Next Passion

For the restart of the RANSA Winter Wednesday series we were down a crewmember on our already skeleton post Covid 19 lockdown complement but the breeze was forecast to be light so away we went.
The start was heavily biased to the pin which was barely passable in starboard tack but we managed to start behind Hitchhike at the pin. Hitchhike tacked early to port while we were pinned down on starboard by Amanti. In a safe leeward position we were able to hold Amanti and eventually pinch up to windward but with not enough room to tack. In the lee of Bradley Heads Amanti tacked allowing us to follow. A left shift had us looking famous for a short time but as the wind went back east we dropped down behind the line of the early tackers. Allegro was first to tack to starboard onto the new lift and this move gave her a clear lead. Unwilling to do frequent tacks with a small crew we crossed the harbour missing another shift east to lose Amanti and Krakatoa.
we ran back to Steele Point with Krakatoa and went with her into Rose Bay but at the rounding of the Rose Bay mark we were forced to give room to another division yacht allowing Krakatoa to pass to windward with the freshening breeze. Eventually I went chasing the wind and found a streak that came below Shark Island that helped us pass Kratatoa and make up ground on Amanti. Unfortunately we rounded slowly allowing Krakatoa to climb above us and Amanti to step our strongly in front. Perhaps the dirty air from the TP52 was too much for too long but the last leg was not a good one and we let the seconds tick away for a seventh on handicap.
congratulations to Krakatoa for a good race and to Allegro for picking the breeze well on the first windward work. These two deserved their first and second on handicap.
We were happy with our boat speed in the seven to seventeen knots variable breeze and we played the foot and backstay pretty consistently to keep the power on. The single adjustable backstay made for a more relaxed sail particulaly at the top mark gybe and in the conditions we felt we were not losing a lot with the cut down main and old jib.
Allegro’s sails looked a picture in all black and if I was to be envious I would be envious of those.

A warm late autumn day and a forecast of 15 knots enticed me to the water today. With Elaine as crew we completed the course used for the RANSA Winter Wednesday Series in an hour and nine minutes. Fully crewed we have done the track in a similar time on two previous occassions but today the wind angle was ideal for a quick reach around the track.
We started a couple of hours before the usual scheduled start time and enjoyed the early finish and late lunch on the mooring back at Greenwich.
There was a few occassions when some extra crew would have been very helpful, perticularly the work out of Rose Bay where the breeze picked up mightily. It is a bit tough trying to steer and wind in the main in 19 knots of breeze and at times Elaine could have used some help to wind on the jib the last few millimeters but for a short handed exercise routine it was very satisfying and just a little tiring.

With a full crew we would probably have carried the No 1 heavy genoa and gone faster in the lulls but flogged the main more in the gusts. The backstay worked well for flattening the main but it will be better with an extra 2:1 in the cascade as it was a bit difficult to ease in the light patches. A full time attendant on the backstay will certainly improve the boat speed.

My last six days of social islolation have been quite productive on a variety of fronts. At home the laundry doors are almost finished with a repaint and on the water the gradual conversion of Passion X from a fat head main with twin backstays to a conventional pin head main with a single adjustable backstay is progressing satisfactorily.

For the construction and finishing of Passion X I purchased a number of finish sanders of which my favourite is the random orbital with a dedicated vacuum cleaner to pull away the dust. The vacuum holds the work head firmly agains the work piece so you can move it over the surface without downwards pressure. it worked wonderfully on Passion X particularly with the spray applied two pack polyurethane and is working quite well on the home doors with conventional household enamel applied by roller. The doors may not be a smooth as Passion X topsides but they are better than original.

After a coat of paint on one door on Monday I headed to Passion X to convert the backstays from 2:1 to winches on each side to 12:1 with a cam cleat on one side. At this stage the dyneema back stay is tied off but I will splice the end this week. Some of the falls on the purchase system are short dyneema strops joined together but these will be replaced with full length strops in time. The 12:1 seems to give adequate power but I can easily add another fall to make it 24:1 if needed.
I could not resist taking Passion X for a sail after completing the conversion and in the light air of Monday afternoon the overlapping battens popped through under the backstay satisfactorily.
Today was another door job and tomorrow might be a final coat on one door and a trip to Passion X to complete the splice in the backstay and end for end the genoa halyard.

My week in pictures.

Thursday exercising on the Laser at Gosford

Thursday exercising on the Laser at Gosford

Friday exercising on Passion X with a couple of laps around Cockatoo Island

Saturday Isn't everyone doing jigsaw puzzles

Saturday Isn’t everyone doing jigsaw puzzles?

Sunday walk after Mothers Day with the Sydney family

Sunday walk after Mothers Day with the Sydney family

Monday a test sail after converting the back stay to a single 12:1 system

Monday a test sail after converting the back stay to a single 12:1 system

Tuesday. laundry doors again

 

Prudence overwhelmed frustration and the promised Friday afternoon social distancing race was aborted with a day to go. Elaine had accompanied me to Gosford the day before so I could exercise on accordance with the letter and spirit of the lockdown. It was during the time I was on the water in the single handed Laser that the notice of cancellation came through so I missed it completely.
On Friday we duly set out and rigged Passion X early for a 2 PM start. With time on our hands I looked to confirm our start time. After much searching I found the missed message.
What does one do when you are rigged and ready but go for a sail anyway. We made an early start to sail the course for exercise and the early start was fortuitous as the wind died.
It took 2 hours and a couple of minutes to do the full routine. Some of the other potential starters also hit the water for family only or compliant social isolating exercise. Those that did so around the abandoned scheduled start times ran out of wind. Virus or no virus there would not have been finishers last week due to too much wind and this week due to not enough. Let’s hope that when we can race there will be breeze.

The day dawned with brilliant sunshine but a bit too much wind for comfort. While watching the trees bend in the plus 25 knots gusts a message was received announcing the cancellation of todays short handed social distancing race.
As the morning progressed the breeze continued to build and while I will miss the exercise it is possibly wise that the fleet will stay ashore. The wind direction would have made for a beat up the narrow passage between the islands and the Drummoyne shore and even with the No 3 jib that would have been tricky.
Sunday is looking more promising for a practice sail up the same course with the same wind direction but considerably quieter.

The forecast rain did not arrive and so I enjoyed a bonus day on the harbour exercising single handed on Passion X. Up the harbour it was blowing up to 20 knots and with the No 3 jib and newly cut down pin head main enjoyed the beat to windward and the reach back home. As an experiment I sheeted the No 3 jib to the rail to widen the slot low down and in the fresh breeze it did help to keep the boat speed up. At times I hit 8.1 knots to windward but without some serious competition alongside it is hard to know if I was giving away too much height. The wide sheeting angle helped for the run back home as I could wing on wing from the cockpit and on the broad reach the outboard sheeting angle was also helpful. In the gusts Passion X hit 9.6 knots on several occasions and a couple of kayakers hopped on my stern wave for a free ride home to Greenwich.
it was a solid work out as I was on board from 11 am to 5:30 pm and had a row in and out from the club.
A big bonus on arriving home was the invitation from Balmain Sailing Club to join the Friday series as from this Friday. They have received permission for their normal Friday afternoon series with added restrictions including no club function and no tender service. Crews are restricted to family and max 2 other provided these 2 keep the social distance.
Elaine and I have entered and intend to sail as a family with an occasional guest. it was for just this sort of series that I had the fat head main cut back so that we could sail with fixed backstay. I have had four practice sails now, three single handed and one with Elaine and think we are ready to go.

A good breeze would have been enjoyed

A good breeze would have been enjoyed

At Newcastle it was a good 18 knots gusting to 22 knots from the North West for the start. With such good breeze there would have been no need for a delay and the direction favoured a quick exit from the harbour. There would have been a short tight leg to the shoreward mark that gets the fleet away from the harbour entrance and from then it would have been a great beam reach up to Port Stephens. The winds freshened in the aftenoon with gusts over 25 knots so it would have been an exciting trip until the breeze faded later. I presume the finish would have been outside the heads as the otherwise it would have been a beat into the bay into fading winds.
There would have been tall stories in the bar until the shuttle bus departed for Newcastle while the crews settled in for the Sail Port Stephens week.
Alas this is all imaginary but let’s keep going for week.
Given the current forecast the first three day series should have been sailed in good winds with the Wednesday race 20 knots from the North.
Crews would have appreiated the lay day on Thursday wth rain and 30 knots in the offing. While Friday and Saturday are forecast to be fine the winds will be hovering around the 25 knot mark keeping the fleet inshore.
Unfortunately the balmy 28 degrees of today’s Nor Wester will give away to 19 degrees with a substantial chill factor. All the foul weather gear would be needed to stay warm for the duration.
Later in the week we will see how the forecast rolls out but for now today’s dash to Port Stephens is one good race that was a victim to the virus.

A problematic forecast for the second half of the series that had to be cancelled due to the virus

A problematic forecast for the second half of the series that had to be cancelled due to the virus

Well the last visit to Refuge Bay was to be the last for a while as on return the lock down started 36 hours later. I spent the last 36 hours well getting the rego check on the car and picking up essentials for boat maintenance. After a week of so the rules about sailing became clearer so Elaine and I did a long day on the harbour working up to the heads and running home.
I did do an afternoon of exercise on the Laser at Gosford where the access to the water is quite sailor friendly but as too many turned up that is now off the agenda for the time being.
The optimists, the people not the class, at Balmain have started the entry process for the West Harbour Winter Series and I have duly entered but the pessimist in me thinks it will be a no go for quite a while.
Had the pandemic not struck we would have been in transit today to Newcastle for the Newcastle to Port Stephens race which is quite highlight on our social and racing calendar. We have left our entry fee for Sail Port Stephens with the club ready for next years regatta and left half our marina fee as credit with priority access to the marina next year.
The other casualty in the sailing calendar is the Diggers Cup at Royal Perth Yacht Club on the Swan.
Fortunately we are able to do yacht and mooring maintenance and sail for exercise as a family so to make the sailing safer I have removed the fat head main from out sail and converted it to a more conventional pin head but with a 300 mm head that fits below the backstays. The top battens still overlap the backstays by a good distance but they do pop through fairly easily. As the alterations were finished yesterday and it was a glorious summy day I took the opportunity to refit the main and take Passion X for a single handed sail up the harbour. The four top battens had to be trimmed to length and all the battens in the No 3 jib and main reinstalled which was a pretty good work out. I did enjoy the single handed sail up the harbour and the upper body work out winding sails up and tacking the jib was just what the doctor ordered.
I have lost a couple of square metres form the sail area at the top of the main and while that may mean a little less performance at the low end of the wind range it may even be beneficial at the upper end. Removing the need to swap the backstays over ever tack and gybe will make for a much safer and calmer sailing experience and that might make up for some of the lost sail area. Also the two back winches will be freed up for spinnaker work and tweaking lines again making up for lost sail area in the head.
The profile in the head now looks very much like the J 121 so I feel we are not too old fashioned.

Passion X with the new head profile much like the J 121

Passion X with the new head profile much like the J 121

 

Now that sailing has finished for the season and future competition is uncertain the question is “What is next?’
On the 13th March we headed down to Geelong for the Laser Masters National and World titles.
The World Titles were cancelled allowing the foreign competitors to head home early before borders closed but the Nationals went ahead. With each passing day the news of the spread of the virus was more sobering and I was relieved when they called an early halt.
We were unsurprised by the cancellation of the Greenwich Flying Squadron sailing. It is a small club with a very large patronage so the personal space is very limited at the best of times.
Last Saturday we had the final Laser race of the season at Gosford and Middle Harbour Amateurs had already decided to cancel the season as from Sunday.
Sunday was a strange day as we were discouraged from attending Church but did meet for possibly the last group coffee session although very well spread apart.
Prior to going to Geelong I had enjoyed two days on Passion X single handed. The first was a beat to the heads under No3 jib and full main in 18 knots and the second was a sail around our normal Wednesday course area under asymmetric spinnaker alone. I was anticipating what was to come and now we are there.
Today I did the annual engine service and Passion X s ready to go and go she will. we plan to spend the latter part of the week in isolation in Refuge Bay and hope that this will remain acceptable for the future. Clearly with borders shut we cannot go interstate but if smaller districts are closed will we still be able to get to the water?

Playing with the mainsail on a single handed sail

Playing with the mainsail on a single handed sail

Flying the asymmetric alone

Flying the asymmetric alone

Of late Humbug seems to have been our downfall on many a night and tonight went according to that record. Despite a respectable start and arriving in Humbug near the front of the fleet we were becalmed and passed on both sides. Much Ado V, Joli and Meridian seemed to exit Humbug more or less as they arrive while Jackpot and Utopia went through our lee with ease. From behind the rest of the fleet came charging through with breeze and in particular the heavier Fireball and Ausreo kept going with momentum into the fresh breeze around the corner while we sat waiting and waiting for it to arrive. By the time the breeze filled in to our position everyone except Agrovation had sailed past and we were chasing their wake across to Cockatoo Island. Sweet Chariot went wide around the Island and made up ground on Ausreo, Fireball and Lisdillon who was in tight to the island. It was a wall of Black division yachts too wide and high for us to sail through so we followed on the stern of Lisdillon who was following Ausreo and Fireball. It took forever to get clear air and for the work to Goat Island we were alongside either Ausreo at first or Fireball later. Lisdillon was caught on the wrong side of a shift to drop back rather quickly as we had the previous week as what goes around comes around. Indeed our tracks up to Goat Island against the tide show we were on the lifting tack all the way so that at Goat island we were right on the stern of Fireball. On the reach home we got a tiny break when the wind freshened from windward and we were to windward of Fireball and while it was a tiny break it was just enough for us to hold to the finish line. Up front the only yacht we could see was Jackpot who never made up the time spend alongside Passion X in Humbug on the way out and while they did draw away seven minutes it was not enough to beat their handicap against us.  When we crossed the line just ahead of Fireball we were suprised to see Sweet Chariot charging up Humbug and charging up the handicap positions to be fifth on handicap. Fireball was close enough to beat us on handicap so we filled the seventh position.
Up front Much Ado V scored the double first and fastest and it was finishing time order through Joli, Utopia and Meridian as these leading yachts escaped the dying breeze towards the end of the race.

The Black fleet in Humbug courtesy of Ian Sanford and the GFS facebook page

The Black fleet in Humbug courtesy of Ian Sanford and the GFS facebook page

The more than fifty yachts that braved the threatening weather were rewarded with a rainless sail in very pleasant conditions. Perhaps the only downside was the lighter than expected breeze which faded early favouring the faster yachts that were home in the fresher winds.
After a break last week for antifouling we were keen to get back on the water and see if a really clean bottom would make any difference.
Conscious that we have been well up on the start line all season and slow to accelerate off the line we held back so that we could approach the line with speed and were rewarded by being first into Humbug. Jackpot was right on our transom and threatening to go high so we went higher than usual to protect our wind. Unfortunately that took us to windward of a green fleet yacht and up into the wind shadow and now Jackpot drove down hard for better wind and to cover Much Ado V who was driving through well to leeward. That let both Jackpot and Much Ado V through to battle it out for first fastest all through the race. Down the back of Cockatoo Island Meridian did an excellent job poling out thier genoa and went through inside Passion X while Joli came up with breeze threatening to do the same. We did manage to squeeze around the end of Cockatoo Island behind Meridian and settled down for the windward work to Goat Island. The choice of the tacks up the windard work was not one of our better performances particularly compared to Lisdillon who picked a couple of shifts very nicely to get a good gap ahead. Off Long Nose Joli passed ahead on starboard and then tacked hard to port to cover us which they did very nicely. Below Fireball was making good progress while we were blanketed by Joli so we lost both and rounded Goat Island with plenty to chase. On the reach home we took a course close into Snails Bay and while Fireball and Lisdillon got first use of the breeze we managed to sneak out from below particularly as the wind went very square from behind. Back towards Long Nose the breeze was dying and we drifted better than Lisdillon and Fireball as well as making up a little ground on Joli. We were by ourselves going back through Humbug and drifted slowly to the finish line for a fourth on handicap.

The three fastest times leaders shared out the handicap results and the dying breeze protected our handicap position from the yachts behind even if our margin over Sweet Chariot was only 6 seconds.

If we could set the whisker pole a fast as Meridian and pick the shifts as well as Lisdillon we might get onto the podium.

While Passion X was up at Woolwich Dock for the annual antifoul plus wrapping the keel in epoxy glass I was following the weather forecasts wondering if the fleet would get a race.
The forecast strong southerly did come in just as the fleet finished a rather quick zip around the islands and the results were a surprise.
Fastest time went to Lisdillon and Andrew clearly has some explaining to do. I was not surprised at the result because before the results were posted on the internet Mark Palmer had posted a nice photo of Lisdillon and daylight on the club facebook page.
The other surprise was the third fastest for Fireball and Bill also has some explaining to do.
These two suspects scored first and second on handicap and in the case of Fireball this is getting boring. What have you done Bill?
The other non surprise in the results was the third place to Sweet Chariot as another of Mark Palmers facebook photos shows her in front of the fleet chasing Lisdillon and in front of Much Ado V and Utopia.
Somewhere out on the course Jackpot managed to catch Meridian which was a shame as we do like the little brother J boats to stick it to big brother.
I trust all the topsy turvey results were accepted in good humour and we will rejoin the fleet next week.

 

Lisdillon leading the fleet

Lisdillon leading the fleet

Sweet Chariot leading the chasers

Sweet Chariot leading the chasers

The results for Andrew to frame

The results for Andrew to frame

The finished epoxy glass encapsulation of the keel on Passion X

The finished epoxy glass encapsulation of the keel on Passion X

Yes after the very busy week changing the spreaders on Passion X we were rigged and ready for the twilight race. Despite the light conditions pre race we went with the No1 heavy genoa and were so pleased with our decision. The breeze sprung up to a healthy 15 to 20 knots and from a direction that meant we had a long first work up the narrow Humbug.
After lots of ducking sterns and calling for room to tack on lee shores we arrived at Cockatoo Island. To our dismay our port tack at the Island left us ducking lots of sterns as the starboard tackers had a big lift in their favour.
We now had a run and reach to Goat Island and in the fresh conditions we kept up with the fleet. Dump Truck had pointed up under us at the start so we were slow off the line while they disappeared in the distance along with Agrovation. The rest were in close proximity and we were enjoying the contest.
Around Goat Island we had an inside lift on Meridian and Fireball but they both made up for that with their own inside lifts at the approach th Cockatoo Island for the last rounding.
Meridian got through and we were unable to catch her on the run and reach home. It was all we could do to stay in front of Fireball who was carrying wind up from behind.
We were closer to the front of the fleet than usual in the conditions and for once were enjoying the heavy air tacking. But was it the more favourable course or was it the hard work changing the spreaders.
Only time will tell.

GOPR8748

Action shot adjusting the genoa halyard on the way to Cockatoo Island

Some observant sailors have noticed that the mast is out of Passion X at the moment. The reason is not some unexpected calamity but a well planned tuning of the rig. Since launch back three years ago we have struggled to perform to expectations once the breeze gets up over twelve knots. Part of the problem is the narrow beam and light displacement for which there is little remedy but part of the problem is that we have not been able to flatten the main in a breeze. As a result we are reefing the main earlier than most and suffering in the light patches. I had suspected we could improve the mast bend and responsiveness if we had longer spreaders and after Joe Walsh came out for a sail he confirmed that suspicion. Indeed his first comment on stepping on board was “These spreaders are too short.” Allyacht Spars promptly confirmed our diagnosis and manufactured new longer spreaders to fit the existing bases. Once the spreaders were delivered Joe arranged for the mast to come out last Friday and by that evening the spreaders were changed over and the mast is ready to go back in Tuesday in time for the next twiight race. I am sure it will take a while to fine tune the rig with the new spreaders but I am confident it is the right decision. In the meantime we have been fortunate with the weather and I hope that good fortune continues through Wednesday night.

The mast is back in and some photos show that we now have some prebend in the mast

Passion X back on the mooring with new longer spreaders inducing some prebend in the mast

Passion X back on the mooring with new longer spreaders inducing some prebend in the mast

 

On one hand we were lucky with the weather as the showers held off for the twilight race but on the other hand the promised 12 knots of breeze was pretty much an illusion.

Last week we were pleased with the No1 heavy genoa and full main in twelve knots of breeze so with a similar breeze forecast we went with that selection again. We made a good start and were third into Humbug but while Meridian and Joli disappeared into the distance we sat in the wind shadow of Utopia waiting for the tail of the fleet to pass us. The yachts that went to windward of Utopia passed us, (thank you Fireball, Much Ado V and Dump Truck) and the yachts that went to leeward of Passion X also got through (Thank you Ausreo and others) leaving us chasing the fleet once again. Once around Cockatoo Island for the first time we set out after Ausreo, Utopia and Fireball who we could see. Somewhere a long way up the  course was Joli, Meridian, Much Ado V and Dump Truck but they were in a  race of their own and will have to write their own story.

To our surprise we made little progress on catching Fireball but pulled away from Utopia and Ausreo and that was the way it was all around the course. At the last approach to Cockatoo before the work up Humbug we pulled alongside Fireball and could see Dump Truck not far ahead rounding the end of the island.

A minor glitch with a genoa sheet wrapped around the cheek block may have let Fireball back in or perhaps being just a few metres to leeward they had better wind but they did work up to give us dirty air for another week. That small lead going into Humbug translated to several minutes as we were becalmed off Onion Point. The trailing fleet caught us by the same several minutes. Among them was Lisdillon and Sweet Chariot who both beat us on handicap and Ausreo who we just managed to beat over the finish line.

Utopia was not having a good day either as she was also slow through Humbug and finished at the opposite end of the fleet to normal.

Apart from the two passages of Humbug we had a good evening on the water. We were pleased with our windward working in the nine knots conditions and while we did not see the seven knots speeds through the water we saw last week we did hold out Utopia which is a pretty good benchmark.

Our mid fleet fifth on handicap was a good indication of our sailing for the evening and we look forward to a night when our luck through Humbug returns.