Archive for July 2020

To my surprise we did get in a lap of the Balmain Friday Afternoon series but not everyone was able to finish in the time limit of 16:30 hours. From our start at 14:10 hours to at least 15:30 we drifted around Snapper and Spectacle Islands and along the Hunters Hill shore in less than three knots of breeze. We drifted better than a lot and with the exception of Avalon we were happy to be picking off the fleet one by one. Off of Cockatoo Island ferry wharf Odyssey retired so that she could head off to Yamba and we wish her well in her cruise off the coast.
About the same time we caught Irukandji and for the rest of the afternoon had a see saw contest with them. When the wind did kick in it was a work to windward where Irukandji was much slicker due in no small part to an injury to a crew just before he stepped aboard for the afternoon. As the day progressed he stiffened up so we were back to the David and Elaine duo doing everything. Avalon tacked on the shifts nicely and soon drew a long way ahead while we left the last tack into Goat Island too short and had to pinch to avoid a big red mark down the side. Avoid it we did but in the process Irukandji drew further ahead.
The leg back to Long Nose was also a good one for Irukandji where they went for the freshening breeze and got it together with a faster angle. We had no choice but to chase the same breeze and leave Krakatini behind in light air close in the Snails Bay.
The last throw of the dice was to go wide of Long Nose and come back at the finish line on a tighter reach. Out wide there was better wind and we soon passed another two and drew alongside Irukandji. Now we were right up the backside of Hasta La Vista and rather than be taken high we chose the leeward side which was not a good choice as the freshening breeze arrived at Irukandji and Hasta La Vista before it arrived at Passion X. So Irukandji got us by two seconds which is a good result for a long day on the water. Four points for the day was our best result since we won the first race and a pleasing result given the condition of the crew.

After a few rough wet days with an east coast low hammering the coast we woke this morning to brilliant sunshine and forecasts for around 10 knots. We were not disappointed with the consistent 10 to 15 knots which propelled us around the full course in just over seventy minutes.
The first leg was a broad reach where we went low to avoid the jostling of the fleet. Perhaps we pushing against more tide out in the middle but the free air and faster approach to the mark had us near the front of the fleet alongside the eventual first and second fastest times yachts, Hanni and Agrovation. Fidelis was doing her reaching best and had streaked out on the first leg and it was easy to predict her win on handicap from that position. Hitchhike and Whistling Kite were also out front on the reach. Whistling Kite hung on for third on handicap but Hitchhike did not fare as well on the hard tacks home.
The work back to Steele Point and into Rose Bay was always going to be a challenge. Hanni did well by going all the way to the rocks before tacking for Steele Point and had clear air. We were back in traffic and dirty air and had to tack away from the second division starboard tackers who had just rounded their turning mark. We tacked inshore for clear air and did well until the wind shadow off of Steele Point where the yachts out wider moved forward and then tacked back off the Shark Island obstacle. Amanti tacked below us on the way into Rose Bay and gave us a healthy dose of disturbed air to break away and eventually beat us by a couple of minutes. Along the reach to Point Piper we held our position and again on the run to round the Island we held our position against the chasing pack but gave away some time to the yachts with genoas poled out. On the work back around Shark Island we were fortunate to clear the heavy air specialist Leeward who loves a stiff beat to windward but clear her we did and held her out to the finish. Ahead was Hitchhike and Meridian but as hard as we chased on the tight reach home we could not catch them.
At the finish it was a close contest with eight yachts in front with margins from 2 minutes 48 seconds down to 20 seconds. On handicap it was even closer with Larrikin, Britannia and Leeward leapfrogging us into fifth, sixth and seventh place.
We were pretty satisfied with our performance in the conditions particularly finishing in front of Allegro for the second week in a row and finishing just 2 minutes 23 seconds behind Agrovation in solid windward beating conditions.

It was certainly a wet day for the last race of the Covid 19 curtailed West Harbour Winter Series. Many decided that with no chance of winning they would stay home but for those who ventured out it was not an upleasant race. After the first lap of the course the breeze died so we practices setting and gybing the asymmetric spinnaker. The first windward work was a good test of boat speed and but for tacking too soon in a knock we were sailing above our handicap. The first downwind leg we two sailed the course while Matagi, Ophir and Avalon were slick with their spinnaker work and drew well away. The second windward work was a bit unkind as we were knocked along the Hunters Hill shore well below the line of the yachts ahead. Still we managed to hang onto Odyssey and Omnishambles until the reach home. Despite setting our asymmetric spinnaker, Odyssey with a masthead code zero drew away. I would like one of those in my Christmas stocking please Santa.
From there it was a lonely sail to windward back to the finish line and a pleasant surprise to find that we had beaten Omnishambles on handicap.
Today added a bit more confidence in our windward working speed post the rig changes and the spinnaker practice was useful. We did pull the sock down before raising the genoa for the windward work and found we could do that very quickly with very little time spend bare headed. It was certainly good practice ahead of going offshore in two weeks time.

Five knots of breeze arrived just five minutes late and with some very well judged starting by the committee we were away into the sea breeze just five minutes behind the scheduled start time. We were aiming for the pin with Krakatoa reaching over the top and with either Foreign Affairs or Hitchhike below. Joli tried to climb over the top but even in the dirty air of the two pin enders in front we managed to climb out from a safe leeward position. When Joli tacked for clear air we promptly followed but found the boat end starters all lifting above us. Taking a few sterns was very costly as with each stern we dropped below Joli’s line even though we had tacked above. As a result we found ourselves deep into the fleet but with clear air and freedom to tack. We used both to good effect settling into a fast mode and tacking on the shifts. We also covered the fleet when we made a gain and at the top mark found ourselves up with Foreign Affairs and Hitchhike.

Freedom to tack and covering the fleet paid off

Freedom to tack and covering the fleet paid off

Around the top mark we poled out the genoa and drifted back to Steele Point. With the wind behind the apparent wind was down to a couple of knots but the close competition kept us on our toes. I Super also had a good windward work and was on out tail. Into Rose Bay we were looking for a finish boat but none came. Foreign Affairs ran away and Hitchhike pulled out a safe distance leaving us to be hassled by I Super all the way home. I Super did pull ahead down the side of Shark Island but on the broader reach home we found a wisp of wind and drew ahead again and hung on for a third fastest place. Hitchhike managed to pull ahead just enough to beat us on handicap by 10 seconds but they in turn were beaten by Coco and Britannia so we were pushed back to fourth on handicap just ahead of I Super. With the close racing we were able to talk to our ex crew now racing on I Super so that added a bit of good competitive tension to the day. Today was the best result since we trimmed down the fat head main to a conventional pin head with a bit of roach. In the light airs we have to drop the main halyard to get the roach under the backstay. A mast head flicker would be nice but just for sub 5 knot breezes it seems a luxury. I have been using the quiet sunny days of this week to so some maintenance and upgrades on Passion X. Some are just the routine tasks like tightening the water impeller v belt and changing the seal on the head toilet pump in preparation for a week away at Port Stephens but another is a more permanent change. When Passion X was designed it complied with the offshore racing standards of the day but that standard is no longer accepted for yachts built after 2010. I am working through the current codes which were updated in 2019 and have reviewed all the structural scantlings for the hull. All of the sheeting exceeds the 2019 code requirement and almost all of the stringers do too. Of all the stringers only eight need a small section of timber glued to the existing stringers to comply. The largest addition is two stringers which need to be increased from 22 by 44 to 28 by 50 mm. One stringer needs as little as a 22 mm wide strip 6 mm thick added to comply. In two days I am half way through completing all the stringers and I plan to have them all finished and epoxy painted in the next week.

An example of the stringers in the quarter berth with one completed and the other with the first addition glued and clamped.

An example of the stringers in the quarter berth with one completed with strips on the side and top and the other with the side strip glued and clamped.


Since our last RANSA Winter Wednesday race a lot has transpired. On the Friday when Elaine and I normally do the Balmain Afternoon series we were driving to Ballina to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. We greatly enjoyed the weekend celebration with our Ballina family orchestrating events and Zooming in with the interstate ones.
More of the Pacific Highway has been upgraded and much more is almost complete. The 80km construction zones on the newly completed lanes contributed to a low fuel consumption below 7.5 litres per 100km and I believe we could have arrived home back in Sydney on a single tank of petrol.
Our next scheduled RANSA race was a drift out. Very wisely the committee called it early so we could enjoy a quiet motor home chatting with crew. For the rest of the week there was no breeze so that the Friday Balmain race was a drift out with no one completing the course. it seemed that the only motion available was courtesy of the tide which resulted in us all moving at more or less the same drift speed. We surrendered around 4pm when to even the most optimist among the fleet there was no longer hope of the promised breeze springing up.
The next week started pretty well as the last had finished with very little breeze for the West Harbour Winter Series. A promising light breeze at the start soon faded to leave the water mirror smooth with just the occasional errant wisp of wind teasing the fleet to gybe from one side to the other. Another wise committee decision was to shorten the race to a single circuit of the Spectacle and Snapper Islands and while it seemed too short a distance to rank as a race it was long enough and any longer would have been impossible.
With three races either abandoned or curtailed what would happen to the next but to be abandoned for too much wind. It was the right 10am call at RANSA as at the scheduled 2pm start time it was blowing 26 to 35 knots.
Now I had crew very keen to sail and we have in the past just gone for a harbour blast but the forecast rain was a bit of a dampener so we called the day off.
In our old Passion we did do a 35 knot sail out through the heads with triple reefed main and storm jib and found it a bit tame. In the new Passion X our first trip back from Port Stephens was in 35 knots with a No 3 jib and triple reef. We did find the jib too big for the journey and should have put up the storm jib. Now we also have a No4 jib which is probably the right rig for 35 knots. I mention this because I feel we are not practicing heavy air seamanship quite enough and several windy afternoons on the harbour would be good experience for the fleets before they head offshore.
Now am looking forward to Friday when we are promised good breeze ahead of a Saturday return to drifting conditions.
With the wet weather forecast for Monday through to Wednesday this week I had to find something to do so I upgraded a couple of computers. It does seem pretty insane to have three laptops and three desktops computers in the one house for just the two of us but having replaced two recently I took to upgrading the ones that were replaced. It is amazing what a new SSD drive can do to a ten year old i3 laptop which has gone from an absolute useless dog to quite a usable device. The other upgrade was to a three year old Ryzen 7 1700x where for some reason I had overlooked the M.2 NVMe 3.0 x4 slot and installed a Sata SSD. After much searching for the M.2 slot specifications I found it on the original motherboard box and dashed off the the computer shop for a 500GB Samsung SSD. Migrating the system to the M.2 slot from the Sata SSD took just 4 minutes compared to hours overnight from a mechanical drive to a Sata SSD and the performance comparison are spectacular.
My newer motherboard with a Ryzen 5 3600 chip has the latest M.2 NVMe 4.0 x4 slot which is modestly faster again in sequential read and write but almost twice as fast in random writes as the previous PCI Express 3.0 specification.
For now I have exhausted the possible upgrades to the computers and the green bin is filled a week ahead of schedule so I am hoping for some finer weather to get back to Passion X for a bit of maintenance.

Crew warming up before the start

Crew warming up before the start

I was keenly looking forward to the forecast nor west breeze where we could reach up down the long leg to the heads but there was no breeze. Waiting for the delayed start we enjoyed brilliant sunshine and were soon taking off jackets to enjoy the warmth and to soak in a dose of vitamin D. That same warmth sucked in a light sea breeze which allow a start on a long beat to the heads.

At the boat end it was quite crowded with Allegro, Hanni, Krakatoa and I think Foreign Affair. We followed close behind this group and were able to shave the start boat for good start. To leeward the yachts approaching on a tight beat were in quiet air and never challenged at the start line. A good start was just the beginning of a close tussle with Hanni since Krakatoa went off like the volcano she is named after, Allegro charged confidently ahead trying to keep up with Foreign Affairs.

At times we were faster on the beat than Hanni and at times the table was turned. Agrovation picked up a nice lift on the left of the fleet and with superior speed romped up the fleet. Joli steamed through close into the shore and out of the tide and we thought we had lost them but for the last throw of the dice going into the top mark where we saved a tack and rounded with Hanni , joli, Amanti. Crosshaven and Whistling Kite.

On the long square back to Steele Point we poled out our largest genoa with our longest pole and parked most of the crew on the bow to get the fat stern out of the water. The whole group made up ground on Allegro on this leg but not enough. The last leg was a reach into Rose Bay for a much shortened course. For this last leg Joli went wide and reached up inside Passion X for a narrow beat on time. Thanks to a reasonable handicap we finished fifth and were pretty pleased considering most of the race was a windward work. Krakatoa was a clear winner on handicap by over two and a half minutes while we were just a minute and four seconds out of second place.