Last Saturday the hot North West winds, the fresh North East sea breeze and a southerly changed battled it our and converged on the Gosford Sailing Club course where peak velocity was 37 knots. The weather pattern today looked very similar but with the convergence a bit further north and inland so we took the forecast of 20 knots at face value and set the old smaller genoa from the original Passion. The rig was fine but our execution of the start was lacking. The plan was to start on port with speed but a bit of east in the breeze allowed everyone else to starboard tack the line so we ended up low and slow pinching to Onions Point. Joli and Avalon disappeared somewhere and were not seen until the final work back into Humbug so no comment can be made about their sailing. We were seriously headed in Humbug and still pinching to clear the moored yachts when Utopia from behind came through with breeze. Next Fireball came charging through well to windward while we tried to sail behind Utopia in their dirty air. Not far in front of Utopia we could see Meridian and looking behind we found Irukandji lifting inside us on a huge lift. At this stage we had no one below to worry about and plenty in front and to windward drawing away. Meridian tacked to get over to the lifting breeze just as the lift reached us and that gave us our first small gain. That was our last gain on the way to Goat Island where in the lee of the island there was a large wind shadow. Taking advantage of a shifty breeze we managed to overtake Irukandji and around the Island somehow crept up to fifth fastest. Utopia and Meridian were quite a few boat lengths ahead but Joli and Avalon were out of sight already around Long Nose on the way to Cockatoo Island. We gained a little on the run and reach to Cockatoo island and were quite close at the western end only to give it back again by going in too close to the wind shadow. Irukandji and Fireball came around with good breeze causing quite a bit of consternation until we reached clear air and took off again. On the way back to Goat Island Utiopia lifted nicely around the deep water mark off Balls Head while Meridian and Passion X were headed into the rocks and had to tack away. This was the last chance we had of overtaking Utopia as the favourable wind shifts gave her a good break on us. We tacked back to starboard below Meridians Line and she was rewarded with a big lift around the navigation mark while we sailed a longer outside route. The knock back was our chance to tack and bear away a little for speed so that around Goat Island we were within catching distance of Meridian. The rest of the run and reach back to the finish line at Greenwich Flying Squadron was all about taking time out of Meridian. We had established a good lead over Sweet Chariot, Fireball and Irukandji so did not need to cover.

Approaching Humbug we noticed Joli ahead and Avalon returning from a long detour but we had eyes only for Meridian. In the end we failed by seven seconds but were overlapped as we crossed the line. Ahead Joli was four minutes clear and first on handicap. She must have had her own quiet patch as she seemed much further ahead as we rounded Cockatoo the last time.  Behind Sweet Chariot and Fireball came through with a squirt of fresh breeze improving their handicap results prospects for a second and third respectively. Utopia took the fourth spot by 50 seconds from Passion X and that lift around the Balls Head navigation mark was worth much of that.

While we were disappointed with our start, yachts from behind got the better of the breeze through Humbug and overtook us. Our first work to Goat Island was average but once at Goat and with a fading breeze we sailed well. Top boat speed for the night was 8.9 knots with quite a bit of the reaching at the high 7 knot mark. Utopia did well to pull away 3 minutes from us and Meridian but that was to be expected in the fresher conditions.

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet

Joli with crew on the rail leads the fleet. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.

Passion X working out of Humbug. Photo courtesy of Mark Palmer and the GFS facebook page.


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