Written by Jonathan Stone
It was an overcast, eventually rainy afternoon on the Harbour. The morning’s light sunny westerlies gave way to an unusually cold, cloudy north-easterly as we manoeuvred for a start; the wind held at 15 knots and cold, eventually reaching 20 knots, as we sailed home. A great sailing wind.
The Harbour was crowded like a summer’s day - fleets of WSC dinghies, the 18 footers’ first race of the season, Moths and Wasps flitting silently among us.
John V gave us a timed start; and we all need to get that right. The flag sequence is set out in the Sailing Instructions in Section 11. Today was windy, our rigs were noisy and it was hard to hear the sound signals. So, you needed to read the flags, sync your watch to the flag falls and take it from there. As it was, Time & Tide made the best of it, after ducking behind two boats who, having arrived at the start line early, were loitering on starboard, for a fast, strong start.
Corinna had been the last to start area, arriving from Rushcutters Bay with a fresh coat of antifoul; or something. Though she missed the start by the best part of a minute she sailed high and fast, to turn the Point Piper mark first. The leg to Taylor’s Bay saw a couple of port-starboard incidents; G-Force reached the Point Piper mark on port, making good time against T&T. But she tacked under T&T at the mark, made contact with the mark and loyally did the appropriate 360° penalty. Half way across the Harbour, Corinna was hit by a Mirror from WSC. No injuries and no damage to either boat, but the Mirror turned turtle, and its young crew struggled to right it. The Mirror was on port and Corinna on starboard, but Corinna stopped racing and hovered close to ensure the kids could handle the situation. T&T slowed, radioed in the situation to WSC via Paul in the Clubhouse, before we all started racing again. (The kids did get the boat up and were able to sail on but, even when the mistake was theirs, you can’t just sail on and trust they will cope - so properly done Chris).
In a nor-easter like today’s, any nor-easter, the legs from the start to Point Piper to Taylor’s Bay to Sow’n Pigs form a long work. Heading to the top mark Corinna continued her uncanny performance, working high and fast. Chenonceau also showed speed, sailing over T&T to reach the top mark in second place.
After the long work, we were all relieved to ease away and turn downwind for Shark Island, goose-winging our headsails. T&T was characteristically fast downwind, passing Chenonceau, regaining second place and making time on Corinna. Still it was Corinna who gybed first at the Shark Island mark to head for the finish, then T&T, Chenonceau, G-Force and Smitten.
As we reached for the finish, on the leg from Shark Island to Clarke Island, the 18’s fleet zoomed through us. On T&T, I felt we had our little yacht moving nicely, both sails nicely engaged, white water at our bow and in our wake. But the 18’s had up twice the area of sail (including spinnakers) and a tenth the hull weight. With maybe 20 times the power-weight ratio, they were planing well above wind speed. The difference was stark between displacement sailing and skiff sailing, in which planing is the key mode, at least off the wind. And then there’s foiling, with only foils in the water, and under the surface, unaffected by the surface chop; one wonders what's next.
For our fleet, on this last leg, there was just one change of place; Chenonceau challenged T&T for second, sailing over the smaller boat successfully. On Corinna Chris paused to hoist a spinnaker, just for fun because his lead was decisive without it.
The wind blew up as we finished, fresh and cold; it blew us quickly back to our moorings and made us focus as we unrigged. Air temperature was nearly 20°C, so we weren't freezing, but it was unusually cold for a northerly in October.
Ashore, we sat inside the Clubhouse, with the north-facing windows closed against the breeze and warmed up, talking about port and starboard and rights at marks, moths and wasps and 18s, sailing short handed, hull cleaning and antifouling. The 18s came ashore after their race, flopping around like large butterflies. With several of their crews novice to racing these wild skiffs, there was some struggling, and helping, not too much shouting. Fortunately, there seemed to be neither damage nor injuries.
As all this unfolded, light rain settled in, the first in Sydney for 6 weeks. Nobody minded.
Another Sunday, lots of sailing fun Across our line:
- Time & Tide
Well done to Chris and Stephen, to all boats for a safe, competitive, fun race.
We race again on November 5.