Written by Jonathan Stone
After a week’s delay, from last weekend’s rain, we did race. A few boats were lost from the fleet by the rescheduling, but the sun was out, and the Harbour was sparkling. The wind was east-nor-east but it backed and veered widely; lifted to 15 knots and dropped to just a few knots - it was not the steady nor-easter sea breeze that has shaped so much of the sailing heritage of the Harbour. More like two breezes mixing over us.
The Harbour seemed empty (for a spring Sunday) as we sailed out, but then Optimists and Tasars appeared from Rose Bay, and motor cruisers ploughed by us, seaplanes appeared off the port bow and the 18s sailed out for their start, like huge insects.
There were just three of us, T&T and Corinna and Smitten. And, we kept the racing informal and did three short races, around Shark Island. T&T finished first in all three, but only because Corinna gave us generous starts. Chris’ Endeavour 24 is from a class that appeared on the scene, circa 1970, about the same time as the Hood 23 (T&T) - the first all-fibreglass small yachts. There has been a long rivalry between the classes; both have enjoyed large fleets, and national or state associations (Corinna has won the Endeavour 24 Nationals, T&T the Hood 23 States); though the fleets are now much diminished, as faster boats with cleverer rigs have been produced. Young sailors can choose foiling boats like Moths, or overpowered, too-tender-to-go-to-sea lifting-keel yachts capable of 20 knots, or just more modern one-class boats like Etchells.
Still, both classes are real sailboats, able to work upwind at ~40°, with options like spinnakers or goose-winging, and a range of sail adjustments. T&T and Corinna have raced together for nearly 10 seasons; and, even allowing for Chris’ long-honed skills as a helmsman, it is clear that the Endeavour 24 is stiffer and faster upwind, not much faster but able to sail a few degrees higher; and the Hood is faster off the wind. The difference is not large; if either of us neglects to have our hull cleaned between races, the growth-induced drag leaves us totally uncompetitive. So the racing is close.
In each of Sunday’s races, T&T was allowed a 1-2 minutes start, from Clarke Island; Corinna gained upwind and was on more or less even terms as we battled shifty winds around the ‘wedding cake’ structure at the north end of Shark Island. Then, as we rounded Shark Island and ran for home goose-winging, T&T pulled away; each time.
Smitten stuck with us for the first race; but she is a bigger boat (at 33 foot) and her sails are cruising-small; in stronger winds she is all over the smaller boats; but not yesterday.
So, we made good fun of the conditions; and look forward to a larger fleet on December 3.