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RCYC Bay Race

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Race in a nutshell: 4th December, 2010
Position Line: 1st
Position PHRF: 1st from 9
Distance: 16.0 nm.
Max Speed: 12.7 knots
Ave speed: 7.1 knots
Time: 1 hr 56mins 01secs
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind SW 14 knots Temp 23C
Weather Actual: Accurate
Course: 10 (S) – Barker Rock (P) - #8 (S) - Finish mark (P)
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), A2 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Pit), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Waldo Zevenster (Mast), Erhardt Joubert (Bow), Phillip Rentschler ( Main ) : Total: 507 kg

Every now and then Cape Town dishes up a perfect sailing day – a respite from the tedious south easterlies – and this race was strangely supported by less than 10 boats. For those that did not make it, you missed out on a near perfect day on the water. No kelp, no plastic bags and a moderate to fresh south westerly kissing a sparkling ocean. Add to that a drag race up the Sea Point promenade and a quick visit to Clifton . Great stuff.

The course was a simple one. Head off to Barker Rock off Clifton and return via the No.8 harbour mark; or in more simple terms – a windward/leeward race. Just the very course that doesn't suit a sports boat. We sized up the opposition. There was the Farr 40 ‘Majimoto', Alan Taylors J27 ‘Pure Magic' (a tough boat to beat on handicap and very good in light winds, but they were sailing with only 2 people on board) and a Beneteau 45 footer called ‘Ray of Light'. This last mentioned boat we have not seen racing before, so we had no idea how it would perform, but it certainly had all the telltale signs of being a cruising boat, so we didn't consider it to be much competition, but it does have waterline length! Volker Vierhaus's Comfortina 39 was also in the fray, so we would need to keep an eye on them as well.

With about 15 knots of breeze we elected to go with the full sized sail plan. The line showed a lot of port bias, so the plan was to start as close to the bridge hut as possible on port. The J27 had the same idea, as did the big First 44.5. We managed to keep our chosen spot clear and gradually edged up to the start line hitting the line right on the signal. Or so I thought. I had a good view down the entire length of the line and when we heard the second hooter, I knew immediately it was us over the line as the rest of the fleet were all still behind the line. We reacted very quickly and spun the boat back downwind, crossed the line, gybed and hardened onto port tack again. That was our second OCS call of 2010. You know what they say? If you aren't getting OCS calls, you aren't trying hard enough!

Despite the delay, we were still in a strong position and quickly started reeling the J27 in, overtaking them just after the tip of the western breakwater. To leeward we had the First 44.5 "Ray of Light" "who seemed to be sailing fast, despite their ‘cruisy' image. There was a lot of shouting on that boat and whilst we were holding them on speed, they had a few degrees better point than us. After 10 minutes it became obvious they were going to force us into a tack. We wanted to get back over to the shore anyway to pick up the shore wind bend, so we tacked away. The crew of the First 44.5 considered this something of a victory as we could hear them cheering as we went back inshore on starboard tack. This little contest would develop into yet another David and Goliath story later in the race. No-one followed us.

Once we were well into the header near the light house, we rolled back onto port and picked up a major lift allowing us to forge ahead and into the lead. The J27 had dropped well behind us as they must have been struggling with only 2 crew in 18 knots of breeze. The wind had picked up a notch or two and we were also depowering the rig a lot to stay upright. Whilst that was happening, the big boats were gaining on us. The first boat to tack inshore and follow us was the Farr 40 ‘Majimoto'. By the time we did our second starboard hitch inshore, the Farr 40 had overhauled us and crossed ahead by two boat lengths. 'Ray of Light" had also come back inshore and crossed close behind us. They had also made some ground on us (as they rightly should). We were probably playing the shifts better than them, as they actually should give us a caning upwind in such a big boat. By the third inshore tack, the Farr 40 was well in the lead by about 600 meters, followed by the First 44.5 about 400 meters behind them, and ourselves some 500 meters astern of them. Behind us there was a big gap and we could just make out the J27 astern as being fairly well placed in the second batch of boats.


Barker Rock is a big lump of granite always visible above sea level regardless of the tide. When the north wester is blowing and the winter waves come thumping through, it is a nasty and dangerous place to be in a sailing vessel, but today it was quiet and gentle allowing for a close rounding without problems. The wind had gone light after Sea Point – right down to about 7 knots and that meant our main weapon of downwind planing had just been neutralized. The Farr 40 took ages getting their kite up and the First Class 44.5 seemed to not have a spinnaker at all as they goose-winged and went dead down wind (DDW).

We have learned by now that in non planing conditions, it is best to sail as deep as possible. We ease the tack line of the asso by a meter and heel the boat to windward (like the Laser sailors do). This allows the leech of the spinnaker to roll over to windward, presenting a bigger area and it also reduces wetted surface. That way we can sail angles of around 160 to 170 apparent which allows us to at least compete with the opposition. We were catching the First Class 44.5, but not the Farr 40, which was doing almost exactly the same speed as us downwind which was around 7 to 8 knots. Both boats have to give us a fair bit of time allowance, so we weren't too concerned. They both gybed further offshore, but we chose to go close inshore. Normally this would be a bad idea because of all the kelp beds, but the sea was clean and we were going well in fairly steady pressure, so we stuck with our game plan.


Just before the light house, we put in a gybe. Similar to the trip upwind, this was the shear point where the wind had been stronger. The pattern remained much to our delight. As we gybed onto port to head offshore, we crossed close behind the stern of the First Class 44.5 and again there were hoots of delight and much cheering from their crew. We were sailing 90 degree angles downwind with the stronger breeze, whilst they continued to sail DDW. The Farr 40, now some 1.2kms ahead appeared to be sailing to the wrong mark. That would certainly benefit our cause a lot! When we closed in on the No.8 mark on the starboard gybe, we were the outside boat and we arrived exactly at the same time as the FC 44.5. which meant we had to give them mark room, but I know how slowly the big boats turn, so I turned hard upwind, to shoot through past their transom and the mark and draw abeam and to windward of them.

In the meantime, the bridge had called the unfortunate skipper of the Farr 40, at that stage heading for the finish line, to advise him, that the No 8 mark was a mark of the course, to be left to starboard. It was quite comical watching this from far astern. There was a 5 second delay, followed by luffing of sails, a tack and then one Farr 40 heading back to No.8 at speed. But most of us have made those errors and they are infuriating in the extreme –and especially so when you are the race leader. Being race leader carries with it a lot more responsibility. And how many times haven't we seen the leader sailing the wrong course and the entire fleet following him!


Again there was a lot of shouting and cheering going on aboard the big boat and it appeared they were taking this little 27ft Pacer very seriously and proceeded to start to luff us. We played the game studiously, responding to each luff, but we held on and were able to equal, but not better their speed. The angle to the finish was a very tight fetch and just before the finish line, they managed to break the overlap and get 15 meters ahead of us. I would imagine that they thought they had us beaten as they sailed for the finish line blissfully unaware of what was happening behind them. We eased sheets, and dipped down towards the pin end which was the closest point on the line. By the time the crew on the FC44.5 realized what we were doing, it was too late. There was hysterical shouting from the crew (I think they sounded foreign) urging their skipper to take action, but again the size of the big boat would be its downfall in close quarters combat. We popped our bow over the line just one second ahead of them, claiming line honours. We could feel their disappointment as their entire crew fell silent. Then of course they still had to give us a fair bit of handicap time. So we nailed a line honours and handicap win – much to our surprise, as the W/L course generally does not allow us a win. We must have done something right.

Above: Our GPS track. Note the wind curve around Moullie Point.
It was an unexpectedly good dice with such a big boat and provided some additional enjoyment to an already very enjoyable race. The hapless Farr 40 was third over the line, a few minutes later. We will never know if we would have beaten them had they sailed the course correctly in the first place, but we take our opportunities on the water with both hands and with gratitude. Surprisingly, the J27 sneaked in to take second overall corrected some 5 minutes behind us. And speaking of J27's, their skipper fell overboard – right at his mooring. No harm done other than a dented ego and a cold swim, but once again, I appeal to sailors to wear life jackets. You just never know when your number is up.



1st Regent Express [Pacer 27 Sport] – 1.080 - Trygve Roberts – 2hrs 5mins 18 secs

2nd Pure Magic [J27] – 0.995 – Allan Taylor – 2hrs 10 mins 23 secs

3rd Majimoto ll [Farr 40] – 1.130 – Paul Mare – 2hrs 12mins 47 secs

4th Ray of Light [First Class 44.5] – 1.170 - Michael Kavanagh – 2hrs 15mins 46 secs

5th Celine lV [Comfortina 39] – 1.050 – Volker Vierhaus – 2hrs 21mins 11 secs

6th Saorsi [Atlantis 36] – 0.955 – Tony Blackwell – 2hrs 22mins 16secs

7th Cabaray [Stadt 34] – 0.940 – Ray Matthews – 2hrs 25mins 1secs

8th Mafuta [ Bavaria 36] – 1.010 – Matthys Lourens – 2hrs 45mins 23secs

9th Lets Go [Bucaneer] – 0.800 – Duncan Johnson - Retired