Passion

We did have a couple of very good races at the Sail Port Stephens regatta and considering it is our only spinnaker regatta for the year we should be happy with the result. The biggest winner of the regatta had to be our code zero sail and while it cost a lot in the rating department most of the time we are sailing Performance Handicapping Systems and just want to be closer to the front of the fleet. Every time we flew the code zero it we had a good result and the one time we flew the asymmetric spinnaker in lieu we had our worst result. To be fair to the spinnaker it was the first time we had flown it and we were on the wrong side of the course for the freshening wind. Still the code zero would have let us fight for clear air and point higher towards the freshening breeze. In one race we thought the asymmetric might have been better than the code zero we flew but judging by later experience that may not have worked for us. Our weakness in the regatta was still the heavy air working to windward but I felt we made some progress. Even with a years experience we are still learning and over the post race discussions with fellow skippers and crew we picked up some more advice to try. I have already tightened the cap shrouds and put a little pre bend into the mast. That has improved the sail shape off the mast and even when short handed on the way home we managed to handle 20 knots with the full main and No 3 jib. While I did put in a reef for comfort the full crew would have been pressing for speed records and may have done better than the 13 knots recorded as the maximum hull speed. I am not sure how accurate that is but we did see an 13.7 max speed during the regatta in lighter conditions. On both occasions we saw 10 knot briefly on the live instruments and I think a jump to 13 is probably a very short spurt down a wave. The big yellow mast head spinnaker was certainly a winner in the light running conditions but it is a bit heavy for the dead drifts when the foot tends to droop into the water. The spinnaker snuffers worked well except when I packed the small runner incorrectly. We took that one down and put up the big mast head runner which was packed correctly and as it turned out was the correct one for the conditions. I was more comfortable using the old No 1 genoa and the full mainsail for the whole regatta even when we saw 20 knots and after seeing a mast bending demonstration on one of the competitors I now know we have been too conservative in the back stay tension area. On the last day of racing we had a second on handicap in the Performance Cruising division 1 and an eleventh fastest overall. We started well and were fourth to the windward mark and for the first time in the regatta were matching Amanti to windward. Their crew work was too slick downwind and we were becalmed on the way home when the second last placed yacht in the fleet sailed around the hole and went on to fourth fastest. It was rewarding to be in front of so many larger yachts in that race. After the racing on the second last day we had a violent hail storm that rained down mini golf balls denting cars in the parking lots and stripping leaves off trees. Accompanying this was a powerful gust that freed the awning from the lifelines and left the deck exposed. At first I thought we had escaped any damage but later noticed two stanchions had been bent in. A small price to pay for a most enjoyable week. On the way home we sailed away from some of our competitors as the beam reach suited Passion X well. We just need more of these conditions. For the Newcastle to Port Stephens race we did have tight reaching conditions for the first half of the race and with the code zero flying we were making a strong showing. Once the breeze headed the fleet we had to drop the Code Zero and go into tight beating mode where the heavier boats slowly overtook us.

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots

Well that is cutting it fine because the updated ORCi Club rating for Passion X with the jib set flying just came through on the email. It is pretty well as expected as I ran a few trials before committing to the purchase. I have the speed targets from the trial ratings and they are so close to the official ones that I will save the paper and ink and use the trial ones as a sail selection guide. In some very limited wind angles the code zero is a potent beast adding half a knot over that very narrow range. The speed targets show very little angles and wind speeds where the larger asymmetric spinnaker would be more useful and then only if on the pole and not tacked to the centreline.
So I have voluntarily added sail area so that our terrible ratings under ORCi Club and IRC are even more terrible. If the wind is fresh we will be carrying a penalty for sail area we cannot use so we have to hope for very specialist conditions where the breeze is light and just in front of the beam.
The new ORCi rating is 1.0987 up which I thing is a fair increase. We could not however sail to the old rating and in a breeze will find the extra .006 a difficult addition.
As expected the IRC rating was extreme due to the code zero being treated as a head sail. The rating has gone from 1.111 to 1.127, an increase of 0.016 or almost three times the penalty under ORCi.

It will be interesting to see how we fare against these ratings over the coming season but our interest is just in going as fast as we can in whatever conditions we meet so it should be fun.

 

Running the code zero out to windward. We can do this because it rates as a headsail with a massive penalty rating.

Running the code zero out to windward. We can do this because it rates as a headsail with a massive penalty rating.

It is good to have a deadline to motivate one to complete a few tasks. The upcoming trip to Port Stephens was the perfect motivator to get a few tasks ticked off the list. The list includes topcoating the primed areas of the V beth, more filling and fairing of the galley drawer surrounds, reinforcing on the chart table support and on the shower seat in the head.  The reinforcing timber was pre painted in the workshop and needed only to be glued into place and have a final coat of epoxy paint to hide the glue join. In the head I did some more filling and fairing of the vanity unit face and Elaine made up a new curtain for the opening. After 12 months of pretty robust sailing nothing has fallen out of the cabinet so I feel a hard door is not needed. Under the edges of the floor I fixed hatch gasket tape to take away the wood on wood sound and a small amount of tape goes a long way. There were a few tiny tasks to complete like lubricating the lip seal on the shaft and topping up the coolant that both cools the engine and heats the hot water. In the circuit I have a tiny drip which over the course or a year adds up to half a glass of coolant. That is about the same as on our Jeanneau SO 37 and in eleven years never found the source of that drip. At least on Passion X I do know the drip comes from the inlet and outlet of the hot water system and will perhaps one day attempt to make a better seal. In the meantime I topped up the system ready for a long motor to Newcastle on Saturday. Our jack lines were attached ready for our Category 4 race from Newcastle to Port Stephens and for good measure the hatch and washboard were polished. As I worked away the fridge was on cooling a beer for later in the day and as I sat looking at the interior of the yacht I felt contented with the appearance. I did think hard about the finish of the interior and in particular the cabin roof and items that would be up at the eye level. The laminated room beams were made wider at 27 mm so that I could join the cross sheets on the line of the beams. While that meant trimming each sheet to a precise width the result was no visible joins in the sheet inside and no glue joins to open up under load.  In the V berth I used four layers of 6 mm ply on the ceiling to achieve a clean and strong structure where other wise there would have been timber framing. The frame between the  galley and saloon was kept as small as practical to open up the saloon and the finish result is bright and fresh. Under the deck where reinforcing ply was needed for butt joins or hardware backing I beveled the edges of the timber with a 45 degree angle and that has made the backing  pieces blend in well with the base layers. Well satisfied with my review of the finish I took a few photos for the record. I am still working on a saloon table for the future. The plywood table top is cut out from 9 mm ply and a box structure has been commenced to support it however the position of the support over the centre line means that one side of the box has to be tapered to follow the line of the berth. That needed a site measure and the marked up box is sitting in the garage waiting for a future deadline. I am hoping to have the table support made from a set of tightly matched oblique boxes that will be securely bolted through the king plank to take heavy loads when the table is raised in the table position or lowered into the convertible bunk position. if it proves strong enough I might add a teak hand rail along the walkway edge for some additional support in a seaway. Anyway that is the idea and time will tell if it works as planned. The low height of the saloon seats leaves little room for error if the table is to be high enough to be practical. The king plank ended up the full 250 mm wide as instead of putting small spacers under the keel bolt washers I ran the 19 mm hardwood the full length of the cabin to give a neat finish to the floor. Also the keel washers were replaced with 80 mm wide full width backing plates to increase the bearing area. These were hot dip galvanized and then painted with white epoxy which can be seen poking our from under the sail bags on the saloon floor. It is this 19 mm hardwood which will take the table loads

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

I am well pleased with the bright airy cabin

A close up of the clean lines of the 24 mm thick moulded ply V berth ceiling

A close up of the clean lines of the 24 mm thick moulded ply V berth ceiling

A little gasket tape under the floor supports makes a quiet boat. Note the position of the battery switches including one for the neutral.

A little gasket tape under the floor supports makes a quiet boat. Note the position of the battery switches including one for the neutral and the keel bolt backing plates sticking out from under the sail bags. The hardwood strip along the king plank is also shown.

 

As we prepare to set sail for Newcastle, the Newcastle to Port Stephens race and Sail Port Stephens the forecasts are all very quiet.
The forecasts on Windy now go out to Friday which is the first race of the second series and by then there may be breeze to sail but in the intervening period there is little to trouble the sailors.
For the first time since launching over a year ago the fuel tanks are showing full on the dial and I have an extra 20 litres in the fuel locker which should be enough for the trip there and back and for charging the batteries in the meantime.
The trip up on Saturday the 7th looks a very quiet affair with a ghost of a breeze off shore in the morning shifting to a North East closer to Newcastle and strengthening for a tight beat. I think it will be No 3 Jib hanked on ready for the beat with the Code Zero deployed in the morning if there is any breeze.
For Sunday’s race to Port Stephens both wind models have a light southerly for the start but so light the heavier spinnakers will be hanging limp from the mastheads. Later in the afternoon the wind swings more easterly but the two models have the strength from 2 knots to 4 knots which is going to be a challenge for the race organizers. We might just get to deploy the Code Zero and make headway against the current.

Day 1, 2 and 3 of Sail Port Stephens have forecasts from 2 knots to 9 knots so the order of the day will be plenty of sunscreen, water and patience.

I am looking forward to the quiet trip up the coast and on arrival at Port Stephens, morning coffee with the crew and catching up with fellow sailors.

For the final race of the season we went out all guns blazing with the largest genoa up and high hopes but these did not last long. Our first mistake was being too low on the leeward end of the line and getting a header in the last 20 seconds. That left us pinching to make the mark in very slow mode while the more conservative fleet reached away to Onion Point. The breeze through Humbug was a bit stronger than forecast so we and the tail of the fleet caught the leaders who went in a bit close to Greenwich point into the doldrums. We skirted the fleet and were sailing along to leeward of Lisdillon when the fleet sailed into the breeze all at the same time. Jackpot, Joli and Meridian did best being to windward of the returning breeze but at this stage the fleet was well bunched. Fireball managed to come between Lisdillon and ourselves but we eventually pulled out from below them in a less windy patch. When the breeze was stronger our 140% genoa would have been better suited to the windward conditions and not much slower downwind. Much Ado V was within striking distance but they made no mistakes and with the soldiers course there was not a lot of room for passing. Lisdillon kept a healthy lead from Passion X while we had Fireball right over our shoulder all night with Soundtrack and Sweet Chariot very close behind. Out in front there was plenty of action with Joli catching Meridian and Jackpot for line honours and taking out the daily double with a first and fastest. Joli also took out the series scratch prize for the black fleet. Fireball finished second on Handicap while we scored an eight which became one of our drops. That left Lisdillon out in front on the handicap series from Passion X and Fireball in equal second. It is tradition not to break the ties at Greenwich Flying Squadron but Fireball would have bragging rights if we did break the ties. I was surprised how far Joli finished in front of Much Ado V and Passion X. Both Much Ado V and Passion X had to tack away from Goat Island to clear the rounding mark and perhaps the leaders sailed through without a tack but they were well gone by the time we rounded Goat Island. I was also surprised how close Fireball, Soundtrack and Sweet Chariot were at the finish and they fared well in the handicaps with Soundtrack fourth and Sweet Chariot fifth. It has been over a year since we launched Passion X and while we do have the hull scrubbed regularly there was quite a bit of growth around the waterline on Wednesday night. However in other fleets yachts with similar growth did OK so I am lost for words. The raft up after the race was equal to the most I have seen and the 340 members and guests enjoyed a fine BBQ and a very successful end of season function. There are lots of photos on the Greenwich Flying Squadron Facebook page.

The forecast for Wednesday evening was a bit challenging with up to 28 knots predicted for Sydney but west of Goat Island we had a much gentler sail in not more than 15 knots and often much less. The rain too stayed light during the time we prepared the yacht to sail and only returned at the start of racing. Then as the fleet started the rain abated leaving us with a very pleasant sail in a much reduced fleet. In deference to the forecast we set the No 3 jib and during a few of the stronger gusts we were grateful for the reduced sail area but as the race progressed and the breeze lightened we missed the power of the bigger genoa. At the start Joli and Passion X approached the line on starboard and tacked to clear Onion Point. A big header had us both heading for the shoreline and Joli ahead was forced to tack first calling starboard on Much Ado V. That left us with clear air and a sudden lift to clear the point and gain a small early lead. For a while we hung in to leeward of Joli but they eventually sailed over the top and lead the way up the river to Goat Island. Much Ado V had a reefed main and in that configuration we were holding them in the light patches. Past Long Nose in stronger winds they accelerated and also picked up a very handy shift off of the western end of Balls Head which gave them a big break from us and gains on Joli. The photo from the chart plotter shows our tack into Balls Head to be out of phase with the wind shifts and that is where Much Ado V got their first big break on us. Lisdillon was lurking close behind by the time we all rounded Goat Island and we had to concentrate on keeping them at bay. The run back to Cockatoo was pretty quiet and we were not pulling in the leading yacht who both had full sail area working now. Around Cockatoo Island Lisdillon kept challenging but we managed to stay clear ahead and free up for the reach back to Humbug with a small lead. A spell of fresher air on the reach back helped us establish a small safety margin over Lisdillon for the tight squeeze back through Humbug and a 15 second gap across the line. We were exactly 2 minutes behind Joli and a further 2 minutes behind Much Ado V. Meanwhile back in the fleet Soundtrack, Fireball and Sweet Chariot were having their own close race with only a minute and eleven seconds between the three. Handicap honours went to Passion X by a mere 7 seconds over Joli, with Lisdillon only 19 seconds further back and another 23 seconds to Much Ado V.

Some good some not so good tacking angles on the way to Goat Island

Some good some not so good tacking angles on the way to Goat Island

What a perfect night for a twilight race! The rain cleared up early in the day and while a few clouds hung around we had a pleasantly warm rain free evening for the race and the BBQ on the deck back at Greenwich Flying Squadron.
During the week I had a very minor modification made to our old faithful carbon genoa off Passion. We had been flying it from a short hank on the tack to get the clew up higher so that the sheets were further back on the tracks. This allowed the foot to skirt the side stays without too much interference. I had the short hank replaced with a wedge of sailcloth tapering from 250 mm at the tack to nothing at the clew. If nothing it makes the sail look like it was designed for the yacht, it does look good and the new tell tale window in the luff was also handy. This was the perfect sail for the breeze.
We made a good start to windward of Meridian and matched them to Onion Point. We poled out the genoa to port and made good progress along the Cockatoo Island shore before gybing to starboard to head up river. The fleet seemed to be going in a different direction from the course forty eight we were sailing and no other yachts had gybed so I asked Stephen what course he was sailing and thought I heard forty eight. I went below and radioed the starters and again I thought they said forty eight. As no one followed us I checked again and was told four zero A. Looking back over the Gopro video I can hear one of the crew saying that they thought they heard forty A. Post race John said that they always designated one crew to double check the course as they crossed the start line and Stephen volunteered that we should have used the binoculars. All very true in retrospect. That was a big oops moment for by now we we had to drop the pole an head back to the tail of the fleet.
The whole episode was captured on the Gopro camera on the transom and from the time stamp it was well over five minutes before we were back to where we deviated from the proper course. By a bit of luck Ausreo, Soundtrack, Sweet Chariot, Fireball and to a lesser extent Joli were becalmed in the lee of Cockatoo Island and we were able to sail low and wide to make up a bit of ground. The chase started in the lee of Ausreo who were fast but a few degrees off our pointing angle which eventually let us get clear air. Soundtrack was not going to let us get through easily and after a few calls on the edges of the sailing course for room to tack she picked a very nice lift along the Balmain shore to prove the point. Only a bit of interference to Soundtrack from another fleet yacht gave us the opportunity to sneak ahead. I don’t know when we passed Sweet Chariot and Fireball. Perhaps it was one of the several large shifts on the way to Long Nose. Joe Walsh was out on the course with a potential new Beneteau 40.7 we are encouraging to join Greenwich and while he kept well clear of the fleet I did try to see how they were travelling or if they matched Fireball for speed. A few shifts in our favour and we were up near Joli for the Goat Island rounding. On the run back to Cockatoo Island we did slightly better than Joli and did a bit of match racing around the end to keep them behind. It was probably not smart sailing as we were both slow in too close to the wind shadow but at this stage we were going to try to keep any place at any price. For the beat back to Humbug we had eyes only for Joli but they were a bit quicker through the tacks up Humbug and managed to slip though our cover right on Onion Point.

Back in the fleet we lost track of the competition up front between Meridian, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Jackpot. The Ker 11.3 twins had a birthday party with ten potential sailors spread over the two boats and congratulation to the winning team of five youngsters on Much Ado V.
The handicap results were a surprise as we managed fourth place despite our over five minute excursion. Once there is this much gap comparisons are difficult so the five and a half minutes we finished behind Much Ado V is not the same as the five and a half minutes we dropped with our course mistake. I am however happy that we matched it with Meridian on the way out and matched it with Joli on the way back.
Lisdillon had another win on handicap and beat us by three and a bit minutes. Perhaps tonight was to be out night and we lost it in translation.

Meridian to leeward at the start

Meridian to leeward at the start

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course  mistake

Good progress down the Cockatoo shore oblivious of our course mistake

Starting the chase in the lee  of Ausreo

Starting the chase in the lee of Ausreo

Following Joli around Goat Island

Following Joli around Goat Island

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

Joli catching up to leeward through Humbug

It was indeed a pleasant evening for a BBQ on the deck back at Greenwich Flying Squadron but first you had to endure some pain on the water. The forecast had been for wind fading from 14 knots so it was marginal No 1 genoa conditions and those who set the largest headsails in their wardrobe would have done well.
Our start was good enough and we followed Jackpot into Humbug and drew alongside. Unfortunately for both of us the wind disappeared from the middle of Humbug and favored those yachts that went low along the Onion Point shore and wider out from the Greenwich point.
Joli went low and wide and was soon a speck in the distance. Jackpot picked up a bit of wind and took off while we sat and waited. While we waited everyone except Ausreo sailed around us.
Once we were out in the breeze we started to catch everyone except Joli and Jackpot. By Goat Island we had caught Fireball and Soundtrack and were closing on Lisdillon but the flow of the breeze was not in our favor as we took the sterns of Soundtrack and Fireball when the tacked to starboard to round the island and then took a header all the way to drop another 50 metres.
Now we had the long run back to Cockatoo where we passed Fireball and Soundtrack and caught up to the transom of Lisdillon. Again we missed the first tack back to Cockatoo Island and this time it was the turn of Lisdillon to get a 50 metre break. Soundtrack and Fireball were close behind having been the recipients of some freshening breeze from behind.
At the corner of Cockatoo as we turned for the tight reach home Lisdillon stalled and we again were on their stern but could not break through their defensive moves.
We bided our time for the drift home though Humbug and went inside Lisdillon only to be forced out be a barging blue fleet yacht. The heavier blue fleet yachts were coming through with momentum and we had to wait until they ran out of that momentum before we could recover some ground. In the windless hole around the blue fleet we watched as Soundtrack and Fireball came back with a nice freshening lift. Soundtrack carried the lift all the way to the finish line beating Lisdillon by a few seconds. When the puff finally reached us we accelerated ahead of the blue fleet yachts and Fireball to finish well behind Lisdillon. What could have been a third fastest ended up a fifth and a lonely last on handicap 2 minutes behind the second last placed Ausreo.

A photo from the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page perfectly captures the moment through Humbug with Passion X surrounded by Worlds Apart to leeward, Aggrovation in front, Fireball to windward and Soundtrack chasing Lisdillon to the finish. Also shown is how close Sweet Chariot caught up. The only missing Black fleet yachts are Joli and Jackpot way out in front and Ausreo not far behind.

We paid the price for not getting out of Humbug cleanly and for missing two tacking opportunities and while the Onion Point shore was the right way to sail back into Humbug we were perhaps one boat width too low and that was the boat width that Soundtrack and Fireball sailed into.  We were never going to make up the time that Joli and Jackpot had on us but we might have secured that third place if we had sailed better.

It was a night for the front runners Joli and Jackpot who seemed to get further and further ahead while we battled it out in a dying breeze.  I am sure they enjoyed their battle but we were too far away right from the exit from Humbug to see the battle. Soundtrack made a spectacular passage through Humbug to join them on the podium for and all J boat success. Only Fireball sneaked in by 13 seconds to stop it being a J Boat 1, 2, 3, 4.

The drift through Humbug to the finish

The drift through Humbug to the finish

 

 

 

 

Last year we took Passion X to Port Stephens just a month after launch and she was very much still a work in progress. We sailed well in the light airs but were no match for the fleet in heavier conditions. On the square runs our small spinnaker off Passion was undersized for the competition and the asymmetric off Passion could not be flown from the bowsprit.
Our trip home from Port Stephens in 35 knots was a bit difficult with the No 3 jib and triple reefed main so we dropped the jib and proceeded on triple reefed main alone.
This year we are better prepared for a wider variety of conditions. We have fitted the bowsprit which can now carry the asymmetric off Passion and a new headsail set flying which is a generous 60 m2. We have a larger mast head symmetric spinnaker of 130 m2 which is the largest we can fit on the rig and may even be too big if the air is really light.
For heavy air beating and cruising we have a No 4 jib which we used quite often over the winter in the RANSA Winter Wednesdays and in the Balmain Friday afternoon pursuit races. For light air we have a 149% No 1 genoa and the 140% No 1 off Passion is now officially our No 2.
All the sails are measured and the updated measurements are with the rating office waiting for the shock result to come out. I am over rating shocks as both the IRC and ORCi Club ratings seem unreasonably harsh and we have been unable to sail to the polars output from the ORCi VPP program except for light conditions beating and heavy air conditions off the breeze.
Our non spinnaker OSN rating is in between the rating of the Ker 11.3 twins, Dump Truck and Much Ado V, and while we have had a few rare wins against them it has generally been because of a lucky wind shift or a drift through the fleet. In a fresh breeze when they are well sailed they are significantly faster. A few data points from the ORCi certificates show why I have been perplexed at the rating. Dump Truck is 500 kg lighter and because it has no cabin and a lower centre of gravity bulb it has an overall centre of gravity half a metre deeper than Passion X. She has less wetted surface area, a carbon mast and laminate mainsail. Passion X only positive factor is 9 cm longer water line length I doubt that is much of a contributing factor since when the rating office by mistake used a longer water line length for Passion X by 70 cm the rating hardly changed.  The sail areas are almost identical although Dump Truck gets their genoa area with a longer J and I measurement while Passion X gets hers with more overlap.

But back to Port Stephens where I hope the wider range of sail options will be a plus and let us perform over a wider range of wind conditions and wind angles than last year. If we are lucky there will be a lot of very tight reaching in light airs for our furling jib set flying to do its magic.

The new 130 m2 symmetric spinnaker is ready for the light air runs at Port Stephens

The new 130 m2 symmetric spinnaker is ready for the light air runs at Port Stephens

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

The No 2 genoa and Passion X with the bowsprit fitted

Tight reaching to the heads with the Code 0 set on the bowsprit

Tight reaching to the heads with the Code 0 set on the bowsprit

The new 149% LP  genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

The new 149% LP genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

Last year our small symmetric spinnaker could not match it with the regatta competition

Last year our small symmetric spinnaker could not match it with the regatta competition

 

Crew with new crew shirts posing on the back of Passion X

Crew with new crew shirts posing on the back of Passion X on our first race day in 2017

It has been a year since we first raced Passion X in race 5 of the Autumn series. In that first race we were second across the line to the old Meridian, the 44 ft Dehler yacht, that usually took fastest time.  We had a few second fastest as last year came to a close and were pretty happy with the performance. This season in the first series we were one point out of second place on the most fastest times with the good places shared around among new yacht, Much Ado V, and old ones sailing  better including Flashback and Lisdillon. Jackpot returned with new owners and after a tentative start they now have her back near the front of the fleet. In the more casual summer series we were second on the fastest times table with some average results and were helped by the absence of some of the better yachts. After four races in the Autumn series we are second on the fastest time table but other have a big number to drop and we will end mid fleet unless we can pull a rabbit out of the bag. Our target in building Passion X was to be somewhere near the J122, Jackpot, and while we have had a few narrow wins while they were getting used to the new yacht they have had many more wins by a larger margin. Based on handicaps the pecking order appears to be Much Ado V, Dump Truck, Jackpot, Flashback and then Passion X with Joli and Meridian yet to have enough races to establish a base reference. As of now we still have not hit the target of matching Jackpot and the improved Flashback and new starters Much Ado 5, Joli and Meridian and a more consistent Dump Truck will make difficult to stay near the front of the fleet. It is hard to know if we have learnt anything over the past 12 months. The overall improvement in the fleet and the generally heavier air conditions mask any changes. We have now four races in what should be lighter airs to see how we go compared to last year.

Passion X enjoying first us e of the new breeze

Passion X enjoying first use of the new breeze in a good December race

The title has little to do about one of the gun boats, Much Ado V, and much to do about the fickle winds that lead to the all the black fleet, and the majority of the green and blue fleets, failing to finish the course within the 8:15 pm time limit. The forecast for the waters around Cockatoo Island was for 15 knots and it was blowing 20 on the harbour and at Sydney Airport so we set the old No1 which is now the No 2 genoa. We were reluctant to use the new No 1 which we are keeping for light conditions and as the No 2 is a big step up in area from the No 3 in our minds it was a good choice. We won the start and were first into Humbug but with Much Ado V right on our stern. Soon Jackpot and from memory Meridian or Lisdillon had smothered our wind from behind allowing the rest of the fleet to catch up. Out of Humbug Much Ado V, Jackpot and one other picked up the breeze first and bolted away. We had a private battle with Dump Truck which was to go on all evening and at the west end of Cockatoo Island we made up some ground as the fleet slowed in the wind shadow. Unfortunately there was more than one fleet there and making use of the following breeze was difficult. It became more difficult as we started working towards Goat Island in a breeze that was flicking from North East to South East in very rapid succession. Lisdillon with a short footed genoa was taking full advantage of their rapid tacking ability and soon had a handy gap from us as they went off chasing the three lead boats. Neither Dump Truck nor ourselves could take a trick. We would tack on a header and have the breeze flick back so that we were going back and forth across the course and making little forward progress. At other times we would be heading straight to Long Nose on port tack while Much Ado V far ahead was pointing at Long Nose on starboard tack. Kevin and I swapped places a few times but with the same result as the wind was changing too fast for tactics other than sailing on what we had. We were on the favored tack a few times so that at the navigation mark at Goat Island we were level with Dump Truck and after rounding Goat could see the front runners ahead. As we emerged from the Goat Island wind shadow Joli came up on our lee and almost passed us while Dump Truck to windward picked up the freshening breeze first and shot ahead. Around Long Nose I poled out the genoa and insisted that we stay in the gust we had even though we were a bit by the lee. With the breeze flicking so much I figured it would come back soon so we could make Cockatoo Island and that was the case. Perhaps it was the only thing I did right on the night but it gave us a small lead on Joli and narrowed the gap to Dump Truck. The second work to Goat was also frustrating but we did pick up a bit of breeze more from the north that allowed us to make a straight line to Long Nose. We stayed in this breeze making up time on all the fleet becalmed ahead and at 8:05 pm with not enough time left we all gave up the race and started for home. With Kevin on the helm short tacking on the shifts and me calling the wind on the genoa we did a lot better on the second leg. I found it easiest to roll under the genoa for the tacks. This seemed a lot safer than trying to jump genoa sheets in quick succession and I recommend it to the crew. We had light genoa sheets on with stripped leads and these pulled through the spinnaker pole beaks quite easily so poling out the genoa and gybing the pole was pretty efficient. In this respect the double ended pole is the only way to go so I should think about a longer one for the drift conditions. That was the last race for the summer. We still have racing for the first month of Autumn until daylight saving time ends on 1st April so there is a good chance we will have at least one more frustrating race in dying conditions for our enjoyment. May it please be in a steady breeze.

Fickle wind at Fort Denison is similar to what we had in the west harbour.

Fickle wind at Fort Denison is similar to what we had in the west harbour.

An abandoned race

It was a evening with a light wind forecast and perfect for trying the new No 1 genoa. It is a little longer on the foot than the carbon genoa off Passion so that it clears the shrouds a little better. With the longer foot comes a few extra square metres of sail area so we were hoping for an improved performance.
We started ok but for some reason the yacht below lifted to clear Onion Point and the ones above drove over the top. I suspect we were caught between two winds and once we fell into the dirty air from both sides it was good night. In Humbug we went a bit more mid stream to try to run over the top of the fleet and managed to pass a few but we were stuck in Jackpot’s dirty air and they seemed to like having us at their mercy. Much Ado V jumped away and was never caught by the fleet. Jackpot, Dump Truck and Joli worked away from us on the way to Goat Island and on the corner Lisdillon picked a nice shift by going hard into the island and tacking back along the shore. This is the second time they have made very large gains on us on the corner and it left us very mid fleet at the rounding.
Once on the way back to Cockatoo we reached below Lisdillon and poled out the new headsail on the way back down the Hunters Hill side of Cockatoo Island. All the crew were camped on the foredeck as we slowly reeled in the front runners. Lisdillon tried very hard to take our wind but the direction was over the port quarter and we ran by the lee for most of the leg with mostly clear air. While we were making ground on the front runners the tail of the fleet was catching us with fresh breeze from behind. Around the west end of Cockatoo we were again on Jackpot’s tail but they had enough of a lead to tack to starboard and get cleanly away for the reach to Humbug.
Dump Truck had been just ahead of Jackpot at the turn but she cleared out once on the wind. At the finish there was roughly a minute and a half gap between each of the first four yachts with Joli fast catching us once the wind was forward of the beam. Lisdillon was less than a minute behind and the tail end of the fleet came home well to take the top three handicap places.
I was disappointed to see we were third last on handicap and on looking at the results we had been given a harder handicap that the one from the previous weeks race. That is a bit of a mystery but we lost .028 on our handicap. If last weeks CHC of 1.012 was applied then we would have been 1 hour 4 minutes and 18 seconds on corrected time and just 4 seconds behind Lisdillon. Not only have we lost .028 on our handicap,  the new CHC, is worse than the previous week after finishing in 8th place.

The new genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

The new genoa poled out for the run to Cockatoo Island

The closest we got to Jackpot at the Cockatoo rounding

The closest we got to Jackpot at the Cockatoo rounding

 

Both before and after our Wednesday Twilight race there was plenty of activity. A large three masted schooner was parked across our start line. From the for sale web site “Southern Cloud is a majestic 130’ triple masted motor sailing yacht specifically designed and constructed for long range cruising. She is now available for sale. She is the ideal vessel with the classic appeal, for intimate getaways, long weekends with close friends, family vacations, corporate entertaining or product launches. She is the perfect yacht to take advantage of the enormous deck space and 360 degree views.”

Fortunately we were able to get her to move away for an hour so that the 70 yachts that had to tack out of the Lane Cove River could do so with a degree of safety. A big thank you to John Wood who chased them up on Tuesday and arranged the move just 30 minutes prior to our start.

The race was conducted in an unusual wind pattern with the direction different on the west end of the harbour.  We took punt of the No 1.5 genoa which is the Dimension Polyant Carbon from off Passion that we have used as a No 1 for the last year. In the early gusty conditions we were over on our ear to 40 degrees and struggling a little against the heavier Jackpot and the two Ker 11.3 twins and the nice rig on the new J 112e, Meridian. As the breeze eased we gained some ground but I could also see Lisdillon making up ground determined to continue her winning streak.

In the early windy conditions the aircraft carrier Flashback had an unfortunate mishap when the fractional rig suddenly reverted to a masthead rig. Very fortunately it was a clean break above the shrouds so the mast remained upright. It is a fairly small section and had given 30 years of service so I think around a $1000 per year of sailing is not a bad figure. Perhaps more of a worry will be getting a suitable replacement section and matching it to the very light hull weight.

Our moment of  hope came as we rounded Cockatoo Island for the tight reach to Humbug where the fleet that went in close appeared to be becalmed. We skirted the fleet only to experience the same light conditions further away from the lee of the island and the gap widened out as the leading boats were first to the new breeze.

Captain Beck won the night in the sibling rivalry competition although to be fair the two Ker 11.3′s are not identical twins and Much Ado V should be giving a couple of minutes to Dump Truck on ORCi. That is something they can argue about over the BBQ.

We were four minutes behind Much Ado V. a couple of minutes behind Dump Truck and Jackpot and we split the J112e fleet being a minute behind the professional crew on Meridian and a couple of minutes in front of Joli. I think this one does not count in the head to head competition Stephen.

Sweet Chariot cleaned up in the handicap stakes and we were surprised to beat Lisdillon into second place by a mere 19 seconds.

Sympathy goes out to Soundtrack who must have hit the doldrums somewhere on the course and was a late but valiant finisher. It was the sort of night when they have done well and no doubt they will be breathing down our necks next week.

The finish was affected by the return of Southern Cloud to our finish line and the fleet could not see the finish mark behind the bow of the 130 ft craft.

An hour later a 40 knot southerly swung up and Southern Cloud dragged her anchor. While holding down plates of food on the deck we watched as she drifted towards the ferry dock and were greatly relieved when the crew started the engines and got her back under control. The same breeze made it difficult for the raft up to disembark from the pontoon and thanks to all those who helped and were patient while the yachts peeled off.

Southern Cloud position up to an hour before the race

Southern Cloud position up to an hour before the race

Southern Cloud in the calm before the 40 knot southerly hit

Southern Cloud in the calm before the 40 knot southerly hit

 

Having just returned from four days of Champagne sailing at the Laser National Masters it would be remiss of me not to reflect on the great sailing conditions. Against the forecasts we had four days of seven to fifteen knots of oscillating breezes during which time we fitted in ten races. Our fleet of around 35 over 65 years of age sailors had a longish start line which was set for the larger standard rig and radial fleets that started ahead of us so it was not too crowded. Most of the starts I was at the pin end with several of my regular club friend and apart from Rob and John and Frank they were not too aggressive. Wait! I think that was all of them. Anyway Rob regularly tacked off early to cover the fleet which gave Frank and John clear air to continue on the the port tack layline. I went when there was clear air and below the layline and had a couple of very good windward works taking advantage of a persistent shift or the occasional knock back. I managed a sixth or seventh placing but it is too long a story to explain the intricacies of the scoring review system or to ponder if ever final results will be posted. Suffice to say that on the drive back towards Sydney on the following day the tune that came into my head was Louis Armstrong singing “O what a wonderful world.”   A nice photo from Beau Outteridge was posted on his web site. https://www.facebook.com/auslasernationals/photos/a.1924307367898635.1073741832.1601565936839448/1924307994565239/?type=3

The forecast for the Wednesday night twilight race at Greenwich Flying Squadron was for thirteen knots at which wind speed we would have set the No 1 genoa. The on water wind was somewhat stronger and we settled for the same No 3 jib we have used for the past three weeks but this time opted to keep the full main for the whole race. Flashback did well through Humbug and they had a large genoa poled out to get a jump on the fleet. The rest of the fleet was tightly bunched on the reach to Cockatoo and for the run around the Island.
We had 69 yachts on the water for the evening and it seemed like all of them were beating up the Hunters Hill shore towards Goat Island so the first work was a nervous one as we ducked and weaved and tacked to stay out of the way of right of way yachts. At one stage we had to tack away from a stalled port tack yacht and plead for water from an approaching starboard tacker who kindly responded.
At Goat Island we were hot on the heels of Joli and Lisdillon but hit a light header approaching the turning mark which had us two tacking at a very slow pace.
The run back around Cockatoo was straight forward until we reached the western end of Cockatoo and had to negotiate the wind shadow of a large cruising yacht which we could not abuse because they had friends on board. Instead we exchanged pleasantries and waited to negotiate the wind shadow.
We enjoyed the next work to Goat Island without the traffic of the first leg and at times seemed to hit our windward target speeds of 7 knots in 18 knots of breeze. At times we were heeled 30 degrees and tracking quite well but could not make up any of the gap to Lisdillon and Joli.
Dump Truck who had a late start was behind but not making up a lot of ground so we were using them as a guage of performance. Again we had to two tack around the end of Goat Island and lost a lot of ground in the process. A couple of good squirts on the way back to Humbug raised our spirits momentarily but like the yacht in front we took a long time to get past the wind shadow of the hill.
We finished perfectly in the middle of the fleet with a fourth on handicap but a long way back from third. If the handicap system does not catch up with Lisdillon after two wins it will after three. They have sailed very well these last few weeks and deserve the results. Congratulations to Jackpot which is doing very well with the new owners on board and took fastest time and second place from Flashback second fastest and third on handicap with Much Ado V across the line in third fastest.