Encouraged by the results of slackening our D2′s to allow the mast to be more flexible and flatten the main more when required we set the 40m2 old faithful genoa off the original Passion and a full sized but very flattened main. The first leg was a windward work out of Humbug to take Cockatoo Island to starboard and while the breeze was hitting 20 knots I knew there would be light patches through Humbug and the course was more free after the Cockatoo rounding.
Out start was timed to perfection and we were windward boat on the pin end of the line. The only downside was that we had to pinch hard to stop the yacht behind working to windward of us and preventing us tacking for the passage through Humbug. Avalon the Sydney 38 was right on our tail so we took the first available knock to tack and they tacked in perfect timing with us. The problem for us was now they were leeward boat and pointing higher. To make Onion Point we were above our sweet spot and in their dirty air so it was a pretty slow work up the Woolwich shore. Joli above with a bit less disturbed air was quickly alongside and Utopia was charging up from behind. Approaching Clarke Point we found ourselves again pinching with Utopia to leeward calling us up while we were avoiding a starboard tacking yacht. Utopia kept calling after we passed the starboard tacker so we felt obliged to pass on the call to Joli who was above us. Joli responded and we tacked into their dirty air but that left Utopia charging up past Clarke Point on a nice lift while Joli and Passion X took the nasty knock on the other tack.
Joli tacked back for Cockatoo island early and were rewarded with a lift along the shore that regained some of the ground on Utopia for them.
As the fleet converged on the corner of Cockatoo Island for the starboard rounding it was tightly bunched except for Avalon who with a large crack crew on board was enjoying their powerful rig and making a clean break for a fastest time win by 5 minutes.
Back with the mere mortals we were behind the two J112e’s,, the two Sudney 38s, the two Ker 11.3 and the one J 122 but with a good gap to the rest of the fleet. From behind we could pick our path around the fleet where there was some pretty aggressive attempts for inside room on the island. Fortunately the outside path while a lot longer had more breeze and we were able to sail around several competitors and set off chasing Jackpot the J122, the two Ker 11.3 and the two Sydney 38s. Out in the less disturbed air between Cockatoo and Long Nose we were off the hard beat and going quite quickly up the course. In front the Utopia, Dump Truck and Much Ado V were giving us a good guide to the next wind shifts and we were aggressively adjusting sail trim for the next wind phase. Around Goat Island we were a little lower than ideal and again had to pinch in slow model to clear the lee shore. Dump Truck had the worst of the wind shifts around the Goat Island navigation mark as both Much Ado V and Passion X had a good lift well inside the line that Dump Truck had been forced to sail. From Goat we had a good following breeze for a short time and in this section our large genoa held out to windward worked well to make up time on Utopia, Dump Truck and Much Ado V. We stayed on the outside line for the approach to Long Nose but when we thought Much Ado V was going to shake out the reef in their main we went above and perhaps into too much disturbed air. Utopia from below was into the new breeze just as early and Dump Truck to windward did not suffer too much.
Avalon was still not to be seen but the four boats in our group were enjoying a very tight tussle. (All four boats have very similar ORCi ratings) Dump Truck with full main was overpowered on occasions but the reef in the main of Much Ado V did not stop her rounding up hard in the big gusts.
As we followed these three around Cockatoo for the last time we held out the genoa to windward for good effect and skirted the Island by the largest margin possible. Utopia in closest lost the most ground and Dump Truck pulled ahead while we managed to get to leeward of Utopia and the reefed Much Ado V.
Into Humbug our leeward position was rewarded with fresh wind from over our leeward quarter which gave us clear air but still had us on starboard tack for rights.
French Connection from Blue Division sensed our charge towards the finish and gave us room to attack the finish line. Dump Truck thought they were home and unknowingly started to close our path to clear the mark but fortunately responded in time.
To our surprise the finish time was only 2 seconds different with Utopia 10 seconds behind followed by Much Ado V just 8 seconds later.
We did win on handicap but only by 19 seconds from Fireball enjoying the fresher conditions.
Full credit is due to the two Ker 11.3 who sailed in the gusty conditions very lightly crewed and seemed to enjoy the family rivalry. I am sure if they had the gorillas that were aboard Avalon the extra crew weight would have made a big difference. It was also interesting to see that there was only seconds difference in the finish time of Dump Truck and Much Ado V despite Much Ado V carrying the reefed main for the whole course.
That is our best result in a breeze since we launched Passion X. The lesser tension on the D2 has allowed the mast to bend more letting us carry more sail area through the gusts and be better powered up for the lulls. We were very attentive to back stay tension and had them quite slack every time the breeze died. We were also more diligent in letting the genoa off during gusts on the tight reaches and that let us track straighter and faster.
We will leave everything as it is and see if our light air performance will still be ok.

For the record top wind speed was over 22 knots and top boat speed was 10.2 knots.

Sailing into a  light patch around Long Nose Point

Sailing into a light patch around Long Nose Point

Much Ado V rounding up across the course in a gust approaching Goat Island

Much Ado V rounding up across the course in a gust approaching Goat Island

Holding out the genoa to run deep around Cockatoo Island. Utopia and Much Ado V already reaching for Clarke Point

Holding out the genoa to run deep around Cockatoo Island. Utopia and Much Ado V already reaching for Clarke Point

 

Held out genoa and wind over the port quarter helped us catch Utopia and Much Ado V

Held out genoa and wind over the port quarter helped us catch Utopia and Much Ado V

That is the finishing mark with Dump Truck oh so close 2 seconds in front.

That is the finishing mark with Dump Truck oh so close 2 seconds in front.

 

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