Romany II B&G Simrad 100 2011 Report
12 Sep 2011
Here is our view of the race. We did lose 11 minutes trying to find High Voltage, and standing by one of the dismasted boats, but it is relatively immaterial to the results. We would have finished about 14:08 if we had not turned back to try and assist, and the reason we DID turn back is because we could, and because High Voltage could not be found and were in trouble. Most of the other yachts sailing down were probably unaware, or were carrying spinnakers in solid breeze and unable to manoeuvre at all.
Romany II Simrad 100 Race Report.
The start went away on time for which we congratulate the SSANZ committee. It was an excellent decision, there was enough breeze to get going, and a long day ahead. Our start was OK, near enough to right on the line 2-sail, and thinking about the Kite though we knew it would not be up for very long. We did eventually get the kite up, after undoing a tweaker that was attaching the pole to the stanchion!!! We found ourselves a bit slow here, but it didn't matter as the real breeze was only to be found closer towards Rangi Light. Our game plan for the day was to stay on the right, but after being forced out left a little way, we convinced ourselves to stay out there till Tiri ? a shockingly bad decision which left us WAY behind a number of boats that should have been behind us according to handicap and performance. The Farr 9.2 yachts were all a long way ahead, we could hardly even identify them!
It was still a long way to go, so we got on with it, and found that after 90 minutes of sailing, we had crossed ahead of a few boats that we had been behind. It seems that our biggish rig worked well for us as the wind was still not very strong, and we were only a little under-powered. From that time, we seemed to sail solo a fair bit, as we held on to the right, probably too long. We tacked back left on an unfavourable wind phase, but it did straighten itself out and settle again, so we lost some ground but not too much. We were now sailing somewhat over-powered, so breeze must have been over 15 knots, but not by much I think.
What a long way it is to Little Barrier! We seemed to be beating for a long time. During this time, we were re-crossed by one of the Farr 9.2 yachts, and now we were only 10 miles from Barrier, and should have been 35 minutes ahead of them. We were able to sail past them again, so we must have been a little faster, but our tactical choices up to that point must have been rubbish.
Rounding Little Barrier was OK for us, as we approached on a lifting starboard tack from the right, and we sailed sensibly around the rock, holding position against whatever other yachts were near us. We had the kite up as soon as it was free enough, and finally cleared the Southern point of the Island on the way home at about 20:30, by which time the breeze was OK to do 6.5 to 7 knots straight downwind, but more like 8 if we reached slightly, so we held onto starboard gybe for a while, rolling a little at times but mostly just sailing a very broad reach keeping the boat fast and stable.
We gybed before we approached the really rolly part of Kawau Bay, and the wind was up a bit by then, so we took great care. We tried to gybe the spinnaker behind the main this time, and it worked more or less OK, though the kite did hour-glass briefly round the furled up headsail. We were now on Port Gybe, and heading safely to the East of Tiri and Shearer rock. Speeds were mounting, and the boat was finally able to break through the 12 knot mark, then eventually 13 knots. This does not seem fast, as I have been quicker in my Farr 9.2, though admittedly in more breeze.
Time for the next gybe. Sail straight downhill, pole off the mast and off the old brace (a new idea we were trying to avoid pulling the spinnaker in close behind the mainsail). All Good up to this point, but when I pulled the release line to open the jaws for the new brace, the string broke inside the pole. It was quite a decent breeze here, and now the spinnaker was only restrained by tweakers, but still holding shape. The kite and boat were rolling around a bit ? no fun here really. I tried for about 3 minutes to force the plunger open with my fingers, but no go, I had to give it up, and put the pole away. Shouted this to Tony, and at that point the spinnaker rolled in behind the main and wrapped onto the forestay. Tried to pull it out with the sheets, but no good, after a few more minutes it was tight wrapped with little balloons flapping around here and there.
We had to gybe the main and start going where we wanted to go, and we hoped the reverse eddy of breezes behind the mainsail would unwind the kite and let us pull it down. We were REALLY lucky, and with a judicious bit of sheet-pulling, this actually did happen, so we were able to haul the kite down on the foredeck, it was still quite a bit of breeze. Somehow one jib sheet was wrapped up in the kite, so we had to undo and pull that out, then finally get the kite down below. Amazingly, it was completely dry and undamaged. We re-threaded the jib sheet, and unwound a bit of the furling headsail for some extra pace, and after about 20 minutes of hassle and strife we were going along at a half decent speed. We saw 12.4 knots on GPS sailing dead downhill with main and a number 2 sized goose-wing bit of furler. I wonder how fast we would have been with the kite?
It was difficult sailing like this, the boat was rolling in the waves, and the headsail would flog and then fill with a rig-shuddering crack. I tried a stint as human spinnaker pole, using my foot to keep the sheet out at the lifelines, but this was hard work, so we rigged the jockey pole and used this. It was as good as it gets for this purpose, and we sailed on our forced downhill line keeping the sails quiet. Boat was going OK, but only 6 to 10 knots instead of the 9-13 we had been doing earlier with the kite.
We went to report in our 60 minutes from finish, and heard the coastguard call from High Voltage who were taking on water. There was also a lot of other mess out there. After some time, we were able to let coastguard know that we were not far from their reported location and could try to assist if they wanted. They asked us to attend if we could but that there were proper rescue boats on their way with pumps. We altered course slightly to go closer to Rangi as High Voltage was supposed to be somewhere just South of Saltworks beacon.
It was a messy situation for Coastguard, as there was another yacht taking on water, and 2 yachts dismasted in the channel near Rangi Light. We thought we should at least try to find High Voltage. We did pass a yacht in the channel near where we expected them to be, and rolled up the furler and motored back to it with the main still up, but this was not High Voltage, but the smaller of the 2 dismasted yachts. We called out to see if they were OK, and they said "not really" but they did seem to be in a relatively stable situation, and we just stood by motoring around them with mainsail still up when we heard another call from High Voltage; they were bailing but only just coping, and the various rescue crews were having difficulty finding them as by now they were apparently near North Head. We turned to go in that direction intending to at least stand by with a strobe light and radio to attract rescue boats, but almost as soon as we got going, one of the rescue craft had seen them and was getting there with pumps. The rescue helicopter had the dismasted boat in their light, so we did not return to them as we really could not have done much to help apart from stand by.
So we switched the motor off, headsail out a bit again, as the wind was very broad and shadowing the genoa, and continued our race to the finish. As we finished, Steve Ashley suggested we might go faster if we unrolled ALL of our headsail ? thanks Steve, I'll remember that for next time, AFTER we have sorted out the full-size spinnaker pole. BTW Steve, thanks for making my rig so strong, we had some heavy air gybes while we were trying to manoeuvre round the dismasted boat, and our rig's still all there.
It was a reasonably easy day for a Simrad 100, and though then wind was well up at the end, it was a pleasant day's sailing, though we made a right pig's ear of the beat, and let the run also turn into a bit of a mess with gear failure which was entirely my fault. I should have changed that line in the pole before doing the series, it never looked good.
We had a big learning curve with trying to manage this cruising boat round a race course, and the bigger kite (12.6m x 7.3m) needs a lot more attention and smarts than the smaller kite we were used to. My hat is off to all those masthead kite prod boats, and other larger yachts with huge spinnakers. After my experiences with our medium sized kite, I have even more respect for their skills than I did before. However, our main issue is not related to boat handling. We really must stop making poor decisions about which way to go, and then we also need to sail the boat a bit better. This is the first year in Romany II, we think next year will be better.
Thanks SSANZ, it's been a great Simrad series this year, and your organisation was, as always, spot on.