Next Passion

Lifting inside Fidelis on the way into Rose Bay

Lifting inside Fidelis on the way into Rose Bay. Will we cross or not?

We have been waiting for the South East breeze for a few weeks now because we know Passion X does relatively better in the reach up and down the course than in the square runs and hard beats to windward. The forecast of nine knots was also favourable so we set the large No 1 light genoa and full main for the day. Despite our careful approach to the line Joli stole the start by coming in closer hauled to the pin mark and then kept going a bit. I think it was Leeward that was the meat in the sandwich to leeward as we tried to get the sheets on so we could point higher. No sooner were we in high mode Joli bore away to the mark and we were able to follow. Very quickly the fast reaching Fidelis was out in front and to windward while we gave Joli a wide berth in between. At the sailing angle to the mark we had reaching sheets sheeting to the the rail and slowly pulled away from the fleet. In the light patches we made up a little ground on Fidelis but at the heads the breeze picked up and they took off again. The leg back to Steele Point was 5 degrees off of close hauled which is good for Passion X as we drop off speed fairly quickly if we point too high. Not needing to point was bonus and we sailed this leg mostly at 7.4 knots which is right on our polar plot for 14 knots of breeze and 45 degrees to the true wind. I could not see the speed from my steering position but Graham kept calling 7.4 and I am not sure if it was true of he just knew that number would keep me happy.
Past Steele Point we got into a progressive lift which we had to carry to the island. Fidelis tacked early and once we tacked at the island we could see ourselves lifting inside her. So good was the lift that we crossed Fidelis with starboard rights and luckily managed to cross her while on port going into the Rose Bay mark. Reaching into Point Piper we were not confident of holding Fidelis out but we did and did so also for the run and work around Shark Island. On the work into the mark at the bottom of Shark Island we received a late lift which delayed our tack for the rounding and that resulted in a small over stand and a loss of distance to Joli. The broad reach back home was also on our favoured angle and again to our surprise we held out Fidelis by a few seconds for our second fastest times for the year.

On handicap Fidelis turned the tables and the improved Rainbow took third place just 14 seconds behind. Allegro and Joli were next in line with the results keeping the progress scores pretty well as they were with first second and third in the progress scores scoring second, third and fourth on the day.

The Starboard cross where we passed Fidelis

The Starboard cross where we passed Fidelis

Back in Race 2 on the 8th May we set our No1 heavy genoa and reefed the main and wondered if we might have been faster with the No 3 jib and full main. Well today we tried this combination and while it was more comfortable it is hard to say that it was quicker. The breeze today rarely went above 15 knots while back in Race 2 it was closer to 19 knots. The fleet also set more conservative gear today so comparisons are difficult. Downwind we were marginally faster and rounded behind Hitchhike after a downwind duel with Allegro who was carrying her big rig. Crosshaven was just behind so the situation was very similar to 8th May. On the work back we went too close to Steele Point and had trouble changing gears in the wind shadow of the point. Larrikin slipped through by sailing wider and coming back on a lift. Fortunately we went further and came back on a big lift too to recover this ground. From Rose Bay we had more trouble shifting gears so it took a while to ease the halyards for the reach to Point Piper. From Point Piper we could not get the jib to fly to windward so had a slow run around the Island. Larrikin was just behind and did not get caught to leeward of Hasta la Vista so she was able to tack to the mark at the appropriate time and come out in front. Leeward also made up ground on this short work.  Now we had Larrikin to windward and Leeward coming through in between. Leeward, to windward, prevailed over Passion X by 2 seconds but we beat them by 3 seconds on handicap.
We were 11th for the day.
Our handicap has increased since the second race but by going through the time differences I feel our time was a minute slower relative to Allegro, Crosshaven, Rainbow and Larrikin but we were relatively faster compared to Crackerjack, Krakatoa and Trim.
Today was clearly quieter than Race 2 which accounts for our minute over Crackerjack and our traffic problems could have been worth a minute but perhaps we could have carried the No 1 Heavy for a marginally better result.
Some things did work well. The reaching lines for the No 3 Jib go under the safety lines and outside the shrouds so that improved the sail shape considerably. Sheeting the jib one hole back on the tracks improved the mid air performance and I would be happy to try sheeting one hole more back in a real blow.

We were thankful for the 15 knots we had today especially after the abandoned race on Sunday with practically no wind at all.

No wind for us on Sunday

No wind for us on Sunday

Everyone should have a dose of random luck and today it was our turn for that unimaginable good turn of fortune within sight of the finishing line.
It was a day where it was hard to pick the next breeze direction and the incoming tide suggested a quick tack onto port to get out of the tide would be the right move. Unfortunately the starboard tackers who held on for the first flick of the breeze to the north did rather well. It worked for them and we were already back in the fleet after a quite good start so we went back onto starboard with the next flick of the breeze and were rewarded by being on the left side of the course in a progressive lift. At Shark Island we took another dig out to the north but this time there was no lift and only a good dose of tide. Off Vauclause we picked up a nice right hand shift but by the time we tacked to stay inside the Sow and Pigs our luck ran out. Joli tacked onto starboard at just the right time while we took the header into the shore to get out of the tide and had to come back on another header. We were in good company with Krakatoa but managed to get the last shirt into the mark to round ahead.
On the long very square run back to the bottom of Shark Island we had Hanni a long way in front and then Allegro, Foreigh Affairs, Amante, Hitchhike, Joli and Crosshaven spread out across the course. Our large genoa poled out on the 6 metre pole was serving us well on the run and we kept creeping up on these last three but could not break through. On the work around Shark Island Joli stretched out her lead on Passion X with Crosshaven in between. We set ourselves the goal of running Crosshaven down before the finish and were making a respectable job of it when the breeze died.
To my surprise the fleet was becalmed just metres in front.
Now was the time to switch to drifting mode. All the halyards were eased and the main eased so much that the boom sat on the rigid vang and let the leech hang out to leeward. Just to the north there was a patch of breeze that would take us away from the finish boat but breeze is breeze and most of the fleet tried to get into it. Crosshaven went further Joli and Passion X squared away to make the finish line. In this last toss of the dice we did better than both Crosshaven and Joli and in the process also passed Allegro and Hitchhike for a most undeserved equal third on handicap and just 18 seconds out of first place.
So tonight we enjoy our place still at the top of the ladder but still reflecting on how far in front the leading boats were on the windward work.

The photo of the tracks tell the story of the windward work rather well and we did enjoy the beat against Agrovation, Fidelis, Krakatoa and Larrikin.  They did not deserve to be left out on the course with no wind to finish while the clock ticked down in favour of the front runners. Krakatoa hung on well to beat Passion X by three seconds but Senta took the money 15 seconds in front. Leeward beat Passion X over the line by 29 seconds to tie on handicap for third place.

The tracks tell the tale of today's windward work.

The tracks tell the tale of today’s windward work.

 

 

Again the sailing has been abandoned and this time with a forecast mild 19 knots. The race committee no doubt took account of the heavy rain this morning and the prevailing 10 degrees air temperature. For now still over two hours before the start the rain has abated and the sun is shining. At least it is shining in my back yard. The rain radar shows more rain on the way up from the south so there will likely be more showers. The real danger at the time of the abandon call was probably the 10 degree Celsius temperature with a chill factor of possibly five degrees on top of that for a “feel like” five degrees.
Now I had contemplated setting up the spray dodger where some of the crew could shelter from the wind and rain but that would not be fair on the rest and the danger of being wet and cold was a very real one.
So again I am left with withdrawal symptoms and perhaps I will call in tomorrow on the radio control Lasers just for a little fix.
Last Sunday’s West Harbour Winter Series result for Passion X was quite miserable as we were last fastest despite a very good start. There was on the course very little breeze and we regularly sailed into nothing and sat there while the fleets (yes plural) starting in 5 minute sequences behind ran down on top. With so many yachts crowded into such a little space it is a credit to the tolerance of the crews that there was no carnage and little real shouting. That the divisions two and three back could cut the corners meant that we were continually passing  and then meeting them again on the next leg added to the congestion. What was telling was the acceleration of the light yachts with asymmetric spinnakers on long poles as when the wind was from the right direction they took off. We did OK when the breeze picked up from our right angle and I mean picked up to 5 knots but mostly we sat becalmed with all the divisions enjoying what bit of sun there was on the day.

Sydney Harbour webcam just before scheduled start time for the abandoned race

Sydney Harbour webcam just before scheduled start time for the abandoned race

I could not get my weekly sailing fix on Wednesday due to the strong wind forecast. We were ready to go. I had taken the No 4 jib our of storage from under the front bunks and inserted the battens ready to use it if the wind was stronger than forecast. The No 4 has seen little use since the first season when we were regularly sent out in 20 plus knots on the long Division 1S course up to Manly and with all the cancellations since then I wonder if it will ever get used again. Indeed the sail maker says there is little demand for No 4 jibs due to races being cancelled in conditions when they would be needed.
Now I fully support the cautious approach of race committees but I do wonder if over caution is breeding a generation of sailors and yachts that cannot handle the big breeze. In the first season we came back from Port Stephens in 35 knots with a triple reef and the No 3 jib and in the height of the strong wind I did lower the No 3 jib and proceeded on main alone. That experience was one contributing factor to purchasing the No 4 jib although to be fair had we been racing I would have changed to the storm jib which is as of now still unused.
Perhaps we can have a heavy air series based on the cancelled races where boats with Category 4 safety can compete and practice heavy air sailing.
We have not performed well in heavy airs so I am keen for more practice. In the interest of improving our heavy air performance I have added some outboard sheeting positions for the No 3 and No 4 jibs. This will improve our reaching sheeting angles and possible even be an outboard working sheeting position when we are over powered. Out genoa tracks on Passion X are at 11 degrees to the centre line while on the old Passion they were 14.4 degrees. Whenever it blew and we had the No 3 jib up on the old Passion we had very good performances so it is worth a try widening the sheeting angles on Passion X.

Pad eyes for outboard sheeting of the No 3 and No 4 jibs have been added. Now all we need is a race in breeze.

Pad eyes for outboard sheeting of the No 3 and No 4 jibs have been added. Now all we need is a race in breeze.

The handicaps are out for next Wednesday’s race at RANSA and while our handicap has been increased not everyone will be happy.
We started the season with a generous handicap and after the first race were penalized 12% which seemed pretty fair. In the next windy race we picked the shifts well for a third on handicap and a further increase in handicap to 0.9641. The third race was in ideal conditions for Passion X but we were well beaten over the line by Joli and Hitchhike in a dying breeze that left the later finishers struggling for handicap places so we scored a lucky second and a further increase in handicap to 0.9729.
Then last week we had a blinder with a perfect start for clear air and just the right reaching conditions to allow us to hang on for a fastest times and another first on handicap. With that win our handicap is now 0.9838 which is 15% tougher than the start of the season.
There is no doubt that when we get into the windier windward leeward races we will drop back through the fleet. Passion X is very tender with a beam of just 3.4 metres and a narrow waterline beam compared to the modern IRC and ORC types or ever the more voluminous cruisers. As the wind increases we will do well on the downwind legs if we can carry the full main but will struggle on the windward legs.
In the meantime with a 1, 3,2,1 record our handicap might seem generous and we will be out there taking the maximum advantage while the sun shines. Currently Seabreeze has a forecast of 18 knots up to 4pm on Wednesday which might mean a full main and No3 jib to start the race and possible a reef in for the work home. In any event it will be a more challenging day for Passion X especially that last beat from Shark Island to the finish.

Today there was little breeze making it a perfect day for the Greenwich Flying Squadron presentation day.

Glassy condition today at Greenwich so perfect for Presentation Day

Glassy condition today at Greenwich so perfect for Presentation Day

The conditions could not have suited Passion X better. The beam reach up the course and the less than hard on work back to Steele Point were the conditions that Passion was made for so we just had to hang on for the work into Rose Bay and the one back around Shark Island to score our first fastest time result for the season. Last year in similar light conditions we also scored a fastest times when we flicked from starboard onto port on the way to the top mark without changing direction. Today’s race had none of this luck and was more of a drag race out and a anxious work back to the finish. I made one small improvement for the day and that was to put 1.75 mm dyneema tails onto the spinnaker halyards snapshackles so that the idle ends could be raised to the top of the mast. This reduces the drag from the three 12 mm lines and also takes 5 kg of rope off of the mast which is equivalent to 20 kg of lead on the keel. Now the read deal would be to replace the alloy mast with a carbon fibre one which would be like adding 200 kg to the keel but that is not going to happen. This was one of our best starts ever as we stayed low enough below the favored start boat end as to not be forced up by leeward yachts. We ducked Britannia’s stern at the last moment and were able to bear away for the line hitting it at speed and on time. From there we were never headed. Initially Allegro was close to leeward and holding her position but Joli reached out from the fleet behind and may have sent some dirty air down the way of Allegro. For the beam reach to the top mark we enjoyed clear air and had good speed so that we pulled out 50 metres on the fleet. Once around the top mark we were 5 degrees off a work into Steele Point and holding our distance from Joli and the chasing fleet. We were well beyond Steele Point when Joli took a small dig into the point and tacked back onto a progressive lift. We were already into the lift and not in a position to tack back until we reached the island. The tack back was into a progressive lift the other way which worked out reasonably well. In the end the angles into Rose Bay were good if not quite as good as Joli’s. On the leg around Shark Island both Joli and Passion X suffered from a 1S fleet yacht sailing close above us but I figured they were so fast we should just go as high as possible and get into the clear air behind their stern. We were very fortunate sailing into the mark at the bottom of Shark Island to get a lift around the mark and avoid two tack which may well have put Joli into the lead. With this last stroke of luck we reached away for the finish looking over our shoulder at the fast finishing Joli. Behind her we could now see Hanni and the fast reaching Fidelis as well as Allegro who had hung on well in the light conditions to score 4th on handicap. As I said at the beginning we could not have had better conditions and it was good to have two GFS yachts fighting our for fastest time. The win over Joli was pleasing as they had all the J112 experts on board and between Steve and Adrian they would have thrown everything as us. When we looked at the progress scores we were surprised to see that we had been elevated to second place last week which I can only presume was a correction to the results so with our win today we are still on just seven points. We need these points as we will be away for the last three weeks of the series as we go to the Laser masters in the Netherlands. In the meantime I am expecting no mercy from the handicapper for the rest of the season.

Not bad angles into Rose Bay but the progressive shift off Steele Point suited Joli well.

Not bad angles into Rose Bay but the progressive shift off Steele Point suited Joli well.

Sunday was an unexpected bonus as far as sailing goes as the breeze was good enough for a shortened race in the West Harbour Winter Series. We were started in no breeze and were still on or just over the line when the next fleet started five minutes later so there was a large fleet trying to make progress up the Hunters Hill shore. We had expected a beam reach but were stuck in a dead square run with our 60 m2 code zero up so we poled it out and in the sub 3 knot breeze fared particularly well. Our code zero rates as a headsail with a pretty large rating penalty but it can be poled out to windward legally while some were carrying spinnaker versions which cannot be flow to windward but no one seems to care about rules west of the bridge. No names but some yachts sailed inside the moored yachts and even hit them with loud bangs and some yacht think that if they don’t make eye contact they can ignore port and starboard rules. Oh well! it was Sunday and we were trying to be charitable. In  the three knot conditions the dead run with the poled out headsail fared as well as the drooping asymmetric spinnakers. Very cheekily I tried to carry the code zero headsail up the work from Spectacle to Schnapper Island but it was too tight so we hoisted the genoa and furled the code zero without losing any places. It was on starboard tack coming up this work that the fleet ignored the starboard call but as I said earlier it was Sunday and a good day to practice forgiveness. We fared well on the work up to the mark at Goat Island but from there the cards fell the other way. Avalon and Passion X took the eastern side of the dead square run while the following fleet went hard down the Snails Bay side in much stronger wind and a better angle. This choice cost us both dearly as we ended up at the back of the handicap fleet. The Adams 10′s were particularly potent along this leg with large spinnakers working well. We opted to keep the code zero pole out but in the slightly stronger breeze the spinnakers were coming back into their own.

We were satisfied to keep the Pogo 36 behind on the square run. They looked very fast in any gusts as they hotted up the angles with their asymmetric but the longer distance they traveled seemed to work out for us by the Spectacle Island mark. Now we were very happy as the breeze had swung right just far enough for us to carry the code zero all the way up the leg to Schnapper Island. In four knot of breeze the hard strapped down code zero was back winding the mainsail and we were flying. If only this leg was longer! If only we sailed this angle more often!

Today one day later the breeze was too light for a race but the new forecast for Wednesday is for a very promising 8 knot southerly.

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The handicaps for the RANSA Winter Wednesday race next week are out and the three Greenwich Flying Squadron yachts have all had their wings clipped by about 0.01.

https://app.sailsys.com.au/club/4/results/series/301/races/2905

If we had raced on Wednesday on these new handicaps the positions would not have changed. Joli would still have come first of the regulars, Agrovation second and Passion X third. Our places were however influenced by the incoming tide and fading breeze which left some yachts far out on the course when in more usual conditions the time differences would have been much less. The forecast for next week does not look promising with around 4 to 5 knots of wind and a small outgoing tide making for quite different conditions. I cannot recall having so many days of light winds and the sea state is down to a forecast 0.4 metres by the week end. The upside has been idyllic conditions for doing a bit of boat maintenance. Rather disappointingly I have had to do a second overhaul on the Spinlock deck organizers due to the sheaves seizing on the shafts. The first overhaul shortly after launch was to replace the all plastic sheaves with alloy ones with plastic bearings. Inexplicably the plastic bearings of the now two year old sheaves have seized on the 12 mm stainless steel shafts. The remedy was to remove the organizers to the workshop and drive the pulleys off the shaft with a perfectly sized aluminium tube. Even after cleaning the shaft and bore, the sheaves would not slide back over the shafts so the plastic bush has been reamed out to the original 12 mm diameter. The 38 mm diameter sheave organizers with six sets of sheaves is ideal for the deck layout on Passion X and I had hoped that the expensive alloy sheaves that replaced the failed plastic ones would have been a permanent solution. If the plastic bushes in the alloy sheaves seize again I will have bronze bushes made but let’s hope that is not needed. The other tedious task was to touch up the paint on the wooden plugs in the toe rail. The toe rails are hard meranti timber with many coats of epoxy and polyurethane paint which are standing up to the conditions on the yacht very well. In the rush to get Passion X on the water the wooden plugs covering the fastener holes received only a single coat of epoxy paint which has not lasted well. The remedy for this was to clear out the single layer of paint off the tiny plugs and saturate the timber with clear epoxy and finish with a coat of white epoxy. While the task was time consuming in the very pleasant conditions it was an enjoyable task.

The Greenwich Flying Squadron sailors had a great day with Joli, Agrovation and Passion X first, second and third respectively of the series entrants in Division 1 and Hasta La Vista first in Division 2. Adrian and Michael respectively in Joli and Agrovation sailed exceptionally well in the light and tricky conditions and deserve their places. It is ironic that these two club members were giving me the biggest tease over our handicap in the series and they still beat us.
The light air and incoming tide was always going to help those who rounded the top mark early and had the benefit of the tide to pull away from their competitors still beating into it.
On Passion X we were very fortunate to recover from a decision not to cover the fleet tacking back to the shore behind us. We started well behind Britannia, who was pretending to be a much bigger yacht, right on the stern of the committee boat and lifted as soon as we could. Further up the harbour there were some right hand shifts but down at our end there was mostly lifts on starboard. Foreign Affairs and Joli were two of the early yachts to tack away for the shelter from the tide and into a progressive lift. Amante and Agrovation soon followed. Allegro was out in the middle with us and we tacked back to the shore taking their stern. We tacked back to starboard before reaching the line of breeze but had enough to just keep pace with most of the windward fleet including Amante and Agrovation. Foreign Affairs disappeared over the horizon and Hitchhike and Joli were now well ahead. Allegro came back on one of the few right hand shifts but we managed to cross her bow for a small gain for the two tacks. We were still mid stream and in too much tide as the saw tooth pattern on the chart plot shows and as soon as we headed I tacked back for our get out of jail shift for the day. That one shift let us cross Amante, Hanni and Agrovation. Having got out of the tide we short tacked Steele Point and the baths until we worked into a nice lift towards the mark. The lift disappeared up near the east channel mark and I tacked back to avoid the dirty air of Amante and Hitchhike just as the lift returned. That may or may not have cost us a little as there is no telling how badly we might have fared in the direct dirty air for the work into the mark.
Along the leg into the mark Joli was badly headed and crossed the closest we had been since the start but we did not follow and they picked up a good lift along the shore gaining back a considerable amount of the ground they had lost with the big header. Then they were next around the mark to Foreign affairs and took off with the tide for a substantial lead over Hitchhike, Passion X and Amante.
The run back was very quiet. Amante went inshore and picked up breeze while Hitchhike went wider and picked up tide. Around Steele Point we were defending our position from Hanni and Agrovation and came in closer than we normally do but to our surprise we passed a becalmed Amante to windward while Hitchhike to leeward picked up breeze and pulled away a minute by the shortened course finish in Rose Bay.

We would have done better defending our good start and going back into Rose Bay in phase with the fleet. Fortunately we had the one right hand shift to get back across to the fleet but by the look of the results there were others no so lucky and they languished out on the course as the breeze died.

The third place on handicap for the series was pleasing considering how much of the sailing was conducted to windward and with a 1,3,3 we have a good lead in the progressive point score.

The saw tooth pattern of our windward works against the tide is pretty evident as is the get out of jail lift in the middle of the chart plot.

The saw tooth pattern of our windward works against the tide is pretty evident as is the get out of jail lift in the middle of the chart plot.

 

Crackerjack likes a bit of breeze and usually does well and today, with wind and handicap in the right area, was no exception. Also Krakatoa returned to the podium with a small handicap advantage over Passion X where we filled the third place. It was very close from third through to 12th place with just two minutes separating the ten yachts.

We started at the start  boat behind Crosshaven and were pleased to keep our nose in front of the fleet for most of the run. We overtook Crosshaven when they ran deep due to having the jib poled out but in turn were overrun by the windward fleet as they drove down in the gusts.  Crackerjack and Joli were two of the yachts that ran past us to the top mark.

On the way home we had some pretty good angles but were mostly in phase with the fleet who were all picking the shifts well so it was mainly a speed test. Amante, the much modified Sydney 36 Cr won the windward work speed test pulling back Hanni a little but not passing her and leading out from Joli by a couple of minutes with Crosshaven just 4 second behind.  We enjoyed a tacking duel with Trim and Allegro who both passed us and we gave away three minutes on the work home to fellow GFS club member Joli and were mid fleet in conditions where we are still trying to find our mojo.

For the day we set our new No1 heavy genoa and a reef in the main. This worked quiet well as we were a little under powered on the run but over powered on the work. We had not expected continuous hard on the wind conditions on the way home and had hoped for tighter conditions on the way out and more free ones coming home. What we did try was OK and worth persevering with particularly if the wind has a bit more north in it however for today the full main and small jib poled out might have been more successful.

Courtesy of generous handicapping we had a first last week and a third this week which gives us the series lead for the time being. We will lose a bit of handicap next week and we might not pick the shifts so well.

Some pretty good tacking angles on the day

Some pretty good tacking angles on the day

I was apprehensive about the strong wind forecast for our first West Harbour Winter Series race. For several days the predicted wind on the harbour was above 25 knots and for the Woolwich area the BOM Meteye forecast was around 14 knots. The choices for the rig were the No 3 jib with a full main or the No 1 heavy genoa with a reef in the main. We chose the No 3 Jib which is very easy to tack but the full main is harder to gybe because of the running backstays. We started a minute late due to a very short preparation time and will reschedule our affairs so we have more preparation time for the next race. Nevertheless we did well to arrive at the start line with most of the spinnaker sheets run and ready to take off on starboard tack. Being a minute late was a blessing in a way as we had a clear lane and no interference. Before long we were overtaking the tail of the fleet and with careful adjustment of the halyards and foot tension were making best use of the sail area we had deployed. While we had the code zero set up we elected not to deploy it due to the tight angles, short legs and forecast strong wind.
It was an enjoyable and uneventful sail until the second reach along the Hunters Hill shore. We had been having a close race with the Pogo 36 which also has a fat head mainsail but it is 600 mm wider than Passion X which gives it great stability Also they were flying a code Zero or asymmetric spinnaker, I am not sure which, and that gave them an edges on the broader legs. The Flying Tiger was also just in front and we are happy to be in company with FT’s any day. The peaceful sail was interrupted when the yachts just in front flying spinnakers were hit with a freshening header causing a lot of chaos. The Fareast 28 in particular was giving a demonstration of how to lay a boat sideways while more cautious ones were dousing their spinnakers.
With just the main and jib we were making up good time until overtaken to leeward by a yacht that had a curious interpretation of “Proper course”. We were both under just main and jib where the proper course would have been to run to Clarke Point but we were driven well above the point and eventually at right angles to the course to the mark in near Woolwich. This enormous detour required two gybes to get back to the mark and a lot of lost time. Instead of a safe and cautious day we had a few moments of mayhem. Fortunately we had just the work to the finish to manage which we did as carefully as we could under the circumstances losing as little as a minute and two fastest times places in the process.
The handicap result was more generous where we finished on fourth place just a second shy of third and two seconds in front of fifth. A clear start on time might have seen us reach second place on handicap but I much prefer a string of fourth places and less damage to the handicap for the next outing. http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/balmainsc/2018/kb/whws/01RGrp19.htm

As we sailed back to our mooring in Greenwich the forecast wind arrived together with a rain squall so we were thankful the sailing for the day had finished. For the Greenwich yacht that had ventured under the bridge for the winter series on the harbour proper they saw gusts of up to 34 knots.

The promised fifteen knots breeze did not eventuate but the six to nine knots one suited Passion X quite well. The crew selected the No 1 light genoa which I conceded should be ok for the windward work before the forecast breeze kicked. It is just as well I conceded as the run home was mostly in light airs where the lighter sail cloth kept the genoa flying. The pin end was favoured but non of the Div 1 s yachts took that lane so I did not jockey for the end but started three back from the start mark and tacked for clear air as soon as I could. Our starboard tack was curtailed by a passing ferry and we had to make a huge dip to clear the stern of Allegro who kept sailing into the dirty air of the ferry and into lighter air. The north shore proved a poor choice and we overtook a couple of Div 1 s yachts who were becalmed on that side and sailing back into a header. Allegro suffered some of that and allowed us to take off after Hitchhike and Hanni. With a couple of good tacks we were crossing tacks with the leaders but they got the better of us on the last tacks into the windward mark. The run home was a matter of preserving the lead we three had built up over Amante, Allegro and Trim. Around Steele Point we went wider than Hanni and Hitchhike and kept breeze for longer but they received new breeze in time to maintain a lead into Rose Bay. While we had been catching Hitchhike and Hanni, Amante had been catching us but we held her off into Point Piper and pulled away around the Island. A poor gybe around the south of Shark Island cost us a few yards and anxious moments on the run back to the finish line. Hanni and Hitchhike pulled away once they cleared the wind shadow of Shark Island but we suffered more in the wind shadow. We were very pleased with our third fastest on the day and particularly the windward working in the eight knots of breeze where we consistently sailed at six knots. A clean bottom and clear air helped and with no close company to worry about tacking angles we sailed for speed. The first on handicap was a bit of a gift but we will take it and be prepared for a stiff correction next week.

Nothing spectacular about the angles but we did well to windward anyway.

Nothing spectacular about the angles but we did well to windward anyway.

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