It was an absolutely sparkling afternoon; warm without being hot, a 10-15 knot sea breeze; an almost empty harbour (the 18s are finished for the season, the summers championships are done). But the DBSC big boats were racing!
On shore, it was DBSC’s Community Day, with sausages and jumping castles and families; the wharf was crowded with young things headed for ’The Island’. Word was it was that strange site’s last day for the season. And this morning was the end of daylight saving, the turn of the seasons.
6 boats presented, all competitive; what would happen today? John Vasey kindly provided the start - from the Paul Adam - starting the start sequence punctually at 1.00pm; and he provided also a well-placed mark at Point Piper.
Corinna won the start, but proved uncharacteristically restrained upwind, rounding the first mark fourth behind Sanity, Chenonceau and T&T. She had to fight to stay in touch on the shy reach to Taylor’s Bay and on the long work from there to Sow’n Pigs, where she turned 5th, of the six boats racing, for Liaison had recovered from a blocked start to steam past the two smaller boats.. Chris then ‘flew a kite’ on the downwind leg to Shark Island and Corinna passed Time & Tide then Liaison then - late on the last leg Chenonceau. Which sounds straightforward, but he was the only skipper to fly a spinnaker, and had to manage the gybe at Shark island. So, Corinna - one of the smaller boats - finished second.
Sanity had a strong start and tacked to strike out left into the Harbour (Corinna and T&T and others headed right to pick up the breeze around Point Piper). Whichever way Sanity goes - left or right, high or low - seems to be the way we should all go, a sign of a well-sailed boat. A beautiful boat 34 footer - we have chased her all season. She was first around all marks, sailed high on the works, kept control of the off-wind legs. Finished first.
Chenonceau was a bit late for the start but sailed fast and high upwind all afternoon. From the start she sailed past Corinna and T&T, to round the first mark in second place, behind only Sanity. She held second almost to the end; she sailed fast and high up the main Harbour to Sow’n Pigs, well clear of all the chasers. But she proved slow downwind. It was a long chase but both Corinna (under spinnaker) and T&T (goose-winged) passed her on the final leg, a run. So a slow end after a powerful upwind performance; finished fourth.
Liaison was blocked by a starboard tacker (T&T) on the start line and her helmsman chose to tack away instead of taking the starboard-tacker’s transom, in a dip and and accelerate move. This forced manoeuvre tack must have made her crew cross for, overcoming the slow start, they sailed her powerfully upwind and high; and, on the leg to Sow’n Pigs put the pesky small boats (the Hood 23 and Chris’ Endeavour 24) in her wake, moving into third place. As with Chenonceau however, Liaison - with a standard headsail arrangement (no kite, ho goose winging the headsail) proved slow. Corinna slid past to the east of her under spinnaker, T&T to the west and, on the last leg and, on the last leg, G-Force also caught her. So, after being beautifully sailed upwind legs, she was sixth over the line.
G-Force was just off the pace, for much of the afternoon. She started well enough and headed right with others, but stalled on the way across, uncharacteristically allowing T&T to work over the top over her; she is normally too fast for that. G-Force recovered composure and stayed in touch with the fleet. Finally, on the last leg, she set her spinnaker, and eased past Liaison, to claim fifth.
Time & Tide was, frankly, late for the start, yielding 50 metres to Corinna, who hugged the favoured pin end. Our start strategy was OK (sail close-hauled along the line high, then tack quickly onto port); but we took a long run at it and the wind dropped a bit and we were - late. For once, however, we found height and speed upwind; we gained two places on the first leg, passing above G-Force and then out-thinking Corinna, which is not a common event. We turned third at the first mark, with the longer boats Sanity and Chenonceau ahead. On the shy reach to Taylor’s bay the T&T held off Corinna and held her place; but, from that bay we looked north to Sow’n Pigs, the leg so long you cannot see the mark; and tacked out into the Harbour, heading across to Neilsen Park. We often lose places on this leg and so it was - Liaison sailed clean past us; but we held Corinna, to be fourth at the reef. And then came the downwind legs - T&T’s deckie did a neat goose-wing and we caught Liaison on the way to Shark Island, and Chenonceau on the leg home to Clarke Island. That would have put us in second and made our day; but Corinna - sailed solo - flew her kite to pass us, proving that - as always - a well-set spinnaker is faster. For Chris, gybing the kite after the Shark Island mark involved him leaving the cockpit, with the tiller lashed approximately midline to move the pole across. It could have gone horribly wrong but it didn’t, though it took Chris some time and T&T moved briefly ahead. But once that spinnaker re-set we could not hold him, and he finished 15 seconds ahead. Somehow our competitiveness - on T&T we were trimming and trimming - took both the smaller boats past another biggie (Chenonceau), and T&T finished third. Wondering whether we should have let courage be the better part of caution, and flown our big, fast, black and yellow kite. But - we didn’t. Finished third.
A great autumn race.
Across the line:
Time & Tide
We sail next on May 5.