Romany II's B&G Simrad 60 2013 report
15 Jul 2013
Here is how I saw the day.
The forecast was for light air for the first part of the day. It seemed the wind would fill in from SW in the afternoon, but would be light from SE in the morning. We also expected some rain and for it to be cold, so I packed a lot of food for the long day, and plenty of dry clothing.
The start went off right on time, and we had started well, choosing to be down at the pin end with a faster sailing angle on the reach to pass Browns Island. The breeze was better than we expected and we sailed OK till we passed the beacon. Some yachts that started high had deployed spinnakers and gennakers, and these boats did OK as the wind did allow these to work if the yachts started on the high line. It was a toss-up, and a fairly even distribution of our Shorthaul fleet passed Browns Island, when nearly everyone got their downwind sails up and working, ourselves included. In our fleet, Perfect Alibi had showed fantastic pace early on, and they led away heading right I think. Strathspey had done well, so too several of the others, and the T32 Wandering Star was already showing great judgement and pace to be well up in the fleet.
It was hard to follow where all the yachts in Shorthaul went after Browns Island, as the fleet spread out a lot across the full width of the Tamaki Strait, so I can only talk about those that we were close to.
We had decided to sail a straight-line during this race, always going towards the mark as fast as we could, as we just did not know what to expect from the breeze. We did not know for sure when the SW change would arrive, and so we just held a line towards the corner at Passage Rock, and followed any breeze lines that came to us. Wandering Star was doing the same, and they were ahead of us and going away most of the time. That T32 is very well sailed and was performing nicely in the light breezes. Hot Gossip was just to leeward of us, and Communique somewhat to windward and astern. We resisted the urge to climb to windward for speed, as we were uncertain as to whether we would ever be able to get back from there. This tactic seemed to be good for us, and we steadily made our way towards the corner doing 2 to 3.5 knots depending on the breeze. When the wind really died away, it was about 1:30 pm and we were 2.8 miles from the SE corner of Waiheke. We looked really good here, and were almost on even terms with a few boats in our fleet that had stayed to the left ? Wandering Star was very slightly right of our line, and Hot Gossip was low with us, and Strathspey up to windward but fairly even. Communique was more out in the centre, and we were well ahead of them at this time. There were a great many boats that had headed right and were in a huge flat spot with no way to make all the extra distance back to the left.
At this point the wind stopped pretty much, and so did everybody, and we waited for wind. Some yachts were able to find enough breeze against the shoreline to move towards the corner ? we were just a tiny bit too far right to do this, but we could see breeze astern and we had to await its arrival.
It came from the WNW, probably about 3:30 pm, and was mostly on our (left) side of the course. We could see all the boats that were behind getting picked up and brought along to us, this is what we had expected.
Spectacular in this bunch was John Barleycorn, who made a fantastic job of getting round the corner after we had just managed to avoid being rolled by them by climbing to windward. Going away from our plan of holding the line to the corner was something we had avoided doing all day, but I felt it necessary with the big cloud of boats rolling up to us, and it was a bad move, we should have stuck to our line. The folks on John Barleycorn somehow slipped by to leeward and just disappeared round the corner and up the channel. It was not long before a bunch of boats that had hugged the corner had made gains on those that did not, and we all had to do our best to catch up. John Barleycorn simply slipped away, and held the breeze in their spinnaker all the way through the channel, but they must have been sailing their boat wonderfully well to have made such a huge gain as they did, as they were soon nearly 2 miles ahead of us. Most of the boats that had been behind and not too far to the right were brought up by the breeze, so there was quite a crowd at the SE corner of Waiheke, all trying to work out how far to travel to the East before gybing North in the WSW breeze as it was now.
It was slow work up the Waiheke channel, with big holes in the breeze, especially to the left. Sensible yachts that stayed well out to the East did better here, and eventually we fought our way over to the right a bit and also made some ground. We found L'Avanti over there, and Super Severance had done a good job of sweeping by out wide. By the time we cleared Pakatoa and approached Kauri point, our friends on Communique had done well to catch up also, and were right there, judging the exit from the Waiheke channel very well. They had overtaken Hot Gossip who were close to us the whole time throughout the race to that point, and Communique continued to show great skill to carry their red spinnaker to advantage further than everyone else towards Thumb Point. There was a bit of a wind shadow off Kauri Point, and it was a matter of fine judgement as to how far out to the East you had to be to maintain decent breeze. There were some small gains and losses to be made here, but nothing really significant.
Now at last the yachts were getting up some speed, and things should have gone along the lines of boat speed from here on. John Barleycorn had already got well away from the rest of our division that I could see, but the quicker boats would have been gaining on them all the way from here on I think.
It was dark by the time we turned the corner at Thumb point, and Communique was just to leeward of us and ahead, having sailed extremely well up the East coast of Waiheke. We were both heading more or less on the rhumb line towards the Northern end of Motutapu, and we continued to sail on that straight line expecting that the SW breeze would be reasonably constant now. Most other yachts seemed to sail a higher line than us, so there was only really Communique and ourselves down on our straight line, and possibly one other yacht. We could no longer identify anyone else in our fleet except Communique.
We were sailing in the dark and not doing it that well. Our boat is slightly quicker than Communique in a straight line in those conditions, but only if it is correctly trimmed and sailed well. On this night, we were very inconsistent, and Communique was able to hold us on speed almost all the way across to Motutapu as we went faster and slower depending upon how we were sailing the boat at that moment in time. We should have taken a bit of distance out of Communique on this leg, but simply did not, and were only about 150 metres ahead at the time we had to make our first tack.
In the end, it proved sensible to have a bit of windward gauge in case the wind went right, as the wind did indeed swing right a long way when we were still some distance from Motutapu, and all the yachts on the left were able to make the lay to the turning point, while we had to tack to get up there.
In the channel, we made a mess of our first tack as in the dark, as I had made a mistake with some tidy up of the spinnaker downhaul, and this halved our lead over Communique. When Communique tacked back, we let them go through without dumping on their nose, there was no reason to persecute our old mates and there was a long way to go. As we sailed in light air past Waikalabubu, we lost focus again and failed to change gears for the lighter breeze. Communique successfully rolled us and sailed away ? very nice move by Fendall there, a bit embarrassing for us, but a sailing lesson to remember.
On the beat from there on, Communique immediately piled on the pace and sailed away from us as we still struggled to find the best trim and speed for Romany II. The difference between night and day sailing for us really was like the difference between night and day. During the daytime, we had reasonable pace and were content with our positioning and trim, but during the night we were completely out of sorts with the boat and did not get the best performance for where we were trying to sail. In the final analysis, Communique took 5 minutes off us in the beat and reach from Motutapu to the finish, and that is down to skill.
John Barleycorn were easy winners on this day. Wandering Star had sailed another fine race making sound decisions all the time and getting excellent pace from their yacht, they were rewarded with a well deserved second, though perhaps with luck they could have expected even better. Perfect Alibi was badly affected by the wind stopping when it did, but they show tremendous speed and will be a serious contender for this series. It was especially hard for the faster boats in the fleet, as the whole race basically reset after 3:30pm (6 and a half hours of sailing) and all the fast boats had to try and make up handicap on that.
We enjoyed our day out. The weather was way better than we had anticipated, and the bourbon and beer and pies and sandwiches all helped to make it another very pleasant day of SSANZ racing for us. It had its frustrations, and sometimes the day felt like a game of snakes and ladders, but we honestly expected it would be that way. We are happy with the pace of the boat, but will need to sail better for longer to achieve decent results. Looking forward to the next one already.
Thanks SSANZ, you are still clearly the best.