Next Passion

The Masthead runner taking over the house like the plant from "The Little Shop of Horrors

The Masthead runner taking over the house like the plant from “The Little Shop of Horrors

A week after the last race of the Port Stephens Regatta we are still drying sails. We are not alone as on Friday we found a fellow club member at Greenwich with sails hoisted on every flag mast for washing and drying. We had already dried two spinnakers at home and returned these to Passion X. In windless but sunny conditions we hoisted the wet No 3 jib on the forestay and rolled out the damp Code Zero in the continuous line furler. Every time I hoist the Code Zero it seems easier to set up and bring down and Friday was no exception. That left two very soggy No 1 genoas, the heavy and light ones, which I wanted to wash thoroughly with fresh water so these came home for the Easter weekend. The wash and dry was an opportunity to lay out the genoas on top of each other and see the differences. For good measure I photographed the sails on the back lawn. The new No 1 heavy is marginally smaller than the No 1 light but quite a bit larger than the old No 1 heavy or 1.5 as I liked to call it. The extra area is low down on the deck and with more overlap low down so hopefully it will be good all purpose sail so we can keep the 44m2 No 1 light for lighter conditions. Obsessively I have been weighing the equipment as it comes off Passion X to see what weight we can save for the winter series. So far about 100 kgs is in the house including 5 kg from the front berth cushions which were getting very wet during the racing and will go back on only when cruising with another couple. I have yet to remove the No 4 jib which has not been used since the race management at RANSA has become very cautions and the storm jib which has not been out of the sail bag since purchase. These will save another 30 kg and bring the total up to only 130 kg so I do wonder if it is worth all the effort. We did end up victorious in the Greenwich Flying Squadron Twilight handicap series for the full season. A good Spring series and a late run at the results in the Autumn series sealed the result. Meticulous attention to the cleanliness of the hull was the secret as we have a fair amount of wetted surface for our weight and not a lot of righting moment to use to power up the rig.

The new No 1 heavy, underneath, is substantially larger low down than the old 1.5 off of the old Passion

The new No 1 heavy, underneath, is substantially larger low down than the old 1.5 off of the old Passion

The No 1 light, underneath, is only marginally larger than the No 1 heavy but is about 4kg lighter.

The No 1 light, underneath, is only marginally larger than the No 1 heavy but is about 4kg lighter.

Drying out one of the spinnakers in the sun room.

Drying out one of the spinnakers in the sun room.

The passing of Ron Beament on board Passion X on the Monday of the Port Stephens Regatta was a devastating event. Ron was such a nice guy and an integral part of the group of friends who sail Passion X that everything else pales in significance. The rest of the week was more about comforting ourselves in our grief and honouring his passing. As a group we attended Ron’s memorial service on the Saturday wearing our Passion X shirts and only then did we realise how significant we were in Ron’s life. I am so proud of the team of Passion X crew and supporters who handled the events with great dignity and composure. The support of the Race Committee, especially the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club support boat, the paramedics and the Water Police was greatly appreciated. The Water Police in particular were most empathetic and professional to the crew and to Ron’s family. The tribute to Ron’s life from the competitors, particularly the Greenwich Flying Squadron team was greatly appreciated and passed on to his family.
The rest of the sailing was conducted quietly and with mostly mid fleet performances on time and handicap.
The Newcastle to Port Stephens race was a good event. We started with the big no 1 genoa in very light conditions and did well early by staying in the breeze off shore. We were very well up when the leading yachts tacked back to the shore once the breeze had built. They tacked into a progressive header but got back in front of the fleet which was still in light airs inshore.
When we were passed offshore by a Sydney 38 we tacked back and were rewarded with a big lift. Then each opportunity the fleet tacked back inshore for a progressive lift and flatter water. The breeze built to around 17 knots which was too much for the big genoa. The leading Sydney 38 reefed the main and beat the rest of the 38′s by a large margin. Beating to windward is not the strong point of the Didi 40 Cr design which was created for mostly downwind ocean races but we performed very well until the breeze built to over 15 knots.
In the Port Stephens races we did well when we could deploy the Code Zero sail but mostly the breeze was free enough for competitors to fly asymmetric spinnakers or reaching symmetric ones. We carry a significant rating penalty for the beating Code Zero and it appears that the rating is meant to discourage the use, not give a fair handicap for this type of sail. The boats with slick spinnaker work did well in these conditions and while our spinnaker work improved through the regatta we did not sail enough races.

Reflecting on the good points from the trip up and back the new spray dodger was a great asset and made the long trips much more enjoyable that otherwise. We motored back into a 16 knot southerly on the Monday after the regatta sitting under the protection of the spray dodger. Elaine remarked on how much more comfortable the tiller steering and spray dodger was on Passion X compared to the wheel steering on Passion where the helms person was exposed to the spray. The combination of spray dodger, tiller and auto pilot made the trip much more comfortable.

We spent the nights during the regatta in the large quarter berth which left the V berth free for sails. I am now contemplating removing all the V berth cushions so that it is dedicated to sails and we are less concerned at all the water that comes in with wet sails. The timing of rains squalls at this regatta was particularly inconvenient for wet sails and we have a job ahead to dry five sails.

The fridge is too good. Anything placed in the open freezer section did freeze and if in glass then the glass broke. So frozen were the contents that no liquid escaped into the bottom of the compartment. Also the idea of having a separate cold storage bag inside the fridge for the food worked especially well at keeping the freezer clean and uncluttered.

The Yanmar 30Hp engine performed well. We averaged 6 knots for the trip from Port Stephens to Pittwater against wind and tide. Cruising revs was around 2800 RPM for the return trip against 2400 RPM for the trip up when we had wind behind. I had been concerned at the amount of white smoke coming from the exhaust but after a refill at Nelson Bay and with some mixing of the tank contents with the wave motion the smoke stopped so I am putting that down to a diesel fuel issue. We used about half a tank for the trip home despite the headwinds and current. That was 18 hours of motoring so I estimate with the 20 litres back up in the fuel locker we could motor for over 40 hours.

Nothing broke! No fittings, no ropes, no sails etc so it was on inexpensive regatta from that perspective. Everything worked as it should so there is no follow  up needed other than drying sails.

Our last stage of the motor home was from the comfort of a very peaceful Refuge Bay to our mooring in Greenwich. With the help of an outgoing tide in Pittwater we made the trip in record time and spend a couple of hours unloading Passion X alongside the pontoon at GFS. All the Category 4 heavy items were  unloaded, some for washing and storage and some just to put the boat back into light ship mode. The salt spray was washed from the deck and the deck stored sail bags and the tanks emptied again and refilled up to a quarter full.  It took forever to empty from the empty level on the level indicator to really empty so there is a good safety margin from the water empty level to really dry.

The two day trip home was a good opportunity for Elaine and I to reflect on the events of the past week and how grateful we are for the support of a wonderful crew.

Leading the Newcastle to Port Stephens fleet out of the harbour. (Under motor)

Leading the Newcastle to Port Stephens fleet out of the harbour. (Under motor)

Passion X at Port Stephens flying a black ribbon to remember Ron

Passion X at Port Stephens flying a black ribbon to remember Ron

Ron on the mainsheet of one of the Passions

Ron on the mainsheet of one of Passion X

Our friend and crewmate of many years, Ron Beament, passed away on board Passion X on Monday afternoon during the Commodores Cup regatta at Port Stephens.

Ron had a lovely temperament and was a great supporter on and off the water. He was extremely knowledgeable and all the crew enjoyed his company and his conversation. Ron helped with the modifications on our old Passion and with the building, turning and launching of Passion X. His handiwork will live on in Passion X.

Ron passed quickly among friends he had sailed with over many years and despite the best efforts of the crew, committee boat, paramedics and water police could not be revived. The regatta held a minutes silence for Ron on Tuesday and many of the fleet flew black ribbons for him on Wednesday.

The Greenwich Flying Squadron members at Port Stephens will toast Ron with his signature drink, a lemon lime and bitters, tonight.

Ron’s memorial service will be held this Saturday 13th April, at 11:30 am at the East Chapel of the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, 199 Delhi Road, North Ryde. Family and friends are warmly invited to attend. Sadly missed.

Ron working away at our home on Passion X

Ron working away at our home on Passion Xl

Despite the forecast for little breeze we set out today to practice our spinnaker work and to hoist our new No1 heavy genoa. To our delight the breeze kicked in at around 12 knots which was a perfect test for a perfect new genoa. We worked up to Manly with very little traffic to disturb our trip and tuned around and hoisted our fractional spinnaker.
After a second work back up the harbour we hoisted the 6o sq metres code zero and gybed that four times on the way back to Greenwich. We practiced gybing outside the forestay but settled for furling the code zero and unfurling on the opposite gybe which seemed more effective and less susceptible to problems.
It was a long but very enjoyable afternoon during which we hit our windward speed targets a few times. The new genoa is a Dimension Polyant Carbon Sports light skin with the same area as our old No 1 from Passion which had been recut to fit around the shrouds on Passion X. The new sail is longer on the foot and can be sheeted closer to the deck while still clearing the shrouds. More of the area is lower down and forming a better end plate with the deck so we are hopeful that it will be useful over a wider wind range and we are very pleased with the first sail.

Our new No 1 heavy genoa our for a test sail where we hit our speed targets several times.

Our new No 1 heavy genoa our for a test sail where we hit our speed targets several times.

The inspiration for the title comes from the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page where photo entries for the night refer to chaos. It was indeed chaotic both on the way out and on the way back in so full marks to Avalon for another fastest and a second on handicap. We were hard on the transom of Jackpot who was second fastest but we were forced to tack away by port tackers coming off the Onion Point shore and refusing to tack back. The two tacks we made away from our right of way tack cost us eight minutes and from the photos of the mayhem Utopia was disadvantaged even more and trailed us across the line. Both from the video from the deck of Aetos and from Jeff Lewis’ posts the setback to Utopia is very evident.
Our 5th fastest could have been better but for being on the wrong side of a shift at Goat Island and for the port tackers in Humbug but we salvaged a 5th on handicap for the penultimate race of the season.
We made a clear start at the club end of the line and only Avalon was quicker into Humbug but there we were both overrun by yachts squeezing between the moored yachts and the right of way yachts ahead. Avalon conceded we could not give them their right because of the yachts overrunning us from behind and we both went low and away from the new breeze.
From memory Jackpot, Meridian and Utopia managed to get their noses in front while Avalon below went the long way around but sailed into stronger winds quite promptly. We were just nosing ahead of Joli and holding our own but we both had some catching to do. The big Ausreo had drifted through Humbug well and was ahead of both of us while Much Ado V was just to leeward.
For most of the work to Goat Island we sailed well picking off first Ausreo and later Joli but on the approach to Goat Island Much Ado V tacked on top of us and while we were pinned down on the northern shore the Goat Island shore paid off well for Ausreo and Joli. Our phasing with the wind was not ideal and we ended up pinching slowly to clear the eastern end of Goat Island.
Around Goat Island we picked a middle line and sailed around Much Ado V who were caught in wind shadow and sailed over Ausreo.
The final throw of the dice was in Humbug. Much Ado V had caught us on the run to Humbug but went in too close and died in the doldrums. We went wide and lined up Jackpot, sailed up to Meridian and had Joli down to leeward.

Utopia had already tacked away from the chaos along the Onion Point shore and was becalmed mid stream. Some how Jackpot just passed ahead of the port tackers while we were forced to tack away leaving Meridian and Joli to sneak past the port tackers sterns. That gave Jackpot a big break and a first on handicap while Avalon hung on for second on handicap.

We had been fortunate to catch up to the fleet but could not make the four boat lengths we need to clear the impenetrable row of port tackers.

Utopia tried to make up ground from the nine minutes she had lost to Avalon but we were both caught in a very light phase and had the fleet coming up from behind with breeze so Lisdillon took third and Fireball fourth on handicap. That left Passion X on fifth with one more throw of the dice next week.

Jackpot sneaking around in front of the port tackers who forced us about

Jackpot sneaking around in front of the port tackers who forced us about

Joli below and Utopia becalmed out mid stream

Joli below and Utopia becalmed out mid stream

Passion X just holding out Utopi on the finish line

Passion X just holding out Utopi on the finish line

A photo for the Utopia "we were robbed" gallery

A photo for the Utopia “we were robbed” gallery

Closing in on Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji at Goat Island

Closing in on Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji at Goat Island

Tonight we had several glimpses of hope and we did manage a 4th fastest and second on handicap but there were three occasions when it looked even more promising.
We missed our scheduled clean on the hull this week but our visit to Pittwater on Monday and Tuesday was most likely equivalent to a half clean as we motored through an ocean of jelly fish up near Newport. We could feel the thump thump as we hit jellyfish after jellyfish and I imagine that the abrasion along the hull was enough to remove some of the marine growth.
The purpose of the visit to Pittwater was to have our new spray dodger fitted and that happened just in time for the first shower of Monday afternoon. After a quiet night in Refuge Bay we returned to Sydney on Tuesday and were treated to a display of around 100 dolphins just north of the heads. The dolphins provided an entertaining display of aerobatics and it is a shame we could not capture the aerial display on camera.
With our semi clean bottom and the biggest set of sails deployed we made a clean start at the pin end on starboard and held Dump Truck out on the line. Joli started to leeward and in clearer air so they pulled away well. Avalon started in even clearer air but could not cross us on port tack so tacked underneath us onto starboard. Now things got really interesting as we all lifted above Joli and has starboard rights as Joli tried to tack on port to go up Humbug. Somehow Avalon managed to shoot above Joli, probably with momentum but we were left on starboard pinned down by Dump Truck on our stern quarter. When Dump Truck finally tacked so we could go through Humbug we had to take a lot of transoms of the starboard tackers coming off Onions Point and that left us too low for the work out. One of the sterns we took was Utopia but that worked out well as when we all lined up for the work to Goat Island we were ahead of Utopia and had Much Ado V to leeward. Irukandji had escaped unnoticed through Humbug and was well ahead.
On the journey to Goat Island we managed to pinch up from under Utopia and work out from above Much Ado V. We will put that down to very careful trimming of the sails and attention to the fastest course to the Island so that at Goat we were very close to Joli and Dump Truck. Here the wheels fell off as we tacked away from a lift and by the time we reached the Goat Island navigation mark the knock we were on which was a massive lift for Joli on the opposite tack, had disappeared. Here we paid the price of trying to over optimize every wind shift and saw Avalon, Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji draw further ahead.
On the run back to Long Nose we set out big genoa on our enormous whisker pole and started to make up ground. tactically we felt the fleet ahead had turned for Cockatoo Island too soon and were becalmed in the lee of the point so we went very deep and on rounding up had a bit of a struggle to get up to the corner of Cockatoo Island. We did make up some ground and on rounding the west end of Cockatoo Island we tried it again by going hard and deep to the Hunters Hill shore. This paid dividends as we sailed through the lee of Irukandji but failed to catch Joli and Dump Truck. Utopia had made up good ground on the leg to Cockatoo Island but went in very close to the Island and failed to capitalize on the move.
Once around Clarke Point it was a race to see who could go the lowest to the Onions Point shore and try as we might we could not catch Joli or Dump Truck. At Onion Point we were caught in the wind shadow of an equally large Blue fleet yacht and watched as both Irukandji and Utopia crept closer. As the breeze swung so that we were running by the lee we effectively had clear air and pulled through to the finish line relieved to have held our position.

Well done to Avalon who lead almost from start to finish and did finish six and a half minutes clear of Joli with Dump Truck another half a minute behind. Avalon took first and fastest while our handicap allowed us to take second place. The dying breeze did make the finishing times stretch out and after Much Ado V the times really stretched out just due to the dying breeze.

Closing in again at Clarke Point

Closing in again at Clarke Point

 

Watching Dump Truck finish in the dark

Watching Dump Truck finish in the dark

Shane Beashel fitting the new spray dodger at Newport

Shane Beashel fitting the new spray dodger at Newport

 

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.