Archive for January 2021

The weather forecast overshot the wind strength by 10 knots and undershot the rainfall by lots. Consequently the supposedly quick trip to Goat Island, around Snapper and Spectacle Islands and back to Goat and home took a lot longer than expected and produced a dripping wet crew.
The worst part was the tell tales sticking to the wet sails making steering to the breeze and sail trimming very difficult.
We did get some things right. The most important was choosing a large genoa in spite of the forecast. Without the No 1 genoa we would have struggled around the course as many patches were very light and certainly less than five knots. After a respectable start and work out of Humbug we found some 12 knots of steady breeze for the work up to Goat Island. In this early stage of the race we settled in well and drew away from Lisdillon, Ausreo, Fireball and Sweet Chariot while limiting the lead Utopia was creating out in front.
Some choices are debatable and we did debate it a lot on board. From Goat we were running quite square to Long Nose and could see Utopia in light air off the point. At least the air at the water level was light as there were few ripples to be seen. Out wider there was ripples on the water but the breeze was quite light.
One half of the crew wanted to keep running across the course and try to pick up breeze on the other side out wide while the other half wanted to reach across the light patch and follow Utopia.

Ausreo, Lisdillon and Fireball from quite far behind adopted the cut the corner approach and gained a lot of Passion X who was running quite slowly to the wind on the other side of the point.
At six knots of wind speed our boat speed downwind is at most 3 knots while on a beam reach it is twice that at 6 knots so apart from a shorter distance the speed is twice as high as long as you don’t fall into zero breeze.
At 12 knots of wind strength the difference is less dramatic going from 6 knots running to 8.5 beam reaching. So paradoxically it is more important to take a conservative wide berth in light airs than in heavy.

We did manage to keep our nose in front of Lisdillon and Ausreo for the trip to Snapper Island with some patches quite tight and a rather nasty header going into Snapper which left us quite close to the shallows off the western end.

Around the end of Spectacle Island Ausreo carried her speed through the wind shadow well and tried to pinch up above us but we kept our nose in clear air and started to work out in front again.

Now the wet tell tales were making steering to the breeze and sail trimming close to impossible and that is important on a relatively light boat. Ausreo kept up momentum through the shifts and pulled ahead giving Passion X a good dose of dirty air to boot.

This time being wider of Cockatoo Island paid off as we managed to creep ahead of Ausreo along the Hunters Hill shore only to again be passed and gassed off of Balls Head. Once Ausreo drew away and we had clear air we began to work to windward and that paid dividends as we were able to reach into the mark in lifts and pinch up in the knocks to cross Ausreo and tack for the run home. Fortunately the light air in the lee of Goat was not so light as to kill our boat speed and on the east side of Goat we picked up a nice lift to assist with the overtake.

At some stage in the run home Lisdillon put in a guest appearance or pun intended a gust appearance but once the breeze reached Passion X we pulled ahead again.

At the finish we were 6 minutes behind Utopia which left us 40 seconds shy of their corrected time but the big winner was Sweet Chariot then Utopia followed by Fireball just 6 seconds in front of Passion X and then Lisdillon 7 seconds further adrift and Ausreo just another 7 seconds behind.

Apart from Sweet Chariot it could have been anyone’s race and it is a credit to the handicap system.

Out of interest I recalculated the results based on the handicaps from last week and Sweet Chariot would have still won but Passion X would have been second followed by Fireball, Lisdillon, Utopia and Ausreo. This confirms how well the handicap system is working.

Next week it is back to the Twilight series where we pick up the handicaps from the Spring series where my forecast is we will all be cleaned up by Infotrack.

For the 8 knots forecast we set our largest, lightest genoa and planned to deploy our longest whisker pole. With that in mind for later in the race we made a good start and were well up with the fleet after the run through Humbug and down the side of Cockatoo island. We were going so well we were just astern of Dump Truck and Agrovation and looked to be in for a close race all night. We went wide around the end of Cockatoo hoping to stay clear of the wind shadow while Sweet Chariot took the inner line and emerged well in front. For a while we could not pick a lift and so worked our way to the back of the fleet with Fireball and Ausreo who was not enjoying the lighter conditions. Being wide started to pay dividends off of the Balmain Sailing Club when we lifted along the shore for a period and long enough to make inroads on Utopia but eventually the breeze knocked and we headed back towards the tail of a group including Utopia, Joli and Meridian.
In the changed of the wind direction Fireball caught us on port twice in the work and enjoyed sending us tacking. We did find a lift of our own to recover most of the lost ground and round in front of Fireball but like last week they had a very good run around Goat Island and just shaved our transom but we were already on starboard gybe and had all the rights for a change. Not far ahead we could see most of our fleet although Infotrack and Much Ado V seemed to be missing somewhere out front. We could see Jackpot, Utopia, Joli and Meridian reaching to the concrete dolphins in Snails Bay and then poling out their genoas so we prepared our long pole.
At the dolphin we whipped up the pole and held the genoa out to windward with good effect. By going low we kept well to leeward of the big blue fleet yachts and snuck through. Sweet Chariot went high for the freshening breeze and we followed and then were able to run away in the puff for good effect. All the while Fireball was threatening from close astern and looking to take our breeze at the first opportunity.
This last gust which we bore away on persisted for long enough to take us to leeward of Meridian who was becalmed off of Greenwich Point. To leeward at least ten boat lengths was Joli doing much better than any of the higher yachts and sailing through the lee of big brother Jackpot so it seemed like a good line to take.
Sweet Chariot opted to take the short cut but on this occasion it was a very slow trip through the doldrums and a very expensive one handicap place wise.
We kept hugging the Onion Point shore and could see Utopia out wider pick up some breeze but we now had bow ahead for the same breeze and it kept us moving up to a flotilla of becalmed yachts off of Onion Point. We correctly guessed that by the time we arrived at the distance mark off of Onion Point the tail of this pack would have just cleared it and so we were able to run deep away from the point and get a safe leeward position on a fleet of a dozen yacht including some big Blue division competitors like Worlds Apart. In this passing maneuver we eclipsed Utopia, Meridian and Jackpot. We pulled away from Fireball for the first time of the evening and finally broke free of Sweet Chariot. Ausreo enjoyed the fading breeze even less than the earlier light start but she has had some good breezes and even Passion X deserves a turn.

For a second week in a row the finishers took an hour off of some results and with such abbreviated elapsed time the published handicap results are up the creek. Some quick manual calculations with the correct elapsed time suggest that Passion X will finish fourth again just ahead of Fireball and Joli.

Without doing the calculations I estimate that Infotrack will win from Agrovation and Much Ado V which suits our case as these three for one reason or another have missed much of the Summer series.

If I am correct in these estimates Passion X will remain on top of the leader board and pull away a couple more points from Joli. Fourth place suits us nicely as our handicap stays pretty much the same while and we live to fight another day.

There are some photos on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page for the evening and when I get a chance I will see if the GoPro feed has anything to offer.

The fleet in close company around Cockatoo Island
Catching Utopia off of Balmain Sailing Club until the breeze knocked
Running below Sweet Chariot with Utopia and Meridian ahead
Crew hard to leeward, boom eased and footing to the fleet off of Onion Point
Passion X transom just visible to leeward going for the finish. Worlds Apart most windward

We are just home from a most enjoyable Friday sprint around the islands in the Balmain Sailing Club Friday afternoon series. The 15 knot breeze took the heat off the day and provided ideal conditions for a quick race. The A team was Elaine and our Grandson Otis and between the three of us we kept Passion X moving in good fashion. To make life easier for the small crew we vanged down the boom hard and left it on all day. That let us drop the boom to leeward so we could power through the gusts without playing the main. Quite frequently the genoa was backwinding the bottom half of the main but this seemed to have no adverse effect on the height or speed. With the vang on hard the top of the mainsail was controlled and providing lift. With the boom angled out I let some depth creep back into the foot which seemed fast up to the 18 knot wind range after which we did flatten it out.

For the day I had the GoPro camera mounted on the stern facing aft to capture some of the yachts that we might pass or catch us. What is most noticeable from the video is that we sailed on a consistently large angle of heel without rounding up.

So ideal were the conditions that we consistently saw over 5 knots VMG to windward and the rare 6 knot pointing up into the stronger patches to stop the yacht heeling too far.

With only one helmsman on board I was not about to abandon the helm to pole out the genoa on the downwind legs but we sailed the wind shift to keep it flying to windward and while not as quick as properly poled out the conditions helped to keep it flying

In the conditions no one was going to catch Riders of the Storm but we did make up 12 minutes over the course of the race and did stay in front of Avalon who gave us a 6 minute start. It must have been one of our better days as they typically take 7 minutes out of us around the course and today it was just under 5 minutes so we are pretty pleased with that effort by our little A team.

Our first pass of the day
Our second and last pass of the day
Typical angle of heel on the windward works
Avalon catching but not enough today

The Greenwich Flying Squadron fleet was greeted by warm gusty conditions for the Wednesday twilight race which made for interesting if stressful sailing.
The black fleet bunched up at the exit to Humbug with Fireball taking the risky inside track but escaping unharmed from this tactic. Passion X was widest hoping to see the inside fleet becalmed but it was not to be and so we had a tightly bunched group tacking at very close quarters in very gusty conditions.
Eventually Dump Truck and Much Ado V worked out ahead using every gram of their 2.5 tonne keels to punch into the strengthening conditions. Utopia also drew away while Fireball, Joli, Meridian, Ausreo and Passion X had an absorbing trip to Goat Island. By the reach and run down to Snapper Island only Fireball had slipped behind this tight group and we were feeling pretty pleased with our position. We were still pleased on the work back to Goat except for the impressive windward performance of Ausreo who left Joli and Meridian behind with Passion X slipping back due to some heavy traffic off of Spectacle Island. We were still happy until the last 100 metres into Goat where the timing of the lifts did not go to plan allowing Joli and Meridian to slip away. Our run around Goat was disastrous as the light patches followed us around the island allowing Fireball to gain minutes and come up within cooee.
When we did get going Meridian and Joli were reaching away at high speed already well past the concrete dolphins in Snails Bay.
At this point wind decided it needed to give the crew of Passion X some encouragement so it hotted up for the reach past Long Nose drawing us away from Fireball and up much closer to Meridian and Joli than we deserved.

The wise move would have been to tack and follow the J112 twins but we headed hard into the Valencia Street Ferry wharf and had to tack away from a very big, very late lift while Meridian and Joli out mid stream were able to use the lift to advantage and recover some of their lead over Passion X.

The very last set of lifts were also unkind as we were headed well below the finish line and were forced into two more tacks before we crossed the line. Compounding the problems was the nature of the gusts which were short and sharp rounding us up repeatedly on the way to the line.

Despite these setbacks the early part of the race when we matched it with Ausreo, Meridian and Joli was enough to give us fourth on handicap behind Infotrack, Ausreo and Fireball. Fireball did well from cutting the corner off of Greenwich point and from the second rounding of Goat and hung on for the well deserved third place.

Infotrack completed the course in record time but the time of 6 minutes 57 seconds is slightly suspicious and may catch the eye of the race committee for review. Nevertheless the relative positions of the rest of the fleet will stay the same and Passion X should move up the leader board until the discards kick in when Ausreo will be able to drop their DNS and take over the crown. Meanwhile we escape with a good place and our handicap unsullied ready for another race


Fireball doing particularly well after taking the inside track around Greenwich Point
Passion X chasing Meridian
Bob doing a great job holding out the genoa

After the short Christmas break it was good to be back on the water and with a respectable breeze. The forecast was in the fifteen to eighteen knot range which has been a a tricky one for sail genoa selection on Passion X. It is a bit light for our No3 jibs and a bit heavy for our No 1s so we tried the old No 1 from the original Passion. Now the old No 1 from Passion must be at least seven years old and has seen a lot of races. We retrieved it from storage when the Covid 19 virus struck as it is high clewed, slightly smaller in area and we can sail more easily short handed. This is the genoa we have been using for the Balmain Friday afternoon races in most conditions so I thought it worth a try this evening.
One way or another we missed the start. Lets say it was a huge shift in the wind direction than let Ausreo on starboard lift to our line on port. That left us tacking below Ausreo along the line all the way to the inner distance mark off the club and stuck there until Ausreo tacked. That hurt and as a result we were last into and out of Humbug except for Fireball. On the way to Cockatoo we had to take a stern of one of the early fleet and that wasted quite a bit of windward height and cost at the corner where we had to slow pinch around the end. Once away we took off after Sweet Chariot and the rest of the fleet further ahead down the run to Drummoyne.
Sweet Chariot was still ahead at Snapper Island but once we held out the genoa to windward we raced down the alley between the islands and the ever encroaching moored yachts for a handy lead on Sweet Chariot at Spectacle Island. Now there was a long tight reach to Long Nose and then a work to Goat ahead. From behind we could see the gusts lifting and knocking the fleet and from this vantage point we worked well to windward. On the tight reach we were consistently over eight knots of boat speed although we had little time for watching the dials. Most of the time was taken up by working the main vigorously sharing the load between three crew.

To our surprise we managed to do more than hold the fleet along the windward work and by Goat Island we were close to Joli and Ausreo while Meridian was a small gap further ahead. John Ewing has a great photo of the fleet on the way to Goat on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page and the different angles are quite evident. Alas we had to pinch to clear the corner of Goat and that cost a lot of time. Indeed the yachts in the earlier fleet further out from the shore than Passion X were knocked right down to the piles so we were lucky to get through when we did. The next chance for some time recovery was off of Long Nose but here Meridian went well wide and Joli worked some magic to get past Ausreo while we came out about the same distance back as we went in.

The reach around Cockatoo and back to Humbug was uneventful but very enjoyable with over 9 knots of boat speed in the gusts and with the hope that Humbug might have some surprises in store. Alas there was no Christmas present under the Humbug tree for Passion X and while we were closer to Ausreo than at any other point since the start it was not close enough.

Ausreo took the handicap honours from Passion X which is a much better result than we have had when we have been first into Humbug. Perhaps Ausreo got us all fired up for the race but whatever it was we did work well to Goat and would like to bottle whatever it was we had tonight to serve up on another evening.

Pasion X on the left on a lean and doing well to windward