Sunday was an unexpected bonus as far as sailing goes as the breeze was good enough for a shortened race in the West Harbour Winter Series. We were started in no breeze and were still on or just over the line when the next fleet started five minutes later so there was a large fleet trying to make progress up the Hunters Hill shore. We had expected a beam reach but were stuck in a dead square run with our 60 m2 code zero up so we poled it out and in the sub 3 knot breeze fared particularly well. Our code zero rates as a headsail with a pretty large rating penalty but it can be poled out to windward legally while some were carrying spinnaker versions which cannot be flow to windward but no one seems to care about rules west of the bridge. No names but some yachts sailed inside the moored yachts and even hit them with loud bangs and some yacht think that if they don’t make eye contact they can ignore port and starboard rules. Oh well! it was Sunday and we were trying to be charitable. In  the three knot conditions the dead run with the poled out headsail fared as well as the drooping asymmetric spinnakers. Very cheekily I tried to carry the code zero headsail up the work from Spectacle to Schnapper Island but it was too tight so we hoisted the genoa and furled the code zero without losing any places. It was on starboard tack coming up this work that the fleet ignored the starboard call but as I said earlier it was Sunday and a good day to practice forgiveness. We fared well on the work up to the mark at Goat Island but from there the cards fell the other way. Avalon and Passion X took the eastern side of the dead square run while the following fleet went hard down the Snails Bay side in much stronger wind and a better angle. This choice cost us both dearly as we ended up at the back of the handicap fleet. The Adams 10′s were particularly potent along this leg with large spinnakers working well. We opted to keep the code zero pole out but in the slightly stronger breeze the spinnakers were coming back into their own.

We were satisfied to keep the Pogo 36 behind on the square run. They looked very fast in any gusts as they hotted up the angles with their asymmetric but the longer distance they traveled seemed to work out for us by the Spectacle Island mark. Now we were very happy as the breeze had swung right just far enough for us to carry the code zero all the way up the leg to Schnapper Island. In four knot of breeze the hard strapped down code zero was back winding the mainsail and we were flying. If only this leg was longer! If only we sailed this angle more often!

Today one day later the breeze was too light for a race but the new forecast for Wednesday is for a very promising 8 knot southerly.

+

The handicaps for the RANSA Winter Wednesday race next week are out and the three Greenwich Flying Squadron yachts have all had their wings clipped by about 0.01.

https://app.sailsys.com.au/club/4/results/series/301/races/2905

If we had raced on Wednesday on these new handicaps the positions would not have changed. Joli would still have come first of the regulars, Agrovation second and Passion X third. Our places were however influenced by the incoming tide and fading breeze which left some yachts far out on the course when in more usual conditions the time differences would have been much less. The forecast for next week does not look promising with around 4 to 5 knots of wind and a small outgoing tide making for quite different conditions. I cannot recall having so many days of light winds and the sea state is down to a forecast 0.4 metres by the week end. The upside has been idyllic conditions for doing a bit of boat maintenance. Rather disappointingly I have had to do a second overhaul on the Spinlock deck organizers due to the sheaves seizing on the shafts. The first overhaul shortly after launch was to replace the all plastic sheaves with alloy ones with plastic bearings. Inexplicably the plastic bearings of the now two year old sheaves have seized on the 12 mm stainless steel shafts. The remedy was to remove the organizers to the workshop and drive the pulleys off the shaft with a perfectly sized aluminium tube. Even after cleaning the shaft and bore, the sheaves would not slide back over the shafts so the plastic bush has been reamed out to the original 12 mm diameter. The 38 mm diameter sheave organizers with six sets of sheaves is ideal for the deck layout on Passion X and I had hoped that the expensive alloy sheaves that replaced the failed plastic ones would have been a permanent solution. If the plastic bushes in the alloy sheaves seize again I will have bronze bushes made but let’s hope that is not needed. The other tedious task was to touch up the paint on the wooden plugs in the toe rail. The toe rails are hard meranti timber with many coats of epoxy and polyurethane paint which are standing up to the conditions on the yacht very well. In the rush to get Passion X on the water the wooden plugs covering the fastener holes received only a single coat of epoxy paint which has not lasted well. The remedy for this was to clear out the single layer of paint off the tiny plugs and saturate the timber with clear epoxy and finish with a coat of white epoxy. While the task was time consuming in the very pleasant conditions it was an enjoyable task.

The Greenwich Flying Squadron sailors had a great day with Joli, Agrovation and Passion X first, second and third respectively of the series entrants in Division 1 and Hasta La Vista first in Division 2. Adrian and Michael respectively in Joli and Agrovation sailed exceptionally well in the light and tricky conditions and deserve their places. It is ironic that these two club members were giving me the biggest tease over our handicap in the series and they still beat us.
The light air and incoming tide was always going to help those who rounded the top mark early and had the benefit of the tide to pull away from their competitors still beating into it.
On Passion X we were very fortunate to recover from a decision not to cover the fleet tacking back to the shore behind us. We started well behind Britannia, who was pretending to be a much bigger yacht, right on the stern of the committee boat and lifted as soon as we could. Further up the harbour there were some right hand shifts but down at our end there was mostly lifts on starboard. Foreign Affairs and Joli were two of the early yachts to tack away for the shelter from the tide and into a progressive lift. Amante and Agrovation soon followed. Allegro was out in the middle with us and we tacked back to the shore taking their stern. We tacked back to starboard before reaching the line of breeze but had enough to just keep pace with most of the windward fleet including Amante and Agrovation. Foreign Affairs disappeared over the horizon and Hitchhike and Joli were now well ahead. Allegro came back on one of the few right hand shifts but we managed to cross her bow for a small gain for the two tacks. We were still mid stream and in too much tide as the saw tooth pattern on the chart plot shows and as soon as we headed I tacked back for our get out of jail shift for the day. That one shift let us cross Amante, Hanni and Agrovation. Having got out of the tide we short tacked Steele Point and the baths until we worked into a nice lift towards the mark. The lift disappeared up near the east channel mark and I tacked back to avoid the dirty air of Amante and Hitchhike just as the lift returned. That may or may not have cost us a little as there is no telling how badly we might have fared in the direct dirty air for the work into the mark.
Along the leg into the mark Joli was badly headed and crossed the closest we had been since the start but we did not follow and they picked up a good lift along the shore gaining back a considerable amount of the ground they had lost with the big header. Then they were next around the mark to Foreign affairs and took off with the tide for a substantial lead over Hitchhike, Passion X and Amante.
The run back was very quiet. Amante went inshore and picked up breeze while Hitchhike went wider and picked up tide. Around Steele Point we were defending our position from Hanni and Agrovation and came in closer than we normally do but to our surprise we passed a becalmed Amante to windward while Hitchhike to leeward picked up breeze and pulled away a minute by the shortened course finish in Rose Bay.

We would have done better defending our good start and going back into Rose Bay in phase with the fleet. Fortunately we had the one right hand shift to get back across to the fleet but by the look of the results there were others no so lucky and they languished out on the course as the breeze died.

The third place on handicap for the series was pleasing considering how much of the sailing was conducted to windward and with a 1,3,3 we have a good lead in the progressive point score.

The saw tooth pattern of our windward works against the tide is pretty evident as is the get out of jail lift in the middle of the chart plot.

The saw tooth pattern of our windward works against the tide is pretty evident as is the get out of jail lift in the middle of the chart plot.

 

Crackerjack likes a bit of breeze and usually does well and today, with wind and handicap in the right area, was no exception. Also Krakatoa returned to the podium with a small handicap advantage over Passion X where we filled the third place. It was very close from third through to 12th place with just two minutes separating the ten yachts.

We started at the start  boat behind Crosshaven and were pleased to keep our nose in front of the fleet for most of the run. We overtook Crosshaven when they ran deep due to having the jib poled out but in turn were overrun by the windward fleet as they drove down in the gusts.  Crackerjack and Joli were two of the yachts that ran past us to the top mark.

On the way home we had some pretty good angles but were mostly in phase with the fleet who were all picking the shifts well so it was mainly a speed test. Amante, the much modified Sydney 36 Cr won the windward work speed test pulling back Hanni a little but not passing her and leading out from Joli by a couple of minutes with Crosshaven just 4 second behind.  We enjoyed a tacking duel with Trim and Allegro who both passed us and we gave away three minutes on the work home to fellow GFS club member Joli and were mid fleet in conditions where we are still trying to find our mojo.

For the day we set our new No1 heavy genoa and a reef in the main. This worked quiet well as we were a little under powered on the run but over powered on the work. We had not expected continuous hard on the wind conditions on the way home and had hoped for tighter conditions on the way out and more free ones coming home. What we did try was OK and worth persevering with particularly if the wind has a bit more north in it however for today the full main and small jib poled out might have been more successful.

Courtesy of generous handicapping we had a first last week and a third this week which gives us the series lead for the time being. We will lose a bit of handicap next week and we might not pick the shifts so well.

Some pretty good tacking angles on the day

Some pretty good tacking angles on the day

I was apprehensive about the strong wind forecast for our first West Harbour Winter Series race. For several days the predicted wind on the harbour was above 25 knots and for the Woolwich area the BOM Meteye forecast was around 14 knots. The choices for the rig were the No 3 jib with a full main or the No 1 heavy genoa with a reef in the main. We chose the No 3 Jib which is very easy to tack but the full main is harder to gybe because of the running backstays. We started a minute late due to a very short preparation time and will reschedule our affairs so we have more preparation time for the next race. Nevertheless we did well to arrive at the start line with most of the spinnaker sheets run and ready to take off on starboard tack. Being a minute late was a blessing in a way as we had a clear lane and no interference. Before long we were overtaking the tail of the fleet and with careful adjustment of the halyards and foot tension were making best use of the sail area we had deployed. While we had the code zero set up we elected not to deploy it due to the tight angles, short legs and forecast strong wind.
It was an enjoyable and uneventful sail until the second reach along the Hunters Hill shore. We had been having a close race with the Pogo 36 which also has a fat head mainsail but it is 600 mm wider than Passion X which gives it great stability Also they were flying a code Zero or asymmetric spinnaker, I am not sure which, and that gave them an edges on the broader legs. The Flying Tiger was also just in front and we are happy to be in company with FT’s any day. The peaceful sail was interrupted when the yachts just in front flying spinnakers were hit with a freshening header causing a lot of chaos. The Fareast 28 in particular was giving a demonstration of how to lay a boat sideways while more cautious ones were dousing their spinnakers.
With just the main and jib we were making up good time until overtaken to leeward by a yacht that had a curious interpretation of “Proper course”. We were both under just main and jib where the proper course would have been to run to Clarke Point but we were driven well above the point and eventually at right angles to the course to the mark in near Woolwich. This enormous detour required two gybes to get back to the mark and a lot of lost time. Instead of a safe and cautious day we had a few moments of mayhem. Fortunately we had just the work to the finish to manage which we did as carefully as we could under the circumstances losing as little as a minute and two fastest times places in the process.
The handicap result was more generous where we finished on fourth place just a second shy of third and two seconds in front of fifth. A clear start on time might have seen us reach second place on handicap but I much prefer a string of fourth places and less damage to the handicap for the next outing. http://www.topyacht.net.au/results/balmainsc/2018/kb/whws/01RGrp19.htm

As we sailed back to our mooring in Greenwich the forecast wind arrived together with a rain squall so we were thankful the sailing for the day had finished. For the Greenwich yacht that had ventured under the bridge for the winter series on the harbour proper they saw gusts of up to 34 knots.

The promised fifteen knots breeze did not eventuate but the six to nine knots one suited Passion X quite well. The crew selected the No 1 light genoa which I conceded should be ok for the windward work before the forecast breeze kicked. It is just as well I conceded as the run home was mostly in light airs where the lighter sail cloth kept the genoa flying. The pin end was favoured but non of the Div 1 s yachts took that lane so I did not jockey for the end but started three back from the start mark and tacked for clear air as soon as I could. Our starboard tack was curtailed by a passing ferry and we had to make a huge dip to clear the stern of Allegro who kept sailing into the dirty air of the ferry and into lighter air. The north shore proved a poor choice and we overtook a couple of Div 1 s yachts who were becalmed on that side and sailing back into a header. Allegro suffered some of that and allowed us to take off after Hitchhike and Hanni. With a couple of good tacks we were crossing tacks with the leaders but they got the better of us on the last tacks into the windward mark. The run home was a matter of preserving the lead we three had built up over Amante, Allegro and Trim. Around Steele Point we went wider than Hanni and Hitchhike and kept breeze for longer but they received new breeze in time to maintain a lead into Rose Bay. While we had been catching Hitchhike and Hanni, Amante had been catching us but we held her off into Point Piper and pulled away around the Island. A poor gybe around the south of Shark Island cost us a few yards and anxious moments on the run back to the finish line. Hanni and Hitchhike pulled away once they cleared the wind shadow of Shark Island but we suffered more in the wind shadow. We were very pleased with our third fastest on the day and particularly the windward working in the eight knots of breeze where we consistently sailed at six knots. A clean bottom and clear air helped and with no close company to worry about tacking angles we sailed for speed. The first on handicap was a bit of a gift but we will take it and be prepared for a stiff correction next week.

Nothing spectacular about the angles but we did well to windward anyway.

Nothing spectacular about the angles but we did well to windward anyway.

The Masthead runner taking over the house like the plant from "The Little Shop of Horrors

The Masthead runner taking over the house like the plant from “The Little Shop of Horrors

A week after the last race of the Port Stephens Regatta we are still drying sails. We are not alone as on Friday we found a fellow club member at Greenwich with sails hoisted on every flag mast for washing and drying. We had already dried two spinnakers at home and returned these to Passion X. In windless but sunny conditions we hoisted the wet No 3 jib on the forestay and rolled out the damp Code Zero in the continuous line furler. Every time I hoist the Code Zero it seems easier to set up and bring down and Friday was no exception. That left two very soggy No 1 genoas, the heavy and light ones, which I wanted to wash thoroughly with fresh water so these came home for the Easter weekend. The wash and dry was an opportunity to lay out the genoas on top of each other and see the differences. For good measure I photographed the sails on the back lawn. The new No 1 heavy is marginally smaller than the No 1 light but quite a bit larger than the old No 1 heavy or 1.5 as I liked to call it. The extra area is low down on the deck and with more overlap low down so hopefully it will be good all purpose sail so we can keep the 44m2 No 1 light for lighter conditions. Obsessively I have been weighing the equipment as it comes off Passion X to see what weight we can save for the winter series. So far about 100 kgs is in the house including 5 kg from the front berth cushions which were getting very wet during the racing and will go back on only when cruising with another couple. I have yet to remove the No 4 jib which has not been used since the race management at RANSA has become very cautions and the storm jib which has not been out of the sail bag since purchase. These will save another 30 kg and bring the total up to only 130 kg so I do wonder if it is worth all the effort. We did end up victorious in the Greenwich Flying Squadron Twilight handicap series for the full season. A good Spring series and a late run at the results in the Autumn series sealed the result. Meticulous attention to the cleanliness of the hull was the secret as we have a fair amount of wetted surface for our weight and not a lot of righting moment to use to power up the rig.

The new No 1 heavy, underneath, is substantially larger low down than the old 1.5 off of the old Passion

The new No 1 heavy, underneath, is substantially larger low down than the old 1.5 off of the old Passion

The No 1 light, underneath, is only marginally larger than the No 1 heavy but is about 4kg lighter.

The No 1 light, underneath, is only marginally larger than the No 1 heavy but is about 4kg lighter.

Drying out one of the spinnakers in the sun room.

Drying out one of the spinnakers in the sun room.

The passing of Ron Beament on board Passion X on the Monday of the Port Stephens Regatta was a devastating event. Ron was such a nice guy and an integral part of the group of friends who sail Passion X that everything else pales in significance. The rest of the week was more about comforting ourselves in our grief and honouring his passing. As a group we attended Ron’s memorial service on the Saturday wearing our Passion X shirts and only then did we realise how significant we were in Ron’s life. I am so proud of the team of Passion X crew and supporters who handled the events with great dignity and composure. The support of the Race Committee, especially the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club support boat, the paramedics and the Water Police was greatly appreciated. The Water Police in particular were most empathetic and professional to the crew and to Ron’s family. The tribute to Ron’s life from the competitors, particularly the Greenwich Flying Squadron team was greatly appreciated and passed on to his family.
The rest of the sailing was conducted quietly and with mostly mid fleet performances on time and handicap.
The Newcastle to Port Stephens race was a good event. We started with the big no 1 genoa in very light conditions and did well early by staying in the breeze off shore. We were very well up when the leading yachts tacked back to the shore once the breeze had built. They tacked into a progressive header but got back in front of the fleet which was still in light airs inshore.
When we were passed offshore by a Sydney 38 we tacked back and were rewarded with a big lift. Then each opportunity the fleet tacked back inshore for a progressive lift and flatter water. The breeze built to around 17 knots which was too much for the big genoa. The leading Sydney 38 reefed the main and beat the rest of the 38′s by a large margin. Beating to windward is not the strong point of the Didi 40 Cr design which was created for mostly downwind ocean races but we performed very well until the breeze built to over 15 knots.
In the Port Stephens races we did well when we could deploy the Code Zero sail but mostly the breeze was free enough for competitors to fly asymmetric spinnakers or reaching symmetric ones. We carry a significant rating penalty for the beating Code Zero and it appears that the rating is meant to discourage the use, not give a fair handicap for this type of sail. The boats with slick spinnaker work did well in these conditions and while our spinnaker work improved through the regatta we did not sail enough races.

Reflecting on the good points from the trip up and back the new spray dodger was a great asset and made the long trips much more enjoyable that otherwise. We motored back into a 16 knot southerly on the Monday after the regatta sitting under the protection of the spray dodger. Elaine remarked on how much more comfortable the tiller steering and spray dodger was on Passion X compared to the wheel steering on Passion where the helms person was exposed to the spray. The combination of spray dodger, tiller and auto pilot made the trip much more comfortable.

We spent the nights during the regatta in the large quarter berth which left the V berth free for sails. I am now contemplating removing all the V berth cushions so that it is dedicated to sails and we are less concerned at all the water that comes in with wet sails. The timing of rains squalls at this regatta was particularly inconvenient for wet sails and we have a job ahead to dry five sails.

The fridge is too good. Anything placed in the open freezer section did freeze and if in glass then the glass broke. So frozen were the contents that no liquid escaped into the bottom of the compartment. Also the idea of having a separate cold storage bag inside the fridge for the food worked especially well at keeping the freezer clean and uncluttered.

The Yanmar 30Hp engine performed well. We averaged 6 knots for the trip from Port Stephens to Pittwater against wind and tide. Cruising revs was around 2800 RPM for the return trip against 2400 RPM for the trip up when we had wind behind. I had been concerned at the amount of white smoke coming from the exhaust but after a refill at Nelson Bay and with some mixing of the tank contents with the wave motion the smoke stopped so I am putting that down to a diesel fuel issue. We used about half a tank for the trip home despite the headwinds and current. That was 18 hours of motoring so I estimate with the 20 litres back up in the fuel locker we could motor for over 40 hours.

Nothing broke! No fittings, no ropes, no sails etc so it was on inexpensive regatta from that perspective. Everything worked as it should so there is no follow  up needed other than drying sails.

Our last stage of the motor home was from the comfort of a very peaceful Refuge Bay to our mooring in Greenwich. With the help of an outgoing tide in Pittwater we made the trip in record time and spend a couple of hours unloading Passion X alongside the pontoon at GFS. All the Category 4 heavy items were  unloaded, some for washing and storage and some just to put the boat back into light ship mode. The salt spray was washed from the deck and the deck stored sail bags and the tanks emptied again and refilled up to a quarter full.  It took forever to empty from the empty level on the level indicator to really empty so there is a good safety margin from the water empty level to really dry.

The two day trip home was a good opportunity for Elaine and I to reflect on the events of the past week and how grateful we are for the support of a wonderful crew.

Leading the Newcastle to Port Stephens fleet out of the harbour. (Under motor)

Leading the Newcastle to Port Stephens fleet out of the harbour. (Under motor)

Passion X at Port Stephens flying a black ribbon to remember Ron

Passion X at Port Stephens flying a black ribbon to remember Ron

Ron on the mainsheet of one of the Passions

Ron on the mainsheet of one of Passion X

Our friend and crewmate of many years, Ron Beament, passed away on board Passion X on Monday afternoon during the Commodores Cup regatta at Port Stephens.

Ron had a lovely temperament and was a great supporter on and off the water. He was extremely knowledgeable and all the crew enjoyed his company and his conversation. Ron helped with the modifications on our old Passion and with the building, turning and launching of Passion X. His handiwork will live on in Passion X.

Ron passed quickly among friends he had sailed with over many years and despite the best efforts of the crew, committee boat, paramedics and water police could not be revived. The regatta held a minutes silence for Ron on Tuesday and many of the fleet flew black ribbons for him on Wednesday.

The Greenwich Flying Squadron members at Port Stephens will toast Ron with his signature drink, a lemon lime and bitters, tonight.

Ron’s memorial service will be held this Saturday 13th April, at 11:30 am at the East Chapel of the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, 199 Delhi Road, North Ryde. Family and friends are warmly invited to attend. Sadly missed.

Ron working away at our home on Passion X

Ron working away at our home on Passion Xl

We had an ordinary Autumn series until we upped the cleaning schedule on the bottom. After that results returned to normal but not spectacular. An OCS one week cost us four and a half minutes and a wayward Blue fleet last week cost both Passion X and Utopia a good eight minutes. Despite these setbacks we were still in the lead for the combined Spring and Autumn series due to a very good Spring result.

By my calculations we were clear of Avalon but wary of their recent stellar performances. With that in mind there was just one strategy to adopt and that was to sit on Avalon. We did manage to time the start well and as the most leeward yacht had a good angle to Onions Point which we reached first by a short half foredeck from one of the J112′s. In Humbug both the J112′s went in close to Greenwich leaving us clear air below. Normally we would have gone wider but Avalon was holding out their genoa to windward and making fast progress up to our stern so we closed the gap but still kept wider of the hill than Joli and Meridian. Being wider helped a lot as we had first use of the breeze and managed to work up under Meridian. We did not mind that Much Ado V went the preferred course even wider and much faster to establish a good lead because we had Avalon tucked back in the dirty air of Passion X and Meridian.

As we approached Goat Island both Passion X and Avalon had pulled clear of Meridian. Avalon with only the dirty air of Passion X to contend with was right on out stern approaching the Goat Island shore. We called for water to tack and they called back sooner than I expected with a “you tack” which we were obliged to do. Avalon carried on that extra boat length into the shore and tacked above us with clear air and Starboard rights all the way to the mark.

That was the end of sitting on Avalon and the objective now was to stay as close as possible for the second half of the race. We managed that all the way to Long Nose only to come to a halt with no breeze. Dump Truck powered up from behind and went right past and Meridian and Joli followed close behind. Meridian had a nice twist in the leech of the mainsail that seemed to work well in the ultra light and flukey conditions while Joli went in too close to the hill to be a threat. We eased the main halyard to get some twist into the main and as the breeze freshened we picked up speed. The breeze was fresher through Humbug which helped us keep clear of the following fleet including Joli, Jackpot and Lisdillon and further back Ausreo.

The good start and sitting on Avalon paid off in the results as Much Ado V picked up the daily double of first and fastest, Lisdillon the second on handicap and Passion X third on handicap.

I have not seen the cumulative results yet but the third will improve our Autumn series results and should give us the overall lead for the season. We will just have to wait for the scorer to get the results up. I believe Avalon will be second which is an excellent performance since like all new participants in the club they carried a high handicap for the first three races of the series. Their undoing was to win too many races by too large a margin while the handicap system rewards the plodders who finish around fourth place every week.

It was good that Meridian gave us a refresher course in sailing in almost no wind as we are off to Port Stephens next week and the long range forecast is for a very light Monday and Tuesday.

Dump Truck goes over the top

Dump Truck goes over the top

Meridian with twisted main goes over the top while Dump Truck and Avalon are close to leeward

Meridian with twisted main goes over the top while Dump Truck and Avalon are close to leeward

Despite the forecast for little breeze we set out today to practice our spinnaker work and to hoist our new No1 heavy genoa. To our delight the breeze kicked in at around 12 knots which was a perfect test for a perfect new genoa. We worked up to Manly with very little traffic to disturb our trip and tuned around and hoisted our fractional spinnaker.
After a second work back up the harbour we hoisted the 6o sq metres code zero and gybed that four times on the way back to Greenwich. We practiced gybing outside the forestay but settled for furling the code zero and unfurling on the opposite gybe which seemed more effective and less susceptible to problems.
It was a long but very enjoyable afternoon during which we hit our windward speed targets a few times. The new genoa is a Dimension Polyant Carbon Sports light skin with the same area as our old No 1 from Passion which had been recut to fit around the shrouds on Passion X. The new sail is longer on the foot and can be sheeted closer to the deck while still clearing the shrouds. More of the area is lower down and forming a better end plate with the deck so we are hopeful that it will be useful over a wider wind range and we are very pleased with the first sail.

Our new No 1 heavy genoa our for a test sail where we hit our speed targets several times.

Our new No 1 heavy genoa our for a test sail where we hit our speed targets several times.

The inspiration for the title comes from the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page where photo entries for the night refer to chaos. It was indeed chaotic both on the way out and on the way back in so full marks to Avalon for another fastest and a second on handicap. We were hard on the transom of Jackpot who was second fastest but we were forced to tack away by port tackers coming off the Onion Point shore and refusing to tack back. The two tacks we made away from our right of way tack cost us eight minutes and from the photos of the mayhem Utopia was disadvantaged even more and trailed us across the line. Both from the video from the deck of Aetos and from Jeff Lewis’ posts the setback to Utopia is very evident.
Our 5th fastest could have been better but for being on the wrong side of a shift at Goat Island and for the port tackers in Humbug but we salvaged a 5th on handicap for the penultimate race of the season.
We made a clear start at the club end of the line and only Avalon was quicker into Humbug but there we were both overrun by yachts squeezing between the moored yachts and the right of way yachts ahead. Avalon conceded we could not give them their right because of the yachts overrunning us from behind and we both went low and away from the new breeze.
From memory Jackpot, Meridian and Utopia managed to get their noses in front while Avalon below went the long way around but sailed into stronger winds quite promptly. We were just nosing ahead of Joli and holding our own but we both had some catching to do. The big Ausreo had drifted through Humbug well and was ahead of both of us while Much Ado V was just to leeward.
For most of the work to Goat Island we sailed well picking off first Ausreo and later Joli but on the approach to Goat Island Much Ado V tacked on top of us and while we were pinned down on the northern shore the Goat Island shore paid off well for Ausreo and Joli. Our phasing with the wind was not ideal and we ended up pinching slowly to clear the eastern end of Goat Island.
Around Goat Island we picked a middle line and sailed around Much Ado V who were caught in wind shadow and sailed over Ausreo.
The final throw of the dice was in Humbug. Much Ado V had caught us on the run to Humbug but went in too close and died in the doldrums. We went wide and lined up Jackpot, sailed up to Meridian and had Joli down to leeward.

Utopia had already tacked away from the chaos along the Onion Point shore and was becalmed mid stream. Some how Jackpot just passed ahead of the port tackers while we were forced to tack away leaving Meridian and Joli to sneak past the port tackers sterns. That gave Jackpot a big break and a first on handicap while Avalon hung on for second on handicap.

We had been fortunate to catch up to the fleet but could not make the four boat lengths we need to clear the impenetrable row of port tackers.

Utopia tried to make up ground from the nine minutes she had lost to Avalon but we were both caught in a very light phase and had the fleet coming up from behind with breeze so Lisdillon took third and Fireball fourth on handicap. That left Passion X on fifth with one more throw of the dice next week.

Jackpot sneaking around in front of the port tackers who forced us about

Jackpot sneaking around in front of the port tackers who forced us about

Joli below and Utopia becalmed out mid stream

Joli below and Utopia becalmed out mid stream

Passion X just holding out Utopi on the finish line

Passion X just holding out Utopi on the finish line

A photo for the Utopia "we were robbed" gallery

A photo for the Utopia “we were robbed” gallery

Closing in on Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji at Goat Island

Closing in on Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji at Goat Island

Tonight we had several glimpses of hope and we did manage a 4th fastest and second on handicap but there were three occasions when it looked even more promising.
We missed our scheduled clean on the hull this week but our visit to Pittwater on Monday and Tuesday was most likely equivalent to a half clean as we motored through an ocean of jelly fish up near Newport. We could feel the thump thump as we hit jellyfish after jellyfish and I imagine that the abrasion along the hull was enough to remove some of the marine growth.
The purpose of the visit to Pittwater was to have our new spray dodger fitted and that happened just in time for the first shower of Monday afternoon. After a quiet night in Refuge Bay we returned to Sydney on Tuesday and were treated to a display of around 100 dolphins just north of the heads. The dolphins provided an entertaining display of aerobatics and it is a shame we could not capture the aerial display on camera.
With our semi clean bottom and the biggest set of sails deployed we made a clean start at the pin end on starboard and held Dump Truck out on the line. Joli started to leeward and in clearer air so they pulled away well. Avalon started in even clearer air but could not cross us on port tack so tacked underneath us onto starboard. Now things got really interesting as we all lifted above Joli and has starboard rights as Joli tried to tack on port to go up Humbug. Somehow Avalon managed to shoot above Joli, probably with momentum but we were left on starboard pinned down by Dump Truck on our stern quarter. When Dump Truck finally tacked so we could go through Humbug we had to take a lot of transoms of the starboard tackers coming off Onions Point and that left us too low for the work out. One of the sterns we took was Utopia but that worked out well as when we all lined up for the work to Goat Island we were ahead of Utopia and had Much Ado V to leeward. Irukandji had escaped unnoticed through Humbug and was well ahead.
On the journey to Goat Island we managed to pinch up from under Utopia and work out from above Much Ado V. We will put that down to very careful trimming of the sails and attention to the fastest course to the Island so that at Goat we were very close to Joli and Dump Truck. Here the wheels fell off as we tacked away from a lift and by the time we reached the Goat Island navigation mark the knock we were on which was a massive lift for Joli on the opposite tack, had disappeared. Here we paid the price of trying to over optimize every wind shift and saw Avalon, Joli, Dump Truck and Irukandji draw further ahead.
On the run back to Long Nose we set out big genoa on our enormous whisker pole and started to make up ground. tactically we felt the fleet ahead had turned for Cockatoo Island too soon and were becalmed in the lee of the point so we went very deep and on rounding up had a bit of a struggle to get up to the corner of Cockatoo Island. We did make up some ground and on rounding the west end of Cockatoo Island we tried it again by going hard and deep to the Hunters Hill shore. This paid dividends as we sailed through the lee of Irukandji but failed to catch Joli and Dump Truck. Utopia had made up good ground on the leg to Cockatoo Island but went in very close to the Island and failed to capitalize on the move.
Once around Clarke Point it was a race to see who could go the lowest to the Onions Point shore and try as we might we could not catch Joli or Dump Truck. At Onion Point we were caught in the wind shadow of an equally large Blue fleet yacht and watched as both Irukandji and Utopia crept closer. As the breeze swung so that we were running by the lee we effectively had clear air and pulled through to the finish line relieved to have held our position.

Well done to Avalon who lead almost from start to finish and did finish six and a half minutes clear of Joli with Dump Truck another half a minute behind. Avalon took first and fastest while our handicap allowed us to take second place. The dying breeze did make the finishing times stretch out and after Much Ado V the times really stretched out just due to the dying breeze.

Closing in again at Clarke Point

Closing in again at Clarke Point

 

Watching Dump Truck finish in the dark

Watching Dump Truck finish in the dark

Shane Beashel fitting the new spray dodger at Newport

Shane Beashel fitting the new spray dodger at Newport

 

The run out tide and no wind resulted in us being carried well over the start line with minutes still to go. Unfortunately there was not enough wind to get us back over the line in time so we were forced to go around the end and start three and a half minutes later than the fleet. All was not lost as a following breeze sprang up and assisted by the tide we drifted down on the Blank and Green and White fleet yachts still becalmed in Humbug. The Commodore very kindly let us go along the Onion Point shore on starboard tack. This allowed us to make up some ground but we had to be on the other side of the fleet on port tack. We waited for an opportunity to gybe very sharply and take the stern of about twenty yachts who were going the other way and being very wide we skirted the fleet.
In the light air beam reaching we held Utopia all the way to Goat Island. It was only in the lee of Goat that Utopia crept away. Meantime Dump Truck who had been becalmed at Greenwich arrived at Goat Island to add to the fleet. Avalon was around Goat Island but becalmed. Jackpot was parked just behind and Joli just behind Jackpot. Utopia found some different breeze and went closer to Goat Island than we thought was wise but Dump Truck did the same and made it through.
Apart from Dump Truck the fleet more or less came out of the Goat Island rounding as they went in which left us chasing on the reach and run to Cockatoo Island. With a bit of following breeze Ausreo came up to our stern but fortunately we trimmed the sails a accelerated away.
We were relieved that Ausreo called it a night and went home as that let us to concentrate on poling out the big genoa and chasing the leaders.
Along the run we drew up to Joli who promptly passed us on the work back to Humbug.
In the fading light it was impossible to see the tell tales on the black genoa so I was sailing part by instruments and part by the call of the crew. I was now dark in Humbug and impossible to see the shifts. What I can see from the tracks is that we did a pretty terrible job on the way through Humbug but even a miracle run would not have been enough to finish on time. Today I assigned all the bulkhead instruments to a group display so that by adjusting one knob I will be able to dim all the instruments. That might make seeing the sails in the dark a little easier.
Avalon, Jackpot and Dump Truck all made the cut off. Dump Truck was the last to finish at 20:12:03 with 2:57 to spare. At the 20:15:00.0000 cut off we were just at Onion Point bearing away for the line. Somewhere in between Utopia and Joli were caught by the unforgiving guillotine of the absolute deadline.

Just one of the three finishers turned up for the post race presentation which left two places to be drawn by lucky dip and Joli and Passion X each won one of those prizes.

The other prize for the evening was some very good photos taken of Passion X by one of the crew on Grandparent duty the previous Wednesday. I have taken a photograph of some of these but will get the digital versions in due course.

Passion X from the previous week.

Passion X from the previous week.

Another good photo taken by absent crew.

Another good photo taken by absent crew.

A less than ideal path through Humbug on the futile work home.

A less than ideal path through Humbug on the futile work home.

The fleet coming together  in the lee of Goat Island

The fleet coming together in the lee of Goat Island

Had the forecast 25 knots turned up as planned we could have been famous and come home with a roaring southerly but it was not to be. Our cautious selection of a heavy air No 3 jib looked ok as we picked the start well and the breeze held well over 5 knots. We won the race into Humbug and kept the lead to the corner of Cockatoo Island. At that point the breeze and our luck ran out. In turn Avalon, Utopia and Jackpot ran past and lead around the corner of the island to start the work to Goat Island. We made a tactical mistake at this stage of staying too close to the leeward side of Cockatoo Island and waiting for the breeze while Joli and Fireball went lower and faster. Full marks to Fireball for going the lowest along the Hunters Hill shore and then along the Greenwich shore completely skirting the windward yachts. Our small heavy weather jib was not helping but we would have gone a lot better if we had lead Fireball along the norther shore lines where the outgoing tide was the strongest. By the time we arrived at Goat Island the breeze had died even further and as we rounded the eastern end we could see Avalon coming out of the western end on the way back to the club. The rest of the race was a lonely event as our small sail area and dying breeze did not give us much hope of making up any ground. Lisdillon was coming up from behind and our last challenge for the evening was to stay in front until the finishing line. This we did by a small margin and that left Sweet Chariot out on the course with not much help from the wind to come home.
Thanks to the good start and a bit of breeze for the first quarter of the race we managed to hold on for 6th fastest and 6th on handicap with 35 minutes to spare to cut off time. The Blue fleet who started 5 minutes later and did a similar length course were still out on the water well after our finish and three yachts from different fleets failed to complete at the 8:15 cut off time. It was sad seeing them just metres from the line at the cut off time.
Now the forecast wind decided to arrive about 10 minutes after the 8:15 deadline and was already building as I motored to the mooring.
Fireball with good tactics won the handicap by a couple of minutes from Avalon with Utopia a further four minutes on handicap back. We were 9 minutes away from first on handicap and unlikely to have beaten Fireball with any head sail we chose. We might however have got onto the podium as we were less that four minutes behind Utopia.
It was an interesting experiment but our jib is just too small for these light winds.