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IRC Summer Series Race 7.

Last updated on 25 Apr 2009


Race in a nutshell:

Position IRC: 15th 
Total Entries : 17 
Ave Speed: 7.2 kts 
Max Speed: 16.5 kts 
Distance: 7.2 nm. 
Elapsed Time: 01.02.58 
Corrected Time: 01.05.03 
Time behind leader (Corrected) 9 mins 
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind South East 20 knots - Temp 30C 
Weather Actual: Wind SE 20 to 35 kts 
Baro: 1014 hPa. 
Course: Start No. 10 (P) – Laid Mark (P) - #2 (P)- Laid Mark (P) - #2 (P)- Finish #10 (P) 
Seas: Choppy 0.8m. 
Sails: Full Main, No. 2 Jib, Big Assymetric Spinnaker 
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Main), Greg Harrowsmith (Genoa), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Sebastian (Mast), Nic Baigrie (Bow), Total: 510 kg
 

The question the whole day was: “Would we race or would it be blown out?” 

The club called me around lunch time to ask if I could stand in as OOD (Officer of the Day). I am always willing to help out, so I went down a bit earlier than normal and had a good look at the weather/wind on the bay near the start line. It seemed more than reasonable to me, so I gave the Race Officer the thumbs up for a race. 

This was to be our third outing on the Pacer 27 and with the various bits of tweaking we had done to the boat, I was expecting a better result. Whilst we were rigging, the join on the continuous furler line parted (my handiwork !!) which immediately put us under some time pressure. Eventually we made the call to cast off and sail with the smaller (#2) jib and not bother to furl it on the downwind legs. We also took the precaution of rigging the main for a reef – just in case. There was a good ol’ fashioned South Easter on the bay increasing steadily in strength towards the approach of sunset. 

Once out in the main basin it was evident that the 18 to 20 knots I had observed an hour and a half earlier was now definitely up a notch or two. The course was windward/leeward with two loops. Straight forward. Whilst we prepped ourselves for the race, Greg and Nic were busy trying to re-splice the furler line. They were still busy with it with 2 minutes to go to the start. Sheesh! Talk about pressure! 

Despite all the action, we had the headsail up and set ready for the start, which we executed to perfection. We had the boat quickly trimmed at a fast, footed off angle for the weather mark, holding many of the Class 1 boats. We rounded in the first six and headed off high to set the big asso. There were no problems with the hoist, with our guest (a pal of Nic’s) settling quickly into the position of mast-man. The horses kicked in and the Pacer lifted her skirts and cruised along effortlessly without fuss or bother at around 16 knots. The problem with this boats downwind speed is that the gybe moment arrives far too quickly. It is incredible how quickly the gybe comes up when you are travelling at those speeds. 

We went into the gybe positively and managed it sort of OK – certainly not how we want to be gibing – but we were level and got going again on the port gybe towards the lee mark. Somewhere behind us the 25ft Beneteau had broached (This made us feel better as they are experienced at heavy weather sports boat gybes). The leeward mark rushed up to meet us, so we got the kite down perhaps 5 boat-lengths too early and the jib unfurled. When that big spinnaker comes down, its like someone has pulled the handbrake on. Painfully slow by comparison! 

We were ahead of many of the bigger boats and had rounded third. Nice! 

Going up the next beat we sailed fat to get through the chop and kept the boat speed between 6.2 and 6.5 knots. I was grateful we had the smaller jib up as we were seriously overpowered and should have had a reef in the main. One by one the big boats got through us being able to point higher than us, but we were still very much in contention near the weather mark. The 34ft Sensation had done well to close the gap on us and rounded on our stern. At that stage we were still aiming for a podium finish. We had made few mistakes and the baby stays we had rigged to support the lower part of the mast were working like a charm and allowed for much better control of the mainsail. 

The second hoist was not so good. The halyard snagged the top of the jib furler, which meant we had to drop the halyard halfway and then rehoist. That is never easy with a 65 sq.m. kite and 30 knots of breeze. It took us a minute, but eventually we were up and planing off into the distance. We all felt a loud thump somewhere in the boat and noticed the spinnaker tack line had eased itself by a meter or more. There was absolutely no question we would be able to pull it back in with sort of pressure in the sail, so we just carried on speeding down the reach. Very quickly it was gybe time. 

This gybe was not so good. We have not been able to figure out exactly what went wrong, but we broached. Nice and slowly. I felt the rudder aerating and losing grip and then it’s a waste of time trying to turn the boat downwind. You have to get the boat flat. The crew blew the halyard and stopped it halfway. That was just sufficient for me to get the boat level and turning back on course. Quickly they got the kite back up to the masthead and once again we were flying along at 16 knots heading for the leeward mark. Our position in the fleet was still looking strong, so we decided to hang onto the kite longer than the earlier round. And that was probably our undoing. 

Things happened in slowmo. Nic was on the bow trying to reach the windward sheet and most of the crew were off the rail in preparation for the strike. That’s when she dug her chine in and turned abruptly into the wind, totally ignoring helm inputs from the skipper. The spinnaker went into the sea and quickly filled with water. The head ended up behind the boat and somehow ended up being speared by the rudder. Result: Massive hole from the head to halfway down the leech. No matter what we did, we could not get the kite off the rudder. Minutes ticked by as the entire fleet sailed past us. Oh well, I suppose we’re still very much in the learning phase. 

Nic came to the rescue and promptly jumped overboard (sea temp 10C today) and managed with those long legs of his to prod the spinnaker off the rudder. Finally we got going and completed the course in a good 35 knots of wind. One or two gusts were really powerful and hurled us around as if we were a dry leaf, but the Pacer does accelerate very quickly. Despite the hectic breeze, we were still able to hold her on 6,2 knots steady upwind. 

Back at the dock, Phill called me to have a look inside the boat. It made my eyes stretch wide open. The boat has a built in “closet” which houses the bowsprit and its purchase system. The rearward set of triple block is bolted through a 7mm fiberglass composite end piece which seals the closet off from the rest of the boat. The closet has an independent system of drainage holes to clear water coming in through the front when at high speed. Where this end piece is fastened, half of it was missing. Lets call it a baffle board for now. During the second reach, the force on the tack downhaul had been so severe that the baffle board had imploded. Incredible! That was the thud we had heard when the tack line suddenly increased in length by a meter. 

So we are logging our maximum speeds. First race 11.5 knots, Second race 13.6 knots, Third race 16.5 knots. These speeds are really simple to attain. There is no magic moment when the boat starts planing. It is a smooth, seamless process of acceleration with very little spray or noise – and easy as pie to keep under control. Man – what a ton of pure sailing fun! 

OK, so who cares if we came last. We’ll be back next week with hard learned lessons and an improved performance. We cant wait for Mykonos Offshore in two weeks time. If the breeze is up and from the right direction, we are in for one heck of a ride. 

Thanks to Sebastian for slotting in so comfortably in our team. 

Winner of this race was Bjorn Geiger’s Aladdin, followed by Unleashed (2nd) and Sensation in 3rd place. Ryan Avery and his team on Sensation are the form boat at the moment, showing very consistent results. Well done.