing Avalon up the Cockatoo shore

Chasing Avalon up the Cockatoo shore

There have been plenty of light nights for our Wednesday Twilight but this would go down as one of the most flukey light breezes with so many changes of direction. As for the promised breeze for which I set the No 1 heavy genoa well it was not delivered as promised but the genoa still did a good job on the evening.
From the start we were run over by Jackpot and Utopia and left wallowing in the left over breeze from which we never recovered. From first into Humbug last week we went to last and it only got worse on the way to Cockatoo Island. As much as we felt hard done by we still felt sorry for Fireball who went a few metres to windward into their own black hole from which no yachts ever emerg and they did not.
Next on the menu was Sweet Chariot who made it all the way around Cockatoo alongside Meridian only to go fifty metres to far. We flipped to the right while they flipped to the left and that was the end of Sweet Chariot. No skill required in this lottery.

Meridian went for the Balmain shore and was rewarded with a nice set of lifts to round Long Nose well ahead of Passion X but trailing Joli by a very long way. The flags on the bridge were blowing from the North East while Meridian was sailing on a South West around Goat Island. Here we were lucky to pick up a bit of a gust and run up to Meridian. We took their stern and went well wide of Goat Island which proved beneficial as we could now see Jackpot not far ahead.  For the runs we set our shortest whisker pole so that we could sail with it out to leeward when required and to windward when the breeze was over the stern. In this mode we caught Jackpot at the ferry wharf off of Long Nose.

Meridian retired and motored past then Jackpot started the engine while we turned to the final leg around Cockatoo. Far in the distance there might have been yachts but the only ones from our fleet we could see were Infotrack and Dump Truck who were working their way along the Hunters Hill shore making for Clarke Point and hopefully Humbug and home. Over the VHF we could hear Sweet Chariot announcing their retirement so at this stage we were last on the course.

Along Cockatoo and back along the Hunters Hill shore we had some of the most consistent breeze of the night and hit speeds of four knots but at 10 minutes past eight and still half a nautical mile out from the finish we conceded defeat and started the engine.

Motoring through Humbug we passed Joli also putting away sails and we have it on good authority via facebook posts of the race that Utopia was 200 metres from the line at the cut off time and by my estimate 700 metres in front of Passion X. Infotrack and Dump Truck finished within the time limit so the only one unaccounted for was Much Ado V which we assume was some where in the mix up front.

For all that hard work everyone except Dump Truck and Infotrack scored a 3 points for the night and as it was a pleasant evening on the water no harm was done.

Jackpot comes to the line with speed and takes the wind out of Passion X sails

Jackpot comes to the line with speed and takes the wind out of Passion X sails

Last into Humbug and looking ahead at the fleet

Last into Humbug and looking ahead at the fleet

The moment we tacked away from the fleet into the direction of Fireball and the black hole of no wind.

The moment we tacked away from the fleet into the direction of Fireball and the black hole of no wind.

Flip flopping from port to starboard and vice versa while the fleet is heading off around Cockatoo

Flip flopping from port to starboard and vice versa while the fleet is heading off around Cockatoo

After the chaos at Cockatoo a quiet moment running down the back of the island

After the chaos at Cockatoo a quiet moment running down the back of the island

After a wet weekend in Sydney the rain cleared and the Sun shone enough for a pleasant Wednesday twilight race. We made a good start in eight knots of breeze and were first into Humbug but also first into the first patch of no wind. Out of Humbug we were still near the front of the fleet and held that to the corner of Cockatoo where the breeze headed causing the fleet ahead to tack away from the point in starboard. We might have picked our way through except for Jackpot who also tacked away from the point. We had trouble tacking away onto starboard because Joli was overlapped above us so we had to stall until a gap opened so we could escape the chaos. Eventually back on port we had lost Joli, Jackpot and Utopia with the fleet behind also closing. Down the back of Cockatoo we carried wind and managed to round inside Joli with Meridian trying to pass inside us. That kept us close to the Island in disturbed air while ahead Dump Truck took off first into the clear air followed by Jackpot, Much Ado V and Utopia. At this early stage in the race Infotrack was nowhere to be seen. Along the leeward side of Cockatoo we managed to hold off Meridian at the expense of some time on the fleet further out and in clear air. Once into clear air we had an entertaining tacking contest with Joli and Meridian where due to some favourable wind shifts and a bit of covering we managed to hold our own.

On the run back to Long Nose Joli drew alongside where she stayed for the leg while behind Meridian was having troubles which took a long time to fix. Reaching to Cockatoo from Long Nose was not our best leg as Joli slipped away by a couple of minutes and Fireball sprinted away from the tail and came right up to our stern.

Around Cockatoo for the last time we could see Jackpot, Much Ado V, Utopia and Joli not far ahead and in light air. Unfortunately we were not able to find any stronger wind to make any further gains and the last stage through Humbug was in almost no wind.  At this stage Infotrack had already finished in breeze with Dump Truck somewhere in between and as we finished the breeze returned bringing the tail home with a flourish.

On handicap the front and back of the fleet did well with Infotrack winning from Fireball, Dump Truck, Sweet Chariot and Ausreo with Passion X back in sixth place.

On a night like tonight sixth place was a good result and even had we finished alongside Joli who was two minutes ahead we would have gained only one place.

When the progress scores are updated we should be up with Joli and just one point ahead of Utopia with Fireball’s second place tonight bringing them in at fourth but there is still a lot of sailing to go and some big drops coming up as we approach the end of the series.

Getting a favourable lift on the way to Goat Island

Getting a favourable lift on the way to Goat Island

Nice full genoa on Utopia

Nice full genoa on Utopia

Luffing up to keep Meridian behind. Photo taken from Utopia

Luffing up to keep Meridian behind. Photo taken from Utopia

Dump Truck  gets into the breeze and takes off.

Dump Truck gets into the breeze and takes off.

Genoa fully powered up in the light breeze

Genoa fully powered up in the light breeze

The fleet is so close yet so far away.

The fleet is so close yet so far away.