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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Andrew for the perfect photo to match the commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Covid 19 restricted RANSA presentation night went off well despite the reduced attendance. Also present was John Conroy from Div 2 and Don Young from Krakatoa who took off the prize for our division.
We were rewarded for last year’s efforts with second place which is the engraved mug and laser cut plaque.
More surprising was to receive a second plaque for Passion X from our first year in Division 1 s when except for when the fleet went the wrong way we finished last in every race. The prize we received must have been a specially minted Race Committee trophy for persistence in the face of insurmountable odds. It may also have reflected our consistent appearance in a division which has had some inconsistent appearances due the the disparity in the performance of the yachts ranging from TP52’s to custom harbour racers to stock Sydney 38’s. We possibly stole the award from Blue Chip who was also a very consistent starter but whatever the circumstances it was a pleasant surprise.

Our haul from 2017 and 2020

After last years cancellation due to Covid 19 it was great to see a fleet of over 100 yachts, crews and supporters descend on Port Stephens for the regatta. As if to make up for last years cancellation the weather was kind although we would have liked more consistent breeze in several races where the dying breeze favoured the faster front runners while the tail struggled home.

Rare occasion Passion X ahead of Wangi based JAB

In the lead up to the week of racing we raced in the Newcastle to Port Stephens race and were pleased to finish 12th fastest in a fleet of 43 entries. Most of our placings were gained in the final stages of the race when the breeze filled in and we could sail out from under the fleet which had come down with new breeze from offshore. The breeze took a long time to fill in over the course and in that time the yachts to seaward made good grounds on the ones inshore while we were more or less on the rhumb line in the middle. The 31st place on handicap was not unexpected given we had done well two years ago and the handicaps were based on the performance in that one race.

For the Commodores cup we were in Division 2 and had 9th, 10th and 14th fastest placings in a pretty hot fleet. To be fair the first race was a lottery with the back markers from the non spinnaker division starting 15 minutes after our fleet catching the division 1 leaders. In such circumstances one can be grateful for any finish. Such was the conditions that handicaps were not adjusted for the second day which hugely favoured those yacht that had had the good fortune of a great handicap on day 1.

Day 2 had its problems too with the breeze dying on the fleet making our way home. We were happy with the 10th fastest but the time differenced dragged out so our handicap result suffered.

Day 3 had some good breeze which called for the No 3 jib. After the first work, and two reaches we were right up with the front of the fleet but on the hard beat into Corlette we dropped back to 14th fastest while the heavier yachts did better. nevertheless we enjoyed the day and the moments of optimism.

After the lay day we had three races in division 2 of the Performance Cruising event. For the first race there was solid breeze out in the ocean and we were very pleased with out windward performance. We were still pleased on the spinnaker reach back to Tomaree Head. At the Heads we could see the fleet becalmed in the wind shadow and opted to go wide. That did not work out as we were left low on the fleet for the work back and were passed by four yachts in the process. Despite this set back we were buoyed by our windward performance and ready for race 2.

Race 2 was the highlight of our regatta where we started on the marina wall on port gybe and sailed out from under the fleet. We retained our lead out to Yacaaba head where a line of breeze just to windward allowed Jab to sail around. It did not help that we were blanketed by Division 1 yachts we had caught and Jab made the better decisions on skirting the fleet.

The breeze died on the way home allowing another yacht to pass but we held on for a third fastest.

From the height of race 2 we sank into the depths of race 3. It did not help our optimism when the handicappers took an axe to our rating and set an insurmountable hurdle to a good series result. Jab was treated even more harshly so it was no surprise that we were the two last places on handicap.

We did make it easier on Jab by catching our spinnaker in the rigging and taking minutes to retrieve it but how we got to that stage is a longer story.

Trying to emulate our port gybe start from the day before we hung around on the rock wall only to be charged by a fellow club member who decided their best interest was served by aiming right at us and calling “starboard.”

To an extent that tactic worked as we were delayed in deploying the spinnaker and lost the small amount that would have put us ahead of the fleet at the bottom mark. Instead of a clear run to the mark we had a group of starboard tackers come across and force a gybe to starboard. That would have been ok but for the decision of one of them to continue well below the mark making a gybe back with spinnaker difficult.

With hind sight we should have hoisted the genoa early in anticipation of this but it was only a matter of a couple of boat lengths and we would have been clear.

It took 6 minutes to get the spinnaker untangled and the genoa hoisted but by this time we were so far below the mark that we had at least eight minutes to make up and were now deep down in the division 3 fleet with plenty of traffic. We followed the fleet out to the relative shelter from the tide on the edge of the sand banks and made good progress to the deep water mark. About that time the wind and tide conspired to put us about and about and about without making a lot of progress. We had plenty of company from the division 3 yacht who were all enjoying the same challenges.

We had no idea that Koko had made a good passage through this section and was on the way to a 4th fastest and their best result of the regatta. Still we were pleased to catch up to 14th fastest after such a long interruption to our race.

The other nice outcome from our problems was that Jab finished in front of Passion X on handicap with just enough points to beat Koko on a countback. Now Jab’s owner is a long time friend from Laser Sailing and they sail their First 40.7 spectacularly well and we are pleased with their success.

With a daughter and two grandsons on board Elaine and I blitzed the fleet for the first race of the Balmain Winter Friday series. It was their first race on board Passion X and they performed admirably in the light and tricky conditions. Of particular note was the tacking to windward up the narrow channel behind Snapper and Spectacle Island when there was a little breeze and the drift around Goat Island when there was none.

As background I had been disappointed with our light air performance in recent weeks and attributed some of that to having moved the anchor from the bow to the stern locker and inducing more stern down trim. The idea had been to keep the weight low but the improvement in righting moment may have been more than offset by the increase in wetted surface at the stern. In preparation for a light series at Port Stephens I returned the anchor to the bow locker and also installed the second Cat 4 anchor in the locker inducing a lot more bow down trim. Again in preparation for the transit to Port Stephens I added 200 litres of water for hot showers en route. The water tanks are generally forward of the centre of buoyancy of the yacht and add to the bow down trim. Judging by today’s performance the extra bow down trim more than offset the increase in weight.

While the skill of the novice crew and the extreme bow down trim may be credited with some of today’s performance there must have been an element of starting at the right time.

When Krakatini started she was on a tight work and seemed unlikely to clear the moored yachts along the shore. Shortly after Moonbeam took off and was pointing well above the islands. When Odyssey and Passion X started side be side we had a loose work to Snapper island and a nice lift after passing the shallow water of the western end. We were lucky to be inside Odyssey so that as we tacked away from the moored yachts on the Birkenhead shore we left Odyssey clear astern and dealing with our dirty air.

By luck or good management we were on a lifting tack all the way up the shore allowing us to make gains on the fleet.

The long broad reach to Long Nose was a painful affair where we struggled to go to leeward of Kelly2N. It was only post the corner of Cockatoo Island that we could get far enough to leeward to break through their cover.

From Long Nose the leg was square to the Goat Island navigation mark with insufficient air to blow the top batten through. I did not seem to matter that the main looked terrible. It was out there and the genoa was poled out to windward and most of the crew were camped on the very nose of Passion X in which fashion we drifted down on the fleet.

Our big move was around Goat where we went wide and eventually lifted up to round the island. Guwara went wider and sailed through our lee but we dropped down to their wind and eventually pointed up to their stern. A couple of tack later we came out from the gap to the island a nose ahead and there we started to pull away.

As we were sailing back into breeze and were first to get to it we extended our lead by a large margin and finished with our largest margin since launching Passion X four years ago.

A big thank you to the family for entering into the spirit of the race with such enthusiasm. The skills learnt at the Richmond River Sailing Club were put to good use with good calls of the telltales and proactive trimming. They were quick to the leeward side in the calm and quick to the bow for the downwind drifts all contributing to a good result.

Reuben rowing home after the race

Two grandsons enjoying the afternoon. Winners are grinners

It was a strange night for the final race of the Greenwich Flying Squadron twilight series as the forecast 11 knots around Cockatoo Island was more of a drift and the 18 knots forecast for around Goat Island was lucky to get to 10 knots.
In the lee of Long Nose Point it was zero knots for the five minutes we sat in the calm after unsuccessfully trying to convince Joli to go to leeward. For additional punishment for this decision Lisdillon drifted over the top and away with Joli while we sat in nothing.
Up to that point we had been doing quite well and had Utopia just to leeward and ahead and Agrovation just a bit forward of Utopia and had we stayed in the breeze we might not have finished 16 minutes behind Utopia.

Jackpot did exceptionally well off the start line by coming in below the fleet with speed and hitting the line on time. Dump Truck and Passion X were hovering just in the pin waiting for the gun and as a result had no speed and no steerage. Certainly Dump Truck had no way on and did not have to respond to a call to go up because they had no way on to go up with. That left just enough room and I mean just enough room for Passion X to follow Dump Truck over the line . Meanwhile crossing on port Meridian tacked in front of the fleet for another good start.

Infotrack and Much Ado V had to take Jackpots stern when they tacked back on port and when Infotrack tacked back to starboard in front of Passion X we tacked back to the Onion Point shore to maintain starboard rights off the point.

Well we were not quick enough so Dump Truck crossed and Much Ado V tacked in front and lifted clear so that they could tack cleanly for the beat out of Humbug.

At this stage we had Joli and the two Sydney 38s behind and were travelling quite well on the work to Cockatoo Island. What I thought would be a tight reach to Cockatoo turned into a hard beat with plenty of the earlier fleet crossing with rights.

Before we left Humbug Agrovation pointed up from below to a clear ahead position and once in front gave us a good dose of disturbed air to establish a small lead.

Once around Cockatoo island Utopia ran along the shore in a breeze of their own and cut inside at the corner to also take our air. Then they pulled below a few boat lengths for clearer air and established a small lead.

That was about the order of proceedings until Long Nose point when Joli tried to go over the top and we went with them all the way into the wind shadow.

By the time we extricated ourselves from the wind shadow we had lost five minutes on Utopia and had been passed by Joli and Lisdillon.

Hoping that was the end of the troubles for the evening we pressed on. By the time we had rounded Goat Island and ran and reached to Cockatoo island Joli was just a few boat lengths ahead and we had caught Lisdillon.

Now we were very careful not to get caught in the lee of Cockatoo Island but that was of no avail because there was no wind anywhere. Ahead we could see Joli reaching away with breeze while we sat waiting for Lisdillon, Fireball and Sweet Chariot to catch us.

They all caught us but we managed to pull clear and again they all caught us. Finally we came to Onion Point almost line abreast across the stream. On the western side of the group of four we picked up a flick of the breeze and with Don experty holding our the genoa to windward we crept to the line a few seconds ahead.

It was a hollow victory over the tail enders as we knew full well we would be last on handicap. What was astonishing is that Joli pulled out an eight minute gap on that leg from Cockatoo to Humbug.

Just as surprising is that Utopia took out the handicap win having been just in front off of Long Nose on the first lap.

Finally well done to Jackpot who had a cracker of a start and kept on going all night for a second in handicap.

Eighth is Ok if your nearest competitors are 9th, 10th and 11th and so it was. If it had been otherwise we might have been disappointed with our misfortune around Goat Island where mid fleet we were passed to windward and leeward. Only Utopia had as much bad luck and they emerged only metres in front of Passion X. Infotrack, Much Ado V and Dump Truck picked up breeze outside the fleet and roared away for 1st 2nd and 3rd on handicap while Lisdillon took a gamble along the shore in the wind shadow and somehow emerged well for a 4th place.

Leading into our becalming in the lee of Goat Island we had enjoyed the race with Ben Gemmell on board giving tuning advice. In the westerly breeze we reached to the corner of Goat Island behind Infotrack, Much Ado V, Dump Truck and Meridian and were feeling pleased with our position. On the work around Goat, Agrovation had a big lift from behind about which we could do nothing but tack when they did and head for the corner. From Cockatoo we had a broad reach followed by a pole out all the way to Goat Island. In this configuration we held our position well with only Jackpot picking up a couple of boat lengths along the way.
As we rounded western end of Goat Island we could feel a good place coming as we had just the beat back to Humbug to finish the race but it was not to be. Becalmed we were passed to leeward by Joli and to windward by Lisdillon while Sweet Chariot came down with the westerly wind to join the group in the lee of Goat.
Once out into the breeze we made good progress showing over 5 knots VMG on port tack but less on starboard. I need to adjust my wind angle to get the reading right on both tacks but in the meantime it is nice to see the over 5 knots on port.
Back into Humbug we were again becalmed and only picked up breeze once well through. In this last chance for a good place we were again disappointed and more so to see Sweet Chariot charging up Humbug seemingly in good breeze all the way and doing enough for 7th place.

On the leader board our three closest rivals were able to drop their scores from tonight while we had to carry the 8th place. That leaves Utopia well clear of Passion X and Jackpot on equal points with Joli just 2 points behind. With up to 13 places available on a good night the finale next week should be interesting.

Flopping around in the lee of Goat Island
Still flopping around
Enjoying the reach to Cockatoo island
Happy at this point of the race
Nice evening for a beat back to Humbug
Sun sets on another day

Despite the dire rain forecasts for today there are some bright patches so why are we not sailing at Balmain this afternoon?

I was on the road early this morning listening to the traffic reports and appeals to motorists to stay out of the flood waters and off the road unless absolutely necessary.

With that in mind we pulled the pin on the scheduled race so that there was no pressure on any other crews to take to the water.

Looking at the state of the roads on the way home I can see a lot of water damage to the asphalt and with up to 100 mm rain forecast tomorrow I think the road repair and asphalt supply industry will be busy for months ahead. So there is an infrastructure boost to keep the employment numbers up.

Friday afternoon turned out to be finer than expected but I am at happy with our decision not to sail as the possibility of the roads being chaotic was real.

On Saturday I took off very carefully for Gosford sailing club and this time the sailing was abandoned. Once again the sailing would have been manageable but the road conditions were appalling and the fewer people on the roads the better. En route I could see the traffic back to Sydney stopped for an accident which was cleared by the time I returned home a couple of hours later.

Now what will Sunday bring?

The forecast steady 12 knots was in reality a five to twenty five knot evening which provided plenty of excitement to the much reduced Black fleet. For some reason six of the regulars decided to stay home in the dry and warm inside conditions leaving the seven starters to the cool and wet weather on the course. If they were looking for a first place on handicap it is just as well they stayed home as Lisdillon blitzed the handicap result for a second week and if this were the olympics WADA would be called in for samples. Not only did Lisdillon get a good start they managed to drift through Humbug near the front of the fleet and sail a very good race for the rest of the evening.

Further back in Humbug Passion X was run over by Fireball and Sweet Chariot and never gained speed until this two had passed allowing the clear air to catch up to Passion X. We then went low to sail away from the wind shadow and eventually headed up ahead of Fireball and Sweet Chariot but miles behind Ausreo, Lisdillon, Utopia and Jackpot.

For the rest of the race our interest was in catching Ausreo and staying ahead of Fireball and Sweet Chariot and while we seemed to be moving well through the water we seemed to be on the wrong side of a shift or two or three so nothing changed for much of the race.

The combination of rain squalls and shifty wind kept the the pressure on the crew as the up and down conditions required plenty of gear changes. Trimming was not helped by wet tell tales sticking to the sails in the early stages and as light faded towards the end trimming was even more difficult.

We had one incident when a shackle on a mainsheet turning block came undone and had to be replaced but the crew did an excellent job of keeping the boat going while I went hunting for spares and performed the required shackle surgery.

They were doing such a good job while i was effecting repairs that I rested on the bow and called the tell tales on the No 1 heavy genoa and the new mainsail. Both are made from Dimension Polyant Carbon Sports Light Skin. I like the material and am sure we will have many good races ahead.

With a few good gusts down the reach across Snails Bay we pulled away from Fireball and Sweet Chariot and pulled up to the stern of Ausreo.
For the run to Cockatoo we matched Ausreo and both of us pulled further away from Fireball and Sweet Chariot so that we rounded the west end of Cockatoo thinking we had pulled ahead on handicap.
In Humbug we were pushed around by the wind shifts and were lucky to come out of the shifts ahead of Ausreo who were put about by a Blue Fleet yacht. I gave a wry smile at this misfortune for Ausreo as it gave us enough space to get to the finish line ahead. Meanwhile Sweet Chariot and Fireball came charging through Humbug to steal the handicap places from Ausreo and Passion X. So good was the charge by Fireball that they scored second on handicap behind the enigmatic Lisdillon.

The charge of the back markers was good enough to relegate Jackpot to 6th place just one ahead of Passion X. With a consistent third place Utopia pulls away on the season leader board. I think Joli, Jackpot and Passion X will be tied on second place with two races to go and for our two consecutive weeks of tail end performances we get back a little handicap.

Watch this space.

We made a very good start to be with the leaders going into Humbug and doing reasonably well to windward. Approaching Long nose Much Ado V pinched out from under giving us a dose of disturbed air so that we could not clear the point. By this stage the fleet ahead had cleared the point and were beating up the Snails Bay shore while we had to tack twice to get to the same line. We needed the lift to the point to stay with us for two more minutes but it was not cooperating so this was our first time loss. Three minutes from Goat Island Utopia was just ahead and below and Dump Truck crossed on port to get then next lift from the right and gain a minute by the Goat Island mark. Lisdillon from behind also went to the Goat Island shore and made a big gain on Passion X.

The reach back to Long Nose was uneventful until we were becalmed off of the point. Our GoPro footage shows the flat mirror like water around us and also shows us anxiously watching Lisdillon reach up from behind with wind and sail right past.
Eventually we got the wind and passed the point so that we could pole out the genoa and give chase. Normally we would expect to make us some ground but the wind was not cooperation and we sailed side by side with Lisdillon to Snapper Island without making up any time on the fleet.

Once back to the work to home we pulled clear of Lisdillon and with the short tacking felt we had a safe margin. It was not to be as we were knocked severely as soon as we tacked away from the Hunters Hill shore while Lisdillon on the Cockatoo shore lifted well above our line.

There was little to do but follow her home into the open waters leading into Humbug. Here we were the recipient of our own lift on starboard well above Lisdillon’s line and seeming like we might regain our lost ground. Ahead we could see the fleet on port tacking away from the Onions Point shore and they were not far ahead.

But then the wheels fell off. Passion X was knocked forty degrees and becalmed and now it was Lisdillon’s turn to pick up breeze ahead and lift above our line.

That might have been the end of the woes for the evening but once past Onion Point we were again becalmed and headed so that we had a slow pinch to the finish line.

Once across the line our luck ran out again as the following fleet, Ausreo, Fireball and Sweet Chariot carried fresh breeze and steamed to the finish line.

We finished 11th only one second behind Sweet Chariot and only 1 minute and 28 behind 5th placed Meridian. In between was Ausreo, Utopia, Fireball, Infotrack and Sweet Chariot while behind was Much Ado V and Dump truck only 16 seconds behind us.

Out in front on handicap by a large margin was Lisdillon followed by Agrovation, Jackpot and Joli.

On the progress scores we drop our 11th from tonight and include a 6th. We now drop back to third place behind Utopia and Joli with Jackpot just one point behind.

With three races to go and potential places as bad 15 points per race the race to the season finish is still wide open.

Infotrack and Joli lead out of Humbug. Agrovation sailed through our lee while Jackpot went over the top
A knock at Long Nose was not appreciated
Dump Truck steam through while Passion X completes her tack off of Goat Island
Passion X sits upright in the calm off of Long Nose
Calm Again at the finish

37 Seconds between 5th place and 8th place shows how good the handicaps are working. On Passion X we managed 7th place but will include our drop of 6th place in the progress scores. Joli with a 4th place will catch up two of the four points difference. Utopia still out in front will use her 8th place drop in the progress scores and we will pull back just 2 points on her 10 point lead.

With four races to go and the flukey end of the season ahead it is still open for many to overtake Utopia for the season crown.

In the light sub 10 knot conditions we made a good start on the western side of the fleet and kept tacking to keep to this side of the fleet. It worked well for us and we made it into Humbug behind just Infotrack and Dump Truck.

Conditions were very shifty on the way to Goat Island and courtesy of some shifts that went our way we were up with Much Ado V and Utopia as we went around Goat Island for the first time. Much Ado V managed to tack away from the Goat Island shore in clear air and pull out quickly while we were pinned down by Utopia waiting until we had to call water on the Goat island Shore. We called loudly so all the yachts to windward of Utopia knew our intention and tacked when our call was acknowledged. Now on starboard Utopia tried to go behind but could not bear away enough so had to go hard about with the inevitable consequence that her stern gave us a good fright on board Passion X. With no harm to crew we sheeted on and recommenced the race but lost enough time on Much Ado V to account for the margin she beat us on handicap.

Ausreo took advantage of the mayhem to catch up to Utopia and Passion X and threaten for a good handicap place which they won by 1 second over Agrovation. Cannot get closer than that.

Our challenge was to limit the time Utopia pulled out and not let Ausreo past. This we achieved by courtesy of a good lift along the Balls Head shore where we lifted towards the Goat Island turning mark while Ausreo below was headed and this was enough to keep our nose in front of them for the run home. Around Goat we could see Fireball coming well back in conditions that did not favour her nor Lisdillon.

Ausreo was not about to give up and blanketed Passion X with good effect until the breeze swung enough for it to come over our port quarter and allow us to reach away with clear air for a safe margin that blew out to 3 minutes by the light air drifting finish.

As we ran into Humbug with the pole out to port we could see the middle of the fleet off Onion Point all heading in different directions on different gybes. Alas there was no last minute gust up the middle for Passion X and our drift from Onion Point to the finish line was in confused air swinging from port quarter to starboard quarter but mostly refusing to come at all. All we wanted was one gust to go from 7th place on handicap to 5th but it was not to be.

Alas for the brave Lisdillon and Fireball who finished 15 and 22 minutes behind Passion X respectively and took over the role of back of the fleet that Ausreo filled last week. Indeed it was a credit to Ausreo to do so well in the light conditions tonight and it is amazing how just a few knots of breeze makes such a difference to this big yacht.

A busy startline
In the action out on the course

Thank you to the course setters who listened to our pleas and set a relatively short race out around Cockatoo island, down to Goat island and home. Even with this short course the last of the Black division yachts limped home with less than ten minutes to spare.
We had a good start relative to the fleet but threw away any advantage in the wild wind swings around Onion Point on the way out. In the ultra light conditions we have trouble getting the main to go through under the backstay owing to the stiff long upper battens. At times the only solution is to drop the main halyard and then hoist again after the tack. We have a new main on order with only one long upper batten and that should reduce the problem but in the meantime in any wind strength under 5 knots tacking is a big issue and therefore not done quickly. As a result we missed the phase of two very short shifts off of Onion Point and sailed towards the back of the fleet. Only Fireball, Ausreo and Agrovation did worse and to be fair to Agrovation we did put them about onto starboard sending them further into the wind shadow.
Once out of Humbug and settled down to the beam reach we pulled back Lisdillon but she was to prove very difficult to pass. Close behind Agrovation was catching and around Cockatoo she passed with a timely tack to starboard to take advantage of a shift along the Cockatoo shore.
We were then able to follow and chase after Lisdillon who had pulled out well around the end of Cockatoo.
We went low and allowed Agrovation and Lisdillon some friendly interference to windward so that by Long Nose we had passed well ahead of Lisdillon.
The shifts off of Balls head were very frustrating and the little lead that Agrovation had on us stretched out while Meridian, Joli, Jackpot and Utopia were enjoying some jockeying for position just ahead and across a patch of no wind..
It seemed to take forever to get around Goat island with the wind refusing to tend east as promised. Instead it went further South and kept fading.
Around Goat the lead yachts were invisible in the distance while Ausreo was still to round the red marker and Lisdillon and Fireball were obscured behind the island.
Now we had some competition from the Blue fleet with Koko travelling very well and refusing to act like a Blue division yacht. After a long side by side run we managed to reach up from under and eventually square away for the run across the bay to the Onions Point Shore. The Blue division French Connection gybed onto starboard below us and while we had our nose in front we were anxious to avoid being in their wind shadow so we followed suite but kept as low as possible.
Finally the sterns of some Black Fleet yachts were visible. In particular we could see Joli not far ahead with Agrovation giving chase. While the distance looked pretty insignificant the time was three minutes to Joli and somewhat less to Agrovation. Joli picked up a nice header that allowed her to reach into the finish line rather speedily while Agrovation held out their genoa to windward and ran straight to the line. Just behind we had insufficient wind to hold the genoa out and had a very slow finish.
Further back the finishers were slowing even more. Koko stalled somewhere between Long Nose and the finish and was ten minutes behind and in good company with Lisdillon and Fireball. Much further back and showing great perseverance was Ausreo who finished 35 minutes behind and just inside the time limit.
Alas the promised Easterly breeze did not spring up and at 10pm it was just 3 knots from the south at the airport.

For our persistence we finished third on handicap behind Meridian and Joli and a minute 20 seconds in front of Agrovation and Jackpot.

The light winds and rain forecast discouraged Infotrack, Dump Truck and Much Ado V so our three points should put us back into second spot a long way behind Utopia and with a large contingent right on our tail.

Sorry Agrovation
Utopia with top batten issues too
Joli reaching to the finish, Agrovation genoa out and running. Passion X limping home