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Wishbone's Coastal Classic

15 Nov 2008

Good Reactor Weather for the Coastal

Trish Lewis and Phil Scott

The weather forecast of up to 30-40 knots on the nose both ways with a big spell of no wind in the middle didn?t sound good to most skippers, to the point where many boats didn't even go out to start, but for anyone with a seaworthy Reactor it had to be good news. Reactors go well relative to other small boats when beating into strong winds, as shown by the fact that the 3 Reactors came 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 2004 SSANZ Simrad 100 small boat division when we were hard on the wind in 40 knots from Gannet Rock to Navy Buoy. We had also learnt in the Auckland to Tauranga race that a long period of no wind favoured small boats in a mixed fleet as they drift at the same rate as big ones. The rough forecast also fitted well with our training plans for the White Island race, as we wanted to be tested in difficult conditions.

We came up the start line, with full main and no. 3, on starboard to position ourselves slightly behind but up wind of the fleet with what the late Phil Prouse (former Reactor owner and ex Commodore of Richmond YC) had stressed to us was so important for small boats, clear air. This got us out into Rangi channel ahead of all the small boats but the Tracker Elly. Tacking out to avoid a container ship put us out of touch with the others and in more tide, but going well. We saw some boats turning back very early on, and as we sailed through Tiri passage (now with reefed main) and out towards Flat Rock the seas started to build. After letting Wishbone fall off the back of a few big steep waves, resulting in her crashing down, by pointing the helm up as she went over the waves things improved. After Flat Rock we passed close to Elly but she then disappeared (I was worried she had got ahead but it turned out she'd headed off to Kawau). By this point, unbeknown to us, the other Reactor St Fintan (who we had also lost sight of and were worried may be ahead) and all the Trackers had pulled out.

All went well to Bream Head and then the wind died off. We were running 2 hour watches during the night and it is quite discouraging to come up 2 hours later to see you have made no progress at all (or even gone backwards). On one of my watches we were sat in the shipping lane into Whangarei with no wind and I was keeping a very thorough lookout! There wasn't much of a moon but we had a lovely sunrise. As the skies lightened there was Sail Rock not that far behind us, which it had been too dark to see when we passed in the night. We had cooked breakfast to make up for the fact that we hadn't had a cooked dinner (I saw on the website afterwards that a lot of other boats had full dinners, I don't know how they did it in those seas ? making a cup of tea was a challenge for me!).

Gradually the wind filled in from the west and we had a tight reach all the way up to Cape Brett. We were still in touch with two boats, one had been close through the night which turned out to be a 28ft Opua boat Gambler. We saw one pass beyond Piercy Island so we cut through the gap to get ahead, which required some quick tacks in all the wind shifts. On the far side there were big NE swells fighting W waves and the wind was on the nose again and building. We fought our way into the Bay and the wind gradually turned to stay on the nose all the way in. We got up close behind Gambler as we approached the finish and were sure they would have to tack out to avoid a rocky outcrop, at which point we would have got ahead. However their local knowledge allowed them to get away with skimming past the rocks so we finished just behind them at 7.47pm on Saturday. Out of 229 race entries we were the second last of only 83 finishers.

Wishbone won the Shorthanded Division, Division 5 (for monohulls with a PHRF handicap below 0.750) and the award for the smallest boat to finish. Overall on PHRF she came 22nd out of all 83 finishers. Wishbone now has a YNZ Cat 2 certificate and is all set to contest the third big SSANZ two handed trophy of the year in the White Island race. Just hoping the weather gods will smile on us once more!!

 

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