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

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