Archive for May 2021

The fickle westerly breeze toyed with the fleet for the first half of the RANSA Winter Wednesday race today before the forecast southerly arrived.
Except for Meridian who established an early lead on the downwind and retained it through all the lulls and puffs the rest of the fleet was tightly bunched. As soon as we were accelerated by a puff we ran into a quiet patch and the fleet from behind caught up. At first the windward yachts did well but eventually those who went hard for the Steele Point shore lifted under the fleet and gained a significant break. Chief amongst those were Crosshaven and Britannia who went on to win the day on handicap.
Almost everyone had a nibble at our heels and Foreign Affairs did more than nibble and sailed straight past.
At the turn we were in company with Navy One, Allegro and ISuper with Larrikin hard on our heels and ready for the long work back to the finish line. At Steele Point we were too close the the rocks requiring two quick tacks to clear the point but we came back clear astern of another division competitor and still had to pinch. In this manoeuvre Allegro, ISuper and Navy One drew ahead enough to be clear in front at the Rose Bay turning mark. As we had a big gap behind we tacked on the mark for clear air but lost on the wind angle which favoured those who held on.

That is about the story of the day. Being back in the fleet because of the downwind leg we never had a clear run at the wind shifts . Around Shark Island we made one last attempt to go wide and catch Allegro and ISuper but could not bridge the gap.

The work to the finish did not present any opportunity to overtake so we ended the day with 10 points for scratch and 12 for handicap. On the progress points we drop to 6th on scratch and 7th on handicap.

While we were disappointed that we did not get the fresh downwind leg we need to have a gap for the beat home we nevertheless pulled out four minutes on Larrikin and finished in the middle of the two First 40’s. Fidelis too must have been disappointed with the anemic downwind leg as they managed to beat only Crackerjack who likes it much fresher upwind and down.

Today we sailed our first race of the West Harbour Winter Series having forsaken the first of the series for a Mothers Day get together. As if to be rewarded for our homage to mothers we started on the pin end and worked into clear air while Avalon behind was stuck in traffic. Far off to windward Odyssey picked up a huge lift and was first into it so she steamed ahead. On our side we enjoyed a tussle with Another Planet at first and then Irukandji next and for our careful wind picking we were rewarded with a spot close to the front of the fleet at the first mark.
Now for the second act of this play we were pretty well becalmed for the run down from Spectacle to Snapper Island and while at first slow with the spinnaker held our own with the ones we would expect to while the slicker crews like Avalon sailed past. At Snapper Island the breeze headed so we were flogging the big mast head symmetrical spinnaker trying to point up above the moored yachts. While we missed the moored yachts the fleet in front which did the leg in more free conditions sailed away into the distance with a huge and somewhat demoralizing lead.
Eventually we capitulated and pulled the sock down over the spinnaker until we reached Long Nose and could bear away.
On the square we went over square for a while to good effect as the wind was so light the mainsail seemed useless while the poled out masthead symmetric spinnaker was doing a good job of pulling us back up the fleet.
Act three was one for redemption as we rounded the mark and after a short flop around in no breeze lifted up from under Omnishambles and took off. From here it was all catching as we had our own fresh southerly breeze that kept trying to fill in to reach the fleet in front but kept getting pushed back. We rode the front of the new breeze all the way up the Hunters Hill shore neither going too close to the Cockatoo Island wind shadow not too low to the old breeze. To our surprise we now close reached past Irukandji and then tightened up for the last stage into the mark.
The final leg to the shortened course finish line was a work up the Drummoyne shore when the last lap had been a run. In this third act we picked every shift to perfection and pulled away a couple of minutes from Irukandji and closed the gap on the front runners by a greatly undeserved margin.
So great was our fortune in this last act of the three act play that we scored fourth on handicap.
As much as I enjoyed the catch up in this race this was the sort of good fortune I would rather save for a heat of the World Laser Masters championships. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful in saying it seems a waste to use up this good fortune on a West Harbour Winter Series

A very lucky set of wind shifts up the narrow channel off Drummoyne

The title says it all but despite that major problem we did manage 11 points for the day out of the regular fleet of 17 starters.
At the start we were squeezed out at the pin by Meridian shooting the mark which slowed us and let the yacht above carry over the top. Despite this set back we went as fast as possible for clear air and seemed to be doing something right as we worked into clear air and were pointing up on Allegro and Joli. Out ahead we could see Foreign Affairs leading the fleet and picking all the right shifts while we were bogged down in a large group. A quick tack to port meant we had to take a few sterns and each time a boat length was lost so that when we came back we had lost a few places. Now we carried on on starboard tack chasing Mr Mojo and watching his lifts and knocks. Allegro had tacked to the Steele Point shore along with a group which included Crosshaven, Agrovation, Amante, Monkey Magic and Meridian. Where we were we could see that we were working out from under Joli and felt that was a good guide so we hung on realising that the race was lost to the Steele Point side fleet. At the Sow and Pigs we opted to tack back to the shore which looks to have been a poor choice as we were headed on port and just managed to clear Joli. However to our surprise we were not far behind Allegro and did manage to keep in front of Joli.
For the run home we had some traffic including Britannia,Rum Jungle and Senta whom we had to avoid. Just ahead Allegro was holding a slim lead and behind Joli and ISuper were threatening. At Steele Point I wanted to cover the fleet while going as far to away from the wind shadow as the fleet would allow. That meant a fairly close rounding into the same doldrums as Allegro where we all flopped around for a moment or two. To aid with wind flow in the very light conditions I hauled on the backstay to flatten the head of the main and twist off the leach and with the main looking more like a reaching spinnaker we pulled out from the group of Allegro an ISuper.
At the Rose Bay mark we rounded behind Britannia but Joli came in with a late overlap and took our wind.
Now we had a group of yacht including ISuper and Star Ferry come around the mark behind and gybe away above us. With few options we followed Britannia out to port and clear air. When Britannia gybed back to the fleet we continued in our own wind all the way to Point Piper and only gybed back close to the moored yachts along the shore and with speed approached the mark.
This one leg allowed us to establish a lead on Allegro, Joli and I Super, Senta and Britannia which we were able to carry home to the shortened course finish line at the bottom of Shark Island.
At the finish we were four minutes behind Crosshaven who was four minutes behind Agrovation which is understandable given the huge persistent shift we were sailed on the way up. What is less understandable is the result showing Star Ferry two minutes in front as we thought he was back with Allegro and the group of yacht that went right on the run to Point Piper. If the recorded result is right then John deserves first place on handicap and equal second with Passion X on the progress scores.
On the progress scratch scores Amante moves to the lead from Meridian and Passion X but we are waiting for those faster yachts with DNS in their scores to reach enough races for their first drop and a return to the normal order of places.

Caught on the outside of a persistent shift. The tack back angle should have been better given the outgoing tide

Winter is Sydney can be finer than summer in parts of the world and Sydney is one of the few places where one can sail year round in relative comfort. Friday was a case in point where the temperature never got below 10 C rising to 17 C in time for our start in the Balmain Winter series. The wind however was gusting to 20 knots and the chill factor would have made the conditions feel much colder were it not for the physical work rate required to tame the beast called Passion X in the gusty winter conditions. Yes the winter westerly breeze is off the land and the only thing predictable about it is that it is capricious.
We set the carbon No 3 jib for the ease of tacking in the windy conditions and started with a full mainsail flattened out for the conditions. We calculated correctly that we could manage the sail area for the short work to the first island rounding mark and then carry the sail downwind. Depending on the wind strength we could reef at the turn or struggle home with full sail.

As the afternoon progressed the wind abated a little and apart from the occasional gust we managed the course without the optional reef. Indeed as the day progressed we caught the reefed yachts but with a crew of just three we could not hold the more crewed up Avalon who as usual executed flawlessly to beat us by a couple of places.

One of the regular crew took a short video from Birkenhead Point showing our rounding of Snapper Island. The video shows a snappy tack which was one of our best for the day and also shows the amount of mast bend. Given the amount of backstay I had wound in for the windy conditions the mast bend looks modest at best. Perhaps I need to try harder but now that I have seen the real life evidence I will pay more attention to this control.

A good 5th place on handicap backing up from our 2nd place last week puts Passion X into the lead on the progress scores by one point from the nimble little Monkey Magic.
Meridian blitzed the fleet and with Crosshaven and Monkey Magic took first, second and third places respectively. This was a big turn around by Meridian from last week and probably no coincidence that they started at the pin end and managed to get clear air ahead of the fleet.
We watched the Division 1S start where the windward yachts did better and opted for that end. It was a good choice given the short start line and as soon as we cleared the Committee boat we went high for clear air.
soon Britannia was urging us to hurry up as the used our stern wave to good effect. Amante tried to go higher but we pulled away and only conceded places at the turn mark to Agrovation and Foreign Affairs.
the first tack on the windward work gave us a small gain on Crosshaven and in hindsight we should have tacked with her as she and Foreign Affairs proceeded to lift inside us all the way to Steele Point. Ahead Meridian was charging on in clear air and behind Amante and ISuper were pressing hard.
At the top of the tight reach to Point Piper the wind died leaving us wallowing in the disturbed air. Eventually wind returned but not before Amante and ISuper had passed us never to be caught again.
Around Shark Island Monkey Magic put in an appearance but once we were on the tight reach to the finish line we pulled clear again.
At the finish there was a long gap back to Allegro and Joli but the time difference was not so much which shows we were all moving at good speeds along the course.
Luckily we held Agrovation to less than a two minute lead which gave us a small margin in handicap. We will need that once the course turns to their favour.

These photos are from Andrew Richardson’s blog over at Crossfire Photography. Andrew is a fellow GFS sailor on Lisdillon and we compete on the GFS Wednesday Twilight series through the summer.

Andrew having a chat with the crew of Passion X
Passion X on a bit of a lean
Not leaning too far here

Pop over to Andrew’s Blog for lots more photos and some pretty nice video footage.

We were too busy for photos today due to the occasion shower that drifted across the harbour. (However a fellow club member captured the start chaos) Being water shy the yacht preparation was left until we arrived at the course and while the preparation went well an eagle eyed crew spotted a missing split pin that needed a temporary repair. Repairs were effected with ten minutes to go and then the wind died. Cautiously we worked our way back to the start boat where the Div 1 s fleet was becalmed along the line and our division becalmed to the shore side of the committee boat.
Due to the lack of wind and incoming tide we were able to hold a spot mid line on starboard and come up when the fleet reached along the line. Unfortunately Coco was becalmed on port and unable to move so we had to call rule 14 on the otherwise entitled starboard reachers.
It took minutes to untangle the mess and while I felt sorry for Larrikin who was the unwilling meat in the sandwich we had nowhere to go and the yachts to leeward of Larrikin should have given more room.
A whiff of breeze over our right quarter pulled us ahead of Coco who was still stalled and with that little puff we broke cover and headed off after the fleet which had started a couple of minutes earlier.

Thanks Andrew for the perfect photo to match the commentary

It was our good fortune that the clear starters ran out of wind just as the Div 1s yachts had so we could catch the fleet with following wind and with a bit of luck.

Ignoring strategy I followed the swirls in the breeze which by chance took us to seaward of the fleet and in our own stream of breeze.

Little Britannia was also in the stream of breeze so we sailed side by side for the whole downwind leg never more than boat length ahead or behind.

Inshore out of the tide the fleet occasionally looked threatening so I tried to work to that side. As we left the Rose Bay area we crossed the Division 1 S yachts Euphoria, Wild Thing and Blue Chip which was possible after some negotiations with Britannia as we both needed to sail to leeward of the fleet who were over on port gybe locked in by our starboard gybe rights.

We never got over to the line of the following yachts but managed to pull clear ahead of all except Britannia on whose stern we rounded the mark. on the wind we were matching Britannia and could see the menacing stem of Allegro chasing us up the course. By Steele Point we were in Britannia dirty air and had Allegro looming on our starboard quarter but pulling below Britannia we were able to point up from under and also get a few metres on Allegro.

The tight leg to Point Piper was tricky as the breeze was light off the wind shadow but the angle called for pointing high. Try as we might we could not avoid a short tack to clear the mark and in the process we seemed to gain a few metres on the fleet. Now we had a poled out genoa to the mark above Shark Island and a tight reach around the island and home.

Execution was pretty good on the day and enough to hold on for a fastest time and a second on handicap to Britannia and just one second in front of Allegro.

Well done to Britannia for an excellent run and a strong work to windward for a well deserved win and well done to Allegro for getting to within a second of our handicap. One small lift on the last work and they would have done it. As it was we had to endure a lot of dirty air to get over the finish line and were pleased that we avoided a late tack or having to shoot the line as Allegro did.

It was a pleasing team effort with lots of trim adjustment to get the best out of the conditions. That included crew weight forward and back and windward and leeward as the breeze changed gears.

I discovered some great shots of Passion X on the Port Stephens in Pictures facebook page.

Great Action shot of Passion X with yellow mast head spinnaker
Out by ourselves in Race 2 of performance cruising
Action reaching at Sail Port Stephens 2021
Passion X with red white and blue fractional spinnaker in the middle of the fleet
Getting a good start with the big yellow spinnaker
The only one I could find with the asymmetric spinnaker flying