Cool Bear's B&G Simrad 2010 report
18 Aug 2010
Here is our race report. What a day.
Cool Bear Simrad 60.
"Give me gales and rain any time..." is what I wrote for the Simrad 50, and I meant it. It seemed that the weather gods would provide, and it was a very cheerful and excited Cool Bear crew who set off from the marina with their #2 headsail loaded and the wind 35Knots at Channel Island and building steadily to gusting 20 Knots at Tiri. Half way down the harbour, it all came to an end. The wind stopped everywhere we would be sailing. So, my first sail change of the day was #2 to #1 off the container wharf.
The starts were ugly and were called back and re-done after a long delay waiting for SOME wind to arrive. Though we had not managed to see any flags or hear any guns, we got away quite OK, about 50m up from the pin in clean air. We raced straight towards Rangi light, pretty much on the wind, and were satisfied to see that we were doing OK against Hot Gossip and Communique, who were taking a higher line than us. Alberta Rose and Short Circuit were not far behind.
At the lighthouse, we were all quite close, then the wind softened and fiddled around a bit, before coming back from the NE, with a fair bit of East in it. We sailed the boat in easy conditions, if very light at times, and managed to get Cool Bear going as well as we ever had, and whereas last year we approached the Navy Buoy stone last in our fleet, this time we were overlapped with Hot Gossip whom we had overtaken on the beat, only to have them do a better job on the reach and get inside rights just before the mark.
So far so good. The wind had been very light at times, but we were OK with our progress. We muffed the mark rounding badly, tacked too early and too high with the sails in a mess, and nearly ended up on the mark. We got going eventually, and found that we had a beat all the way to Gannet rock, so we sailed for speed and soon overtook Hot Gossip again as they changed down to their #2 while we continued with #1. We had not been able to see what happened to Communique, but thought they might have been ahead, but the Hot Gossip boys reckoned he was behind us. We did see Alberta Rose and Short Circuit get to the Navy Buoy soon after us.
Now we were not so clever as we rode the nice breeze and easy seaway out to the right, for far too long. By the time we decided to get back for some Easting, the wind was dying and we found ourselves unable to make any way against the waves that shook all of the negligible air out of the sails. We struggled to find some pace so we could tack back and actually make SOME progress again, but the only time we got up to 1 knot of boatspeed there was another yacht, stationary and directly in our path taking down its sails, so we couldn't tack, and had to wallow on going nowhere for another five minutes till another opportunity presented itself.
Now began the real heartbreak of the day. We saw Communique at last, they had turned up on the left side of the course, and were now DEFINITELY ahead of us, and we were very close to Hot Gossip, who had now changed back to #1 and overtaken us again. We spent hours travelling a couple of miles to the Noises, and were doing as well as anybody else, but it was soul-destroying work. The sails slatted back and forth, and I could see the kevlar laminate being eroded from the genoa leech with every brush against the stays.
The wind went aft at some point, so everyone hastened to get kites up, but even the spinnakers could barely operate in those conditions. On reflection, I wonder if sailing anywhere at huge angles would have been possible, nobody really tried in the group we were mixed up with. Communique did the best job here, and actually managed to move away from the rest of the boats, I have no idea how. The rest of us were definitely unable to match their pace, and they stretched away about an extra 400m.
We eventually doused the kite after noting that a Ross 930 was going WAY better than us (must have been doing 0.8 of a knot or so) and we sailed with genoa and main. We caught up to Hot Gossip a bit, and actually overtook them just by the Noises, but by now it was almost dark. We poled out our headsail for a while and that worked, but the boys on Hot Gossip had listened to the forecast and hearing that there would be no more wind, they set off for home. We were still there, Communique was way ahead, and I think that by now Alberta Rose and Short Circuit had withdrawn.
We did talk about whether to continue, I was determined to go on as Communique was not that far away, and as we ALWAYS keep our cruising gear on the boat, there were comfortable beds and pillows available.
The reach to Gannet rock was interminable. At times I wondered if we would EVER get there. We tried so hard. Moving the sails here and there, changing the angles a bit, and trying to guess what might happen to the breeze. We made a fairly major mistake in going North of the Ahaha rocks, as this made the angle to Gannet rock even worse than it was before, and all the time the sails were slatting as we made speeds in the 0.8 to 3.1 range. Very rarely, we had short bursts of 3.8 knots caused by helmsman inattention leading to a higher sailing angle and better wave shape. We did discuss sailing the angles here, but I could see no way to ever get back from the right if we headed out that way.
All this time, we had been watching this light ahead of us which we thought was our good mate Fendall and his crew on Communique. They got round the rock well ahead of us, maybe 20-25 minutes or so, and we thought that we were the last boat to round, but as we sailed on after making out coastguard call, we saw and heard other yachts reporting in. The sailing now was quite pleasant. Beating in about 5-9 knots of breeze, and the seaway was not too unkind now that we had wind in the sails. It was a long beat against contrary tide, and we only rounded Gannet rock just before midnight. We had lost track of Communique, but felt we were sailing well, catching and passing a couple of yachts though we do not know which boats these were. We heard Mr Roosevelt reporting in at Gannet rock REALLY late - well done to those guys, they were still out there. I half expected they would catch us before the finish.
The beat through Motuihe channel against the strong tide required some thought, and there were weed issues. Twice we picked up big clumps on the rudder, and had to slow to get it off with the boathook, but I am sure that everyone out there had the same problems.
We got quite excited here when we were approaching Browns island and recogised the light we thought was Communique ahead of us. We were still focussing quite well, and Tony was getting good speeds as he helmed the boat and I trimmed sails watching the GPS. Whenever he slowed I called for pace and he would pick it up again. We had a good run here, and encountered the boys on the Farr 727 Crac-A-Jack. Those boats sail incredibly well against us in that 6-9 knots range of breeze, and we were in close company with them for a while as we exchanged pleasantries across the water.
We made our way up to the finish sailing really as well as we ver do, with the odd slightly bad tack, but at our second-last tack for the finish, we made a nice mess of it and approached the boat with the headsail motor-boating as the foot was hooked on the stanchions. Oh well, we finished around 5:00am, and we weren't too far behind Communique - that's an excellent result for us. We were just too tired to appreciate it. We are used to being almost the last boat to finish in these races, but not this time. Obviously the small-boat fleet had suffered the same awful ride to Gannet rock that we had, and Mr Roosevelt had a long day out there. Crack-A-Jack finished very close behind us, and 2 other Farr 727 yachts were just ahead. They had the best finish ratio in the fleet, 3 of their number finishing out of 5 entries - well done guys. Also well done to Matt and crew on Mr Roosevelt - that was a long and difficult day - a day on which we saw MR R having to sail in circles trying to get huge chunks of weed off the ruddder and keel.
What to say about the race. We were appalled at the lack of wind. The forecasts were just SO WRONG. I think that this Simrad 60 is the worst race I have finished. I said that about the drifty Simrad 50, but we had expected a drifter there and were prepared for it - also, the water was smooth. After yesterday's bumpy sail slatting, my headsail is five years older I think. I fully expected to finish the Simrad 60 by 5:00 (pm not 5:00am the next day) and was eagerly anticipating a good pasting in 40 knot puffs. This is not proper Simrad weather.
Thanks to the SSANZ folk - great job as usual, though perhaps we simply should not start races if the boats are hardly moving. It is quite dangerous with the Orakei wavebreak so close, and so many boats needing to be in the limited starting zone with hardly any steerage.
We really struggled to make it safely to the first start in yesterday's race. Even the second start was fraught with many boats trying to get to the pin end, which is penned in by the wharf and the wave-break. That pin end is a bad area for boats when it is favoured as there is simply no room. I wonder if actually setting a proper pin buoy AWAY from the wharf would not be a better option for future Simrad racing.
Despite everything, I am glad that I finished the day, and enjoyed some close racing. Also, my old mate Fendall would have been lonely out there if we had gone home too. Tony and I are VERY happy with how we sailed, it was good to be properly competitive for once, and we did not make too many terrible mistakes.
Let's hope for a proper sailing breeze for the Simrad 100.