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Audi Twilight Series Race 6.

Last updated on 05 Dec 2009

Race 1 in a nutshell: 
Position IRC: RTD 
Total Entries: 10 
Distance: 8.0nm. 
Max Speed: 14.6 knots 
Ave speed: 7.3 knots 
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind South East 20 knots. Temp 24C 
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind SE 40 knots gusting higher. Temp. 20C 
Course: #10 (P) – PI (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden island (S) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Island (S) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden island (S) - #10 (S) 
Seas: Choppy, breaking waves, spume. 1.5m 
Sails: Reefed Main (North), No. 2 Jib (North) 
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Main), Greg Harrowsmith (Genoa), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Craig Latigan (Mast) Simon Penso (Bow), Total: 520 kg

Last week ago there were many sailors unhappy with the race officer cancelling racing in what appeared to be sailable conditions. Some lighthearted fun was made of the RO with an adaptation of the Windhoek Lager ad which did the rounds and made it onto the club notice board. 

Yesterday it was "Ron's Revenge". Racing for Class 1 and 2 was cancelled, but the IRC fleet were deemed competent enough to be sent out onto the race course. With me being the originator of the beer ad adaptation, I was left with no choice (and riddled with guilt) but to go and race. We rigged in a very gusty and powerful south easterly and set off into the Duncan Dock to get the sails up. Everything was an effort but eventually we had the main up and reefed, the outboard off and stowed, and the No.2 jib up and furled. 

Table Bay was more white, than green with spume being whipped off the wave tops - really strong conditions and even reefed down to our smallest sail plan, we were still hopelessly overpowered in the gusts. As we reached down the start line doing 13 knots under the small rig, there was a loug bang and the vang went slack. The attachment U bolt had pulled out of the mast with the 8mm bolts shearing clean through. Whilst Phill jury rigged the vang, we tried to get into a decent starting position near the wall, but we ended up being a few seconds late. Ahead of us the L26 was having a torrid time, being flipped over regularly in the gusts. The J27 also seemed to be having problems and was moving forward quite slowly. 

In the meantime Addis (A35) shredded their mainsail. They elected to continue racing but on a headsail only. They did suprisingly well, considering their handicap. 

We were doing 7.5 knots upwind with the jib leech opened up a lot and more or less under control. At the weather mark, I made the call for the spinnaker hoist to be cancelled. I just didn't feel happy about the gust factor and the possibility of losing the rig so close to two major upcoming regattas. Despite the lack of spinnaker, we were still doing 12 to 14 knots, as we overtook both Addis and Lobelia downwind, the latter which had done a huge broach and spent the better part of four minutes lying on their side. 

We did two good gybes as we worked the angles downwind to round the downwind mark in 6th place, just ahead of Addis and Lobelia. Our plan was to stand in towards the beach on starboard tack, but this also had to be changed as their was a seriously large whale moving right in front of our path. We had to tack immediately onto port and called to Lobelia for room to tack, which they duly did, also having spotted the whale. 

The upwind leg to Paarden island was horrible. The noise levels were deafening - the main culprit being the main which was flogging continiously and sounded much like a cracking whip. It was nothing other than pure drag. Addis outpointed us on a headsail only. Since it is our only mainsail, we deemed it more sensible to call it a day than put the sails and rig through any more punishment and bore off for the safety of the harbour. The sail back to port itself was fast, wild and wet with frequent knock downs. The L26 and the J27 also threw in the towel a short while later. It was just too strong for small boats, but it was nontheless a good experience to be out in such wild weather and to have the knowledge that the boat and the rig can actually handle it. One of the items that came out of the outing, was that it might be a very good plan to have a second reef in the mainsail - simply as a point of safety and to give the boat the ability to get back to port in severe weather, as does happen from time to time in the Cape of Storms. 

I thought of radioing the bridge that we had retired, but as quickly abandoned the idea as hearing any replies on the VHF would have been imposiible under the circumstances. That got me thinking about how tough it would be having to make a VHF mayday call under similar conditions. It's a lot tougher than what most people imagine. 

Once back in the harbour, the gusts were actually worse, but the seas a little flatter. We went through the reverse process of getting headsail down, motor on and running, main down and packed away below. Then we had all the crew lying flat on the deck to reduce windage and to allow the little 5 hp outboard to get us back upwind through the narrow channel into the small craft harbour at full throttle. Docking is always an interesting exercise in a south easter as the final turn is a downwind one onto our pontoon and of course, the boat accellerates, but we did a pretty good arrival. 

So, yes, the Pacer 27 is a much stronger boat than what many people think, but no, it's not a lot of fun in a 40 knot wind. We were happy to be back on dry land. 

Thanks Ron - you've had your revenge. We can all play nicely from here on.