We did everything possible today to get a good result in the RANSA Winter Wednesday. Every surplus sail was removed from the yacht and left in the Greenwich Flying Squadron clubhouse for the afternoon. We set the larger of our two radial cut carbon genoas and pre race adjusted sheet cars to the best position for light air beating. Even the crew bags were moved to the forward cabin to get the bow down and the fat stern out of the water.

Due to the lack of wind the race was postponed and during this period we lost track of the start time. Agrovation was kind enough to call down the time so we could restart our watches and in return we let them into the line at the start boat but not Amanti who was too high on the line. Allegro started well a few boats widths to leeward so we were able to pull well below Agrovation and work into clear air.
The boat end was the right place to start and once in front of Agrovation we had only Allegro to leeward and ahead to contend with. For a long time we made very small gains and were working above the line of the mark so we pulled away a little and were surprised that Allegro started to pull away again. As the breeze headed we were back working and lifting above Allegro again and this time we broke through to have a clear ahead position going into the top mark. The leeward end of the line starters were punished by this late shift and never got up to the line of the mark.
We had eyes for no other boats at this stage as Allegro was only a few boat lengths behind and doing just as well on the broad reach. I worked up to Allegro’s line even though we did not want to go too close to Steele Point just to have the same breeze and that worked for a while until we reached Steele Point and Allego went where we would not dare to go. For a while their momentum kept them moving ahead while we slowed to leeward but once into the wind shadow they stopped and as the wind came over the hill we restarted sooner and were able to lift up into a clear ahead position aiming for the finishing boat at the Rose Bay mark.
We did get the gun for the first time this season and were pretty pleased with our effort. The extra 4 m2 in the larger genoa seemed to help to windward. The foot sweeps the deck more closely that the smaller one and that might contribute to the windward performance. It was our breeze with the wind rarely getting above 7 knots and at that we were close to our heel angle.

Joli had been close behind Allegro reaching back to Steele Point but seemed to get caught in the wind shadow and slipped a little further back but still close enough to take 3rd place despite her large handicap. Agrovation had the best start of the day at the boat and hung on for a fifth place on handicap.
We did take the handicap honours from Allegro and Joli but by my calculations these were No 2 and No 1 on the handicap leader board and our 1 and 2 points gains respectively not enough. Larrikin was not in the fleet today which just proves there is a reward for attendance. And what a reward it was with the rain holding off until the sails were packed away for the day and the race committee shortening the course at the appropriate time.

Despite the cold weather we are experiencing the sunny windless days are perfect for maintenance work on Passion X.
Several weeks ago we were embarrassed when as port tacking yacht we could not find a gap between the starboard running yachts. Now if it was the world championships or even the last day of a regatta we could understand a hole not opening up for us but one did not and we hit a friend and damaged the overhang on the sugar scoop transom on Passion X. I promptly glued up the damage and while it was coated with plenty of epoxy it still needed a final capping piece to complete the work.
Saturday was a perfect day for the task and I fabricated a capping piece from 12 mm hardwood plywood using the old shattered capping piece as a template. it worked a treat and the new piece was splice joined into the good section out on the water. Today was the only time I had to do some final filling and fairing as I have a busy week ahead. The longest part of the process was sanding off the two pack polyurethane resin from the areas adjacent to the work so that the new epoxy coating would stick properly.
Tonight is is all done and with the surplus two pack epoxy I tidied up some of the nicks in the transom from the storm damage at Port Stephens back in April. The nicks had been filled with epoxy filler but it was discolouring with age and needed tidying up.
The job is not finished as the epoxy needs more filling and fairing but for now it is all white and water tight.
I took the opportunity to remove some surplus tools from Passion X which will be of benefit in the coming week as the forecast for Wednesday looks pretty light.

Will need all the weight out of Passion X on Wednesday

Will need all the weight out of Passion X on Wednesday

We started right on the line on time today and were rewarded with clear air to establish a lead on our favourite reaching leg. The pin end was biased and there were so many yachts vying for the pin that I expressed the opinion to the crew that we were best off being the most windward of the leeward yachts. That way we would have first use of any breeze coming across the fleet. The crew agreed and we executed well. On the reach we used a sheet run to the rail to minimise the twist in the old faithful carbon genoa and took advantage of the gust to run away just like Hitchhike did last week. Clear air must be a great assist as this week we had the clear air on Hitchhike and they did not catch us. At one stage on the reach the wind speed hit 21.1 knots and we hit over 9 knots of boat speed arriving at the mark with enough time for a tidy rounding for the work back to Rose bay.
Working is our weak point but we pulled on the back stay tight and settled in for the long slog. At first our line was taking us above the mark we have to stay inside but the breeze headed which took us right back into the Div 2 fleet coming in on starboard tack. The fleet was so dense we could not thread through. We also had to tack to clear the mark but this left us on port pinned in by the Div 2 boats and the following Div 1 boats. We were now the most windward yacht and already suffering from disturbed air off the shore but we were further out than last time and held the course all the way to Steele Poin. We hung on in header waiting for a line to clear the point but by the time we tacked the we were now being headed on starboard tack and had dropped into the dirty air of Amante and Arunga.
Working into Rose Bay we got a little back with a lift along the shore but not enough to clear the Rose Bay mark.
Once around the mark we were back on a reach and able to put distance between us and Enigma the Div 2 yacht that was making life difficult. Into Point Piper we made up ground but not enough. The run down to round Shark Island was spend looking over the shoulder at Allegro and while we did play the shifts on the work around Shark Island she was quick enough to draw alongside at the mark. Fortunately we were now reaching to the naval buoys and on our favoured angle so we held off Allegro. We were pleased with this result as both yachts had had a bottom scrub by Harbour Dive Services within an hour of the race start.
i did not get a close look at Amante’s underside but judging by her performance I guess it was cleaner than it has been.
Hanni was the surprise performer with a fastest time from Amante and the casual entry the J112e Urunga. That left us fourth fastest on the day but it was not enough to do well on handicap. The large fleet of 19 yachts that enjoyed the conditions had plenty of good performances including a second from Larrikin who is zooming up the leader board with a 3,2,2 in the last three races.
Joli struggled with just 3 on board but on my calculations after the first drop they will be at the top of the board from Allegro and Hitchhike. Our eighth was enough to take us up to fourth as soon as the first drop is applied.
For the day we reached well but did not pick a good windward path through the fleet and the wind shifts. Also on one crash tack I had the windward genoa sheet wrapped around my ankle which was very slow.

Just an average day at picking wind shifts.

Just an average day at picking wind shifts.

It was a cold gusty westerly today with a forecast for Sydney of 28 knots and 16 degrees so we set our No 3 jib and put in one reef in the main. With the one reef in the head of the sail passes below the running backstays and makes tacking and gybing comfortable on board. We made a good start at the boat end with clear air only because we could not get down to the pin. As it happened we cleared the boat with just few centimetres to spare and tried to stay above the fleet. We looked good until the breeze headed and the pin end starters  came across on a lift and easily crossed ahead.

We stayed out of trouble tacking to port well below the yacht caught below the prohibited area marks so as to give everyone the maximum manouvering room in the windy conditions and were rewarded with a lift along the shore. The reach from Spectacle to Schnapper Island was spend setting up the code 0 for the long broad reach back to long nose. It was the right sail for the leg but we had the furled sail crossing the leech of the jib which prevented it from unfurling. It is surprising how little resistance is needed to stop the furler turning and we learnt this with quite a bit of time lost. Once set we  were holding out the Sydney 38, Avalon but lost out on the gybe to go to Goat Island when did not have the code zero ready to gybe. As it was very windy at this stage and gusting to 28 knots we elected to continue with jib and reefed main alone while Avalon and the Adams Xs in the fleet went with full mainsails.

It was a long hard work back from Goat Island to Spectacle Island and having been discouraged by our problems with the furler we elected not to fly the Code 0 again. In retrospect we should have persevered as it seem the furler line had been caught around a fairlead and we do need the practice.  Had we been able to resolve these issues we could have carried the Code 0 on six of the legs of the course.

Avalon ended up eight minutes in front which is about the usual time that Blue Chip, another Sydney 38 would finish in front in last years RANSA Winter Wednesday series in similar conditions. Full marks to them for carrying the full main around the course.

Irukandji did well as she likes the hard beating in a breeze and she carried her assymetric spinnaker so  well that we did not see her after the first leg. We did hold out two of the Adams X who carried full mains and the Sydney 36, Another Planet.

For the first lap when it was stronger we held out the Fareast28, Wilding2, and had a box seat to her thrills of carrying the Assymetric  down the reach from Spectacle to Schnapper Island without gaining on us but once she hit the broad reach she took off on a plane and in one gust pulled away four minutes on us.

Full marks to those who carried assymetric spinnaker and or carried full mainsails around a challenging course. For our part we need to practice the code 0 setting more and see if we can avoid tangles in the lines.

I should mention that the first yacht to finish was Skeeter, the Bethwaite 8, which was out of sight of most of the fleet all day. In these conditions where they can get up and plane while the displacement hulls are bogged down they have a distinct advantage. We did hit 10.2 knots in one gust but they were 17 minutes in front and did not do their handicap any favours.

Overnight I watched the replay of the Volvo Ocean race last in port race and saw Team Brunel having the same furler problems which prevented them deploying the larger masthead reaching sail. They had similar issues with friction between the existing sail and the new one so now I don’t feel so bad.

Passion X with the reefed fat head main and small jib heeling in the strong westerly.

Passion X with the reefed fat head main and small jib heeling in the strong westerly.

 

Wednesday at RANSA provided the close racing we like but so sorely missed last year when we were misplaced into DIV 1s. As expected we are quite competitive downwind but less so upwind. The sometimes gains downwind are insufficient to make up for the frequent losses upwind but we are competitive enough to stay with the leaders if we play the wind shifts well or get lucky. Last week we played the wind shifts almost to perfection but still managed only 4th on handicap as others further back in the fleet also played them well. This week we played the shifts quite well and made up some lost ground when we took the right hand side of the course on the beat back to the finish line. And while we finished close behind the J112e twins we still managed only 4th on handicap.
We know we played the shifts well from Shark Island as we were crossing tacks with Blue Chip from Div 1s who was on the earlier lap for that division.
The start was fair as we were concerned that someone might try a starboard hand start so we ended up to leeward of Allegro, Foreign Affairs and one of the J112e yachts. The arrival of a second J112e in the fleet had us mightily confused all day and we await an obvious name on the new arrival so we can distinguish her from Joli.
Hitchhike was to leeward in clear air while we had dirty air from Allegro whenever the wind went aft. I tried to run down in the puffs but the fleet above kept getting them first and pushing ahead so that we were also in dirty air when the breeze went forward. Eventually I worked all the way down to the line of Hitchhike who was also running away with the gusts and building up a good lead.
The beat back to Steele Point was tight but not so tight as to need a tack. At first we were slow and did not get competitive until we had the back stay on very tight and flattened the top of the main. With that done we were almost matching Amante, Joli and the casual entry Arunga, the second J112e. The all passed us around Steele Point but on the work to Point Piper we were able to take the windward side and retake Amante. Every time we went off the breeze the fast reaching Fidelis would loom up behind and she hung on well to windward to finish not far behind.

The last work to the finish was when we took the windward side of the course both for clear air and to keep in phase with the shifts. Here we caught Arunga and made up ground on Joli but not enough. Arunga timed the tack back to the finish well forcing us to tack to leeward a little tight of the mark so they slipped away in front.

Looking back in the fleet we could see Larrikin doing well for the second week and it was no surprise that Hitchhike, Larrikin and Allegro finished ahead on handicap.

I was surprised to see we were penalised 0.01 for next week but looking through the handicaps it looks fine with the pecking order now

Foreign Affairs, Hitchhike, Joli, Arunga, Allegro, Crosshaven, Passion, Amante and Fidelis. We take some satisfaction on being handicapped harder than Amante but we will see what happens when they have a clean bottom.

 

Nice angles on the way to the finish

Nice angles on the way to the finish

Yes it was wet and no amount of glass  half full thinking can change the fact the sailing gear is still dripping water onto the floor of our sun room. Inside Passion X the soaking wet No 1.5 genoa is dripping water into the other wise bone dry bilge.

Yes we set the No 1.5 black genoa which is the old faithful off Passion. Pre race we practiced letting the boom sit on the boom vang strut so that the wind could flow freely off the main. We proved we could do it but in the excitement of the race did not put it into practice.

At the leeward end of the line we started on time and soon had our nose in front of all the fleet. Clear air and a heading breeze can make any yacht look quick but we were also on our favoured angle . As the breeze headed it became a work which had us worried. When the breeze sprang up we flattened the main aggressively and seemed to hold the fleet. A long board on starboard put us in the ideal position to flip to port when a massive header with fresher winds hit. Now we could cover the fleet and get back south for the next header. I would have taken a photo of the tracks but it was so straight a line it did not look like a tack. Our first to the top mark was satisfying considering the amount of hard on the wind work but the breeze started to die. In the light breeze we were passed to leeward by Joli and this is where we should have tried the boom down on the vang but occasional puff kept us waiting for the breeze to return. Around Steel Point the breeze lifted taking us rapidly towards the short course finish in Rose Bay. Now it was our turn for a bit of adverse winds as the breeze died and headed leaving us well short of the mark. As Joli took the gun our time was extended by light breeze from the wrong direction. Mercifully we crossed the line next as the fleet came back with freshening breeze.

As we crossed the line I could see Agrovation in close company of Amanti and obviously having a blinder of a race. Also Larrikin was well up and I speculated she would do well. All my speculation proved correct as Agrovation won from Joli and Larrikin with Passion X in 4th place.

We did enjoy the result despite the rain and did enjoy the photo that DJ put up on the Greenwich Flying Squadron facebook page. It was a good GFS day with three of our yachts in the top four in Div 1 and Hasta La Vista second in Div 2.

As and update I took a photo of the tracks before I erased them before the next race and can now show how well we took advantage of the big wind change.

Love it. Sailing in almost the same directions on opposite tacks.

Love it. Sailing in almost the same directions on opposite tacks.

Last Sunday was the third race of the West Harbour Winter series and an enjoyable change of course. For the first time we were sent out around Shark Island and back around Goat. The course produced a good range of tight beating and close reaching with only one spinnaker possible leg from south of Goat Island to Long Nose.
All the excitement of the start was experienced in high definition as Boxer bore away to run down the line oblivious of our position to leeward. Only loud shouting woke them in time for a late bear away behind our stern. This was a truly frightening experience and the thought of a full speed Adams X crashing into the midships of a stationary Passion X does not bear contemplation.
We struggled off the leeward end of the line due to a late header which allowed the higher yachts to run over the top. Pinching hard is not our strong point and we had to wait till we cleared Balls Head to bear away and make up ground. We did well on the broader reach to pass Irukandji only to have them power over the top of us when we went hard on wind around Shark Island. We tried but were not to catch them again.
On the broad reach back from Goat we flew the code 0 outside the No 3 jib and did quite well except for the well sailed lightweight yachts with asymmetric kites on poles.
We finished mid fleet on handicap still wondering how to go faster to windward.
it was a most pleasant afternoon with an above expectation supply of breeze on a new and interesting course. A big thank you to the starters.

Wednesday was windy and pretty well as forecast on Seabreeze. For the first time this season we set the No 3 jib and a full main. We were cautious at the start not wanting to arrive at the line too early in strong winds and with the full main but took too long to wind in the sails and were late to the start. At first we went low with Hitchhike but had Agrovation right in front and the fleet to windward. Once we gained a bit of free air on the windward yachts we nose ahead of Izzi and went high to keep clear air and have first use of the gusts.
Crackerjack had made a cracker of a start and the big 40 footer was leading the fleet downwind. We were catching her and had we obtained an overlap might have had a better day but we failed went around with Hitchhike below and getting their sails on quicker. With our sails still flogging Hithchike came up from below and forced the tack. Once on port tack heading back to Steel Point we appeared to be making time on Crackerjack and holding Hitchhike but when a starboard tacking Div 2 boat came across I did not want to try to bear away in the breeze. We were now on Starboard but did not have the sails trimmed well and were dropping below the line of Joli who then held us up from tacking back to port for far too long. We were now the most windward of the fleet and too close to the influence of the land so we had a very difficult work for the rest of the way to Steel Point. Allegro had tacked in front of us on the way to Steel Point and her dirty air made matters worse. Despite these problems we still had a small lead on Amante which we held around Shark Island until the work back to Rose Bay. Again we did not maintain our height and had to wait for Amante to tack. The last leg back to the finish was enough off a beat to let us make up ground on Amante but she played well and did not let us get an overlap. Amante finished 6 seconds in front and will do better when she has a clean bottom.
We were two and a half minutes behind Hitchike and Allegro. This was Allego’s widest margin on Passion X for the season and shows how well they sailed to be second on handicap and first on point score for the season. Crackerjack hung on to beat us by half a minute and for their best result of the year and a first on handicap.
Joli was two minutes in front and just in front on handicap but they are third on point score while carrying a DNS so have been doing remarkably well.
Our minor adjustments for the coming weeks will be to crank the backstay on even tighter in the windy conditions. I have eased the lower D1s a turn to help the bottom of the mast bend. It is sleeved for the first 5 metres and is very stiff below the lower spreaders. We need to tighten up our mark roundings and will practice going wider so that we do not drop below the following fleet.
On the bright side we kept well clear of any other yachts and enjoyed a very quick race. It was good to be near the top of the fleet on the first run and with a better start we might have been first to the mark. Our Achilles heel is still the windward working in the breeze but we are improving.

We did well keeping clear air on the Eastern side of the course

We did well keeping clear air on the Eastern side of the course

 

A sea breeze arrived at least an hour earlier than expected and while light it was enough to get the fleet away for a race shortened at the top of Shark island.
At five knots the wind was enough to sag the forestay and build a little depth into the luff of the genoa and once that was achieved we settled down for a quiet work to the heads. The breeze was quite shifty and the yachts that picked up one or two good shifts did well. Agrovation was up near the front of the fleet on the work courtesy of some good tactics. We lost out to leeward of the fleet but came back on the first header and settled down among the top half dozen yachts. Joli and Passion X had a little tacking duel with Joli getting the better of the last bit of breeze to the right of the course and steaming over the top of Passion X. Around the top mark we could see Foreign Affairs off in the distance while Krakatoa, Joli, Crosshaven and Allegro gave chase. We rounded behind Joli but lost ground trying to pole out the genoa. Once we abandoned that idea we set out after the the top five and had occasional bursts of speed. Several times we got within boat lengths of Allegro but could not break through. Whenever we were caught in their dirty air we were particularly slow and on the beat from Point Piper to the finish we had to tack away for clear air and a one minute deficit on Allegro. Joli did particularly well on the broad reach to pass Krakatoa by a minute at the finish.
We picked the breeze quite well on the long windward work to the heads but as mentioned suffered whenever we were in disturbed air. A number of short tacks away for clear air helped and it also helped that the breeze freshened and lifted from the right. The broad run in the very light air was frustrating but we did pull out seven minutes on Agrovation and The Biz and did pass Carats so we should not complain.

The crew from last week squinting into the sun for a group photo.

The crew from last week squinting into the sun for a group photo.

The forecast for the breeze on Sunday for the second West Harbour Winter Series race was perfect. By that I mean it happened just as forecast because right on cue the wind dropped to nothing leaving us drifting to the line. What was less than a few minute arrears on the leaders ended up eight and without that lost time we might have been second placed thanks to an improving handicap. On ORCi we were less than two minutes away from the third placed Flying Tiger and while the ORCi fleet is tiny the corrected time differences are a good gauge of how we are improving.

We did get to fly the big yellow mast head spinnaker twice and while still slow on the sets are getting the take downs closer to the mark. Notable we made up time on the beam reach which was a bit too tight for the symmetric spinnaker.

In the light conditions it might be possible to drop the sock into the hatch leaving the clews attached to the sheets ready for the next hoist so there is a thought to play with.

In the light airs the sail settings are still a compromise as we need forestay sag to get flow near the luff of the genoa but need the backstay on tight to bend the mast and free the leech of the main. The next project will be to see how we can sit the boom on the vang strut so we can sag the forestay.

It is a late report but only because I have been very busy working for a client and for Elaine. I worked to 4 am Friday morning for a deadline and today painted the lounge room. I hope both the paying client and the non paying one are happy. Now for the report on the sailing on Wednesday. We had another lovely Autumn day on the harbour and a visit from my brother from Perth to augment the crew. The extra crew was desirable as the forecast was on the margin between No 1 genoa and No 3 jib. We opted for the No 1 genoa but left the lazy jacks up in case we needed to reef the main in a hurry. At the start we were as leeward of the fleet as we could be but found Joli even further to leeward aiming to be the first to the pin. Unfortunately for both of us there was a very large header just before the start which found us both pinching to make the mark. We would have cleared but Joli was so low they were stuck head to wind on the pin and we had to hold back for what seemed like an age for them to round the mark and restart. By the time we were able to clear the bow of Joli the fleet was well away. A broad reach is our best angle and we quickly caught all but Fidelis. As the wind died Hitchhike pulled through to leeward and we rounded the mark in third place. Now this is where things took a turn for the worse as we tacked right on the mark back into the starboard running fleet coming up to the mark. We could not go above the windward boat if it headed up but if it headed up we could go to leeward through the gap with Krakatoa to leeward. Unfortunately I misunderstood the intention of the windward right of way boat which left no choice but to shoot the gap and hope for the best. Unfortunately Krakatoa had boats to leeward and could not give us more room so we had a collision. Don on Krakatoa was most gracious when we went over post race to apologize.  It was our first at fault collision in all the years we have raced at RANSA and I have no excuse. It took time to find a clear area to do the mandatory 720 degree turns and we set off after Amanti and Allegro who had passed us in our tribulations. The two turns allowed Joli to catch up quickly and she caught us on Port and Starboard which required an unplanned tack with the crew still on the rail. The tack away from Joli took us too close to Steel Point and we suffered in the wind shadow. That was the last of the incidents for the day and we made a cautious way home. Ignoring Fidelis which is a rocket ship in the reaching conditions we finished three minutes behind Hitchhike and Amante, two behind Joli and one behind Allegro. After some recalculations we finished 12 out of 16 on handicap and would have needed three minutes to finish in third place. The two incidents were disappointing as we sailed well on the reach when the wind was fresh and did the return windward work better than we sailed last year. I saw some VMG to windward up at the 6 knot mark for the first time and the tighter back stay, flatter mainsail and tighter forestay seem to be working in the heavier winds. Top wind speed for the day was 22 knots but there was plenty of light air as well. Top boat speed was 10.4 knots. On the bright side we get a bit more handicap next week and on the dim side I have a repair to do to the sugar scoop stern at the deck level. It is not structural and for now is taped up to keep the moisture out of the timber.

Top wind speed was 22 knots

Top wind speed was 22 knots

We sailed off the course to do our 720 degrees turns. In the breeze they were pretty quick.

We sailed off the course to do our 720 degrees turns. In the breeze they were pretty quick.

Today was almost a repeat of last Wednesday only a little lighter but just as sunny and pleasant on the water.

We started towards the pin this week with just Trim below us and were able to climb above her for the first part of the beat. Once we were headed the backwind from Trim started to affect our performance so we tacked to port to cover the fleet. Looking back Trim had now fallen into our dirty air and we had a clear lane ahead.

Joli tacked early to port and when they came back on starboard we had to take their transom. After a few minutes they tacked to come with us to the south side of the harbour. The line that Joli took carried them above the island while we had to tack away from a lift. Then on the next shift to the right Joli was inside the whole fleet and steaming away. We also lifted but were crossing tacks with the Flying Tiger and just rounded the top mark inside Hitchhike.

On the poled out square run back to Steel point we held our position and made up a little ground on Joli but they managed the reach into Rose Bay particularly well while we had interference from the Div 1S fleet which took the wind out of our sails literally and figuratively. The Flying Tiger passed us just at the Point Piper mark. From then we were in her dirty air and so lost a little ground on the beat around the Island.

A light patch on the way home did not help our position and we could see Allegro in breeze behind making up ground. Hanni slipped past on the long square run so that we finished fourth fastest on the day.

Some very good tacking angles against a small incoming tide.

Some very good tacking angles against a small incoming tide.

The good points were that we played the backstay well but the wind was a little too light and we needed the higher tension for very short periods. We started well and but for the forced tack away from the Shark Island on the first work seemed to pick the breeze well. The tack away from the lift can be seen on the tracks below. We ran well in the slightly fresher breeze at the top of the course but not so well in the dying breeze approaching the finish.

This was the first time we have beaten Allegro and Amante and that put a smile on the faces of the crew.
Joli sailed very well and used their strong windward performance to establish a good lead over the fleet. On ORCi they would have given us a beating however on ORCi the Flying Tiger has to give us time and I estimate we would have beaten them be a minute. We were around 10 minutes faster than the we would have been in the old Passion judging from the performance of our competitors from two years age.

Now all this better performance did not translate into handicap results where we finished with the same 10 points as last week. Thank to the tiny increase in handicap from last week we managed to take 10 place by one second from Izzi.
Whatever the handicap result it is great for the crew to be somewhere near the front of the fleet and finishing 25 minutes earlier than last year.

Passion X big yellow spinnaker in the first of the West Harbour Winter Series for 2018

Passion X big yellow spinnaker in the first of the West Harbour Winter Series for 2018

After an hour delay we started the first race of the West Harbour Winter Series in a very light breeze. It was much sooner than expected and while light was enough to get around the shortened course. We were mid fleet in the off the stick results and mid fleet on the very close handicap results where a minute would have made a big difference. While we were last on ORCi we were only five minutes out of first place and close enough to believe that with a bit of slicker crew work we might be up into the prizes.
It was good to match the Sydney 38 for the first beat but we were a bit slow with the spinnaker which let them get away.
Most importantly we had a very pleasant afternoon and enjoyed the competition with the strong West Harbour fleet.

A late arrival of a couple of nice photos taken by GFS volunteers on the Committee boat was another above expectation surprise. Thank you Phil Hare.

Passion X and Tana on the long run down the Hunters Hill shore. Phil Hare photo.

Passion X and Tana on the long run down the Hunters Hill shore. Phil Hare photo.

After a season chasing the super yachts in Division 1s it was great to be back in Division 1 among yachts of similar capability. In a fleet of 17 yachts we were able to start 5 minutes later and finish 20 minutes earlier than we would have in Division 1s. On the day we made a good start at the boat end of a very well set line and mixed it with the fleet to windward in a way we could never do in Div 1s. A third of the way up the beat Izzi showed form and tacked just below our line. At the same time Amanti decided to tack right in front of us giving us a very big dose or disturbed air. Stuck between Izzi and Amanti it took some time to get clear air and wind back up to boat speed.
Crosshaven picked the wind shifts perfectly and made a good break on the fleet and Allegro powered away in the fresher patches of breeze.
We played the back stay as best we could flattening the main in the gusts and easing the back stay in the lulls and arrived at the windward mark in the top half of the fleet. Trim and Hanni were close behind and Hanni made a good charge up to take our wind. Once we had a bit of separation and had clear air we drew slowly away from Hanni and made up a little ground on Amanti, Allegro and Crosshaven. Foreign Affairs was being very foreign and cleared out from the fleet while the very lightly handicapped First 40, Leeward was enjoying the close racing among the lead group.
We never quite made up for the dumping Amanti gave us and finished a minute behind her and Allegro but it was a much more enjoyable race for all the crew .
The handicap place down at 12th out of 17 might look better as 10th out of 15 if the two casuals are really casuals but it was a bit of a disappointment being beaten by both the top and the bottom of the fastest times yachts. We needed to be three minutes faster to make it to a podium position and that was never going to be.

A happy crew back in Division 1 and mixing it with the fleet.

A happy crew back in Division 1 and mixing it with the fleet.

This is as close as we got to Allegro on the reach home

This is as close as we got to Allegro on the reach home

A wider shot of the fleet in front on the way home

A wider shot of the fleet in front on the way home

Most of the tacking angles were good but Crosshaven picked the shifts better.

Most of the tacking angles were good but Crosshaven picked the shifts better.

We did have a couple of very good races at the Sail Port Stephens regatta and considering it is our only spinnaker regatta for the year we should be happy with the result.

The biggest winner of the regatta had to be our code zero sail and while it cost a lot in the rating department most of the time we are sailing Performance Handicapping Systems and just want to be closer to the front of the fleet. Every time we flew the code zero it we had a good result and the one time we flew the asymmetric spinnaker in lieu we had our worst result. To be fair to the spinnaker it was the first time we had flown it and we were on the wrong side of the course for the freshening wind. Still the code zero would have let us fight for clear air and point higher towards the freshening breeze. In one race we thought the asymmetric might have been better than the code zero we flew but judging by later experience that may not have worked for us.

Our weakness in the regatta was still the heavy air working to windward but I felt we made some progress. Even with a years experience we are still learning and over the post race discussions with fellow skippers and crew we picked up some more advice to try. I have already tightened the cap shrouds and put a little pre-bend into the mast. That has improved the sail shape off the mast and even when short handed on the way home we managed to handle 20 knots with the full main and No 3 jib. While I did put in a reef for comfort the full crew would have been pressing for speed records and may have done better than the 13 knots recorded as the maximum hull speed. I am not sure how accurate that is but we did see an 13.7 max speed during the regatta in lighter conditions. On both occasions we saw 10 knot briefly on the live instruments and I think a jump to 13 is probably a very short spurt down a wave.

The big yellow mast head spinnaker was certainly a winner in the light running conditions but it is a bit heavy for the dead drifts when the foot tends to droop into the water. The spinnaker snuffers worked well except when I packed the small runner incorrectly. We took that one down and put up the big mast head runner which was packed correctly and as it turned out was the correct one for the conditions. I was more comfortable using the old No 1 genoa and the full mainsail for the whole regatta even when we saw 20 knots and after seeing a mast bending demonstration on one of the competitors I now know we have been too conservative in the back stay tension area.

On the last day of racing we had a second on handicap in the Performance Cruising division 1 and an eleventh fastest overall. We started well and were fourth to the windward mark and for the first time in the regatta were matching Amanti to windward. Their crew work was too slick downwind and we were becalmed on the way home when the second last placed yacht in the fleet sailed around the hole and went on to fourth fastest. It was rewarding to be in front of so many larger yachts in that race.

After the racing on the second last day we had a violent hail storm that rained down mini golf balls denting cars in the parking lots and stripping leaves off trees. Accompanying this was a powerful gust that freed the awning from the lifelines and left the deck exposed. At first I thought we had escaped any damage but later noticed two stanchions had been bent in. A small price to pay for a most enjoyable week.

On the way home we sailed away from some of our competitors as the beam reach suited Passion X well. We just need more of these conditions. For the Newcastle to Port Stephens race we did have tight reaching conditions for the first half of the race and with the code zero flying we were making a strong showing. Once the breeze headed the fleet we had to drop the Code Zero and go into tight beating mode where the heavier boats slowly overtook us.

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

The autopilot doing the steering on the way Sydney to Newcastle

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

Happy crew on the race to Port Stephens while the Code Zero was flying

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

The tracks for the beating part of the race to Port Stephens

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top speed for the regatta was 13.6 knots but we did not see this on the cockpit speed readout

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots

Top wind speed in the marina on last day of cancelled racing was 33.4 knots