Next Passion

The forecast was a bit over our full mainsail range and as we had a young sailor on board we opted for caution and put in a reef before the start. At the race progressed the conditions were too light for the No 3 jib and a reefed main but we were keeping up with Caliban who we consider a pretty useful benchmark in windy conditions. Had we know the earlier starters were pulling further ahead we might have taken out the reef earlier. Much Ado V took their reef out at the first rounding of Goat Island and had we done the same it might have been a different story. As it was Dump Truck and Much Ado V came flying down the leg from Goat to Cockatoo and still pulled away on the beat back to Goat Island. We did take out the reef on the last rounding of Goat island and suddenly became more competitive with Agrovation who by this time had caught and passed Caliban. In the meantime Much Ado V completed the course ten minutes faster than Passion X to rub salt into the wound and Jackpot which was twelve minutes faster has some explaining to do compared to last week. Quite frankly “It was our conditions does not cut the mustard.” The final dig through Humbug suited the lighter Passion X more than Caliban so we escaped the wooden spoon this week.

Fireball took the handicap result from Jackpot and Sweet Chariot and these results are a good reflection of their fresh air performance relative to the fleet.

We are hoping to make the rig on Passion X a little more responsive so we can carry the full mainsail through a wider range or wind strengths as last week was too windy for the No1 genoa and full main and this week too light for the No3 jib and reefed main but that improvement could be a little bit away so for now we just have to get the sail selection right.

A lot has happened since our last race of 2019 at GFS. Chistmas has come and gone with the family at Ballina and Elaine and I enjoyed five days going to Refuge Bay for a quiet rest. Since then it has been pretty hectic with my Dad passing away in Perth after a very long and productive 98 years. The whole family was united in giving him a very appropriate send off and then quickly back to family and work.
As hard as a farewell may be it was good to remember the good times building boats with Dad and catch up with cousins and friends from years past as it has been 40 years since we have lived in Perth and for our children it was a rare chance to reconnect with family.

 
In the family moments there was a show of Edmiston competitiveness playing Catan with our grandson and various family members and just as in sailing frequent checking of the rule book.
So after a red eye special back from Perth it was into our first race of the 2020 year. I thought we performed quite well but the conditions were not conducive for a win due to our small handicap and the breeze being above our range at the start of the event.
The yachts that perform better in stronger winds did just that with the mighty Caliban winning by less than a minute from heavy air specialist Fireball and three minutes from the very fast finishing Joli with Sweet Chariot just 21 seconds later.
For us we had only Utopia starting three minutes behind and Jackpot starting five minutes behind to keep us company on the course.

 
We did stay close to Joli for a while but eventually with faster up wind performance they drew away. Utopia caught us mid race and then had trouble passing Joli who seemed to draw ahead in the closing stages of the race.
We did try cutting the corner on a couple of islands which while it looked promising at times did not work out well but we were playing catch up and it was worth trying for a change.

 
In the closing stages Jackpot powered up from behind making up some ground around Goat Island where we were having a last roll of the dice trying to catch Joli and Utopia.
After a long four island race we could see the handicap leaders working up Humbug to the finish but that was small consolation. We cannot give six minutes start to Caliban and eight minutes start to Fireball in those conditions where we are happy to just match them for speed. Next weeks forecast is looking a more favourable for Passion X so we will look forward to that.

A massive congratulations to Christian Beck and the crew of Infotrack for the impressive second fastest in the 2019 Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The performance of Infotrack provided much interest for the Greenwich Flying Squadron membership and I particularly liked Jeff Lewis’ “GFS and the rest” caption on the photo of Infotrack leading the fleet out of the heads by a wide margin.
I would have loved to be out on the water watching the race as we did last year but this time we were on the road returning from a family Christmas gathering in Ballina. in Ballina we were surprised to meet fellow Black fleet skipper Ralph Pickering and family which shows what a small world it is indeed.
Thanks to the advancement in technology and the more generous distribution of the race start we were able to watch the pre start antics of the fleet on the approach to Port Macquarie where we pulled into the service centre with just over a minute to the start.
What a great start by the crew on Infotrack! They nailed that start with position and speed and executed perfectly to capitalise on their advantage to lead out the heads by a large margin. Five 100 ft maxies battling up the harbour is a rare sight and this one was one for the ages. Aboard Commanche there was quiet calm as they appear to have opted for a safe start and to let their superior heavy air reaching speed make it up down the coast but on board WOXI ther was at least some frustration and expletive laden exhortation to the crew. i hope it never gets edited out as it proves that all of us skippers get a bit over excited from time to time.
It was my turn to drive and we had to get back on the road again but it was a good place to leave the coverage with Infotrack extending her lead down the coast.
The calm patch down the coast meant there was plenty of time to catch up on the action once we arrived home and in particular to check in regularly this morning as Infotrack closed on Commanche but it was not to be. Nor could WOXI make up the distance but she did beat her similar narrow hull competitors, Scallywag and Black Jack but by such a slim margin.
Infotrack does appear to have beaten the other maxis on IRC so that is a double good performance.

GFS and the rest

Dump Truck had an extraordinary race last night to claim first and fastest by a margin of four minutes over Utoia and almost five minutes over near sister ship Much Ado V. It was an impressive performance and the only consolation for the rest of the fleet is the punishment the handicap system will dish out to her. Hopefully the fastest time result is a good omen for Christian as he takes Infotrack south for the Hobart and we wish him good fortune in that event.
Fireball was second on handicap which seems pretty fair given the many light nights they have endured waiting for a windy race. Our only consolation was that we did the course a minute faster when on many windy occassions we have been behind on time.
Utopia was third having turned the fastest times table on sister ship Agrovation by three minutes. Admittedly some of that was when Agrovation found her personal wind hole on the way back into Humbug and that is likely to be a once in a lifetime event such was the strangeness of the wind on the evening.
Joli was next having beaten sister ship Meridian around the course by three minutes. it was an interesting competiton in rig settings for the night with allegedly Joli with a N0 3 jib and full main and Meridian with a No 2 jib and a reef. In the unexpected light conditions early in the race the greater sail area of Joli would have been an advantage while in the last beat up Humbug Meridian blasted past Passion X and Agrovation in nice control while Passion X struggled with a full main.
We never saw Sweet Chariot or Fireball on the course due to their relatively better performance in a breeze but we did have an interesting tustle with Lisdillon making up four minutes in the early stages of the race when the wind was lighter but giving back two of those later in the race when the breeze was stronger and on the nose. Most of that was in the work up Humbug where we could not settle into a fast mode.
The tustle with Joli was also engrosing as we started together and sailed almost side by side around Cockatoo Island, around Goat Island and back to Cockatoo. At the second rounding of Cockatoo we were too close the the lee shore of the island and the wider yachts or which Joli and Dump Truck were the most prominent, stormed around for a clear lead after which Joli pulled our a five minute lead. Joli sailed the last lap to Goat Island particularly well with the stronger wind performance compared to Passion X adding to our woes.
We did have a couple of encouraging spells, the first when the fleet went in too close to Balls Head and became becalmed but they received the returning wind first and made up a lot of their losses very quickly. The second was when we went high on the last reach to Cockatoo but then we threw that away by going in too close and literally dawdled around the island.
For the night our tacking angles all look good so we need to find the right mode for those gusty conditions. One of our issues on the night was getting the main out as the gusts hit and we experienced more round ups during the race than possibly we usually experience in a year. Perhaps it is a system issue with the mainsheet. Perhaps the backwind from the jib is just too much and perhaps it is just practice. The comforting thing is that for cruising I would just put in two reefs in the main.
Best wished to all for Christmas and the New Year and after a short time in Pittwater we will be back on the track at the next club race.

I have mixed feelings about our second place on handicap and fourth fastest result tonight. I am very pleased with the result which went pretty well as I expected given that the long handicap yachts like Passion X were to have the first use of the breeze and possibly get home ahead of it petering out. Lisdillon had the longest handicap and sailed in clear air all evening for a win by almost five minutes. On Passion X we were able to claw back just 17 seconds over the almost two hour race. We did pass Sweet Chariot who sailed a very good race up until Humbug and seemed assured of third place only to lose ten minutes in the last tricky transit of Humbug. Much Ado V was fastest around the course but only made up one and a half minutes on Passion X to finish four and a half minutes behind. We would be pleased if we could finish that close on a regular basis but I accept the result is an abberation due to the staggered start times. Meridian was next across the line having made up three minutes and seven seconds on Joli and they made a pretty picture reaching into the finish just metres apart. Indeed from fourth placed Meridian to tenth placed newcomer Agrovation there was just one minute and forty nine seconds so the string of Black fleet yachts looked impressive.

The crew of Agrovation should be pleased with their third fastest place around the course on their first outing.

Apart from the first use of the fading breeze this evening we had the benefit of an incoming tide for the rounding of Goat Island. By Goat Island the fleet had made up quite a bit of ground on Passion X with Joli and Meridian looking to be just a minute behind but once we rounded the eastern end of the island the incoming tide carried us away while the chasing yachts were in light air being carried by the tide towards the island. As we reached away out of sight we could see the two J112 yachts having to tack away from the Goat Island shore against the tide and this is where we established a reasonable break on the fleet. For our part we could not have done any better. We had the right sails up for the breeze and played the jib and main and backstay pretty aggressively for the very changeable conditions.

For our efforts we lose two minutes handicap for next week and start alongside Joli so the task will be so much harder.

A nice photo of Passion X in Humbug courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS Facebook page was published overnight.

Passion X in Humbug 11th December 2019 photo Mark Palmer

It was a smokey ten knots of breeze out on the water tonight with plenty of holes around the islands and through Humbug to keep the handicap race open right to the finish. We made a good start on port for the race to Onion Point where we were pipped to windward by Meridian and to leeward by Jackpot. In Humbug the following wind brought Much Ado V up and over followed closely by Dump Truck who politely went to leeward but just as quickly. At this stage the leading five yachts has a small break over Utopia. By the corner of Cockatoo Island Jackpot had established a small lead but Dump Truck. Much Ado V, Meridian and Passion X were following in a very tight group. Suddenly Utopia drew alongside brought up by the wind freshening with a little shift to south and as the bunch was too tight to go through we opted to work to the outside of the group and get first go of the freshening gusts. This was our best rounding of the south side of Cockatoo Island for the season and it gave us a chance to see how we were travelling alongside the front of the fleet. The work to Goat Island was particularly fresh and with just Elaine on the rail and Don on the windward backstay there was not a lot of righting moment. In turn each of Utopia, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Meridian passed us on the windward work but it took a little longer than usual. Possibly it was a little lighter than usual and possibly we had the backstay adjusted more appropriately to the wind. In the gusts the mainsail was completely bladed out and backwinding while in the lulls we eased the backstay for more power and height. On reflection we might have been even more active with the backstay to maintain height as in the lulls Meridian pointed out from a safe leeward position and established a minute break. Again we did better than usual around Goat Island and had the front of the fleet well in sight on the reach and run and reach back to Cockatoo Island. While we had the front of the fleet in clear sight the back markers, Fireball, Sweet Chariot and Lisdillon were making inroads with freshening breeze from behind. Now the not so fortunate five percent of the race started to kick in. We had a very quiet rounding of the west end of Cockatoo Island and were disappointed to see how far in front Jackpot and Utopia were once we regained sight of the front of the fleet. Now the breeze was very up and down and left and right. First it would give with a lift and then take away with a knock. Meridian was not far in front having her share of the ups and downs but through Humbug we were left becalmed on Onion Point for a couple of minutes and only the blue fleet yacht Koko had it worse. The wind did return enough for us to limp over the line happy with 95 percent of the race but a bit disappointed with the last 5 percent. As we lowered the sails we had wind coming straight through Humbug from the south bringingĀ  Sweet Chariot home seven minutes behind but fourth on handicap. Up at the front of the fleet Jackpot was eight minutes in front and third on handicap, Utopia was seven minutes in front and first on handicap by 3 seconds from Passion X. While we are grateful to the handicapper for our second place it was still disappointing to see the elapsed time difference. Lisdillon however had it worse than Passion X as with the dying breeze and out going tide she was left to flounder in Humbug. Next week it will all be different as we start our novelty Summer Series with a handicap start where the back markers will get to start earlier than usual and have best use of the breeze for the race.

Tracks for the evening. The strong tide going back into Humbug make the tacking angles lood much better that they were particularly as we had some big bear aways to clear sterns.

Tracks for the evening. The strong tide going back into Humbug make the tacking angles look much better that they were particularly as we had some big bear aways to clear sterns.

The wind strength at Sydney airport, Fort Denison and Sydney harbour was fifteen to twenty knots which was pretty well what was forecast. We certainly had some lighter patches particularly around Woolwich but generally it was a good forecast for sail selection. We set our No 1 heavy genoa which is 40 sq metres but is a little shorter on the foot and not so full as the No 1 light and it proved perfect for the evening. To cope with the heavier winds we flattened the foot of the main and wound on the backstay tighter than usual which bladed out the head nicely. If anything we possibly kept the backstay wound on too tight during the lulls and could have benefited from continued trimming through the gusts and lulls. We did time the start well with only Much Ado V below and we did reach Humbug on their tail. We both went low down the Onion Point shore but the wind was possibly far enough north that the middle of the stream was favoured as this would explain why almost the whole fleet went through to windward of both Much Ado V and Passion X. We both came up to get into the wind stream but stayed low enough to avoid the wind shadow of Greenwich Point and recover a few places. Utopia, Dump Truck, Jackpot a Fireball were among the yachts that benefited from the mid stream wind through Humbug and were still on front down the back of Cockatoo Island with Lisdillon alongside but to leeward. At the gybe around Cockatoo we failed to release the leeward backstay and had the head of the main push through the gap leaving the back stay on the wrong side. This was not a problem until our first tack away from the Hunters Hill shore when the head would not go back under the backstay and was left hooked to windward in a huge mast head sack. As ugly as this was we managed to pass Fireball. Short tacking the gap between Clark Point and Cockatoo Island left no time to sort our the backstay and we were right on the Clarke Point corner when we had to tack onto port with the ugly mainsail head holding us back. We were in no mans land, too far from Lisdillon to call for room to tack but not far enough away to be able to pass to windward nor able to pull away behind. We were then foreced to tack back to starboard almost onto the rocks and wait for Lisdillon to pass before slowly tacking back to port. Once in clear air we lowered the main until the mainsail head cleared the backstay and re hoisted it. All the while we sailed on the headsail and were fortunate that we were on the favoured tack for the exercise. The whole adventure including avoiding Lisdillon and lowering and raising the the main a couple of metres cost us at least a minute but perhaps not two and at worst on the night cost us only one handicap place and no fastest times places. The rest of the race was a battle to catch Lisdillon which we did a couple of times only for her to get away again. It was not until the last tack to the finish that we were able to get a safe leeward position lining up for the finish line and squeak home fifth fastest behind Utopia, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Jackpot. Mind you there was a good gap back to Passion X, a half boat back to Lisdillon and Sweet Chariot and Fireball were not far behind. I guessed Lisdillon, Sweet Chariot and Fireball would do well on handicap and was a little surprised to find that Utopia had taken the daily double. I was happy to come away with the fifth on handicap and particularly pleased with how we handled the conditions.

Close rounding of the Onion Point clearance mark

Close rounding of the Onion Point clearance mark

We were sent out on what proved to be a very good course around Goat Island, Snapper island and Spectacle Island before a long work to Humbug and home. The breeze hung in on the strong side of the forecast at around ten knots providing a very good work up the course and with the occasional soft patches in the lee of the headlands.
We started higher than the fleet and were able to foot to Onion Point where we met the pin end yachts pinching up to the mark. Meridian showed a clean pair of heels but Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Lisdillon rounded in a line inside Passion X.
We went a bit wide of Greenwich Point looking for clear air only to have a very large and long lasting lift carry the inside and behind yachts well up the course. Utopia had the best of the lift and also the next shift back to clear out a couple of minutes in a very short space of time. Lidsillon was ahead but suffering from being on the wrong side of the shift but they did tack back earlier and were rewarded with the next lift on port tack to regain their lost ground on Passion X.
Sweet Chariot also picked the shifts well and only our starboard tack rights prevented them crossing our bow. By the time we rounded Goat Island there were two fleets with the front runners being Much Ado V, Dump Truck, Utopia and Meridian with the back group being Passion X, Lisdillon, Joli, Sweet Chariot and Fireball. This last group had a close running race with Fireball carrying wind down from behind and joining the group. We went wide mid stream leaving the rest to blanket each other in the shadow of the Balmain shore and by doing so were able to break away just enough to have clear wind for the square run down to Snapper Island.
On rounding Snapper we were surprised to see Dump Truck stuck hard and fast on the rocks with Much Ado V returning to render assistance.
This bit of intrigue put us up to third fastest behind Utopia and Meridian with Joli chasing us hard. We were fortunate with the work back as I pinched hard to have some room above Clarke Point and as we approached it we were headed and needed all the spare height we had accumulated. Joli behind was more affected as they had the header for longer. We then had a good run of the shifts through Humbug to break away more and secure a second place on handicap behind Utopia but only seven seconds clear of Fireball who stayed close after their catch up move down Snails Bay. Meridian with a second fastest had too big a handicap to overcome and finished fifth on handicap.

Taking Starboard rights on Sweet Chariot

Taking Starboard rights on Sweet Chariot

Taking the transom of Lisdillon

Taking the transom of Lisdillon

Dump Truck on the rocks

Dump Truck on the rocks

We were stuck between two weather systems today with the winds forecast to lighten and veer north which is just what it did. For the start however we had a good 13 knots on a beam reach before squaring away to run down Humbug. We started mid line with Jackpot just below and right up on the line. By Onion Point however the pin end yachts has inside overlaps on the clearance mark so we the windward of four yachts including Jackpot, Joli and Much Ado V. As we squared away for the run down Humbug, Fireball and Sweet Chariot came up with following wind so that little distance separated the fleet until we reached the open water around Clarke Point.
Having been caught in the wind shadow of Cockatoo Island for the last two weeks we went a little wider only to see Lisdillon go in close and cut the corner by a large margin.
Sweet Chariot, Fireball and Passion X now seemed to fall off the back of the fleet and were left tacking up the Balmain shore well back from the leaders. Dump Truck with her green hull was the most obvious of the fleet ahead and we were pleased that she was not already off into the distance.
Around Goat Island we could make out Lisdillon ahead and in front of her Joli but the rest of the leaders were gone off into the distance. We had made a good break on Fireball and Sweet Chariot and so settled down the chase Lisdillon.
Along the reach and run back to Cockatoo Island we crept up on Lisdillon so that at the rounding she was just ahead. Now it was our turn for a bit of luck because as we rounded the end of the island the breeze swung to the north giving us a very large lift above Lisdillon and Joli further ahead. So big was the lift that we sailed past Lisdillon and pulled back significant ground on Joli. On the long tight reach back into Humbug we were sitting just above Joli and making tiny inroads into the gap until the Woolwich wharf we were headed which put us clear astern for the next tack up Humbug. Now we were in interesting times with multiple fleets all converging on the narrow channel. We lost a bit of ground taking the stern of the starboard tackers but were lucky enough with the phases to just sneak ahead of Joli and claim starboard tack rights. The last tack onto port took us to the finish line lay line but with the shifty conditions how far should we go? Joli tacked early and at first seemed to be making the line easily from below but as the fleets converged and the wind was more disturbed she slowed while we were able to bear away with the next knock and still make the line with a few seconds to spare.

While we were pleased to have pulled away from Lisdillon and to have squeaked in ahead of Joli it was humbling to see Meridian six minutes ahead with Much Ado V eight minutes in front, Dump Truck ten minutes in front and Jackpot a massive twelve minutes ahead.

Not surprisingly Jackpot scored the daily double of first and fastest with Dump Truck second and second fastest. Passion X and Meridian were equal third on handicap with Much Ado V just twelve seconds behind.

The extra bit of breeze tonight kept us occupied and on the ball and it was a good feeling to hit eight knots on the way home past Long Nose. Hopefully this is the start of more consistent breeze and the longer races like we had tonight.

We made a very good start to this week’s twilight race at Greenwich Flying Squadron only to be run over by the following fleet from above and skirted by the other half of the fleet below. It was incredibly frustrating to go from first to last in such a short time and more so that both sided of the fleet did better.
The wind was flukey so we took off after the fleet hoping for some redemption. By the corner of Cockatoo Island we had recovered a little to be alongside Sweet Chariot, Firebll and Lisdillon. Ahead we could see the fleet fighting for the inside run around the island but they were drawn in so close that surely they would be caught in the wind shadow. Lisdillon went inside us hard up against the island while Sweet Chariot and Fireball went wider and again the two sides did better than Passion X . Dump Truck just a few metres in front put her nose into the breeze first and got away with going in close while Sweet Chariot and Fireball did very well going wider so around the end of Cockatoo we were looking pretty dismal sitting beclamed and blanketed from any approaching wind by Lisdillon inside.
Eventually we put our nose into the wind and took off after the fleet. Dump Truck, Much Ado V, Jackpot, Meridian and Joli were already so far up the course as to be invisible to us with the gap possibly already four or five minutes.
By Goat Island we had passed Fireball and Lisdillon by a small margin and were chasing Sweet Chariot. Along Snails Bay the wind direction was dead from behind which is not our favourite angle but we held out the genoa to windward and hung onto our small gap over Fireball and Lisdillon while catching Sweet Chariot. Around Greenwich Point Lisdillon went in close followed by Fireball and that was their undoing as both Sweet Chariot and Passion X went as wide as practical and kept some wind going into Humbug against an outgoing tide. Sweet Chariot manouvered well to keep clear ahead of Passion X all the way to the finish line and take handicap honours. For our part we managed to escape far enough from Fireball to beat them by just one second.

Back on the deck enjoying the post race BBQ we were surprised to find that we were just 10 seconds behind Dump Truck and Much Ado V with the sister ships tied on handicap. Jackpot was just another 10 seconds in front so for the sake of 20 seconds we could have moved up three places. At the front of the handicap results Sweet Chariot won by just one second from Joli so this has to be one of the closest set of handicap results for a long time.

The breeze did die out as the evening progressed so that the elapsed time from the leaders in the early starting Gold fleet was in the range of the Black fleet times but the last starting Blue fleet was five to 25 minutes behind the Black fleet times. Although we did different courses they were all around the two islands and a similar distance but the dying breeze left the last of the fleets struggling through Humbug against a strong tide.

The wind was light and fickle and if that was all the story it would be ok. The new gas lift boom vang was supposed to solve a lot of our light air tight leech problems and while it kept the boom out of the cockpit it was probably not cocked up enough to let the leech fly free in the very light conditions. Again we had to resort to dropping the main halyard in the light and raising it the gusts which takes time to execute.
The conditions certainly favour the more rounded buoyant yachts with less wetted surface to drag through the water and once the breeze picked up we were able to catch the tail of the fleet. Nevertheless the front markers were into the breeze first and enjoyed stronger conditions to finish well ahead.
The difference in wind pressure was notable with the Blue fleet who started 5 minutes behind but only went to Goat Island still trailing the last of the Black fleet who had gone back around Cockatoo Island after rounding Goat.
The photograph from the deck of a Blue fleet yacht shows the lifeless conditions through Humbug on the way home.
Of course the secret is to get to the front early and have that first use of the new breeze but we have found ourselves very slow through Humbug this season.

We did beat one yacht around the course and did beat one yacht on handicap. We almost caught Lisdillon who were on the same handicap so the 10 second margin in their favour over the line was also 10 seconds on handicap.

Through Humbug on the way out Lisdillon ran over the top and while it is dangerous going too close into Greenwich Point on the way out it worked for them as they passed us and Joli. Indeed Joli was below us at this stage and forcing us head to wind as we all seemed to have different wind angles around the point. Joli pulled away and went for the stronger breeze in the middle of the course and left us behind while Lisdillon did the same from above. Much Ado V was having the same sort of problems as we and did not get a clear break until half way to Goat Island but by this stage Joli was off chasing Meridian who was chasing Jackpot who was chasing Dump Truck. As Dump TruckĀ  came around Goat Island reaching back through Snails Bay we were still in Snails Bay working towards Goat island so it is no surprise they beat us by 17 minutes. Jackpot prevailed over Dump Truck by eight seconds and picked up a first on handicap. This reverses the across the line result from last week so these two are having a great tussle at the front of the fleet.

Current forecast for next week is just slightly stronger so perhaps we will get a reasonable ride through Humbug.

The conditions for the tail of the Black fleet and all of the Blue fleet on the way home.

The conditions for the tail of the Black fleet and all of the Blue fleet on the way home.

We set a new low benchmark for fastest times and handicap performance on Wednesday night and the only one to blame is the skipper for going low on the reach into Humbug on the way home. Many times this has worked very well and we have been able to lift up the Onions Point shore staying out of the tide. To make that side more appealing was the sight of yachts up in Humbug lifting on Port tack away from the Onions Point shore. In practice all we had was very light breeze swinging widely from tack to tack. It has taken me a day to realise that this was eddies of breeze rolling along the shore and not an oscillating sea breeze.
Today I took the opportunity to review the tracks from Wednesday night. The tacking angles going up to Goat Island were better than I had remembered and the ones going back into Humbug in the light and flukey conditions were nowhere near as bad as I had recollected so why did we set a new low benchmark?

For the evening we set our No 1 heavy genoa which seemed to be working very well for us while the breeze was fresh. We made a timely start and were on the tail of Jackpot going into Humbug with Joli reaching up from below looking for room around the new Onions Point clearance mark. In Humbug we died, the sails hung limp and could not decide which side of the yacht to hang. Embarrasingly Dump Truck again passed to windward with their sails drawing nicely in a light zephyr while ours were hanging like washing from the clothes line. When that little zephyr reached us Dump Truck was well gone and Lisdillon had progressed well along the Onions Point shore. Next it was Much Ado V turn to run over the top in still very light conditions but stronger breeze did come and we arrived at Cockatoo Island closely following the above mentioned yachts. Around Cockatoo we did pick up a shift to windward and made up some valuable distance on Joli, Much Ado V and Lisdillon so that by the moored yachts off Greenwich baths we were still on contact with Much Ado V and now ahead of Joli.

Around Goat Island the leading yachts, Jackpot, Dump Truck, Much Ado V and Lisdillon seemed to jump out from Passion X and Joli and also make their way back around Long Nose Point before the great doldrums set in. We sat there for a very long time while the Nor’easter battled with the southerly. During this phase the tail or the fleet arrived with fresher southerly breeze and carried momentum up past Passion X while Joli a few metres to windward got the next Nor’easter puff to pull away. We managed the run, reach, run, conditions back along the Balmain shore reasonably well to be in a close bunch of Sweet Chariot, Fireball and Joli around Cockatoo Island when I made the fatal decision to go low for speed and try to break through the lee of this group. It did not work as the pressure always seemed to be to windward and we were too close to the shore to be able to pull away in the knocks.

Looking back over the race we tacked well with the lifts and knocks when there was breeze and out tacking times were all very sharp. Where we seemed to fall down was in responding to the lulls too slowly and that is one area we will have to work on.

 

Another race and Dump Truck goes by again with sails drawing nicely. Note Passion X's main hanging limply.

Another race and Dump Truck goes by again with sails drawing nicely. Note Passion X’s main hanging limply.

Passion X heeling in a nice patch of breeze.

Passion X heeling in a nice patch of breeze.

Good angles tacking to Goat Island

Good angles tacking to Goat Island

Reasonable angles against the tide going back into Humbug

Reasonable angles against the tide going back into Humbug

 

The scores from last weeks Greenwich Flying Squadron first race of the season were updated to include Dump Truck after a minor correction to the entry list. That gave Dump Truck a well deserved fastest times and third on handicap. Meanwhile Passion X was moved down a place to sixth so that puts the record straight.
As for false hopes 65 yachts lined up for the start of the twilight race and only ten percent finished inside the time limit of 2015 hours. The talk around the deck at the post race BBQ was that some were just metres from the finish line but a miss is a miss and we and Much Ado V were lucky that the front runners failed to finish. Both of us were lined up at the start on the Hunters Hill side mark when the breeze died and to make matters worse headed us. I could not say windward or leeward mark because in the absence of breeze sails were on different sides of the yachts and only the tide was giving the appearance of wind. We sat there for five minutes as the lucky ones carried a little whiff of breeze up to Onion Point and into the run out tide of Humbug. At the last minute Dump Truck make a late appearance which left Much Ado V sideways across the starting mark from which position it took a long time to extricate themselves. Somehow Dump Truck caught and passed us while we jostled with the Blue fleet around Onion Point . Eventually a bit of wind camo over the Greenwich and carried us out of Humbug where we could see the tail enders of the Black fleet rounding Cockatoo Island to port. Meanwhile back in Humbug Much Ado V was still becalmed and providing us some consolation from our own miserable position.
Around Cockatoo Island we could see the Blue fleet who were heading straight to Goat all becalmed and before long we had worked the Balmain shore to be crossing tacks with the Blue fleet yachts. Now we could see Jackpot, Joli and Utopia all reaching home down Snails Bay while we still had an island to round.
Rounding Goat was a triumph of hope against reality as the flags on the bridge gave hope of some approaching wind while the reality on the water was nothing.
At this stage we had no idea that the lead Black fleet yachts were becalmed in Humbug and discussion with the Blue fleet neighbours was about who was going the start the motors first. With just seven minutes to the cut off when not even a hurricane from behind would carry us home we retired. A day later and it is blowing 25 knots to 40 knots on the harbour which breeze would have resulted in an abandoned race.

The ominous calm before the start

The ominous calm before the start

Dump Truck and Passion X on opposite tacks going nowhere fast

Dump Truck and Passion X on opposite tacks going nowhere fast

 

The early start fleet already on the way home

The early start fleet already on the way home

Catching the Blue fleet

Catching the Blue fleet

With the advent of daylight saving in NSW a weekend ago the twilight season started at GFS last Wednesday in fresh and gusty conditions.
The forecast had been for 20 knots all evening but as so often happens the breeze died even before we reached the turn around Goat Island. For the conditions we set our No 3 jib and a reef in the main. The reefed main allows us to do the windward work with the fat head of the mainsail passing safetly inside the running backstays and while the wind was strong we travelled reasonably well.
At the start we held back and pinched up to the start line on starboard tack while the early arrivers has to run down the line. Only Jackpot managed to start above us and with their extra 2.3 tonnes of displacement soon worked up above us and eventually the whole fleet. Joli made a spectacular work on port into Onion point and cleared the moored yachts by the smallest of margins to be ahead of Jackpot and Passion X working up Humbug. Dump Truck, while not on the starting list, made a fast entrance onto the scene loaded up with mobile ballast in the form of extra crew. Soon they were to windward of Passion X and as soon as they tacked to go down harbour we followed in their dirty air. Joli had gone a bit wider and lost the lead but were now using that height to sail faster and go over the top of Passion X while we had the dual problems of dirty air from Dump Truck and being a bit too low on the line to clear the moored boats. While we did clear the line we were still low on the navigation mark off Balls Head and a fast catching Utopia was making good progress under a similarly reefed main.
At Balls Head the breeze started to die and only a late gust kept us in contact with the leaders around Goat Island.
On the run back we decided to take the reef out of the main but the leeward backstay was on tight and the only way to get it around the sail was to gybe the main, ease the backstay and gybe back again.
In these manouvers the fleet drew away a little and the breeze died some more. It was now quite calm and the trip around the back of Cockatoo Island was painfully slow.
Humbug was our last chance to make up ground but only the reefed Utopia seemed to suffer by going too wide of Onions Point so we managed to beat her by a minute on handicap for a fifth place in a small fleet of 7 finishers. For a windy start to the season the 5th place is quite a good result as it keeps our handicap intact for the races when the full fleet turns up.
Hopefully Dump Truck and Much Ado will get their entries in for next week and will have to spread the movable ballast over two yachts which might not be such a bad idea given the forecast of light winds for this coming Wednesday.
Across all the fleets there were another 6 yachts that had not finalised their entries so hopefully we will get a larger fleet of starters this week.

Looking at the results while in transit on Singapore I observe it must have been a tough day on the water. The wind readings on Seabreeze.com looked to be all over the place in strength and direction so well done to Crosshaven.

Looking at the progress scores we fared quite well with the best performances by yachts further down the ladder. We will keep watching from a distance for the next two weeks.