Archive for March 2021

It was a strange night for the final race of the Greenwich Flying Squadron twilight series as the forecast 11 knots around Cockatoo Island was more of a drift and the 18 knots forecast for around Goat Island was lucky to get to 10 knots.
In the lee of Long Nose Point it was zero knots for the five minutes we sat in the calm after unsuccessfully trying to convince Joli to go to leeward. For additional punishment for this decision Lisdillon drifted over the top and away with Joli while we sat in nothing.
Up to that point we had been doing quite well and had Utopia just to leeward and ahead and Agrovation just a bit forward of Utopia and had we stayed in the breeze we might not have finished 16 minutes behind Utopia.

Jackpot did exceptionally well off the start line by coming in below the fleet with speed and hitting the line on time. Dump Truck and Passion X were hovering just in the pin waiting for the gun and as a result had no speed and no steerage. Certainly Dump Truck had no way on and did not have to respond to a call to go up because they had no way on to go up with. That left just enough room and I mean just enough room for Passion X to follow Dump Truck over the line . Meanwhile crossing on port Meridian tacked in front of the fleet for another good start.

Infotrack and Much Ado V had to take Jackpots stern when they tacked back on port and when Infotrack tacked back to starboard in front of Passion X we tacked back to the Onion Point shore to maintain starboard rights off the point.

Well we were not quick enough so Dump Truck crossed and Much Ado V tacked in front and lifted clear so that they could tack cleanly for the beat out of Humbug.

At this stage we had Joli and the two Sydney 38s behind and were travelling quite well on the work to Cockatoo Island. What I thought would be a tight reach to Cockatoo turned into a hard beat with plenty of the earlier fleet crossing with rights.

Before we left Humbug Agrovation pointed up from below to a clear ahead position and once in front gave us a good dose of disturbed air to establish a small lead.

Once around Cockatoo island Utopia ran along the shore in a breeze of their own and cut inside at the corner to also take our air. Then they pulled below a few boat lengths for clearer air and established a small lead.

That was about the order of proceedings until Long Nose point when Joli tried to go over the top and we went with them all the way into the wind shadow.

By the time we extricated ourselves from the wind shadow we had lost five minutes on Utopia and had been passed by Joli and Lisdillon.

Hoping that was the end of the troubles for the evening we pressed on. By the time we had rounded Goat Island and ran and reached to Cockatoo island Joli was just a few boat lengths ahead and we had caught Lisdillon.

Now we were very careful not to get caught in the lee of Cockatoo Island but that was of no avail because there was no wind anywhere. Ahead we could see Joli reaching away with breeze while we sat waiting for Lisdillon, Fireball and Sweet Chariot to catch us.

They all caught us but we managed to pull clear and again they all caught us. Finally we came to Onion Point almost line abreast across the stream. On the western side of the group of four we picked up a flick of the breeze and with Don experty holding our the genoa to windward we crept to the line a few seconds ahead.

It was a hollow victory over the tail enders as we knew full well we would be last on handicap. What was astonishing is that Joli pulled out an eight minute gap on that leg from Cockatoo to Humbug.

Just as surprising is that Utopia took out the handicap win having been just in front off of Long Nose on the first lap.

Finally well done to Jackpot who had a cracker of a start and kept on going all night for a second in handicap.

Eighth is Ok if your nearest competitors are 9th, 10th and 11th and so it was. If it had been otherwise we might have been disappointed with our misfortune around Goat Island where mid fleet we were passed to windward and leeward. Only Utopia had as much bad luck and they emerged only metres in front of Passion X. Infotrack, Much Ado V and Dump Truck picked up breeze outside the fleet and roared away for 1st 2nd and 3rd on handicap while Lisdillon took a gamble along the shore in the wind shadow and somehow emerged well for a 4th place.

Leading into our becalming in the lee of Goat Island we had enjoyed the race with Ben Gemmell on board giving tuning advice. In the westerly breeze we reached to the corner of Goat Island behind Infotrack, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Meridian and were feeling pleased with our position. On the work around Goat, Agrovation had a big lift from behind about which we could do nothing but tack when they did and head for the corner. From Cockatoo we had a broad reach followed by a pole out all the way to Goat Island. In this configuration we held our position well with only Jackpot picking up a couple of boat lengths along the way.
As we rounded western end of Goat Island we could feel a good place coming as we had just the beat back to Humbug to finish the race but it was not to be. Becalmed we were passed to leeward by Joli and to windward by Lisdillon while Sweet Chariot came down with the westerly wind to join the group in the lee of Goat.
Once out into the breeze we made good progress showing over 5 knots VMG on port tack but less on starboard. I need to adjust my wind angle to get the reading right on both tacks but in the meantime it is nice to see the over 5 knots on port.
Back into Humbug we were again becalmed and only picked up breeze once well through. In this last chance for a good place we were again disappointed and more so to see Sweet Chariot charging up Humbug seemingly in good breeze all the way and doing enough for 7th place.

On the leader board our three closest rivals were able to drop their scores from tonight while we had to carry the 8th place. That leaves Utopia well clear of Passion X and Jackpot on equal points with Joli just 2 points behind. With up to 13 places available on a good night the finale next week should be interesting.

Flopping around in the lee of Goat Island
Still flopping around
Enjoying the reach to Cockatoo island
Happy at this point of the race
Nice evening for a beat back to Humbug
Sun sets on another day

Despite the dire rain forecasts for today there are some bright patches so why are we not sailing at Balmain this afternoon?

I was on the road early this morning listening to the traffic reports and appeals to motorists to stay out of the flood waters and off the road unless absolutely necessary.

With that in mind we pulled the pin on the scheduled race so that there was no pressure on any other crews to take to the water.

Looking at the state of the roads on the way home I can see a lot of water damage to the asphalt and with up to 100 mm rain forecast tomorrow I think the road repair and asphalt supply industry will be busy for months ahead. So there is an infrastructure boost to keep the employment numbers up.

Friday afternoon turned out to be finer than expected but I am at happy with our decision not to sail as the possibility of the roads being chaotic was real.

On Saturday I took off very carefully for Gosford sailing club and this time the sailing was abandoned. Once again the sailing would have been manageable but the road conditions were appalling and the fewer people on the roads the better. En route I could see the traffic back to Sydney stopped for an accident which was cleared by the time I returned home a couple of hours later.

Now what will Sunday bring?

The forecast steady 12 knots was in reality a five to twenty five knot evening which provided plenty of excitement to the much reduced Black fleet. For some reason six of the regulars decided to stay home in the dry and warm inside conditions leaving the seven starters to the cool and wet weather on the course. If they were looking for a first place on handicap it is just as well they stayed home as Lisdillon blitzed the handicap result for a second week and if this were the olympics WADA would be called in for samples. Not only did Lisdillon get a good start they managed to drift through Humbug near the front of the fleet and sail a very good race for the rest of the evening.

Further back in Humbug Passion X was run over by Fireball and Sweet Chariot and never gained speed until this two had passed allowing the clear air to catch up to Passion X. We then went low to sail away from the wind shadow and eventually headed up ahead of Fireball and Sweet Chariot but miles behind Ausreo, Lisdillon, Utopia and Jackpot.

For the rest of the race our interest was in catching Ausreo and staying ahead of Fireball and Sweet Chariot and while we seemed to be moving well through the water we seemed to be on the wrong side of a shift or two or three so nothing changed for much of the race.

The combination of rain squalls and shifty wind kept the the pressure on the crew as the up and down conditions required plenty of gear changes. Trimming was not helped by wet tell tales sticking to the sails in the early stages and as light faded towards the end trimming was even more difficult.

We had one incident when a shackle on a mainsheet turning block came undone and had to be replaced but the crew did an excellent job of keeping the boat going while I went hunting for spares and performed the required shackle surgery.

They were doing such a good job while i was effecting repairs that I rested on the bow and called the tell tales on the No 1 heavy genoa and the new mainsail. Both are made from Dimension Polyant Carbon Sports Light Skin. I like the material and am sure we will have many good races ahead.

With a few good gusts down the reach across Snails Bay we pulled away from Fireball and Sweet Chariot and pulled up to the stern of Ausreo.
For the run to Cockatoo we matched Ausreo and both of us pulled further away from Fireball and Sweet Chariot so that we rounded the west end of Cockatoo thinking we had pulled ahead on handicap.
In Humbug we were pushed around by the wind shifts and were lucky to come out of the shifts ahead of Ausreo who were put about by a Blue Fleet yacht. I gave a wry smile at this misfortune for Ausreo as it gave us enough space to get to the finish line ahead. Meanwhile Sweet Chariot and Fireball came charging through Humbug to steal the handicap places from Ausreo and Passion X. So good was the charge by Fireball that they scored second on handicap behind the enigmatic Lisdillon.

The charge of the back markers was good enough to relegate Jackpot to 6th place just one ahead of Passion X. With a consistent third place Utopia pulls away on the season leader board. I think Joli, Jackpot and Passion X will be tied on second place with two races to go and for our two consecutive weeks of tail end performances we get back a little handicap.

Watch this space.

We made a very good start to be with the leaders going into Humbug and doing reasonably well to windward. Approaching Long nose Much Ado V pinched out from under giving us a dose of disturbed air so that we could not clear the point. By this stage the fleet ahead had cleared the point and were beating up the Snails Bay shore while we had to tack twice to get to the same line. We needed the lift to the point to stay with us for two more minutes but it was not cooperating so this was our first time loss. Three minutes from Goat Island Utopia was just ahead and below and Dump Truck crossed on port to get then next lift from the right and gain a minute by the Goat Island mark. Lisdillon from behind also went to the Goat Island shore and made a big gain on Passion X.

The reach back to Long Nose was uneventful until we were becalmed off of the point. Our GoPro footage shows the flat mirror like water around us and also shows us anxiously watching Lisdillon reach up from behind with wind and sail right past.
Eventually we got the wind and passed the point so that we could pole out the genoa and give chase. Normally we would expect to make us some ground but the wind was not cooperation and we sailed side by side with Lisdillon to Snapper Island without making up any time on the fleet.

Once back to the work to home we pulled clear of Lisdillon and with the short tacking felt we had a safe margin. It was not to be as we were knocked severely as soon as we tacked away from the Hunters Hill shore while Lisdillon on the Cockatoo shore lifted well above our line.

There was little to do but follow her home into the open waters leading into Humbug. Here we were the recipient of our own lift on starboard well above Lisdillon’s line and seeming like we might regain our lost ground. Ahead we could see the fleet on port tacking away from the Onions Point shore and they were not far ahead.

But then the wheels fell off. Passion X was knocked forty degrees and becalmed and now it was Lisdillon’s turn to pick up breeze ahead and lift above our line.

That might have been the end of the woes for the evening but once past Onion Point we were again becalmed and headed so that we had a slow pinch to the finish line.

Once across the line our luck ran out again as the following fleet, Ausreo, Fireball and Sweet Chariot carried fresh breeze and steamed to the finish line.

We finished 11th only one second behind Sweet Chariot and only 1 minute and 28 behind 5th placed Meridian. In between was Ausreo, Utopia, Fireball, Infotrack and Sweet Chariot while behind was Much Ado V and Dump truck only 16 seconds behind us.

Out in front on handicap by a large margin was Lisdillon followed by Agrovation, Jackpot and Joli.

On the progress scores we drop our 11th from tonight and include a 6th. We now drop back to third place behind Utopia and Joli with Jackpot just one point behind.

With three races to go and potential places as bad 15 points per race the race to the season finish is still wide open.

Infotrack and Joli lead out of Humbug. Agrovation sailed through our lee while Jackpot went over the top
A knock at Long Nose was not appreciated
Dump Truck steam through while Passion X completes her tack off of Goat Island
Passion X sits upright in the calm off of Long Nose
Calm Again at the finish

37 Seconds between 5th place and 8th place shows how good the handicaps are working. On Passion X we managed 7th place but will include our drop of 6th place in the progress scores. Joli with a 4th place will catch up two of the four points difference. Utopia still out in front will use her 8th place drop in the progress scores and we will pull back just 2 points on her 10 point lead.

With four races to go and the flukey end of the season ahead it is still open for many to overtake Utopia for the season crown.

In the light sub 10 knot conditions we made a good start on the western side of the fleet and kept tacking to keep to this side of the fleet. It worked well for us and we made it into Humbug behind just Infotrack and Dump Truck.

Conditions were very shifty on the way to Goat Island and courtesy of some shifts that went our way we were up with Much Ado V and Utopia as we went around Goat Island for the first time. Much Ado V managed to tack away from the Goat Island shore in clear air and pull out quickly while we were pinned down by Utopia waiting until we had to call water on the Goat island Shore. We called loudly so all the yachts to windward of Utopia knew our intention and tacked when our call was acknowledged. Now on starboard Utopia tried to go behind but could not bear away enough so had to go hard about with the inevitable consequence that her stern gave us a good fright on board Passion X. With no harm to crew we sheeted on and recommenced the race but lost enough time on Much Ado V to account for the margin she beat us on handicap.

Ausreo took advantage of the mayhem to catch up to Utopia and Passion X and threaten for a good handicap place which they won by 1 second over Agrovation. Cannot get closer than that.

Our challenge was to limit the time Utopia pulled out and not let Ausreo past. This we achieved by courtesy of a good lift along the Balls Head shore where we lifted towards the Goat Island turning mark while Ausreo below was headed and this was enough to keep our nose in front of them for the run home. Around Goat we could see Fireball coming well back in conditions that did not favour her nor Lisdillon.

Ausreo was not about to give up and blanketed Passion X with good effect until the breeze swung enough for it to come over our port quarter and allow us to reach away with clear air for a safe margin that blew out to 3 minutes by the light air drifting finish.

As we ran into Humbug with the pole out to port we could see the middle of the fleet off Onion Point all heading in different directions on different gybes. Alas there was no last minute gust up the middle for Passion X and our drift from Onion Point to the finish line was in confused air swinging from port quarter to starboard quarter but mostly refusing to come at all. All we wanted was one gust to go from 7th place on handicap to 5th but it was not to be.

Alas for the brave Lisdillon and Fireball who finished 15 and 22 minutes behind Passion X respectively and took over the role of back of the fleet that Ausreo filled last week. Indeed it was a credit to Ausreo to do so well in the light conditions tonight and it is amazing how just a few knots of breeze makes such a difference to this big yacht.

A busy startline
In the action out on the course