Romany II's ATL B&G Simrad 50 2013 Race Report
19 Sep 2013
Romany 2 Simrad 50 race report 2013.
We were really looking forward to this race, as we had found a different way to sail the boat with #3 headsail in the last race, the Simrad 100. Now we wanted to see if it would apply equally well to sailing with our #1 furling headsail in the 15 knot wind of Simrad 50.
We wanted to start towards the boat end, but we did not make it all the way down there. We were mid-line but this was OK though we were a little far back. We were almost hard on the breeze, and the Stewart 34s were showing the way here to windward of us, and seemed to be travelling better than we were, but not much. We could not see how the boats at the boat end of the start line were going, but clearly they would have been well advanced from the beginning, and I suspect that these boats had the best start and the best line - amongst them were Communique and Hot Gossip, obviously going very well down there.
By the time we reached Rangi light, we were ahead of a lot of boats in our fleet, but a good 100m back on the smaller Farr 9.2 yachts, and also behind most Stewart 34s. We were also behind the Lidgard 1-ton yacht Result, who was going really well in the 13-17 knots we had here. As we put up spinnakers for the broad reach to the Noises, Result was staying ahead of us, and we were slowly hauling in the Farr 9.2 boats. A couple of the Stewart 34s were going away from us here, holding a low line on the direct route to the Noises, but a lot of yachts chose to sail high - maybe hunting better tide. This did not seem to help them much, and we were happy to be soaking down to leeward when the breeze allowed.
There was a bit of congestion as we approached the Noises, as now some of the sport boats and Young 88 yachts had caught up their 5 minute deficit. As we made our way towards the Ahaha Rocks, the wind built slightly and also seemed to go forward a bit, which was a surprise considering the forecast views we had seen.
The rounding at the Ahaha Rocks was a bit stressful. Boats were compressed, and we had a number of yachts trying to carry their spinnakers right in to the mark. It was hard work for us getting the kite down on Romany, as often the halyard is stiff when loaded, and so it proved on this day. We got it away in the end, and I was glad that we had gone for the early take-down as the mark rounding was going to be tricky. There was a fizz-boat anchored with 4 guys fishing, and while it was possible to get between them and the rock, there were 2 boats to windward of us trying to get through as well. We chose to ensure they had room in case they needed to go to leeward of the fishing boat as we did, but in the end they both shot through the gap to windward of the boat's anchor warp.
Around the rocks everyone hardened up really high on the breeze to try and retain clear air, as there were a lot of yachts trying to find a clean air South towards the Waiheke channel. It was an intense time, and we still had a bit of spinnaker mess to clear and a wet kite to repack for the next corner. We were pressured by boats behind, ahead, to leeward and to windward, so we had to focus on finding a sailing line that would work. We made our hole and sailed there. We were on the high-ish side of this line, but we were going fairly well, and were catching some yachts ahead. As we came up to them they naturally wound it up and started to point really high, so we decided to foot through to the lee of all these boats. We were easily laying through, and fully expected that the wind would at some point go right, or at least stay where it was. The lead boats in our fleet probably made it through without tacking, but for us the wind unaccountably went left, and probably most of our fleet and the sport boats also had to throw in a tack to clear the NW corner of Waiheke.
We did well here, and picked up some ground on Result, though we were not at all surprised to see our old mate Fendall in Communique just about 150m behind, and going well as always. Once we were able to bear away and start reaching, it took us a while to get Romany really going well. We could do 8.3 knots when we finally got the sails working as well as they could, but spent a lot of time doing only 7.2 while we were fiddling around with the trim when we should have been able to hit those trim marks immediately.
We did catch up a bit more on Result here, and decided to go for kite when we rounded the SW corner of Waiheke. We put it all together, but when I went to pull the topping lift to raise the pole, the clip came undone - I must have not clipped it securely, so it was out with the extendable boathook and fishing up the mast to try and snag the G-clip floating around about 12 foot above deck. Amazingly this worked, and we were eventually able to ready the pole for kite hoist.
In the meantime, Andrew had kept the boat going along at about 7.5 knots, so we dithered about the decision to hoist or not to hoist. A little extra gust of wind made the decision for us, as it caught the bit of kite that projected out of the bag to the pole end, and whipped the whole spinnaker out of the bag. We had not pulled on any sheet to speak of, so we suddenly had a lot on.
We did hoist it, but it came up with a really good hourglass, so we had to mess-on with Andrew and I working together to ease the halyard and pull down on the leech, while sailing down a bit to get some pressure off. Andrew did an excellent job here, making possible for us to get the hourglass unwound, and we had the spinnaker flying, but it was ugly. The halyard was about 10 foot away at the head, and winching it up was a nightmare, so damn tight.
Amazingly through all these poor boat-handling incidents, we did not get punished as we should have, and we did not lose much ground at all. Altogether this messy bit of work could have been so much worse, so we were very lucky. We once again went for the early take-down, as we needed to be clean around the Rocky Bay mark and preferably able to tack quite quickly. This worked OK for us, and we did round in good shape with the boat sailing fast and high, so we were able to choose our moment to tack.
The wind was now moving from SW to W. The first boats around the Rocky Bay mark had a bit of SW to take them towards Motuihe, but by the time we were around, the breeze was clocking steadily right, so no choice about where to sail for us. We tacked very soon after the mark, once we had full speed, and headed off on Port tack towards the Waiheke shoreline, as did most of the other yachts near us. Smooth water and a right-hand persistent shift saw us extending along here as well as we could.
We were now sailing amongst a couple of the leading Young 88 fleet, and we were a little astern of some of the mid-fleet Stewart 34s. I said to Andrew that I would be simply rapt if we were able to hang in there, and maybe even overtake one of the Stewart 34s up the beat. We were sailing Romany looking for speed, and were able to achieve this. Inconsistent sailing saw us occasionally drop speeds down to 6 knots, but the boat was definitely going better at 6.7, even though we were pointing lower. We were a bit over-powered with #1 furler in this much wind (15-18 knots), and the mainsail was fairly flat. By the time we reached Motuihe for the turn towards Motuihe green Buoy, the wind was possibly just a margin North of West, though this could be my imagination. Either way, the first part of the track to Motuihe we were fully wound up on the breeze. We had passed Result on the early part of the beat, and also moved away slightly from Communique, so we were reasonably happy with our pace and height. We made a long Starboard tack, and sailed along the Southern shoreline. A couple of other yachts were there, but most stayed up to the right near the shores of Rangi. I am not sure as yet what was best, as the wind did remain reasonably constant in direction throughout.
The wind increased a bit, and we were seriously overpowered, but we just really flattened the mainsail, eased the traveller down, and kept sailing very fast - the boat was handling it very nicely. As we crossed tacks with the Stewart 34 ahead of us, we were slowly making gains on them, and we were delighted to be able to pass them just before we reached Bean Rock.
This is one of the two most satisfying races we have had with Romany II. I really think we have finally figured out how to make the best of the boat to windward. We still sail inconsistently, and probably only have the boat going as well as possible for 60% of the time, but at least we now have speed targets that we know can be achieved, and maybe even bettered in future.
Well done to the guys on Result, they really had an excellent race, started well - sailed really fast downwind, and made the best of the boat as far as they know it. They have only owned the Result for a short time, and will no doubt get even better performance with time, but that Simrad 50 was well-sailed by them and they really deserved their win. We are happy to be second on handicap, but mainly we are just so very happy to be competitive on the wind at last.
Well done to Wandering Star and John Barleycorn who seem to have done best in the series - these yachts have sailed really solid races throughout. Indeed all the boats in our fleet have actually had good racing, it's just about what suits the individual boats on the day, but consistent results from these 2 boats has brought them series success.
Thanks SSANZ, you just do this so very well. We are looking forward to next year already.