Archive for May 2017

We had our first win at the Balmain Friday afternoon race today. It helped that the early starters in the pursuit format had little breeze but by the time we started the breeze had filled in. The light air with not a lot of hard windward work suited us and we sailed to about a 1.05 to 1.06 rating. It is still a long way off the 1.11 ORCi rating but it is reassuring to beat the Sydney 36 Cr.
Without the pressure of a lot of tacking it was a good day to introduce a new crew member to the boat. There was however enough wind at the finish to get the leeward rail into the water and give the new crew member a proper baptism.

Our fourth race in the Division 1s at RANSA was disappointing as after our first place last week we were back to our usual place of last this week. It was the second race of the series where the breeze was strong enough to use the No 3 genoa and we stacked the rails with all the crew available but were still outclassed on the windward works.
In these conditions where we are the lightest and shortest water line length in the fleet we cannot expect to be as fast to windward but we did improve a little on our first race of the series with the same genoa.
Relative to the fleet in that first race we picked up two minutes on Marloo and four minutes on Blue Chip around the course.
At the finish we were three minutes behind Sorcerer and over the three races they have contested we are on average only 10 seconds per race behind so we will have to hope for more light air races.
To be honest I would prefer more heavy air races so we can work out how to get the most out of Passion X in heavy air beating and I am still looking forward to a good 25 knot breeze where we can see if the light weight works down wind.
Today’s race was inside out as we had the light airs on the run to Cannai Point and the fresher breeze on the work home.

Today was the West Harbour Winter series so a large fleet of yachts of all sizes assembled for the start only to be caught between breezes. After a long delay the starters called it a day so we decided to do some spinnaker drill. Our decision to stay on the water and practice was rewarded when the southerly winds prevailed and filled in across what would have been our course.
In very pleasant sunny conditions we practiced three hoists and drops of the spinnaker using the spinnaker sock or snuffer. We managed to stuff it down the front hatch and rehoist without any twists and at the end of the day I was able to fold the spinnaker inside the sock into the bag ready for relaunch. In the one day we doubled our experience with the spinnaker snuffer and found a few points we need to observe for effective operations.
In the very light breeze there was not enough wind to blow the snuffer mouth to leeward so we had to be careful it did not catch between the mast and the forestay. Also the friction between the genoa and the snuffer mouth is significant and we had to raise the sock with the sock aft of the genoa. A few simple things like these made light of the work and built our confidence for stronger winds.
In the relaxed non racing mode we tried different roles on the boat and enjoyed and early finish for the afternoon.

Practising hoisting the spinnaker snuffer

Practising hoisting the spinnaker snuffer

The speed generated by the spinnaker brought the apparent wind well forward

The speed generated by the spinnaker brought the apparent wind well forward

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A close look at the big yellow spinnaker

The Friday afternoon race at Balmain Yacht Club is a good time to practice boat handling skills and sail setting. The small fleet and pursuit format means we can concentrate on sail trim and boat handling.
Today the winds were under ten knots which seems to be our sweet spot. We set the halyards a little softer so the flow was further back in the sails and on reaches sheeted the genoa to the rail. These small changes seemed to work and I estimate we sailed to around a rating of 1.07 similar to Wednesday.
The rain held off for the afternoon and only a light drizzle appeared after we crossed the finish line.
It was another good practice day and a pleasing result but we did not get the forecast stronger winds that we need for stronger wind practice.

Today in ideal, for us, conditions we clawed our way out of the trenches and made a few yards into enemy territory. The upside of the more competitive position was a win on handicap by a few seconds.
The breeze for today’s RANSA Winter Wednesday race was a six to ten knot from the North East and the excitement started right at the beginning. We lined up in almost perfect position on the wind angle aiming off the transom of the start boat and crossed the line powered up and in clear air. Blue Chip started too high and had no where to go but stall and go behind our stern which put then in dirty air from the start.
The tactics for working the long starboard boards and short port ones to the top mark was to sail into the headers and do short tacks back. As I was keen to test our boat speed against Blue Chip I tried to stay between her and the windward mark. Marloo broke ranks and took a long port tack out where they picked up stronger lifting wind so they appeared to be well ahead. We were however able to point up into the lifting breeze while they had to bear away so we arrived at the same time but ahead of Blue Chip and Sorcerer.
On the reach back to Steele Point we sailed alongside Marloo all the way to the Rose Bay mark.
Blue Chip went wider around Steele Point and made up a bit of ground and on the run to Point Piper they brought fresh wind down with them so that we were three wide at the turn at Point Piper to the shortened course finish line to windward.
We took their sterns and their dirty air and let them slip away from us at the finish. At this stage I think the wind was fresher and that accounted for their better performance to windward on the last short beat.
I was pleased with out windward working in the lighter breezes and need to work out how to remain competitive as the wind strength picks up. We were not overpowered on the beat to the finish but we seemed to be a bit slower and lower in that fresher breeze. It would have been nice to have had clear air and sail in the same breeze as we had on the first beat.
It was a close win on handicap but a win is a win and we take it graciously and hope the handicap gods are kind to us.

Post race I received two photos from a crew member who joined the ship in Walsh Bay. One shows how sensitive Passion X is to crew weight as with all the crew in the cockpit the bow is out of the water.

Thankfully this big yacht was just passing through and not joining the race

Thankfully this big yacht was just passing through and not joining the race

Long starboard beats and short port ones to the top mark.

Long starboard beats and short port ones to the top mark.

Passion X with bow out of the water. We need to watch the crew weight distribution.

Passion X with bow out of the water. We need to watch the crew weight distribution.

Passion X reversing in to pick up crew in Walsh Bay

Passion X reversing in to pick up crew in Walsh Bay

In the past week I have sailed four times and enjoyed the time on the water as well as the fine Autumn weather that is characteristic of Sydney. On the four days we had enough breeze for to sail the full courses but not enough to tax the skill of the crews. Last Sunday was the West Harbour Winter series, Wednesday was the RANSA Winter Wednesday Series, Friday was the Balmain Friday afternoon series and today was the Gosford Sailing Club Winter series. The first three were sailed on Passion X while the Gosford race today was sailed on Kevin’s Avanti a speedy Ross 780. In these mixed fleet races it is great to see a wide range of designs do well and boats of the 1980′s beating modern designs. Our visit to Balmain for their Friday afternoon series was our first but hopefully not our last. For the day the crew was Elaine, Ron and myself with an average age over 70 so we were quite pleased to keep close to Another Planet with five on board. They pulled away a bit on the works but we managed to pull back the deficit on the run down Snails Bay. We were able to sail by the lee with the genoa poled out to windward and then gybe the main leaving the genoa poled to leeward and later gybe the main back again with the genoa now back out to windward. With the small crew and with out speed better at a higher angle this was quicker than trying to pole out to windward on each gybe. We have done this to advantage on twilight races and I am inclined to use this technique more often now that we have a hull that enjoys higher angles. We were pretty well side by side until the last run when we were pinned by leeward yachts into the wind shadow of the islands while Another Planet was ahead and able to sail a wider course. It was a good afternoon and some much needed time on the helm. Today at Gosford Kevin’s boat is well sorted out with a nice square topped main and with the overlapping genoa it enjoys a good turn of speed with just a light breeze. It felt good to finish ahead of a Match 38 and an Adams 10.

Sunset on a Sydney Autumn day

Sunset on a Sydney Autumn day

Avanti after the race waiting for high tide

Avanti after the race waiting for high tide

Passion X seems to be stuck in no man’s land in the RANSA Winter Wednesday Series between the yachts in Division 1s and the yachts in Division 1.
On some dodgy back of the envelope calculations we would have been at or very near the front of Div 1 yesterday while we were four minuted adrift of the second last fastest yacht in Div 1s. We might have enjoyed a good race at the front of Div 1 while in Div 1s it was a different matter. Passion X has a good turn of speed off the breeze so we stayed with Marloo and Sorcerer from the start to the leeward mark. Once on the breeze the more powerful and larger boats powered away. We were pleasantly surprised we managed with the No 1 Genoa and the full mainsail in the 15 knots of breeze but it was right at the top end of our range. When we turned Blue Chip was already a couple of minutes in front but close enough for us to try to follow her tacking angle. We went for speed rather than height and yesterday that might not have been the optimum angle as we had to go West of the Sow and Pigs and tack to the mark while Blue Chip, Marloo and Sorcerer picked up a lift ahead and above to clear the mark without needing to tack.
The larger genoa compared to last week helped in the light air around Point Piper but we were still four minutes behind the tail as they rounded Point Piper. We had a good run around Shark Island and did not lose a lot of ground for the rest of the race so we were closer at the finish than last week but still lonely out the back.
We had the optimum sails up for the race and made few mistakes so that is about as fast as we can go give or take a couple of minutes. We will do a couple of minutes better on the rare occasions the angle to the top mark is tighter and the leg back to Steel Point is broader but that wind angle is not common. Windward leeward races are not our strong point so any lucky shifts would be negated by our slower overall performance on the downwind leg.

Winter Wednesday race 2 tracks took us West of the Sow and Pigs and we needed a short tack to clear the mark.

The truth is we are sailing pretty well as expected but I expected a rating of 1.05 at most based on the lighter Didi 38 version. I added a bit more sail area and righting moment to compensate for our heavier hull but was surprised that our club rating came out at 1.11 with spinnakers and 1.02 without spinnakers.  I was looking forward to sailing against Amante and Allegro and Agrovation and Izzi and it will be interesting to see how much the rating comes down when the hull is officially weighted and we lower the default crew weight.

We managed to stay with Marloo and Sorcerer on the reach.

We managed to stay with Marloo and Sorcerer on the reach.

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When it comes to round the buoys yacht racing we Laser sailors have a lot to learn. In the yacht we do mostly non spinnaker racing except for Sail Port Stephens and the West Harbour Winter Series. In Sail Port Stephens there are usually long legs so slow spinnaker setting is not a big handicap but the West Harbour Winter Series has a lot of short legs where sail handling proficiency pays big dividends.
Today was our first time with the 140 m2 symmetric kite in the spinnaker snuffer. Apart from watching a lot of videos I had not hoisted a snuffer before and both Elaine and I are delighted with how it worked. It went up and down as expected and there was no need to repack the kite after every hoist. On subsequent hoists it came out of the sock as it should and we even had it hoisted in the sock before the mark on the last lap.
Our lack of river yacht racing experience showed when we dropped the spinnaker at Clarke Point after the first run while the experienced racers carried theirs shy to Goat Island. It this stage of the race the Second Division leaders caught up the five minutes gap we had on them from the start times but fortunately only Pistol Dawn stayed ahead. We pulled away from the rest of the second fleet and were six minutes in front at the finish.
In the trip around Goat Island we made a break on the tail end of our fleet while the front end disappeared into the distance. It was quite demoralizing to see the lead boats far away in the distance and not see where they were making gains on our time.
We did get caught on the wrong side of a couple of shifts and did pick up a couple of good lifts but on balance I think we had to tack away from good lifts more often than not. The second windward work up the South side of Cockatoo Island was better than the first but the good guys were long gone and we have no idea how they fared on this passage. Next Light seen overtaking Passion X in the photo finished 15 minutes ahead.

It was an odd day as we finished in a puff of strong breeze while around the corner of Cockatoo Island we could see the tail end of the fleets drifting down the Parramatta River in glassy conditions.

The second trip around the south side of Cockatoo Island was much better than the first

The second trip around the south side of Cockatoo Island was much better than the first

Passion X with spinnaker dropped being overtaken by First Light with spinnaker still flying. Phil Hare photo

Passion X with spinnaker dropped being overtaken by Next Light with spinnaker still flying. Phil Hare photo

The result from our first race in the super hot Division 1s at the RANSA Winter Wednesday Series was as expected.
The wind on the day was a little stronger than we had anticipated so we started with the No 3 jib and a full mainsail. We won the start at the pin end right on time but that was the last time we won anything. The four big boats in the fleet which are clearly in a class of their own left Marloo, Blue Chip and Passion X in their wake. The wind was on the most favored angle for Passion X on the first leg so we hung in and managed to fit between Blue Chip and Marloo at the top mark at Cannai Point.
The wind had picked up to 16 knots as we turned for the work back to Steele Point and the smaller headsail was well suited for the breeze strength. An initial lift had us looking to be pointing higher than Blue Chip and Marloo but the first header proved that it was just an illusion and as we worked up the course we fell further behind. In Rose Bay the breeze lightened and we were powering up everything we could. The foot of the main was eased and the backstays left loose to power up the main and headsail but the breeze was just too light for the rig.
Working into Rose Bay we had a few minutes sailing below Allegro from Division 1 and felt a little better as we seemed to hold our own.
The reach to Point Piper was painful as the breeze died right away leaving some of the slower yachts stationary near the mark. By now Marloo was just a spec in the distance and Blue Chip even further away.
Perhaps if we had carried the No 1 Genoa we would have had a one minute lead at the top mark. We then may have lost this time gain on the work to Steele Point but made up time in Rose Bay where the breeze was lighter. We did have a very light patch of wind around Point Piper which may not have been the case with Blue Chip and Marloo.
Perhaps there is four minutes we could have saved with the larger headsail and perhaps a minute or two as we get more accustomed to the lighter hull.
Sunday is the start of the West Harbour Winter Series and we are in a division more suited to our yacht so hopefully we will have some close competition.

These are the sails we carried today in the first of the RANSA Winter Wednesday races. Photo from the sail to Newcastle

These are the sails we carried today in the first of the RANSA Winter Wednesday races. Photo from the sail to Newcastle

The chartplotter tracks from the first of the RANSA Winter Wednesday races.

The chartplotter tracks from the first of the RANSA Winter Wednesday races.

Light winds in the middle of the first RANSA Winter Wednesday races

Light winds in the middle of the first RANSA Winter Wednesday races

Against my fervent pleading Passion X has been put into the Division 1s of the RANSA Winter Wednesday Series.
We had wanted to sail in the Division 1 against our familiar opposition but to be closer to the front of the pack rather than be on the edge of relegation as seemed likely last season. So even though half of the sailing wardrobe will be the genoa off Passion from last year we will have to race against Red Hand with its massive mast head overlapping genoa.
To be fair on the handicappers they have only a short history of our sailing as a guide for the fleet allocation but I would have thought our results at Port Stephens and in the Newcastle to Port Stephens race would have been enough to convince them that the ORCi club rating of 1.11 is excessive. Both our spinnaker rating of 1.11 and our non spinnaker rating of 1.02 will come down when the yacht is weighed and surprise surprise it weighs 4600 kg, not the 4300 kg that the ORC office has given us based on the weight of the 38 ft design. We are 550 mm longer, have a 70 mm thick solid stainless steel rudder stock, an under deck Edson steering wheel for the autopilot, four batteries, a hot water system and glass cladding over all the hull. 4,300 kg gives us some grace from the 38 ft design weight of 4,000 kg but not enough to my mind.
I feel we have the weight on board of a true cruiser racer but are being rated as a more aggressive racer which we are not.
Tomorrow we will take off the category 4 anchor and empty the water from the cruising tanks so that we comply with the ORC rules for water and see how we fare.
The forecast looks about as good as it will be all season for Passion X so it would be good if we are not be last.

We will put on our biggest sails for the first race of the RANSA Winter Wednesday series

We will put on our biggest sails for the first race of the RANSA Winter Wednesday series

The Red Hand with their baby jib up.

The Red Hand with their baby jib up.

Allegro with their full hoist Genoa would have been a more suitable opponent.

Allegro with their full hoist Genoa would have been a more suitable opponent.

A view of The Red Hand which we will see only fleetingly

A view of The Red Hand which we will see only fleetingly