Archive for December 2019

A massive congratulations to Christian Beck and the crew of Infotrack for the impressive second fastest in the 2019 Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The performance of Infotrack provided much interest for the Greenwich Flying Squadron membership and I particularly liked Jeff Lewis’ “GFS and the rest” caption on the photo of Infotrack leading the fleet out of the heads by a wide margin.
I would have loved to be out on the water watching the race as we did last year but this time we were on the road returning from a family Christmas gathering in Ballina. in Ballina we were surprised to meet fellow Black fleet skipper Ralph Pickering and family which shows what a small world it is indeed.
Thanks to the advancement in technology and the more generous distribution of the race start we were able to watch the pre start antics of the fleet on the approach to Port Macquarie where we pulled into the service centre with just over a minute to the start.
What a great start by the crew on Infotrack! They nailed that start with position and speed and executed perfectly to capitalise on their advantage to lead out the heads by a large margin. Five 100 ft maxies battling up the harbour is a rare sight and this one was one for the ages. Aboard Commanche there was quiet calm as they appear to have opted for a safe start and to let their superior heavy air reaching speed make it up down the coast but on board WOXI ther was at least some frustration and expletive laden exhortation to the crew. i hope it never gets edited out as it proves that all of us skippers get a bit over excited from time to time.
It was my turn to drive and we had to get back on the road again but it was a good place to leave the coverage with Infotrack extending her lead down the coast.
The calm patch down the coast meant there was plenty of time to catch up on the action once we arrived home and in particular to check in regularly this morning as Infotrack closed on Commanche but it was not to be. Nor could WOXI make up the distance but she did beat her similar narrow hull competitors, Scallywag and Black Jack but by such a slim margin.
Infotrack does appear to have beaten the other maxis on IRC so that is a double good performance.

GFS and the rest

Dump Truck had an extraordinary race last night to claim first and fastest by a margin of four minutes over Utoia and almost five minutes over near sister ship Much Ado V. It was an impressive performance and the only consolation for the rest of the fleet is the punishment the handicap system will dish out to her. Hopefully the fastest time result is a good omen for Christian as he takes Infotrack south for the Hobart and we wish him good fortune in that event.
Fireball was second on handicap which seems pretty fair given the many light nights they have endured waiting for a windy race. Our only consolation was that we did the course a minute faster when on many windy occassions we have been behind on time.
Utopia was third having turned the fastest times table on sister ship Agrovation by three minutes. Admittedly some of that was when Agrovation found her personal wind hole on the way back into Humbug and that is likely to be a once in a lifetime event such was the strangeness of the wind on the evening.
Joli was next having beaten sister ship Meridian around the course by three minutes. it was an interesting competiton in rig settings for the night with allegedly Joli with a N0 3 jib and full main and Meridian with a No 2 jib and a reef. In the unexpected light conditions early in the race the greater sail area of Joli would have been an advantage while in the last beat up Humbug Meridian blasted past Passion X and Agrovation in nice control while Passion X struggled with a full main.
We never saw Sweet Chariot or Fireball on the course due to their relatively better performance in a breeze but we did have an interesting tustle with Lisdillon making up four minutes in the early stages of the race when the wind was lighter but giving back two of those later in the race when the breeze was stronger and on the nose. Most of that was in the work up Humbug where we could not settle into a fast mode.
The tustle with Joli was also engrosing as we started together and sailed almost side by side around Cockatoo Island, around Goat Island and back to Cockatoo. At the second rounding of Cockatoo we were too close the the lee shore of the island and the wider yachts or which Joli and Dump Truck were the most prominent, stormed around for a clear lead after which Joli pulled our a five minute lead. Joli sailed the last lap to Goat Island particularly well with the stronger wind performance compared to Passion X adding to our woes.
We did have a couple of encouraging spells, the first when the fleet went in too close to Balls Head and became becalmed but they received the returning wind first and made up a lot of their losses very quickly. The second was when we went high on the last reach to Cockatoo but then we threw that away by going in too close and literally dawdled around the island.
For the night our tacking angles all look good so we need to find the right mode for those gusty conditions. One of our issues on the night was getting the main out as the gusts hit and we experienced more round ups during the race than possibly we usually experience in a year. Perhaps it is a system issue with the mainsheet. Perhaps the backwind from the jib is just too much and perhaps it is just practice. The comforting thing is that for cruising I would just put in two reefs in the main.
Best wished to all for Christmas and the New Year and after a short time in Pittwater we will be back on the track at the next club race.

I have mixed feelings about our second place on handicap and fourth fastest result tonight. I am very pleased with the result which went pretty well as I expected given that the long handicap yachts like Passion X were to have the first use of the breeze and possibly get home ahead of it petering out. Lisdillon had the longest handicap and sailed in clear air all evening for a win by almost five minutes. On Passion X we were able to claw back just 17 seconds over the almost two hour race. We did pass Sweet Chariot who sailed a very good race up until Humbug and seemed assured of third place only to lose ten minutes in the last tricky transit of Humbug. Much Ado V was fastest around the course but only made up one and a half minutes on Passion X to finish four and a half minutes behind. We would be pleased if we could finish that close on a regular basis but I accept the result is an abberation due to the staggered start times. Meridian was next across the line having made up three minutes and seven seconds on Joli and they made a pretty picture reaching into the finish just metres apart. Indeed from fourth placed Meridian to tenth placed newcomer Agrovation there was just one minute and forty nine seconds so the string of Black fleet yachts looked impressive.

The crew of Agrovation should be pleased with their third fastest place around the course on their first outing.

Apart from the first use of the fading breeze this evening we had the benefit of an incoming tide for the rounding of Goat Island. By Goat Island the fleet had made up quite a bit of ground on Passion X with Joli and Meridian looking to be just a minute behind but once we rounded the eastern end of the island the incoming tide carried us away while the chasing yachts were in light air being carried by the tide towards the island. As we reached away out of sight we could see the two J112 yachts having to tack away from the Goat Island shore against the tide and this is where we established a reasonable break on the fleet. For our part we could not have done any better. We had the right sails up for the breeze and played the jib and main and backstay pretty aggressively for the very changeable conditions.

For our efforts we lose two minutes handicap for next week and start alongside Joli so the task will be so much harder.

A nice photo of Passion X in Humbug courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS Facebook page was published overnight.

Passion X in Humbug 11th December 2019 photo Mark Palmer

It was a smokey ten knots of breeze out on the water tonight with plenty of holes around the islands and through Humbug to keep the handicap race open right to the finish. We made a good start on port for the race to Onion Point where we were pipped to windward by Meridian and to leeward by Jackpot. In Humbug the following wind brought Much Ado V up and over followed closely by Dump Truck who politely went to leeward but just as quickly. At this stage the leading five yachts has a small break over Utopia. By the corner of Cockatoo Island Jackpot had established a small lead but Dump Truck. Much Ado V, Meridian and Passion X were following in a very tight group. Suddenly Utopia drew alongside brought up by the wind freshening with a little shift to south and as the bunch was too tight to go through we opted to work to the outside of the group and get first go of the freshening gusts. This was our best rounding of the south side of Cockatoo Island for the season and it gave us a chance to see how we were travelling alongside the front of the fleet. The work to Goat Island was particularly fresh and with just Elaine on the rail and Don on the windward backstay there was not a lot of righting moment. In turn each of Utopia, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Meridian passed us on the windward work but it took a little longer than usual. Possibly it was a little lighter than usual and possibly we had the backstay adjusted more appropriately to the wind. In the gusts the mainsail was completely bladed out and backwinding while in the lulls we eased the backstay for more power and height. On reflection we might have been even more active with the backstay to maintain height as in the lulls Meridian pointed out from a safe leeward position and established a minute break. Again we did better than usual around Goat Island and had the front of the fleet well in sight on the reach and run and reach back to Cockatoo Island. While we had the front of the fleet in clear sight the back markers, Fireball, Sweet Chariot and Lisdillon were making inroads with freshening breeze from behind. Now the not so fortunate five percent of the race started to kick in. We had a very quiet rounding of the west end of Cockatoo Island and were disappointed to see how far in front Jackpot and Utopia were once we regained sight of the front of the fleet. Now the breeze was very up and down and left and right. First it would give with a lift and then take away with a knock. Meridian was not far in front having her share of the ups and downs but through Humbug we were left becalmed on Onion Point for a couple of minutes and only the blue fleet yacht Koko had it worse. The wind did return enough for us to limp over the line happy with 95 percent of the race but a bit disappointed with the last 5 percent. As we lowered the sails we had wind coming straight through Humbug from the south bringing  Sweet Chariot home seven minutes behind but fourth on handicap. Up at the front of the fleet Jackpot was eight minutes in front and third on handicap, Utopia was seven minutes in front and first on handicap by 3 seconds from Passion X. While we are grateful to the handicapper for our second place it was still disappointing to see the elapsed time difference. Lisdillon however had it worse than Passion X as with the dying breeze and out going tide she was left to flounder in Humbug. Next week it will all be different as we start our novelty Summer Series with a handicap start where the back markers will get to start earlier than usual and have best use of the breeze for the race.