Next Passion

Despite the cold weather we are experiencing the sunny windless days are perfect for maintenance work on Passion X.
Several weeks ago we were embarrassed when as port tacking yacht we could not find a gap between the starboard running yachts. Now if it was the world championships or even the last day of a regatta we could understand a hole not opening up for us but one did not and we hit a friend and damaged the overhang on the sugar scoop transom on Passion X. I promptly glued up the damage and while it was coated with plenty of epoxy it still needed a final capping piece to complete the work.
Saturday was a perfect day for the task and I fabricated a capping piece from 12 mm hardwood plywood using the old shattered capping piece as a template. it worked a treat and the new piece was splice joined into the good section out on the water. Today was the only time I had to do some final filling and fairing as I have a busy week ahead. The longest part of the process was sanding off the two pack polyurethane resin from the areas adjacent to the work so that the new epoxy coating would stick properly.
Tonight is is all done and with the surplus two pack epoxy I tidied up some of the nicks in the transom from the storm damage at Port Stephens back in April. The nicks had been filled with epoxy filler but it was discolouring with age and needed tidying up.
The job is not finished as the epoxy needs more filling and fairing but for now it is all white and water tight.
I took the opportunity to remove some surplus tools from Passion X which will be of benefit in the coming week as the forecast for Wednesday looks pretty light.

Will need all the weight out of Passion X on Wednesday

Will need all the weight out of Passion X on Wednesday

We started right on the line on time today and were rewarded with clear air to establish a lead on our favourite reaching leg. The pin end was biased and there were so many yachts vying for the pin that I expressed the opinion to the crew that we were best off being the most windward of the leeward yachts. That way we would have first use of any breeze coming across the fleet. The crew agreed and we executed well. On the reach we used a sheet run to the rail to minimise the twist in the old faithful carbon genoa and took advantage of the gust to run away just like Hitchhike did last week. Clear air must be a great assist as this week we had the clear air on Hitchhike and they did not catch us. At one stage on the reach the wind speed hit 21.1 knots and we hit over 9 knots of boat speed arriving at the mark with enough time for a tidy rounding for the work back to Rose bay.
Working is our weak point but we pulled on the back stay tight and settled in for the long slog. At first our line was taking us above the mark we have to stay inside but the breeze headed which took us right back into the Div 2 fleet coming in on starboard tack. The fleet was so dense we could not thread through. We also had to tack to clear the mark but this left us on port pinned in by the Div 2 boats and the following Div 1 boats. We were now the most windward yacht and already suffering from disturbed air off the shore but we were further out than last time and held the course all the way to Steele Poin. We hung on in header waiting for a line to clear the point but by the time we tacked the we were now being headed on starboard tack and had dropped into the dirty air of Amante and Arunga.
Working into Rose Bay we got a little back with a lift along the shore but not enough to clear the Rose Bay mark.
Once around the mark we were back on a reach and able to put distance between us and Enigma the Div 2 yacht that was making life difficult. Into Point Piper we made up ground but not enough. The run down to round Shark Island was spend looking over the shoulder at Allegro and while we did play the shifts on the work around Shark Island she was quick enough to draw alongside at the mark. Fortunately we were now reaching to the naval buoys and on our favoured angle so we held off Allegro. We were pleased with this result as both yachts had had a bottom scrub by Harbour Dive Services within an hour of the race start.
i did not get a close look at Amante’s underside but judging by her performance I guess it was cleaner than it has been.
Hanni was the surprise performer with a fastest time from Amante and the casual entry the J112e Urunga. That left us fourth fastest on the day but it was not enough to do well on handicap. The large fleet of 19 yachts that enjoyed the conditions had plenty of good performances including a second from Larrikin who is zooming up the leader board with a 3,2,2 in the last three races.
Joli struggled with just 3 on board but on my calculations after the first drop they will be at the top of the board from Allegro and Hitchhike. Our eighth was enough to take us up to fourth as soon as the first drop is applied.
For the day we reached well but did not pick a good windward path through the fleet and the wind shifts. Also on one crash tack I had the windward genoa sheet wrapped around my ankle which was very slow.

Just an average day at picking wind shifts.

Just an average day at picking wind shifts.

It was a cold gusty westerly today with a forecast for Sydney of 28 knots and 16 degrees so we set our No 3 jib and put in one reef in the main. With the one reef in the head of the sail passes below the running backstays and makes tacking and gybing comfortable on board. We made a good start at the boat end with clear air only because we could not get down to the pin. As it happened we cleared the boat with just few centimetres to spare and tried to stay above the fleet. We looked good until the breeze headed and the pin end starters  came across on a lift and easily crossed ahead.

We stayed out of trouble tacking to port well below the yacht caught below the prohibited area marks so as to give everyone the maximum manouvering room in the windy conditions and were rewarded with a lift along the shore. The reach from Spectacle to Schnapper Island was spend setting up the code 0 for the long broad reach back to long nose. It was the right sail for the leg but we had the furled sail crossing the leech of the jib which prevented it from unfurling. It is surprising how little resistance is needed to stop the furler turning and we learnt this with quite a bit of time lost. Once set we  were holding out the Sydney 38, Avalon but lost out on the gybe to go to Goat Island when did not have the code zero ready to gybe. As it was very windy at this stage and gusting to 28 knots we elected to continue with jib and reefed main alone while Avalon and the Adams Xs in the fleet went with full mainsails.

It was a long hard work back from Goat Island to Spectacle Island and having been discouraged by our problems with the furler we elected not to fly the Code 0 again. In retrospect we should have persevered as it seem the furler line had been caught around a fairlead and we do need the practice.  Had we been able to resolve these issues we could have carried the Code 0 on six of the legs of the course.

Avalon ended up eight minutes in front which is about the usual time that Blue Chip, another Sydney 38 would finish in front in last years RANSA Winter Wednesday series in similar conditions. Full marks to them for carrying the full main around the course.

Irukandji did well as she likes the hard beating in a breeze and she carried her assymetric spinnaker so  well that we did not see her after the first leg. We did hold out two of the Adams X who carried full mains and the Sydney 36, Another Planet.

For the first lap when it was stronger we held out the Fareast28, Wilding2, and had a box seat to her thrills of carrying the Assymetric  down the reach from Spectacle to Schnapper Island without gaining on us but once she hit the broad reach she took off on a plane and in one gust pulled away four minutes on us.

Full marks to those who carried assymetric spinnaker and or carried full mainsails around a challenging course. For our part we need to practice the code 0 setting more and see if we can avoid tangles in the lines.

I should mention that the first yacht to finish was Skeeter, the Bethwaite 8, which was out of sight of most of the fleet all day. In these conditions where they can get up and plane while the displacement hulls are bogged down they have a distinct advantage. We did hit 10.2 knots in one gust but they were 17 minutes in front and did not do their handicap any favours.

Overnight I watched the replay of the Volvo Ocean race last in port race and saw Team Brunel having the same furler problems which prevented them deploying the larger masthead reaching sail. They had similar issues with friction between the existing sail and the new one so now I don’t feel so bad.

Passion X with the reefed fat head main and small jib heeling in the strong westerly.

Passion X with the reefed fat head main and small jib heeling in the strong westerly.

 

Wednesday at RANSA provided the close racing we like but so sorely missed last year when we were misplaced into DIV 1s. As expected we are quite competitive downwind but less so upwind. The sometimes gains downwind are insufficient to make up for the frequent losses upwind but we are competitive enough to stay with the leaders if we play the wind shifts well or get lucky. Last week we played the wind shifts almost to perfection but still managed only 4th on handicap as others further back in the fleet also played them well. This week we played the shifts quite well and made up some lost ground when we took the right hand side of the course on the beat back to the finish line. And while we finished close behind the J112e twins we still managed only 4th on handicap.
We know we played the shifts well from Shark Island as we were crossing tacks with Blue Chip from Div 1s who was on the earlier lap for that division.
The start was fair as we were concerned that someone might try a starboard hand start so we ended up to leeward of Allegro, Foreign Affairs and one of the J112e yachts. The arrival of a second J112e in the fleet had us mightily confused all day and we await an obvious name on the new arrival so we can distinguish her from Joli.
Hitchhike was to leeward in clear air while we had dirty air from Allegro whenever the wind went aft. I tried to run down in the puffs but the fleet above kept getting them first and pushing ahead so that we were also in dirty air when the breeze went forward. Eventually I worked all the way down to the line of Hitchhike who was also running away with the gusts and building up a good lead.
The beat back to Steele Point was tight but not so tight as to need a tack. At first we were slow and did not get competitive until we had the back stay on very tight and flattened the top of the main. With that done we were almost matching Amante, Joli and the casual entry Arunga, the second J112e. The all passed us around Steele Point but on the work to Point Piper we were able to take the windward side and retake Amante. Every time we went off the breeze the fast reaching Fidelis would loom up behind and she hung on well to windward to finish not far behind.

The last work to the finish was when we took the windward side of the course both for clear air and to keep in phase with the shifts. Here we caught Arunga and made up ground on Joli but not enough. Arunga timed the tack back to the finish well forcing us to tack to leeward a little tight of the mark so they slipped away in front.

Looking back in the fleet we could see Larrikin doing well for the second week and it was no surprise that Hitchhike, Larrikin and Allegro finished ahead on handicap.

I was surprised to see we were penalised 0.01 for next week but looking through the handicaps it looks fine with the pecking order now

Foreign Affairs, Hitchhike, Joli, Arunga, Allegro, Crosshaven, Passion, Amante and Fidelis. We take some satisfaction on being handicapped harder than Amante but we will see what happens when they have a clean bottom.

 

Nice angles on the way to the finish

Nice angles on the way to the finish

Yes it was wet and no amount of glass  half full thinking can change the fact the sailing gear is still dripping water onto the floor of our sun room. Inside Passion X the soaking wet No 1.5 genoa is dripping water into the other wise bone dry bilge.

Yes we set the No 1.5 black genoa which is the old faithful off Passion. Pre race we practiced letting the boom sit on the boom vang strut so that the wind could flow freely off the main. We proved we could do it but in the excitement of the race did not put it into practice.

At the leeward end of the line we started on time and soon had our nose in front of all the fleet. Clear air and a heading breeze can make any yacht look quick but we were also on our favoured angle . As the breeze headed it became a work which had us worried. When the breeze sprang up we flattened the main aggressively and seemed to hold the fleet. A long board on starboard put us in the ideal position to flip to port when a massive header with fresher winds hit. Now we could cover the fleet and get back south for the next header. I would have taken a photo of the tracks but it was so straight a line it did not look like a tack. Our first to the top mark was satisfying considering the amount of hard on the wind work but the breeze started to die. In the light breeze we were passed to leeward by Joli and this is where we should have tried the boom down on the vang but occasional puff kept us waiting for the breeze to return. Around Steel Point the breeze lifted taking us rapidly towards the short course finish in Rose Bay. Now it was our turn for a bit of adverse winds as the breeze died and headed leaving us well short of the mark. As Joli took the gun our time was extended by light breeze from the wrong direction. Mercifully we crossed the line next as the fleet came back with freshening breeze.

As we crossed the line I could see Agrovation in close company of Amanti and obviously having a blinder of a race. Also Larrikin was well up and I speculated she would do well. All my speculation proved correct as Agrovation won from Joli and Larrikin with Passion X in 4th place.

We did enjoy the result despite the rain and did enjoy the photo that DJ put up on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page. It was a good GFS day with three of our yachts in the top four in Div 1 and Hasta La Vista second in Div 2.

As and update I took a photo of the tracks before I erased them before the next race and can now show how well we took advantage of the big wind change.

Love it. Sailing in almost the same directions on opposite tacks.

Love it. Sailing in almost the same directions on opposite tacks.

Last Sunday was the third race of the West Harbour Winter series and an enjoyable change of course. For the first time we were sent out around Shark Island and back around Goat. The course produced a good range of tight beating and close reaching with only one spinnaker possible leg from south of Goat Island to Long Nose.
All the excitement of the start was experienced in high definition as Boxer bore away to run down the line oblivious of our position to leeward. Only loud shouting woke them in time for a late bear away behind our stern. This was a truly frightening experience and the thought of a full speed Adams X crashing into the midships of a stationary Passion X does not bear contemplation.
We struggled off the leeward end of the line due to a late header which allowed the higher yachts to run over the top. Pinching hard is not our strong point and we had to wait till we cleared Balls Head to bear away and make up ground. We did well on the broader reach to pass Irukandji only to have them power over the top of us when we went hard on wind around Shark Island. We tried but were not to catch them again.
On the broad reach back from Goat we flew the code 0 outside the No 3 jib and did quite well except for the well sailed lightweight yachts with asymmetric kites on poles.
We finished mid fleet on handicap still wondering how to go faster to windward.
it was a most pleasant afternoon with an above expectation supply of breeze on a new and interesting course. A big thank you to the starters.

Wednesday was windy and pretty well as forecast on Seabreeze. For the first time this season we set the No 3 jib and a full main. We were cautious at the start not wanting to arrive at the line too early in strong winds and with the full main but took too long to wind in the sails and were late to the start. At first we went low with Hitchhike but had Agrovation right in front and the fleet to windward. Once we gained a bit of free air on the windward yachts we nose ahead of Izzi and went high to keep clear air and have first use of the gusts.
Crackerjack had made a cracker of a start and the big 40 footer was leading the fleet downwind. We were catching her and had we obtained an overlap might have had a better day but we failed went around with Hitchhike below and getting their sails on quicker. With our sails still flogging Hithchike came up from below and forced the tack. Once on port tack heading back to Steel Point we appeared to be making time on Crackerjack and holding Hitchhike but when a starboard tacking Div 2 boat came across I did not want to try to bear away in the breeze. We were now on Starboard but did not have the sails trimmed well and were dropping below the line of Joli who then held us up from tacking back to port for far too long. We were now the most windward of the fleet and too close to the influence of the land so we had a very difficult work for the rest of the way to Steel Point. Allegro had tacked in front of us on the way to Steel Point and her dirty air made matters worse. Despite these problems we still had a small lead on Amante which we held around Shark Island until the work back to Rose Bay. Again we did not maintain our height and had to wait for Amante to tack. The last leg back to the finish was enough off a beat to let us make up ground on Amante but she played well and did not let us get an overlap. Amante finished 6 seconds in front and will do better when she has a clean bottom.
We were two and a half minutes behind Hitchike and Allegro. This was Allego’s widest margin on Passion X for the season and shows how well they sailed to be second on handicap and first on point score for the season. Crackerjack hung on to beat us by half a minute and for their best result of the year and a first on handicap.
Joli was two minutes in front and just in front on handicap but they are third on point score while carrying a DNS so have been doing remarkably well.
Our minor adjustments for the coming weeks will be to crank the backstay on even tighter in the windy conditions. I have eased the lower D1s a turn to help the bottom of the mast bend. It is sleeved for the first 5 metres and is very stiff below the lower spreaders. We need to tighten up our mark roundings and will practice going wider so that we do not drop below the following fleet.
On the bright side we kept well clear of any other yachts and enjoyed a very quick race. It was good to be near the top of the fleet on the first run and with a better start we might have been first to the mark. Our Achilles heel is still the windward working in the breeze but we are improving.

We did well keeping clear air on the Eastern side of the course

We did well keeping clear air on the Eastern side of the course

 

A sea breeze arrived at least an hour earlier than expected and while light it was enough to get the fleet away for a race shortened at the top of Shark island.
At five knots the wind was enough to sag the forestay and build a little depth into the luff of the genoa and once that was achieved we settled down for a quiet work to the heads. The breeze was quite shifty and the yachts that picked up one or two good shifts did well. Agrovation was up near the front of the fleet on the work courtesy of some good tactics. We lost out to leeward of the fleet but came back on the first header and settled down among the top half dozen yachts. Joli and Passion X had a little tacking duel with Joli getting the better of the last bit of breeze to the right of the course and steaming over the top of Passion X. Around the top mark we could see Foreign Affairs off in the distance while Krakatoa, Joli, Crosshaven and Allegro gave chase. We rounded behind Joli but lost ground trying to pole out the genoa. Once we abandoned that idea we set out after the the top five and had occasional bursts of speed. Several times we got within boat lengths of Allegro but could not break through. Whenever we were caught in their dirty air we were particularly slow and on the beat from Point Piper to the finish we had to tack away for clear air and a one minute deficit on Allegro. Joli did particularly well on the broad reach to pass Krakatoa by a minute at the finish.
We picked the breeze quite well on the long windward work to the heads but as mentioned suffered whenever we were in disturbed air. A number of short tacks away for clear air helped and it also helped that the breeze freshened and lifted from the right. The broad run in the very light air was frustrating but we did pull out seven minutes on Agrovation and The Biz and did pass Carats so we should not complain.

The crew from last week squinting into the sun for a group photo.

The crew from last week squinting into the sun for a group photo.

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

Top wind speed was 22 knots

Top wind speed was 22 knots

We sailed off the course to do our 720 degrees turns. In the breeze they were pretty quick.

We sailed off the course to do our 720 degrees turns. In the breeze they were pretty quick.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meridian to leeward at the start

Meridian to leeward at the start

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course  mistake

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course mistake

Starting the chase in the lee  of Ausreo

Starting the chase in the lee of Ausreo

Following Joli around Goat Island

Following Joli around Goat Island

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

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

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

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

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

The drift through Humbug to the finish

The drift through Humbug to the finish

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

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

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

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

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

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

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