The run out tide and no wind resulted in us being carried well over the start line with minutes still to go. Unfortunately there was not enough wind to get us back over the line in time so we were forced to go around the end and start three and a half minutes later than the fleet. All was not lost as a following breeze sprang up and assisted by the tide we drifted down on the Blank and Green and White fleet yachts still becalmed in Humbug. The Commodore very kindly let us go along the Onion Point shore on starboard tack. This allowed us to make up some ground but we had to be on the other side of the fleet on port tack. We waited for an opportunity to gybe very sharply and take the stern of about twenty yachts who were going the other way and being very wide we skirted the fleet.
In the light air beam reaching we held Utopia all the way to Goat Island. It was only in the lee of Goat that Utopia crept away. Meantime Dump Truck who had been becalmed at Greenwich arrived at Goat Island to add to the fleet. Avalon was around Goat Island but becalmed. Jackpot was parked just behind and Joli just behind Jackpot. Utopia found some different breeze and went closer to Goat Island than we thought was wise but Dump Truck did the same and made it through.
Apart from Dump Truck the fleet more or less came out of the Goat Island rounding as they went in which left us chasing on the reach and run to Cockatoo Island. With a bit of following breeze Ausreo came up to our stern but fortunately we trimmed the sails a accelerated away.
We were relieved that Ausreo called it a night and went home as that let us to concentrate on poling out the big genoa and chasing the leaders.
Along the run we drew up to Joli who promptly passed us on the work back to Humbug.
In the fading light it was impossible to see the tell tales on the black genoa so I was sailing part by instruments and part by the call of the crew. I was now dark in Humbug and impossible to see the shifts. What I can see from the tracks is that we did a pretty terrible job on the way through Humbug but even a miracle run would not have been enough to finish on time. Today I assigned all the bulkhead instruments to a group display so that by adjusting one knob I will be able to dim all the instruments. That might make seeing the sails in the dark a little easier.
Avalon, Jackpot and Dump Truck all made the cut off. Dump Truck was the last to finish at 20:12:03 with 2:57 to spare. At the 20:15:00.0000 cut off we were just at Onion Point bearing away for the line. Somewhere in between Utopia and Joli were caught by the unforgiving guillotine of the absolute deadline.

Just one of the three finishers turned up for the post race presentation which left two places to be drawn by lucky dip and Joli and Passion X each won one of those prizes.

The other prize for the evening was some very good photos taken of Passion X by one of the crew on Grandparent duty the previous Wednesday. I have taken a photograph of some of these but will get the digital versions in due course.

Passion X from the previous week.

Passion X from the previous week.

Another good photo taken by absent crew.

Another good photo taken by absent crew.

A less than ideal path through Humbug on the futile work home.

A less than ideal path through Humbug on the futile work home.

The fleet coming together  in the lee of Goat Island

The fleet coming together in the lee of Goat Island

Had the forecast 25 knots turned up as planned we could have been famous and come home with a roaring southerly but it was not to be. Our cautious selection of a heavy air No 3 jib looked ok as we picked the start well and the breeze held well over 5 knots. We won the race into Humbug and kept the lead to the corner of Cockatoo Island. At that point the breeze and our luck ran out. In turn Avalon, Utopia and Jackpot ran past and lead around the corner of the island to start the work to Goat Island. We made a tactical mistake at this stage of staying too close to the leeward side of Cockatoo Island and waiting for the breeze while Joli and Fireball went lower and faster. Full marks to Fireball for going the lowest along the Hunters Hill shore and then along the Greenwich shore completely skirting the windward yachts. Our small heavy weather jib was not helping but we would have gone a lot better if we had lead Fireball along the norther shore lines where the outgoing tide was the strongest. By the time we arrived at Goat Island the breeze had died even further and as we rounded the eastern end we could see Avalon coming out of the western end on the way back to the club. The rest of the race was a lonely event as our small sail area and dying breeze did not give us much hope of making up any ground. Lisdillon was coming up from behind and our last challenge for the evening was to stay in front until the finishing line. This we did by a small margin and that left Sweet Chariot out on the course with not much help from the wind to come home.
Thanks to the good start and a bit of breeze for the first quarter of the race we managed to hold on for 6th fastest and 6th on handicap with 35 minutes to spare to cut off time. The Blue fleet who started 5 minutes later and did a similar length course were still out on the water well after our finish and three yachts from different fleets failed to complete at the 8:15 cut off time. It was sad seeing them just metres from the line at the cut off time.
Now the forecast wind decided to arrive about 10 minutes after the 8:15 deadline and was already building as I motored to the mooring.
Fireball with good tactics won the handicap by a couple of minutes from Avalon with Utopia a further four minutes on handicap back. We were 9 minutes away from first on handicap and unlikely to have beaten Fireball with any head sail we chose. We might however have got onto the podium as we were less that four minutes behind Utopia.
It was an interesting experiment but our jib is just too small for these light winds.

Breeze is up the vang needs to come on.

Breeze is up the vang needs to come on.

Vang on boom down- good work

Vang on boom down- good work

Breeze has died. Need more twist. Vang should be off and halyard eased more

Breeze has died. Need more twist. Vang should be off and halyard eased more. Joli looks to have it right.

leech still too tight. Need more twist to have some part of the sail working with the swirling wind

leech still too tight. Need more twist to have some part of the sail working with the swirling wind

Last week I aimed the GoPro higher up into the mainsail to get a full picture of the leech twist and the footage is instructive. As the breeze freshens the mainsail shape responds well to extra vang tension but, and it is an important but, the vang needs to be released very promptly as the breeze lightens. In the really light patches the main halyard also needs to be eased so that the battens are not compressed hooking the leech to windward.
There are some good photos on the leg back from Cockatoo Island back into Humbug and as we approach Onions Point the photos show we have the straightest leech while our competitors have already eased their gear and perhaps excessively so. If we can all find the right twist there might be less shout. Apologies to Chubby Checker and to the young who never heard of the song Twist and Shout.

Now for something completely different! Over the weekend we had a Laser Masters regatta at South Lake Macquarie Yacht Club with the crew of Passion X both organizing and participating in the event. Over the course of two days racing we learnt both from results and local anecdote that the south side of the Wangi shore is favoured and a good line of breeze comes over the low point in the peninsular. Some of the shifts could be seen coming across the course and the yachts ahead were a reasonable indication of what was coming our way. When the line was not biased to the pin end too much I opted for the safe start behind the boat end fleet with the option to tack away for clear air. When I could tack away I went back onto starboard and worked as hard as possible to get down to the pin end starters who were knocking into a big shift ready to tack to port for big gains. In several races I was lucky enough to get enough right hand shifts to work back to the left of the course. In the second race on the Saturday I took one long board to the port tack lay line and reached in when the late lift from the left arrived. My mistake after the downwind leg was to take the port gate mark and lose four or five places immediately. In the last race I opted for a start just above the pin and went hard left. The good starters were giving me dirty air but I persevered going as far left as the lay line. I was fortunate that most of the yachts ahead tacked as soon as the breeze headed and did not go far enough into the new breeze. For the second race of the weekend I was in the top few at the first mark and with clear air to sail my race. The good younger skippers behind made life difficult and I was forced away from my route into the favored shore line but I did manage to get back in the next two shifts but not far enough. I was a little too low to get the benefit of the big lift into the top mark but did manage to hold onto fifth place for the second mark rounding and finish with a sixth and a cube for the weekend’s effort.

What was good about the weekend was to see clearly the results of decisions both good and bad. In two races I tacked early to the finish line and was run over by yachts that came in more free and faster on starboard. In both races the line was so heavily biased to the finish boat that it could not be crossed on starboard. After one such incident I should have know better than to repeat the  mistake. The other mistake was taking the left gate mark because it was less congested rather than join the queue on the right mark and work to the left of the course.  The worst result and the discard was when I was trapped mid fleet below a long line of boat end starters and could not get over to clear air. The good decisions were the ones where I kept looking up the course for the next shift and planning when to go left or right. What was particularly pleasing was when competitors tacked away too early or hung on too long. That gave me the encouragement to work harder and today I can feel the effects of that hard work.

In my age division I finished behind two super human yachtsmen, both club mates from Middle Harbour Amateurs. Our newest Great Grand Master competitor won five of the six races and our past World Champion came from behind on the last day for a convincing second place in our age group. The Middle Harbour Radial fleet had an impressive string of victories.

This week it will be back to Greenwich Flying Squadron where the wind in Humbug is unpredictable, the shifts difficult to see and unlike the weekend on the Laser, leaning harder does not have the same result.

Passion X and Joli battling for 5th fastest place.

Passion X and Joli battling for 5th fastest place.

We were very fortunate that the rain held off and the breeze held in for a most pleasant twilight race and post race BBQ at Greenwich Flying Squadron.
A large crowd filled the deck for the post race presentation and we were graced with the presence of all of the crew of Passion X. Under these circumstances it was fitting that we scored 4th place on handicap and courtesy of the absence of the winning crew from Avalon the prizes trickled down to us.
Avalon were just pipped for fastest by Much Ado V and so far in front of the fleet that Much Ado V was second on handicap from Fireball who had a very good race finishing across the line on the tail of Jackpot.
Andrew from Lisdillon gave me a pre race pep talk and the team from Harbour Dive Service gave the hull a thorough scrub just before the race so we were ready to go. Our position at the club end of the line was good and Jackpot working the line on starboard elected not to come all the way so we had a good start. Both Jackpot and Passion X were headed into the rocks at Onions Point and had to tack away while some of the following yachts came away from the point on starboard in a different phase. Our GoPro cam shows Much Ado V, Lisdillon and Utopia with a nice lift on starboard above Passion X and Jackpot. At the point the wind came from every direction including nowhere where we sat becalmed. In one of those becalmed moments Jackpot tacked onto port in our water which necessitated a bit of manual intervention from Jackpot to prevent our prodder taking out their stanchions. It was tricky conditions and the only matter I really objected to was to be thrown around onto port instead of being lead astern on starboard.
Fireball went through to leeward along the shore and it was a long time before Jackpot and Passion X reached the line of breeze. Only Sweet Chariot was behind when we finally went off in chase.
Jackpot pulled away in the breeze while we sailed through the lee of Fireball but we were all back together around Cockatoo Island.
On the work to Goat Island Jackpot pulled away partly due to better speed and partly due to keeping away from the lee side of Cockatoo Island. We stayed in phase with the breeze and were rewarded with a favorable wind direction at the approach to Goat Island that caught us up to Lisdillon and had us on Jackpots tail again. Joli was keeping a safe distance ahead and seemed to pull away after rounding Goat Island. On the run down Snails Bay we pulled away from Jackpot, Lisdillon and Fireball and made up some ground on Joli. We went deeper past the point and kept away from the wind shadow with good effect. Try as we might we could not pull back Joli and so followed them around Cockatoo Island for the work home. Through Humbug we took the Onions Point shore and with a favourable shift freeing up the breeze drew alongside Joli. The breeze went even further aft giving them clear air and a few seconds win across the line.
Because of our poor performance on the previous three races we had a good handicap. Tonight there was less hard working and Passion X likes to be sailed free so it was all working in our favour offsetting the awful ugly episode in Humbug on the way out.

Sailing was ugly on the way out of Humbug but the sky was interesting.

Sailing was ugly on the way out of Humbug but the sky was interesting.

Since our fastest time result in the third race of the summer series we have been going backwards in the fastest times order. In past series we have had the isolated 8th fastest result but this autumn series we have collected a treble of terrible results with a 9, 9 and 8th fastest. We do not expect to beat the Ker 11.3′s of the Sydney 38′s except in extraordinary circumstances and the J112′s and J122 are very hard to beat on the courses that suite them so I am pretty happy with anything better than a 6th fastest and pretty sad with anything worse than a 8th fastest when the whole fleet turns up. Tonight the two J112′s and one of the Sydney 38′s were missing so our 8th place was very disappointing.
We did pinch a lot tonight and that in not one of our strong points. All too often we tacked and had to pinch along a shore where a longer course with wider angles may have been more successful. Also as a result of pinching we spend too long in the dirty air of the yachts in front.
It has been six months since antifouling and perhaps it is time to have a very thorough scrub to freshen up the surface. Our maximum speed under motor has dropped off quite a lot so we will give the scrub a go and see the results.
The breeze did die tonight leaving us with Sweet Chariot, Lisdillon, Irukandji, Ausreo and Fireball a long way behind. Ausreo and Fireball called it quits early while Irukandji found some wind and broke away. We were left with Lisdillon and Sweet Chariot at the back of the fleet and scraping home just within the time limit.

Congratulation to Christian Beck on Dump Truck for a well deserved first and fastest result ahead of Utopia  and Much Ado V.  With more time in the boat Dump Truck is getting better and better and the new mainsail on Utopia seems to be doing the trick.

After our result tonight one can only hope that some good photographs turn up on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page.

Some pretty awful wind shifts contributed to the last place on handicap tonight.

Some pretty awful wind shifts contributed to the last place on handicap tonight.

I need the guys from Men in Black with their shining light to erase the memory of today’s race. We did all the rig adjustments and that seemed to work out fine. The over full head of the mainsail was corrected with letting off the D2′s and easing the top battens a few millimeters and we set the 40m2 second genoa which was the correct size for the night but from then things went pear shaped. (Not that pears are inappropriately shaped. It is just one of those old fashioned sayings.) On the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page there is a six minute video of the yachts and from 48 seconds in to 59 seconds there is a view of the rig on Passion before the start. With the mast with more prebend and with the vang off the head of the main is freeing up well in the gusts.
What a mess we made of the start! Instead of being up the line on port we ended up at the pin forced down there by Dump Truck as we both had to take starboard transoms. Once Dump Truck hardened up sharply we had no where to go except to the far pin and in dirty air. Only Much Ado V was behind but then they managed to get onto starboard coming of the Onions Point shore causing us more grief.
Jackpot, Utopia and Joli all seemed to get away well up the line and used their clear air and ahead position to advantage. Dump Truck hugged the Onions Point shore for better breeze but the lift eventually came to the windward yachts who hardened up around Greenwich Point and took off towards Goat Island. From behind we managed to lift above Fireball and gradually pull away but we made little impression on Irukandji and Lisdillon who were immediately in front. At this stage Dump Truck and Much Ado V were not far ahead and we were reasonably happy with the performance except for the terrible start. No gains were made on the run and reach back to Cockatoo Island as in that strength of breeze Irukandji and Lisdillon are quite competetive on the run but the most frustration phase was yet to come.
Along the Hunters Hill shore we moved well but once out into the Long Nose to Goat Island area we faced header after header and at the most inappropriate time. We tacked to round Goat Island only to be driven half way down the Island by one huge shift and in a sequence that was repeated a few times Irukandji and Lisdillon and the fleet in front drew further away. Had we been sailing or Lasers we most probably would have tacked back each time onto the lift but so frequent were the shifts we opted to hang on for a lift which did not come until we were on the next tack and it was a knock.
The last throw of the dice was the trip back from Goat Island to the finish. To our frustration we were caught in a very light air phase and made no ground.
Into Humbug we came down with a gust from behind up to Lisdillon’s transom but no further but it was all too little too late as Irukandji and everyone in front was already over the line and dousing sails.
Utopia with a guest driver was 10 minutes in front at the finish and Irukandji who was 4 minutes in front should take the handicap prize once the results are checked. They sailed well and deserve a bottle of wind. We deserved our last place on handicap and empty hands.
That said we had an enjoyable evening battling the adversity of the wind shifts and worked well as a team.

A screenshot from the Video on the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page showing the appropriate twist in the leech of the mainsail

A screenshot from the Video on the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page showing the appropriate twist in the leech of the mainsail

Passion X doing well shortly after the start.

Passion X doing well shortly after the start.

The 157 photos posted by Simon Elliott HERE provided a different interpretation of the race than what I recollected so in the interest of accuracy I have updated the post. There are some pretty special photos of the Black fleet so have a look.  In the fresh 10 to 15 knots tonight the head of the mainsail looked very full and not twisted off enough. Last time it blew this strength was back in race 1 of the Summer series when we finished 5th fastest and three and a half minutes behind Avalon. Our stay tension was the same on the V1′s tonight but the D2′s were one turn tighter. It is hard to imagine that one turn on the D2′s would make all that difference but I will go up the mast tomorrow and loosen them off a turn ready for next week. (We did this on Thursday morning and to our surprise the D2′s were very tight so it will be interesting to see how much of an impact one turn makes on the fullness of the head of the mainsail.)

Tonight we were 5 minutes behind Avalon and the minute and a half difference would have brought us back to 6th fastest and a mid fleet finish. It would not have changed our handicap place but there is a fastest times pecking order which we all try to achieve. To be fair it was not the only change as I have had the battens out and may have over tightened them making the head fuller. Two other changes were the largest genoa and the main sheet traveller system. Our second genoa is 5 m2 smaller and is much easier to skirt. had we  had that up we would not have punctured the foot of the big 45 m2 genoa and had all the subsequent problems with it catching on the stanchion. ( The stanchion penetrated only the cross ply base laminate and no damage was done to any of the carbon fibre tapes so a couple of layers of taffeta on both sides has fixed the small hole.)

The traveller system was supposed to make it easier to drop the boom in the event of a gust but in practice it is hanging down to leeward and reducing the leech twist. While it is good on the runs and reaches the consensus among the crew is that we are giving away too much height and leech twist. (The centre sheeting has been reinstated and we will be back to dumping lots of sheet in the puffs.)

Not everything is down to rig tuning. We were down one of our young strong crew for the night and had very little weight on the rail. Where last week we had a perfect passage through Humbug on the way home this week we could not find a favorable phase and took an extra two tacks compared to our close competitors. (On reviewing the tracks back through Humbug they were not a bad as I had recollected so I would love to see the tracks from Jackpot, Irukanji and Lisdillon for comparison.)

At the beginning however it was all roses as we took sterns right on the pin mark and started well to leeward of the chaos further up the line. Only the mighty Ausreo reached Humbug ahead of us and from the post race photos Lisdillon can be seen to windward of Ausreo so they must have had a good run from the line too.  We were overlapped inside and could not go up above them had we wanted. Also it was low tide and as we had started well to leeward we were very close in to Onion Point and had no where to go. Fortunately Ausreo went up trying to maintain clear air on the charging light brigade and that left us alone to leeward with wind coming over our stern quarter giving us clear air and a clean run albeit a longer one. When we did come up we had Much Ado V in front and Dump Truck alongside. We had a cordial exchange with Dump Truck along the Cockatoo shore on who had rights but it mattered not as eventually they took off to leeward chasing the brother in the sister ship in front. Initially we had some favorable shifts that kept us in touch with Dump Truck but Utopia came through pretty quickly followed by Avalon, Ausreo, Irukandji, Jackpot and Lisdillon.  Around Goat Island the large genoa helped and we emerged chasing the fleet back to the Long Nose corner hoping to make up ground. The square run with the genoa poled out down to Cockatoo Island was also a good run for us as we overtook Lisdillon and Irukandji and were on the tail of Jackpot and Ausreo. Initially we pointed up around Cockatoo Island to be clear ahead of Irukandji but once clear of the corner they were lifted well above our line. I think their difference in tacking angle was too much to be accounted for by our traveller being down 150 mm but whatever the cause it put us immediately on the back foot. Apart from being out of phase on the way back in the stanchion puncturing the foot of the genoa was not quick. First priority is to loosen the D2′s and reinstate the original cabin top centre sheeting. If these do not reestablish our correct mainsail camber and twist the battens will be loosened off.

Congratulations to Much Ado V on a fastest times result and to Dump Truck and Utopia for the rare dead heat for second across the line. For the handicap results the heavy air specialist Ausreo took the prize from Utopia, Irukandji and Avalon. The transition back to the Spring handicaps caused a few problems but Harvey has that all sorted and yes we did dead heat for last on handicap with Jackpot and Avalon was catapulted from last to fourth place.

Our tracks back through Humbug were not so bad. The others must have been spectacular.

Our tracks back through Humbug were not so bad. The others must have been spectacular.

Tonight was the resail of the Australia Day Regatta at Greenwich Flying Squadron and after last weeks postponement due to strong winds we had a fickle breeze with something for everyone. We started well winning the start and were first into Humbug where we were promptly becalmed and in a very short time went from first to last. The breeze was coming straight down Humbug so we were blanketed by the fleet and with the disturbed air on the Onions Point side swirling we were trapped into repeated gybes. Midstream there was not much more breeze but it was from a more consistent direction. A photo from the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page shows the position well. Only after the fleet sailed by did we get clear air and a chance to start the chase. We worked to windward enough to clear the mighty Ausreo but went low below Fireball. We took the stern of a starboard tacking Etchell but Fireball had to take more drastic evasive action and so we had clear air above. Jackpot had taken the same Onions Point shore where we were overrun by the fleet and did not do well on that side. At Cockatoo Island Joli and Irukandji were in the mix with Utopia, Avalon, Dump Truck and Much Ado V and there was a large break back to Passion X. Around Cockatoo Island there was a lot of traffic from the earlier starting fleets and we took the low side for safety. Jackpot rounded a little later and with less traffic and took the high side setting up a very close tussle for the rest of the race.
We picked the breeze shift well off of the Greenwich baths and also were lucky to tack on a brief header near Balls Head to keep us in touch with Jackpot and make us some ground on Irukandji and Joli. Around Goat Island the four of us bunched up but we were last to exit and still trailing. The leg back around Long Nose was very fickle and perhaps the one we played the best going first to leeward and then staying on the starboard gybe past the point. I expected the gybe back to port to be very square and wanted the jib swapped over but the wind headed quit sharply and we were now beam reaching back to Cockatoo. The two Sydney 38′s and the two Ker 11.3′s were long gone but we had a race keeping in front of Jackpot, Irukandji and Joli. Jackpot was still alongside down the Cockatoo shore and only our inside position and starboard gybe gave us rights and room to just get our nose in front on the rounding. With fresh air first around Cockatoo we drew away from Jackpot only to die off of Clarke Point and have them come alongside again. In the close tacking up Humbug we went as close as possible before calling room to tack on Jackpot and later on the white fleet Jaytripper. The extra few yards added up but the time we exited Humbug and reached away for a narrow fifth fastest.
Dump Truck skippered by Darren Beck and family took the first and fastest result while Irukandji finished second on handicap and Much Ado V third.
For tonight’s race I put a sliding ring on the mainsheet bridle. The idea is that in strong gusts the ring will move to leeward and drop the boom. It worked very will in the heavy gusts and while we tracked a little lower I felt we were faster. On the reaches it was very effective and in my mind something to retain. It is still work in progress as in light air we need to be able to centre the boom with less mainsheet tension so there will be more experiments.

Winning the start

Winning the start

Just minutes later passed by almost the whole fleet

Just minutes later passed by almost the whole fleet

A very quiet square run into the sunset

A very quiet square run into the sunset

A very nice two tacks off of Balls Head was a bit of a saver for us.

A very nice two tacks off of Balls Head was a bit of a saver for us.

The work home through Humbug was also a highlight.

The work home through Humbug was also a highlight.

In Humbug all the fleet reaching passed Passion X and Jackpot becalmed on the Onions Point side.

In Humbug all the fleet reaching passed Passion X and Jackpot becalmed on the Onions Point side.

Last Wednesday the racing was cancelled due to the wind exceeding the GFS regulation strength for racing. It was a bit sad as an hour later the conditions had abated and would have made for good fair and safe racing. It is not possible to delay the twilight races that long as they would then become night races so we had to be content with a very pleasant BBQ on the deck with the loyal GFS members and crew who came along to support the financial cost of running the function.
I had been looking forward to a good breeze to blow away the memory of my less than stellar performance in the Laser the previous weekend. As luck would have it we had the big blow on the day I sail with the large rig and next to no breeze on the Sunday when I sail with the smaller radial rig. I don’t complain when it is vice versa and for Australia Day I did get to sail the smaller rig in a good breeze at Gosford in a novelty race down Paddy’s Channel and back up the Woy Woy Channel.
Absent sailing on Passion X I have been attending to some small improvements of which some are cosmetic and unseen like routering the underside edges of the floorboards and re doing the epoxy saturation of the edges. Taking the back corner off the floors makes it easier to tilt them up and place them back and the epoxy saturated rounded edge is more durable than a sharp corner.
The ends of the full length battens had been fattened up with tape to fill the batten pockets but that had worn away over time so I augmented the ends with thin batten strips glued and taped to the ends so that the battens now fit tightly into the pockets. Hardly something you would notice but it should improve the shape of the mainsail off the mast.
While the high strength epoxy on the batten ends was curing in made up a stronger bridle for the mainsheet. There are two lines with splice on both ends and they have to be identical length but I had plenty of time waiting for the epoxy to cure to do a precise job. Not a functional improvement but an increase in factor of safety.
Our non skid on the deck is a bit harsh so I smoothed the section on the cabin where the ropes on the starboard side run to the Spinlock jammers. This should help the sheets to run more freely and if it not too slippery under foot I will do the other side too. The starboard side has the mainsheet, the first reef line, the masthead spinnaker halyard, the spinnaker pole topping lift and the spinnaker pole kicker so that is where most of the action is. If it is a big success I might even over coat it with some two pack polyurethane to seal the remains of the non skid granules.
The last task of significance was to check our first reef set up. Our front reef line comes out of the top of the boom and is quite a long way back from the goosekneck. The take off point on the sail had already been moved back but with the shackle onto the take up point there was too much swing aft and the sail was pulling hard on the slider above the reef point. I removed the shackle and attached the reef line directly to the sail to reduce the swing aft with immediate improvement. For good measure I lengthened the tie from the main to the first slug above the reef point and it all looks a lot better. I am now looking forward to a bit of a blow where we can try out the improved reefing lines and also the tighter V1s.
Perhaps this Wednesday the wind will be just right.

We had already updated our Cat 4 safety certificate with the latest expiry dates for the renewed insurance and some inspections but I finally purchased a 12.5 mm bolt cutter as the emergency rig removal equipment. Hopefully it will never be needed but after trying to cut up some 10 mm chain with hacksaw and angle grinder I realised that these were not practical alternatives. Pulling the split pins will still be the first line of attack but if they cannot be removed then the bolt cutter will be quick and effective.

By Friday there were some great photos posted on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page by Simon Elliott.  The photos tell the story very well.

There were two moments of pain in tonight’s race at Greenwich Flying Squadron. After a good start we were run over by most of the fleet going through Humbug.  Much Ado V  with nice free leeches on main and jib drifted past while Fireball came through with fresh breeze to pass us both. We were holding our position from around Cockatoo Island until the pain started. The first was on the approach to Goat Island when Utopia lifted from below and maintained the lift all the way to a knock at the island shore while Jackpot crossed on starboard and tacked in our air. The disturbed air forced us lower and slower and adding insult to injury the tack back was away from a new lift. The chart plotter tracks show our tortured route to the navigation mark but now we were reaching and hoping to make up ground on the six yachts ahead. Jackpot, Meridian and Joli were tantalisingly just ahead but already lifting into new breeze from around the island while we fell into a deep hole from which it took at least two minutes to extract ourselves. Once around the island and into fresh breeze we hoped to make up some ground but the wind angle was not helpful. The breeze went over square on the starboard gybe to Cockatoo Island forcing a gybe to port and later back to starboard. Non of this helped to make up any time so we rounded Cockatoo Island without making up any ground. Our last hope was for a good passage through Humbug but a dying breeze did not cooperate and we lost further ground to be nine minutes off fastest time. The real pain was not participating in the close racing at the front of the fleet where third to sixth fastest were within a minute of each other.
The dying breeze explains some of the pain but it did not die enough for us to beat Ausreo or Fireball on handicap. After them however it did die even further leaving Lisdillon a lonely figure fourteen minutes behind Ausreo on fastest times and saving us from the handicap wooden spoon.
All in all it was a frustrating evening. The heavy boom closes the mainsail leech as soon as the breeze dies and we need drop the halyard enough to sit the boom on the solid vang. Nothing has changes since we had a first and fastest three races ago and hence the frustration.

Much Ado V slips past in Humbug

Much Ado V slips past in Humbug

Chasing the fleet back to Cockatoo Island

Chasing the fleet back to Cockatoo Island

The Start. We were a bit early an that let Meridian bear away below us as we luffed to avoid going over the line.

The Start. We were a bit early an that let Meridian bear away below us as we luffed to avoid going over the line.

We got away reasonable well for the reach to Humbug

We got away reasonable well for the reach to Humbug

The pain in Humbug with Passion X between the breezes and blanketed on both sides. We had to go to starboard tack to have rights on the fleet running up from behind.

The pain in Humbug with Passion X between the breezes and blanketed on both sides. We had to go to starboard tack to have rights on the fleet running up from behind.

And then Avalon and Meridian were into the breeze and away. Much Ado V did well to recover  from the doldrums in Humbug to take fastest time

And then Avalon and Meridian were into the breeze and away. Much Ado V did well to recover from the doldrums in Humbug to take fastest time

Passion X crew using their weight to advantage in one of the fresh patches

Passion X crew using their weight to advantage in one of the fresh patches

Nice head on shot of Passion X as the breeze starts to lighten

Nice head on shot of Passion X as the breeze starts to lighten

Thanks to the photos posted on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page by Christian Charalmbous I have found out where Joli and Avalon disappeared to out in front of the Black fleet. Approaching Goat Island for the first time they are a long way in front of the fleet. Avalon to leeward along the Balls Head shore looks to be in front of Joli to windward and if the sequence of Christian’s photos are still in order then Avalon rounded Goat Island first. Joli deserved their win and the photos show that in the strong winds all of the crew were hiking hard on the windward rail. This is a great example for the rest of us as it gets the weight out of the stern and into righting moment. Much further back in the fleet Passion X appears to be trailing the fleet and leaning very hard in an early gust. As the breeze lightened we did make up a lot of ground and I am happy with our performance once we rounded Goat Island in lighter breeze.
After our win the previous week when I had removed a few sails to lighten the boat. That probably did not help in the initial strong wind phase last night but did help as the breeze died. Today I removed our No 4 genoa and safety equipment surplus to our Category 7 requirements. At home I have weighed all the equipment and as of today 164 kg has been removed from Passion X. There is still a code zero and a few fenders to come off so in total we might just get to removing 200 kg.

Avalon and Joli approaching Goat Island photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous.

Avalon and Joli approaching Goat Island photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous.

Sweet Chariot in front of Passion X on a big lean

Sweet Chariot in front of Passion X on a big lean

Passion X working to Goat Island chasing the fleet. Photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous

Passion X working to Goat Island chasing the fleet. Photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous

Last Saturday the hot North West winds, the fresh North East sea breeze and a southerly changed battled it our and converged on the Gosford Sailing Club course where peak velocity was 37 knots. The weather pattern today looked very similar but with the convergence a bit further north and inland so we took the forecast of 20 knots at face value and set the old smaller genoa from the original Passion. The rig was fine but our execution of the start was lacking. The plan was to start on port with speed but a bit of east in the breeze allowed everyone else to starboard tack the line so we ended up low and slow pinching to Onions Point. Joli and Avalon disappeared somewhere and were not seen until the final work back into Humbug so no comment can be made about their sailing. We were seriously headed in Humbug and still pinching to clear the moored yachts when Utopia from behind came through with breeze. Next Fireball came charging through well to windward while we tried to sail behind Utopia in their dirty air. Not far in front of Utopia we could see Meridian and looking behind we found Irukandji lifting inside us on a huge lift. At this stage we had no one below to worry about and plenty in front and to windward drawing away. Meridian tacked to get over to the lifting breeze just as the lift reached us and that gave us our first small gain. That was our last gain on the way to Goat Island where in the lee of the island there was a large wind shadow. Taking advantage of a shifty breeze we managed to overtake Irukandji and around the Island somehow crept up to fifth fastest. Utopia and Meridian were quite a few boat lengths ahead but Joli and Avalon were out of sight already around Long Nose on the way to Cockatoo Island. We gained a little on the run and reach to Cockatoo island and were quite close at the western end only to give it back again by going in too close to the wind shadow. Irukandji and Fireball came around with good breeze causing quite a bit of consternation until we reached clear air and took off again. On the way back to Goat Island Utiopia lifted nicely around the deep water mark off Balls Head while Meridian and Passion X were headed into the rocks and had to tack away. This was the last chance we had of overtaking Utopia as the favourable wind shifts gave her a good break on us. We tacked back to starboard below Meridians Line and she was rewarded with a big lift around the navigation mark while we sailed a longer outside route. The knock back was our chance to tack and bear away a little for speed so that around Goat Island we were within catching distance of Meridian. The rest of the run and reach back to the finish line at Greenwich Flying Squadron was all about taking time out of Meridian. We had established a good lead over Sweet Chariot, Fireball and Irukandji so did not need to cover.

Approaching Humbug we noticed Joli ahead and Avalon returning from a long detour but we had eyes only for Meridian. In the end we failed by seven seconds but were overlapped as we crossed the line. Ahead Joli was four minutes clear and first on handicap. She must have had her own quiet patch as she seemed much further ahead as we rounded Cockatoo the last time.  Behind Sweet Chariot and Fireball came through with a squirt of fresh breeze improving their handicap results prospects for a second and third respectively. Utopia took the fourth spot by 50 seconds from Passion X and that lift around the Balls Head navigation mark was worth much of that.

While we were disappointed with our start, yachts from behind got the better of the breeze through Humbug and overtook us. Our first work to Goat Island was average but once at Goat and with a fading breeze we sailed well. Top boat speed for the night was 8.9 knots with quite a bit of the reaching at the high 7 knot mark. Utopia did well to pull away 3 minutes from us and Meridian but that was to be expected in the fresher conditions.

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.

 

On the work home from Cockatoo Island we flopped from tack to tack and maintained almost direct course to the finish

On the work home from Cockatoo Island we flopped from tack to tack and maintained almost direct course to the finish

In very light conditions a clean bottom does help and the divers gave Passion X a good scrub today just before the race. I had taken two spinnakers off to lighten the boat and with three of our crew away we were manned by the lightest contingent we have had on board for a long time. As well Don and I spend some time adjusting the shroud tension and putting a little more bend back in but at the same time stiffening the rig with that bend in place. Also in the very light conditions we lowered the mainsail until the load of the boom was taken on the rigid vang and used the main halyard for leech tension control. Sort of like sheeting the main from the head and not the boom. Whatever the reason all the rig seemed just right for the day and we felt more in control than usual.

The start favoured the leeward yachts for a while but once they cleared Onion Point they were headed severely. We were still on the club side of the point and could tack to starboard and take a leg out from the point on a good lift. When we tacked back we took the stern of Avalon and worked further along the Onion Point shore before tacking back now in front of Avalon. Meridian was still clear ahead but we lifted inside her line and made up quite a few boat lengths. For a few tacks the positions see sawed until we lifted along the Snails Bay shore while Meridian closer to Balls Head knocked looking at our stern. We covered and maintained a position to windward going to Goat Island. The lead stayed much the same all the way to Cockatoo Island with Utopia and Avalon catching up with following breeze. We had a bit of a scare approaching Cockatoo as the breeze headed quite sharply while we had the headsail out on the 6 metre pole. I had to square away to get the pole down and then found ourselves quite low on the line to the Island. Fortunately we had breeze and a good angle to recover our position. Around the western end of Cockatoo Island the breeze deserted us and what was left was shifting. Behind Meridian’s genoa was drooping just as much as ours but i was concerned for the breeze bringing them and the now much closer Utopia and Avalon down on top. Our position in front was rewarded with the first breeze over the end of Cockatoo and we shaved the shore line keen to clear Clarke Point without tacking. That worked nicely but once beyond Clarke Point the breeze went away for a long rest. We could see the Blue fleet returning directly from Goat Island and struggling with little and erratic wind. The crew made some good calls and we flopped from starboard tack heading to Onion Point to port tack heading to Onion Point almost effortlessly. Next we flopped back to starboard to clear Onion Point and the tracks show little deviation from a straight line to the finish.
In similar conditions we have several other fastest times results and on three occasions out relative performance had been better but this was enough to take the double first and fastest.
Only time will tell if the tuning has paid dividends but we are getting more comfortable in a breeze and hopefully more consistent.

The poled our Genoa had to be lowered quickly when the breeze headed

The poled our Genoa had to be lowered quickly when the breeze headed

Genoa backing in the light and shifty winds

Genoa backing in the light and shifty winds

At last some breeze while the fleet languished around Clarke Point

At last some breeze while the fleet languished around Clarke Point

Time for a quick look to see the gap to Meridian

Time for a quick look to see the gap to Meridian

On Boxing Day we did a leisurely load up of Passion X and made an early departure for the start area of the Sydney to Hobart race. We bid farewell to Jackpot moored up at Greenwich Flying Squadron waiting for well wishers to wave them off and headed out. On the way we found ourselves alongside Comanche and doing identical boat speed under motor. I was a bit unnerved when they swung out to our line just before the Harbour Bridge but soon realised that they were seeking the highest clearance point for their tall mast and instruments to clear. Past Kirribilli we managed to get some separation and watch other yachts preparing for the trip south. At Middle Harbour we went into the shelter of the head to get away from the boat wash and when I went below I was peplexed to find water up to the floors. The extra pressure of 600 litres of water was too much for one of the fresh water connectors which popped off the terminal and emptied 300 litres into the bilge. It was a very quick fix to reattach the rose and secure the hose clamp and pump out most of the water. The second 300 litre tank was already isolated and almost full so we had enough for the planned days away. Over the days away I went over all the hose clamps on Passion X and found that the hose had relaxed on many of the fittings and the clamps could all be tightened. I had performed a hose clamp check over 6 months after the launch and was disappointed that this had not been enough. On the bright side the bilges had a very thorough fresh water wash down which cleaned up some of the residual construction dust.
The start was uneventful and better for the commentary coming over the phone so we quickly headed out through the heads and turned north.
Refuge Bay was just that. A refuge from the internet age with almost no signal, no newspapers and no coffee man. Left to our own devices we had a relaxing few days of swimming and just a little boat cleaning. The Bay was near full but we were not disturbed on the Gosford Sailing Club mooring. The best features on board during the stay were the boom tent that sheltered much more of the yacht than the typical spray dodger and bimini and we did see one yacht attempt a make shift boom tent to augment their fixed spray dodger and bimini. Next would be the fridge which kept the steak frozen for three days despite leaving it off overnight. The large alternator on the Yanmar charges the batteries almost twice as fast as on our previous yacht and that was good for us and our neighbours. After that the hot water shower on the transom was well received. I did have a fresh water shower in the waterfall in the Bay but Elaine preferred the civility of the warm water on board and we had enough despite losing 300 litres on day one. The new heat shield on the stove was fine and better than on our production Jeanneau but after reading up on the European directives for stoves I will install a small shield on the fridge side to be compliant with the fine print.
The trip home on Saturday was disappointing as the promised fresh north west winds did not arrive and the swell was uncomfortably on our stern quarter providing plenty of rolling motion. In deference to Elaine’s discomfort I started the motor which added a couple of knots to our boat speed and made for the heads as fast as possible. I normally go below without discomfort but was quick to leave the cabin and full of sympathy for Elaine.
We had started out with a reef in the main expecting 25 knots on the quarter. In the slow motion trip I

A close look at Comanche

A close look at Comanche

noticed the reef line slipping through the rope clutch and that explains the problem we have had since launch. After a bit of research I found it is a very common problem and will bulk up the line with an extra cover which will also extend the life of the rope.
As the afternoon wore on Elaine agreed we should shake out the reef and try to speed up the journey but it was not much help and for a while the main was sheeted on the centre line as were other yachts on the same course.
At the heads the breeze jumped to 20 knots for a very short period. The initial gust came while we were on autopilot which could not compensate for the sudden change so we had a round up but once the boom was out to the correct wind angle we had a fast ride up the Harbour to Kirribilli where the wind left us again.

Quiet in Refuge Bay

Quiet in Refuge Bay

Fellow Laser sailor anchored at Cottage Rock

Fellow Laser sailor anchored at Cottage Rock