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Fling Summer Regatta - 1st to 3rd Feb, 2013

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Regent Express giving it horns in 30 knots of breeze during Race 1 - 18,9 knots of boat speed

RCYC - City of wind

Lord Irvine Laidlaw remarked during his speech at the prize giving, that he didn't know of any yacht club anywhere in the world that would hold a regatta in 40 knots of wind. Well, that is the true essence of sailing in summer time in Cape Town. In short, it blows - and it blows really hard most of the time. The third version of the Fling Regatta produced three consecutive days of gale force winds. Of course the show must go on and PRO Doug Alison, was given the unenviable task of trying to fit a regatta into that lot. It's not often that I write an event report where I have no constructive criticism. It was exceptionally well organized and well funded by a generous sponsor with plenty of free food and drink for everyone. I normally leave my so called “man of the match” award for the final sentence, but have decided for this one to award our “man of the match” to the PRO Doug Alison for fitting in three races in almost impossible conditions simultaneously complying with the sponsors requests. That was no mean feat! Having Rick Nankin in the orgcom drivers seat, had plenty to do with things being done right.

Previous Fling Regattas had weather luck on their side, presenting unusually gentle and pleasant conditions with the inaugural one being sailed in three days of moderate westerlies. This year the Cape Doctor was out with cane in hand - whipping a lot of behinds and humbling many a good sailor. The strength of breeze was just too much for the Pacer 27 Sport and some of the other smaller boats, resulting in several retirees during the regatta, including your scribe during the final race, after a savage broach in 40 plus knots and a damaged shoulder muscle.

Broach bruise!
Photo taken 17 hours after incident. Not pretty, but it does illustrate what can happen during high speed broaches.

Race 1: Friday 1 st Feb.

The first race was held as a twilight race starting at 1700 on Friday 1 st February. The forecast for 20 knots was way too conservative and increased to 30 knots by the start of the race. Rule of thumb for Table Bay is to add 10 knots to the Wind Guru forecast. The course was set as a 'bay race' with a triangle- sausage- sausage format. The 40 strong fleet was split into three divisions – IRC, Div 1 and Div 2 with that also being the starting order. It was a very long course for the smaller boats in the strong conditions. We had a good start and good first beat, rounding more or less in the top third of our fleet. We had put a reef in the main but decided to stick with the A1 masthead spinnaker due to the deep downwind angles we needed to sail. The first leg produced a great result for us, getting us comfortably into the front of the fleet. That was followed by a beam reach, where we needed to drop our spinnaker. Even two sail reaching we were attaining steady speeds of 11 knots. That got us even further ahead, but as we know only too well, a long upwind leg in 30 knots plus with choppy seas is our worst case scenario in terms of winning races. We have to sail “fat” in order to produce enough power to get through the chop and in the process we sacrifice a lot of height. After three of those marathon upwind legs, we progressively lost our lead we had built up in the first triangle and ended with a 6th place. Disappointing, but inevitable and perfectly predictable. We had some damage with a broken headsail batten and our backstay flipper broke as well. These were minor issues which could be easily repaired before the next day. The Fast 42 Maestro had the race to themselves producing an easy win in the strong conditions, with Necessity (Beneteau 34,7) taking the second spot with the L34 Lapwing logging a 3rd place.


Results:
Rank Division Boat Class SailNo HelmName TCF Corrected Points
1 DIV 1 Maestro Fast 42 SA3444 Paul van ass/Anki Roux 1.16 02:04:56 1
2 DIV 1 Necessity Beneteau 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 1.05 02:05:36 2
3 DIV 1 Lapwing L34 10 Jennifer Burger/Alan Keen 1.015 02:06:51 3
4 DIV 1 Nuthr Witch L34 14 Dave Garrard 1.015 02:08:03 4
5 DIV 1 Hill Billy J27 SA198 Peter Hill 1 02:17:29 5
6 DIV 1 Regent Express Pacer 27 17 Trygve Roberts 1.09 02:19:21 6
7 DIV 1 Windgat Leopard 44 SA4343 Dave Robb 1.03 02:24:10 7
8 DIV 1 Cape Storm Cape Storm SA 3901 Pacer 37 1.16 02:25:05 8
9 DIV 1 Moonshadow Moondance 40 SA 3435 Philips Daniels 1.15 02:34:29 9
10 DIV 1 Argonaut Samoa 47 SA1366 Des Mudge 1.11 DNF 13
11 DIV 1 Bambe Zonke Beneteau Cycledes 434 82226 Daniel Price 1.09 RET 13
12 DIV 1 ME 2 ME Farr 38 SA898 Derek Shuttleworth 1.08 RET 13

Race 2: Saturday 2nd Feb.
The south easter howled all night and showed no sign of abating in the morning. At RCYC the sound of halyards and rigging moaning in the strong gusts was enough to make most of the competitors believe racing would be cancelled, but the bridge boat (sensibly) went out to check conditions for themselves and postponed the start for an hour. They found things to be fairly calm, but fluky in Granger Bay and set a long triangular course mainly in the westerly. Conditions were not really good for yacht racing with a raging south easter on the east side of the bay and a fitful westerly on the opposite side with that typical calm transition zone in the middle.

The IRC fleet inched over the start line in just a whisper of fading westerly, with some of the fleet taking four minutes and longer to clear the line. Most of the top boats headed east in search of the big breeze. When the Div 1 fleet started, we actually had some nice breeze from the west and and quickly overtook the IRC fleet on a straight line comparison. Of course, once the big boats found the breeze, they took off at great speed. On the west side of the course we worked our way through the fleet and caught up to Corum (IRC fleet) and Maestro (Div 1) but we could see them slowing down a lot, so we took a gamble and threw in a gybe and headed east on a nice steady band of breeze, with the J105 Pants on Fire just ahead of us. We quickly separated from our group and resolutely remained on the starboard gybe with the big A2 kite pulling us along at a steady 6 knots. Meanwhile the IRC fleet were trying to get back through the transition zone towards the Dyang Family mark and had slowed right down. There were some nice big waves being driven down by the south easter towards the turning mark, which allowed us to enjoy some great surfs in excess of 9 knots, which was not too shabby considering we only had about 6 knots of wind to work with. We were rapidly gaining on the IRC fleet and rounded the first mark ahead of several of them.


Rounding Dyang Family Buoy - Race 2

The next leg was a tight fetch to a laid inflatable mark, followed by a very long run back to the start. This is where the proverbial wheels came off for many of the competitors. It went very light to the point that Table bay started looking a bit like the Vaal dam on a summers day with limp spinnakers and stationary boats bobbing on the bay. This is where the Pacer 27 has a definite advantage. We can move in a whisper of wind and with that big A2 spinnaker, have the capacity to hop from breeze band to breeze band, which we managed to do, much to the dismay of our competitors, who had concertina'd all around us in the calm zone. We decided east and west looked bad, so we headed south and managed to find breeze all the way to the finish, which had very sensibly been shortened for the Div 1 fleet. We won by a good margin taking a bullet from Necessity by 2 minutes, with the Pacer 376 Cape Storm taking 3rd place.

The L flag was up and we spent the next two hours waiting for the IRC fleet to finish. By the time they had all completed the course, everyone had had enough and racing was abandoned for the day. However, right at the breakwater, the south easter was still pumping. We packed our sails away nicely, topped up the outboard and decided to motor back to moorings. Now we all know that a 5 hp outboard on a Pacer 27 is no match for a 40 knot headwind. That required all the crew to lie down flat in the back of the cockpit to reduce windage and prevent the prop from ventilating. Forward progress was pitifully slow at around half a knot, but we actually made it back without having to put sails back up.


Taking some solid water over the cockpit in Race 1

This regatta was turning out to be a character building one - and there was more (and worse) to come on the final day. Back at the clubhouse, the mood was festive as weary and frustrated sailors got stuck into the free beers 'n burgers. In Div 1 our 1st place had changed the scoreboard a bit. Maestro was still in 1st overall with a 1st and a 4th , Necessity was one point behind with two 2nd places, with Regent Express in 3 rd place with 7 points (6th and a 1st ). We had plenty to sail for the next day.

Results Race 2 : Div 1 only (For full results go to www.rcyc.co.za)
Rank Division Boat Class SailNo HelmName TCF Corrected Points
1 DIV 1 Regent Express Pacer 27 17 Trygve Roberts 1.09 02:11:32 1
2 DIV 1 Necessity Beneteau 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 1.05 02:13:20 2
3 DIV 1 Cape Storm Cape Storm SA 3901 Pacer 37 1.16 02:21:01 3
4 DIV 1 Maestro Fast 42 SA3444 Paul van ass/Anki Roux 1.16 02:24:39 4
5 DIV 1 Nuthr Witch L34 14 Dave Garrard 1.015 02:32:41 5
6 DIV 1 Lapwing L34 10 Jennifer Burger/Alan Keen 1.015 02:42:06 6
7 DIV 1 Hill Billy J27 SA198 Peter Hill 1 AVG 7.5 7
8 DIV 1 Moonshadow Moondance 40 SA 3435 Philips Daniels 1.15 AVG 7.5 9
9 DIV 1 Argonaut Samoa 47 SA1366 Des Mudge 1.11 RET 13
10 DIV 1 Bambe Zonke Beneteau Cycledes 434 Daniel Price 1.09 RET 13
11 DIV 1 Windgat Leopard 44 SA4343 Dave Robb 1.03 DNC 13
12 DIV 1 ME 2 ME Farr 38 SA898 Derek Shuttleworth 1.08 DNC 13

Sunday 3rd Feb. Race 3
Again the wind raged all night with dawn on Sunday morning producing a totally overcast, cool and blustery day but the gale force wind was still there and forecast to increase. The same postponement pattern followed as the previous day with the bridge boat going out to first check conditions. At 10 am. Table Bay was a mass of white water and spume driven spray with the bridge boat losing their notice board overboard. Doug Alison quickly high tailed it back to Granger Bay, where conditions were a little more civilized. It took another hour to set a course in very difficult conditions. Full marks to Doug in communicating this to the competitors.

We reefed down the main and went for our smaller headsail and the A3 fractional kite. We would have been in serious trouble with anything bigger. It was big breeze on for our start as we fought for a good spot on the line. I could have sworn the line bias changed from when we checked it earlier, as we suddenly found ourselves on the line too early. Maybe that pin mark dragged a bit?

A bit of quick maneuvering trying to find a gap whilst reaching at 8 knots saw us getting to leeward of Hillbilly (J27) who had left their outboard on the transom. As the hooter sounded for the start and we hardened up, we clipped their outboard hard with our bow resulting in some minor damage to both boats. Hillbilly did their penalty turn and we pushed on up the clearing fetch to the first mark with Cape Storm (Pacer 376) to leeward and Maestro to windward. We had our kite up first and burst onto the plane, barely under control, wiggling our way out of the middle of the two bigger boats, as the log quickly went to 16 knots. It was a case of hanging on for dear life as the boat surged and plunged through the waves with spray everywhere and white water cascading over the decks. Rough stuff.

Gybe time!
In a short space of time, we had reached the gybe line and put in a lovely gybe during a lull, then went haring off on the port gybe, but the further west we went the lighter the breeze went and with it our angles changed for the worse as we hunted down best VMG. It soon became apparent that we would have to put in another two gybes. We had sailed out of the pressure and the last 800 meters to the mark was really slow (by comparison) and it cost us plenty. We rounded just behind Maestro in 2nd place, but of course we had to face a very long upwind slog in a 35 knot south easterly and big seas. It was exhausting stuff trying to keep the little sports boat on her feet, with much of the beat having to be sailed in the “feathered” state.


Sunkiss 32 "Yolo" in trouble. They completely destroyed this spinnaker.

For the next downwind leg, we had decided we would not gybe at the previous point and headed a lot further north-east on the starboard gybe. The breeze had cranked up another notch and we were having an incredibly fast planing reach. The wind was wild and it was gusting, making control all the more difficult. The bay was peppered with boats in trouble. Some spinnakers were in shreds – others were flapping from the masthead. Things were starting to get ugly. The little J22 was in trouble, losing a couple of crew overboard at various times in the race. Silky (a new RP37) broke her rudder, colliding with the leeward mark. In short, conditions were getting on the wrong side of exciting and the right side of angst.

Our race started going pear shaped around that time. Unbeknown to us, the south easter had filled in right across the course and the lighter wind band near the leeward mark, no longer existed. We had discussed the issue going up the beat and had decided to stand further out to sea on the starboard gybe to allow for a single, fast port gybe in to the leeward mark. We were already into the 40 knot wind range and the boat was leaping wildly over the waves. There was so much spray around that trying to take a sighting on the lee mark was difficult. We also tried waiting for a lull for a safer gybe, but with boat speeds around 18 knots, it just wasn't happening. Eventually we had considerably overstood the 90 degree gybe line and we simply had to gybe. It was an awful gybe. The speed dropped off badly as we soaked low, then hit a big wave, the main hesitated coming through and we gybed – immediately going into a broach. The boat went beyond horizontal and trying to hang onto the life-lines became problematic. Our main trimmer fell down into the drink but one leg was still straddling the leeward lifeline, which was fully submerged. I was hanging on with my left hand and reached down to grab him by his life jacket and I felt the muscle in my shoulder go “pop”. We eventually got going again but things were starting to get dangerous as we broached a second time during the strike. Hanging on that time sent severe pain through my upper arm and shoulder and I knew I was in trouble and no longer capable of steering the boat safely under those conditions. We decided (wisely) to retire.

The fat lady still has to sing....
There was still more drama to come as we had to get back into the harbour. We had struggled the previous day, so decided to rather sail back. It was simply wild going through the harbour entrance where we measured gusts in high forties and later two individual gusts over 50 knots. With an upper control limit of 35 knots, those big gusts were simply too much for the little sports boat, and we were battling to tack – at one stage almost sailing into a moored tanker, due to loss of control. Eventually we got the motor going and the sails down and got everyone to lie flat in the cockpit and we managed to make it back in one piece making headway upwind at full throttle at a rate of 0.4 knots. That was one heck of a day! Our love-hate relationship with the Doctor had swung the pendulum a great deal.

So, we ended 7th with an odd-ball scoreline of 6,1, RTD. It was a regatta much better suited to big, heavy boats. Whilst our scoreline is not much to boast about, we learned many new lessons and perhaps when we can see the breeze getting into the upper 35 knot range, rather retire than risk the safety of boat and crew.

Congratulations to Paul van As and his crew on Maestro on their Div 1 win. Likewise to Necessity and Lapwing on the remaining podium spots. Thanks to all the volunteers involved to produce a great event. All that remains is to find a way to control the weather. At the time of writing the Doctor rages on with gale force south easterlies forecast for the entire week. I just hope the old bugger doesn't expire before the Mykonos Offshore.

Overall Div 1 Results only (For full results go to www.rcyc.co.za)
1st Maestro (Fast 42)
2nd Necessity (Beneteau 34,7)
3rd Lapwing (L34)
4th Nuthr Witch (L34)
5th Cape Storm (Pacer 376)
6th Hillbilly (J27)
7th Regent Express (Pacer 27S)
8th Moonshadow (Moondance 40)
9th Windgat (Leopard 40)
10th Me2Me (Farr 38)
11th Argonaut (Samoa 47)
12thBambe Zonke (Beneteau 43.4)