Passion

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.

Last Wednesday the racing was cancelled due to the wind exceeding the GFS regulation strength for racing. It was a bit sad as an hour later the conditions had abated and would have made for good fair and safe racing. It is not possible to delay the twilight races that long as they would then become night races so we had to be content with a very pleasant BBQ on the deck with the loyal GFS members and crew who came along to support the financial cost of running the function.
I had been looking forward to a good breeze to blow away the memory of my less than stellar performance in the Laser the previous weekend. As luck would have it we had the big blow on the day I sail with the large rig and next to no breeze on the Sunday when I sail with the smaller radial rig. I don’t complain when it is vice versa and for Australia Day I did get to sail the smaller rig in a good breeze at Gosford in a novelty race down Paddy’s Channel and back up the Woy Woy Channel.
Absent sailing on Passion X I have been attending to some small improvements of which some are cosmetic and unseen like routering the underside edges of the floorboards and re doing the epoxy saturation of the edges. Taking the back corner off the floors makes it easier to tilt them up and place them back and the epoxy saturated rounded edge is more durable than a sharp corner.
The ends of the full length battens had been fattened up with tape to fill the batten pockets but that had worn away over time so I augmented the ends with thin batten strips glued and taped to the ends so that the battens now fit tightly into the pockets. Hardly something you would notice but it should improve the shape of the mainsail off the mast.
While the high strength epoxy on the batten ends was curing in made up a stronger bridle for the mainsheet. There are two lines with splice on both ends and they have to be identical length but I had plenty of time waiting for the epoxy to cure to do a precise job. Not a functional improvement but an increase in factor of safety.
Our non skid on the deck is a bit harsh so I smoothed the section on the cabin where the ropes on the starboard side run to the Spinlock jammers. This should help the sheets to run more freely and if it not too slippery under foot I will do the other side too. The starboard side has the mainsheet, the first reef line, the masthead spinnaker halyard, the spinnaker pole topping lift and the spinnaker pole kicker so that is where most of the action is. If it is a big success I might even over coat it with some two pack polyurethane to seal the remains of the non skid granules.
The last task of significance was to check our first reef set up. Our front reef line comes out of the top of the boom and is quite a long way back from the goosekneck. The take off point on the sail had already been moved back but with the shackle onto the take up point there was too much swing aft and the sail was pulling hard on the slider above the reef point. I removed the shackle and attached the reef line directly to the sail to reduce the swing aft with immediate improvement. For good measure I lengthened the tie from the main to the first slug above the reef point and it all looks a lot better. I am now looking forward to a bit of a blow where we can try out the improved reefing lines and also the tighter V1s.
Perhaps this Wednesday the wind will be just right.

We had already updated our Cat 4 safety certificate with the latest expiry dates for the renewed insurance and some inspections but I finally purchased a 12.5 mm bolt cutter as the emergency rig removal equipment. Hopefully it will never be needed but after trying to cut up some 10 mm chain with hacksaw and angle grinder I realised that these were not practical alternatives. Pulling the split pins will still be the first line of attack but if they cannot be removed then the bolt cutter will be quick and effective.

By Friday there were some great photos posted on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page by Simon Elliott.  The photos tell the story very well.

There were two moments of pain in tonight’s race at Greenwich Flying Squadron. After a good start we were run over by most of the fleet going through Humbug.  Much Ado V  with nice free leeches on main and jib drifted past while Fireball came through with fresh breeze to pass us both. We were holding our position from around Cockatoo Island until the pain started. The first was on the approach to Goat Island when Utopia lifted from below and maintained the lift all the way to a knock at the island shore while Jackpot crossed on starboard and tacked in our air. The disturbed air forced us lower and slower and adding insult to injury the tack back was away from a new lift. The chart plotter tracks show our tortured route to the navigation mark but now we were reaching and hoping to make up ground on the six yachts ahead. Jackpot, Meridian and Joli were tantalisingly just ahead but already lifting into new breeze from around the island while we fell into a deep hole from which it took at least two minutes to extract ourselves. Once around the island and into fresh breeze we hoped to make up some ground but the wind angle was not helpful. The breeze went over square on the starboard gybe to Cockatoo Island forcing a gybe to port and later back to starboard. Non of this helped to make up any time so we rounded Cockatoo Island without making up any ground. Our last hope was for a good passage through Humbug but a dying breeze did not cooperate and we lost further ground to be nine minutes off fastest time. The real pain was not participating in the close racing at the front of the fleet where third to sixth fastest were within a minute of each other.
The dying breeze explains some of the pain but it did not die enough for us to beat Ausreo or Fireball on handicap. After them however it did die even further leaving Lisdillon a lonely figure fourteen minutes behind Ausreo on fastest times and saving us from the handicap wooden spoon.
All in all it was a frustrating evening. The heavy boom closes the mainsail leech as soon as the breeze dies and we need drop the halyard enough to sit the boom on the solid vang. Nothing has changes since we had a first and fastest three races ago and hence the frustration.

Much Ado V slips past in Humbug

Much Ado V slips past in Humbug

Chasing the fleet back to Cockatoo Island

Chasing the fleet back to Cockatoo Island

The Start. We were a bit early an that let Meridian bear away below us as we luffed to avoid going over the line.

The Start. We were a bit early an that let Meridian bear away below us as we luffed to avoid going over the line.

We got away reasonable well for the reach to Humbug

We got away reasonable well for the reach to Humbug

The pain in Humbug with Passion X between the breezes and blanketed on both sides. We had to go to starboard tack to have rights on the fleet running up from behind.

The pain in Humbug with Passion X between the breezes and blanketed on both sides. We had to go to starboard tack to have rights on the fleet running up from behind.

And then Avalon and Meridian were into the breeze and away. Much Ado V did well to recover  from the doldrums in Humbug to take fastest time

And then Avalon and Meridian were into the breeze and away. Much Ado V did well to recover from the doldrums in Humbug to take fastest time

Passion X crew using their weight to advantage in one of the fresh patches

Passion X crew using their weight to advantage in one of the fresh patches

Nice head on shot of Passion X as the breeze starts to lighten

Nice head on shot of Passion X as the breeze starts to lighten

Thanks to the photos posted on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page by Christian Charalmbous I have found out where Joli and Avalon disappeared to out in front of the Black fleet. Approaching Goat Island for the first time they are a long way in front of the fleet. Avalon to leeward along the Balls Head shore looks to be in front of Joli to windward and if the sequence of Christian’s photos are still in order then Avalon rounded Goat Island first. Joli deserved their win and the photos show that in the strong winds all of the crew were hiking hard on the windward rail. This is a great example for the rest of us as it gets the weight out of the stern and into righting moment. Much further back in the fleet Passion X appears to be trailing the fleet and leaning very hard in an early gust. As the breeze lightened we did make up a lot of ground and I am happy with our performance once we rounded Goat Island in lighter breeze.
After our win the previous week when I had removed a few sails to lighten the boat. That probably did not help in the initial strong wind phase last night but did help as the breeze died. Today I removed our No 4 genoa and safety equipment surplus to our Category 7 requirements. At home I have weighed all the equipment and as of today 164 kg has been removed from Passion X. There is still a code zero and a few fenders to come off so in total we might just get to removing 200 kg.

Avalon and Joli approaching Goat Island photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous.

Avalon and Joli approaching Goat Island photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous.

Sweet Chariot in front of Passion X on a big lean

Sweet Chariot in front of Passion X on a big lean

Passion X working to Goat Island chasing the fleet. Photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous

Passion X working to Goat Island chasing the fleet. Photo courtesy of Christian Charalambous

Last Saturday the hot North West winds, the fresh North East sea breeze and a southerly changed battled it our and converged on the Gosford Sailing Club course where peak velocity was 37 knots. The weather pattern today looked very similar but with the convergence a bit further north and inland so we took the forecast of 20 knots at face value and set the old smaller genoa from the original Passion. The rig was fine but our execution of the start was lacking. The plan was to start on port with speed but a bit of east in the breeze allowed everyone else to starboard tack the line so we ended up low and slow pinching to Onions Point. Joli and Avalon disappeared somewhere and were not seen until the final work back into Humbug so no comment can be made about their sailing. We were seriously headed in Humbug and still pinching to clear the moored yachts when Utopia from behind came through with breeze. Next Fireball came charging through well to windward while we tried to sail behind Utopia in their dirty air. Not far in front of Utopia we could see Meridian and looking behind we found Irukandji lifting inside us on a huge lift. At this stage we had no one below to worry about and plenty in front and to windward drawing away. Meridian tacked to get over to the lifting breeze just as the lift reached us and that gave us our first small gain. That was our last gain on the way to Goat Island where in the lee of the island there was a large wind shadow. Taking advantage of a shifty breeze we managed to overtake Irukandji and around the Island somehow crept up to fifth fastest. Utopia and Meridian were quite a few boat lengths ahead but Joli and Avalon were out of sight already around Long Nose on the way to Cockatoo Island. We gained a little on the run and reach to Cockatoo island and were quite close at the western end only to give it back again by going in too close to the wind shadow. Irukandji and Fireball came around with good breeze causing quite a bit of consternation until we reached clear air and took off again. On the way back to Goat Island Utiopia lifted nicely around the deep water mark off Balls Head while Meridian and Passion X were headed into the rocks and had to tack away. This was the last chance we had of overtaking Utopia as the favourable wind shifts gave her a good break on us. We tacked back to starboard below Meridians Line and she was rewarded with a big lift around the navigation mark while we sailed a longer outside route. The knock back was our chance to tack and bear away a little for speed so that around Goat Island we were within catching distance of Meridian. The rest of the run and reach back to the finish line at Greenwich Flying Squadron was all about taking time out of Meridian. We had established a good lead over Sweet Chariot, Fireball and Irukandji so did not need to cover.

Approaching Humbug we noticed Joli ahead and Avalon returning from a long detour but we had eyes only for Meridian. In the end we failed by seven seconds but were overlapped as we crossed the line. Ahead Joli was four minutes clear and first on handicap. She must have had her own quiet patch as she seemed much further ahead as we rounded Cockatoo the last time.  Behind Sweet Chariot and Fireball came through with a squirt of fresh breeze improving their handicap results prospects for a second and third respectively. Utopia took the fourth spot by 50 seconds from Passion X and that lift around the Balls Head navigation mark was worth much of that.

While we were disappointed with our start, yachts from behind got the better of the breeze through Humbug and overtook us. Our first work to Goat Island was average but once at Goat and with a fading breeze we sailed well. Top boat speed for the night was 8.9 knots with quite a bit of the reaching at the high 7 knot mark. Utopia did well to pull away 3 minutes from us and Meridian but that was to be expected in the fresher conditions.

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.

 

On the work home from Cockatoo Island we flopped from tack to tack and maintained almost direct course to the finish

On the work home from Cockatoo Island we flopped from tack to tack and maintained almost direct course to the finish

In very light conditions a clean bottom does help and the divers gave Passion X a good scrub today just before the race. I had taken two spinnakers off to lighten the boat and with three of our crew away we were manned by the lightest contingent we have had on board for a long time. As well Don and I spend some time adjusting the shroud tension and putting a little more bend back in but at the same time stiffening the rig with that bend in place. Also in the very light conditions we lowered the mainsail until the load of the boom was taken on the rigid vang and used the main halyard for leech tension control. Sort of like sheeting the main from the head and not the boom. Whatever the reason all the rig seemed just right for the day and we felt more in control than usual.

The start favoured the leeward yachts for a while but once they cleared Onion Point they were headed severely. We were still on the club side of the point and could tack to starboard and take a leg out from the point on a good lift. When we tacked back we took the stern of Avalon and worked further along the Onion Point shore before tacking back now in front of Avalon. Meridian was still clear ahead but we lifted inside her line and made up quite a few boat lengths. For a few tacks the positions see sawed until we lifted along the Snails Bay shore while Meridian closer to Balls Head knocked looking at our stern. We covered and maintained a position to windward going to Goat Island. The lead stayed much the same all the way to Cockatoo Island with Utopia and Avalon catching up with following breeze. We had a bit of a scare approaching Cockatoo as the breeze headed quite sharply while we had the headsail out on the 6 metre pole. I had to square away to get the pole down and then found ourselves quite low on the line to the Island. Fortunately we had breeze and a good angle to recover our position. Around the western end of Cockatoo Island the breeze deserted us and what was left was shifting. Behind Meridian’s genoa was drooping just as much as ours but i was concerned for the breeze bringing them and the now much closer Utopia and Avalon down on top. Our position in front was rewarded with the first breeze over the end of Cockatoo and we shaved the shore line keen to clear Clarke Point without tacking. That worked nicely but once beyond Clarke Point the breeze went away for a long rest. We could see the Blue fleet returning directly from Goat Island and struggling with little and erratic wind. The crew made some good calls and we flopped from starboard tack heading to Onion Point to port tack heading to Onion Point almost effortlessly. Next we flopped back to starboard to clear Onion Point and the tracks show little deviation from a straight line to the finish.
In similar conditions we have several other fastest times results and on three occasions out relative performance had been better but this was enough to take the double first and fastest.
Only time will tell if the tuning has paid dividends but we are getting more comfortable in a breeze and hopefully more consistent.

The poled our Genoa had to be lowered quickly when the breeze headed

The poled our Genoa had to be lowered quickly when the breeze headed

Genoa backing in the light and shifty winds

Genoa backing in the light and shifty winds

At last some breeze while the fleet languished around Clarke Point

At last some breeze while the fleet languished around Clarke Point

Time for a quick look to see the gap to Meridian

Time for a quick look to see the gap to Meridian

On Boxing Day we did a leisurely load up of Passion X and made an early departure for the start area of the Sydney to Hobart race. We bid farewell to Jackpot moored up at Greenwich Flying Squadron waiting for well wishers to wave them off and headed out. On the way we found ourselves alongside Comanche and doing identical boat speed under motor. I was a bit unnerved when they swung out to our line just before the Harbour Bridge but soon realised that they were seeking the highest clearance point for their tall mast and instruments to clear. Past Kirribilli we managed to get some separation and watch other yachts preparing for the trip south. At Middle Harbour we went into the shelter of the head to get away from the boat wash and when I went below I was peplexed to find water up to the floors. The extra pressure of 600 litres of water was too much for one of the fresh water connectors which popped off the terminal and emptied 300 litres into the bilge. It was a very quick fix to reattach the rose and secure the hose clamp and pump out most of the water. The second 300 litre tank was already isolated and almost full so we had enough for the planned days away. Over the days away I went over all the hose clamps on Passion X and found that the hose had relaxed on many of the fittings and the clamps could all be tightened. I had performed a hose clamp check over 6 months after the launch and was disappointed that this had not been enough. On the bright side the bilges had a very thorough fresh water wash down which cleaned up some of the residual construction dust.
The start was uneventful and better for the commentary coming over the phone so we quickly headed out through the heads and turned north.
Refuge Bay was just that. A refuge from the internet age with almost no signal, no newspapers and no coffee man. Left to our own devices we had a relaxing few days of swimming and just a little boat cleaning. The Bay was near full but we were not disturbed on the Gosford Sailing Club mooring. The best features on board during the stay were the boom tent that sheltered much more of the yacht than the typical spray dodger and bimini and we did see one yacht attempt a make shift boom tent to augment their fixed spray dodger and bimini. Next would be the fridge which kept the steak frozen for three days despite leaving it off overnight. The large alternator on the Yanmar charges the batteries almost twice as fast as on our previous yacht and that was good for us and our neighbours. After that the hot water shower on the transom was well received. I did have a fresh water shower in the waterfall in the Bay but Elaine preferred the civility of the warm water on board and we had enough despite losing 300 litres on day one. The new heat shield on the stove was fine and better than on our production Jeanneau but after reading up on the European directives for stoves I will install a small shield on the fridge side to be compliant with the fine print.
The trip home on Saturday was disappointing as the promised fresh north west winds did not arrive and the swell was uncomfortably on our stern quarter providing plenty of rolling motion. In deference to Elaine’s discomfort I started the motor which added a couple of knots to our boat speed and made for the heads as fast as possible. I normally go below without discomfort but was quick to leave the cabin and full of sympathy for Elaine.
We had started out with a reef in the main expecting 25 knots on the quarter. In the slow motion trip I

A close look at Comanche

A close look at Comanche

noticed the reef line slipping through the rope clutch and that explains the problem we have had since launch. After a bit of research I found it is a very common problem and will bulk up the line with an extra cover which will also extend the life of the rope.
As the afternoon wore on Elaine agreed we should shake out the reef and try to speed up the journey but it was not much help and for a while the main was sheeted on the centre line as were other yachts on the same course.
At the heads the breeze jumped to 20 knots for a very short period. The initial gust came while we were on autopilot which could not compensate for the sudden change so we had a round up but once the boom was out to the correct wind angle we had a fast ride up the Harbour to Kirribilli where the wind left us again.

Quiet in Refuge Bay

Quiet in Refuge Bay

Fellow Laser sailor anchored at Cottage Rock

Fellow Laser sailor anchored at Cottage Rock

Those who did brave the damp sailing gear and stayed for the Christmas celebrations were rewarded with another great evening despite the woeful conditions. For the black fleet the longer course and late start time meant we were sailing in quite heavy rain for the second half of the race.
The racing itself was marred with some quite unfortunate incidents. We were lined up nicely on the line on port tack when a leeward yacht tacked in our water and we had to take evasive action which cost us our slot on the line and put us in the path of other starboard tackers which we would otherwise have easily cleared. When we were able to tack to port to cross the line we made up a lot of ground and passed Dump Truck and Lisdillon in a group becalmed in Humbug. We pulled through well to be on the transom of Meridian and lifting into the new breeze. Unfortunately the earlier starting fleets were all coming across on starboard and we were forced back into the shore twice by starboard tackers until we took some sterns and headed off to Long Nose following Joli. In this one phase pinned against the Manns Point shore we lost a lot of ground with Avalon, Utopia, Dump Truck, Much Ado V and Meridian all getting through by quite a distance. Ausreo, Irikudanji and Lisdillon also pulled through. We rounded Goat Island near the back of the fleet, which was disappointing considering the reasonable exit from Humbug, and set off after the fleet. Approaching Long Nose we picked up a following breeze and were able to round inside Ausreo, Irikundji and Lisdillon and not far behind Joli. On the run to Cockatoo Island we almost overhauled Joli when we attempted to pole out the genoa to port just as the wind veered ahead. In a few moments Joli drew ahead again and Irukandji steamed up from behind to go between us and Joli. Those two were locked in close mortal combat close into the wind shadow of the island allowing us to go wider and pick up wind coming over the island. Our success was short lived as we could not climb out into clear air and had to suffer disturbed air from Irukandji from which we never recovered.
Much Ado V crossed the line about 9 minutes ahead in conditions I felt we should be much more competitive. Dump Truck also did well and their bottles of wine from their handicap places were passed down the line to skippers who put up with the conditions and stayed for the festivity. The bottle of wine for third place was eventually taken by eighth place on handicap, Sweet Chariot with Passion X a surprising ninth out of thirteen starters.

I did manage it install the heat shield for the stove in preparation for a trip to Pittwater after Christmas and that was one success for the day.

Stainless steel heat shield at the side of the stove ready for a post Christmas cruise.

Stainless steel heat shield at the side of the stove ready for a post Christmas cruise.

When it comes to motivation there is nothing like a deadline to get some action. Our current deadline is a planned cruise to Pittwater after watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Boxing Day. For the cruise I wanted to have the dinette installed and the repainted bowsprit reinstalled with a stronger bob stay. Well the deadline worked and I drew a line under the number of coats of two pack polyurethane I sprayed on the bowsprit and the table top. They are not perfect but are in keeping with the glossy two pack polyurethane sprayed finish on the topsides.
The sliding two part support for the table top has been lubricated with candle wax and the inner top section slides neatly inside the outer box.

The dinette project started in early September and with no deadlines has dragged on. By 25th October I had done a trial fit and was able to glue the two layers of 9 mm ply together to form the table top. By the 20th November enough coats of epoxy and filler had been rolled and brushed onto the timber so that it was ready for the final spray primers and polyurethane undercoat and top coat. By the 5th December it was completed and left to cure until today.

The new bob stay from 6 mm dux was spliced last night using two fids I made from aluminium tube in the garage and in another just in time moment it was ready to be installed today.

Another job that has come to the top of the list for the cruise away is the heat shield for the gas stove. I have a very nice stainless steel laminate with thin steel on the two faces and a stable filler between. A 500 mm wide by 450 mm deep panel will be installed with double sided tape leaving an air gap to protect the painted side of the galley. It was cut and cleaned up tonight ready for installation tomorrow.

With these jobs Passion X is essentially complete as planned but no yacht is ever really finished and in early January we plan to have a professional spray dodger fitted. It will be a bit late for this cruise but should be a great addition for our cruise to Port Stephens in April.

Completed settee table in the double berth configuration

Completed settee table in the double berth configuration

Settee table in the dining position

Settee table in the dining position

Bowsprit hung for the spraying operation

Bowsprit hung for the spraying operation

The north east breeze hung in around the 5 to 15 knots range for the evening although I did see one gust over 17 knots while we were waiting for the start. As happened last week a few including Irukandji and Ausreo started on starboard working along the line and across the direction to Onions Point. This week we managed to duck Irukandji and cross in front of Ausreo but were forced low onto the pin and in the dirty air of Much Ado V. That was the closest we got to Much Ado V all evening as they tight reached to the point and streaked off to a fastest times win for the night.
Just behind Much Ado V we were buried in disturbed air and rounded Onion Point mid fleet. At this point we could not see Avalon and Utopia and did not see them again until the finish. The rest of us lesser mortals were becalmed in Humbug and blanketed by the following fleet including the big Ausreo. Flashback made a valiant attempt to pass to windward while Lisdillon was doing well tight against the Onions Point shore. Dump Truck was in the middle with yachts on both sides. Eventually the breeze went behind and we were able to hold out the genoa to windward to capture whatever breeze filtered over the fleet behind. The course was to round Cockatoo Island to starboard but we drove as hard towards Clarke Point as we could without running into Lisdillon. Flashback and Dump Truck were now becalmed to the port of us and the breeze was tending even further north allowing us to carry the big genoa on Passion X almost to Cockatoo Island. The light and nimble Dump Truck managed to round in front but now we both had to contend with a breeze almost dead astern with a large following fleet. Alongside Cockatoo we were being pushed by Joli so we could not afford to go too wide and at the end of the island were left in the wind shadow. Dump Truck three boat lengths to leeward picked up breeze from over the top and took off heeling with the wind pressure. We waited and waited and waited but it was all we could do to keep close to the island and keep Joli behind.
The price for keeping joli behind was paid when we rounded the west end of Cockatoo and saw how big a lead Dump Truck had over us.
We pinched to clear the ferry wharf on the east end of Cockatoo and took off in a futile pursuit of Dump Truck and determined to keep the rest of the fleet behind. This we did until the rounding of Goat Island where Joli slipped by in closer to the island that we thought prudent but it worked for them and they headed off back to Long Nose half a boat length ahead. At the same Goat Island rounding the chasing fleet came through with good wind and now we had a seven boats behind with most doing well on the evening and vying for handicap honours.
The run back to Cockatoo was interesting in the proverbial sense. We ran on starboard gybe to have rights but just a little bit by the lee so that we had clear wind on Joli. That put our course close to the Cockatoo shore. We like running by the lee in the Laser class fleet and can go very hard to leeward but with the big poled out genoa there is a limit to how far one can go without collapsing the genoa in the wind shadow of the mainsail. Eventually Joli gybed to port and started working up to our position. We had to run further by the lee to avoid them to the point we had to ease the vang to keep the mainsail from accidentally gybing. Eventually Joli gybed back onto starboard but with their boom and our pole overlapped we had to take further evasive action.
Being further out from the island was again an advantage as we picked up the breeze first and managed to reestablish the lead we had before the Goat Island rounding.

The task now was to cover Joli to the line. Ahead at Valentia street we could see Utopia who had been passed by Dump Truck around the end of Cockatoo Island the last time but this time on the inside and close to the rocks. This was the first time since the start we had seen Utopia and suggests we had a better work along Cockatoo on the way home. Into Humbug we picked the shifts well and were only put off our desired path by the blue fleet Conquista who tacked onto starboard in front at Onions Point instead of passing ahead on port as we had wished. This forced a early tack away and left room for Joli to skim past Onions Point and mount a last ditch attempt to pass to leeward. Perhaps we were lucky for a little knock which made the pin end of the finish line our best course while Joli was a bit tight to make the mark. At one second to midnight they called mark room which we gave but the camera shows both genoas backed and it was only momentum carrying both of us across the line. The finishers gave it to Passion X by a second but it might have been less than that.

The first five handicap places went to Ausreo, Fireball, Irukandji, Flashback and Sweet Chariot while the spring series fastest times yachts Avalon and Meridian suffered from their well deserved handicaps and took the last places but got given back plenty of handicap for the next race. It is a tough fleet and it is good to see the results get given a shake and the firsts one week easily able to manage a last the next.

Much Ado V gets the front line at the start

Much Ado V gets the front line at the start

Lots of yachts ahead in Humbug

Lots of yachts ahead in Humbug

Dump Truck ahead of Passion X around Cockatoo

Dump Truck ahead of Passion X around Cockatoo

Dump Truck heels with the new breeze and is gone

Dump Truck heels with the new breeze and is gone

Close encounters with Joli

Close encounters with Joli

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Joli and Passion X battle for 5th across the line

The light forecast for the evening was realized and the breeze frequently dropped to just a few knots adding to the frustration of tricky course. The line could not be crossed on Starboard but that did not stop a couple of yachts starting on starboard at the pin mark and forcing the fleet to tack away from the course to Onions Point. Jackpot, Meridian and Joli seemed to get away on Port well as did Lisdillon and Sweet Chariot. The rest of us were put about by Irukandji so that there was a line of frustrated Sydney 38,s and Ker 11.3′s sailing away from Onion Point waiting for a chance to tack back onto port. We tacked when Irakandji did and were promptly knocked back into the point. We took sterns and went as close to the moorings at Onions Point as possible and tacked back with rights to recover a little ground. That gave us a position between two fleets with four J Boats and one RP36 up front and everyone else behind. In Humbug the breeze left us to wallow along while ahead we could see the fleet lifting and leaning into fresh air. Behind Much Ado V and Dump Truck were coming steadily with fresh wind from behind and they passed us. Much Ado V to windward and Dump Truck to leeward but pass us they did.
Our weakness in the variable conditions is changing gears fast enough. The very heavy boom and centreline sheeting keeps the leech of the mainsail very closed where a very twisted leech has some area of the main working in the shifty conditions. On the work to Goat Island we were passed by first Avalon and then Utopia. There was not a lot of difference in the straight line speed but their non overlapping jibs tack much faster than our similar area 140% jib.

That was the end of the parade of yachts passing us and we in turn passed Lisdillon and Sweet Chariot who had made a good start through Humbug. Coming back into Humbug we were heartened to see Much Ado V not too far ahead but once they sailed out of the doldrums it was out turn to sail in and the leading yachts all finished 5 minutes in front all the way back to Utopia who was one minute 20 seconds in front. There was a minute and 46 seconds break back to Sweet Chariot who took handicap honours by two minutes and five seconds courtesy of their very good start.

We were pretty disappointed in our two spells in Humbug and need to find a way to change the mainsail into and out of drifting mode very quickly.

Meridian had another very fine line honours and we were surprised that their very stiff  handicap brought them one place back behind Passion X in the handicap list and we remained tied on handicap for the Spring Series.

Jackpot made a return to the fleet with a second fastest after a short stint in front and a second place on handicap.

While we were disappointed with our eighth place spare a thought for the crew on Avalon who went from roosters last week to feather dusters at 14th this week but they must be pleased with their first and third places in the series off a fairly stiff handicap. Avalon did take out the scratch series by a point from Meridian so there is some pretty close racing at the front of the fleet. We managed to tie with Joli on 4th fastest but they did sail one less race and so had a did not start to discard while we were able to discard our eighth from tonight. Third place on scratch went to Much Ado V so there  is a healthy mix of yachts at the top end of the fleet.

The current handicaps tell a better story of the potential performance of the fleet with the ranking after this week being Avalon, Meridian, Much Ado V, Utopia, Jackpot, Dump Truck, Joli and Passion X.

Becalmed on the way out of Humbug

Becalmed on the way out of Humbug

Much Ado V glides past to windward

Much Ado V glides past to windward

Avalon crosses on the way to Goat Island

Avalon crosses on the way to Goat Island

Becalmed on the way back through Humbug

Becalmed on the way back through Humbug

 

 

 

 

Our weather forecasting did not work out too well on Saturday at Canberra where the various models had a fair breeze for sailing the full sized rig in the Laser State Titles. After surviving a wild afternoon where most of the fleet capsized at the gybe mark I am less sure of the various wind models. In Canberra on Sunday they were more accurate and we ended up with no racing due to lack of wind so the survivors of the three full rig races on Saturday did quite well.
Fast forward to Tuesday and the forecasts for Wednesday are pretty challenging. The day should start off wet with thunderstorms and a low pressure system should establish just off shore from Sydney directing strong southerly winds onto our course. The wind will abate further away from the coast but one of the forecast models has gusts to 40 knots on our race course area.
The challenge for course setters is that the weather system has not established yet and the distance the system has to travel until the start of the race tomorrow is quite substantial. Then there is the added concern that if the forecast is for the winds to be unsafe at 7 pm then what do they do at the scheduled start time?

The rain forecast from Windy for Wednesday at 6pm

The rain forecast from Windy for Wednesday at 6pm

The 7pm wind forecast from Windy for Wednesday night

The 7pm wind forecast from Windy for Wednesday night

before the race the concern was whether we would have enough breeze for a race. After deciding on the largest genoa for the race the breeze freshened to gusts of 17 knots but there were lots of holes so we decided to keep the full sail area.
For the unusual north west breeze we planned to start near the club and be on the leeward side of Humbug and hopefully in better breeze. It did not work out in practice as Avalon started further to windward and carried a gust through Humbug and out into an early lead. The rest of us battled for clear air and eventually we abandoned our leeward position for one with clear air following Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Avalon. the big Ausreo was putting in an impressive performance and mixing it with the best at the front of the fleet, Avalon exlcuded. It was a long reach and then run from Cockatoo Island around Long Nose and then to take Goat Island to starboard. Much Ado V took the low path away from Balls Head and seemed to be heading for Goat to port but at the last minute changed course and came reaching up from below to regain a spot near the front of the Avalon pursuit. Flashback ran down on top of Utopia and Passion X as we lined up the navigation mark at Goat Island looking for a safe passage. We held back waiting for the clear ahead Blue fleet to round the mark and found a safe spot behind Caliban and inside Utopia. Now we were in the wind shadow of Goat Island and in the eddys from the island the wind was doing strange things. Utopia picked up a gust from behind and ran over the top of Passion X. Presently all chaos broke out in the fleet as a rain squall brought winds of 32 knots from different directions. We flattened the sails and did our best to negotiate the many yachts. Out of the chaos Dump Truck emerged in front and Lisdillon came up from behind. The rest we could not see. The next we saw of Lisdillon was when they crossed us going into Long Nose. We held on longer in a lift and by the time we tacked on the next header had made a very large gain on Lisdillon. Irikandji came out of nowhere to be just astern but we picked a small breeze and pulled away again. Dump Truck, Ausreo and Utopia were parked off Greenwich Point so we sailed the long way around and eventually skirted Utopia and wore down Ausreo but could not make any headway on Dump Truck.
Our fourth across the line was only good enough for 6th place as Avalon took the win by a 11 minutes from Ausreo Much Ado V and Dump Truck. I had thought that our 6 minute lead on Irikandji would be enough but we fell short by a minute and thirty eight seconds and had to settle for sixth place. In the pointscore the sixth is our worst place so it became our drop and we moved to the top of the table courtesy of the absence of Meridian and Joli who are cruising elsewhere this week. Our fourth across the line puts up temporarily third on the fastest times table courtesy of the race when no one finished being included in all competitors series. This means that Passion X which has raced in every event can drop the 11 point while anyone who was absent from a race gets to drop the did not start points but still carries the 11 points from the race where no one finished.

A bit of a lean in the squall

Dump Truck emerges out of the rain

Dump Truck emerges out of the rain

Maximum wind speed was 31.7 knots. Photo taken with a wet phone.

Maximum wind speed was 31.7 knots. Photo taken with a wet phone.

Top boat speed was 8.1 knots as we were beating into the squall. It would have been much higher has we been around Goat Island when it hit.

Top boat speed was 8.1 knots as we were beating into the squall. It would have been much higher has we been around Goat Island when it hit.

Dump Truck sails show how variable the wind was. We are tight reaching and their jib is blowing out to windward

Dump Truck sails show how variable the wind was. We are tight reaching and their jib is blowing out to windward

A close rounding of Goat Island. Flasback, Utopia, Dump Truck, Ausreo and Much Ado V are all in the picture

A close rounding of Goat Island. Flasback, Utopia, Dump Truck, Ausreo and Much Ado V are all in the picture