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IRC Winter Series - Race 6

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Arriving at the pre-start area........Photo by Matthew Thomas

4th September, 2010

Race in a nutshell:
Total Entries: 11
IRC Entries: 3
Position line: 3rd
Position IRC: 3rd (or also known as DFL to those in the know!)
Distance: 19nm.
Max Speed: 12.6 knots
Ave speed: 6.3 knots
Weather Forecast: Cloudy, with 30% rain. Wind NW 20 to 14 knots. Temp 17C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. No rain. Wind NW 12 knots becoming W 8 knots - Temp 17C.
Course: 10 (P) - Landfall (S) – Milnerton (S) – Paarden Island (S) - 10 (S) - 2 (S) – Milnerton (S) – Paarden island (S) - 10 (S)
Seas: Lumpy, with lots of kelp - 2.5m swell
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No.1 Genoa (Quantum), No.2 Jib (Quantum), R1 Masthead Asymmetric Spinnaker (Quantum), A0 Fractional spinnaker (quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Waldo Zevenster (Main), Simon Penso (Pit), Bruce Webber (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow) - Total: 500 kg


Maybe it was the forecast of 30% rain or the rugby test match between the Wallabies and the Boks, or just 'end of winter apathy' – or more likely a combination of those three, but the response to the email call to the IRC fleet elicited a paltry three positive responses. There was no rain and we lost the rugby test, but before that the three skippers decided it would be best if we joined up with the club fleet, which itself was rather puny. The total combined number of boats was only 11.

We were keen to try out our new No.2 jib – an experiment from months of discussion amongst ourselves and with Quantum's sail designer in the States. Since most of our summer sailing in Cape Town takes place in breeze between 18 and 30 knots, we figured a well designed No.2 was an important part of our sail inventory. The original No.2 jibs (in our opinion), are too short on the foot and short on the luff, which effectively means the sail is probably only generating the right amount of power above 28 knots – especially since it is a non overlapping jib. The new sail is almost a heavy No.1 being only marginally smaller on the foot measurement, but the big difference is in the chord depth.

Above: Our new #2 Headsail from Quantum. At 14 knots the wind speed was just a fraction too light for this sail, but it sets beautifully.

Photo: Charles Crosby

The breeze was forecast for around 20 knots, so we figure we would try the new jib out in ideal test conditions, but 10 minutes before our start, the 20 knots started fading rather rapidly down to around 12 to 14 knots. So we hastily did a headsail change in favour of the No.1 Genoa – a very wise decision. We did a kelp reverse manouver before the start, but once again kelp would prove to be our undoing.

The start line showed some port bias, so we opted for a pin end port tack start, which we pulled off to perfection, but ultimately had to tack away for an L34 on starboard. It was about 4 minutes after the start that I noticed our point was bad. No matter how we fiddled with forestay tension, mainsail leech tension and sheeting angle, we were unable to hold the same point angles of the 35 footers ahead of us. Normally we can more or less stay in contention with the A35, but they quickly pulled out a substantial lead on us. The course was in essence one big triangle and one small triangle, but the breeze swung west which made it a predominantly port tack beat and the first reach turned into a run and the second reach became a fetch.

We rounded 5th. Ist was Lobelia (IMX 40), followed by Docksafe (A35), Zebra (X332) and Necessity (Beneteau 34.5). Any prospects of planing downwind at a good angle were quickly extinguished when we saw Lobelia coming downwind with their pole squared fully back. We had a heck of a lot of catching up to do. We got the R1 masthead kite up and started sailing our best hot angles, but boat speeds were generally only around 9 knots. It took the entire 3 mile leg to Milnerton, to close the gap down on the Beneteau 34.5 which was (embarrassingly for us) sailing without a spinnaker. We rounded on their transom at Milnerton and immediately noticed that we had slightly superior fetching speed than they did. It took a few minutes to overtake them. Once clear ahead, we decided to put the Code Zero up. Most of us were sceptical that we would be able to hold the boat upright, but we needed the practice anyway. We pointed lower for the hoist; got it set and immediately the boat speed went up by 2 knots to sit on 9 knots steady. The boat was comfortable to handle and lively, but it did require all the crew to be fully hiked out. The Beneteau dropped rapidly astern as we easily held our angle to the Paarden island mark.

The next leg up to the No.2 mark was more of the same lumpy upwind sailing and again we noticed how quickly we lost the lead we had built up, but we managed to just round ahead of the Beneteau before the No.10 mark, which was also the end of the race for them. It was only the IRC fleet that was required to complete the second triangle. At that stage we must have been almost a mile behind the A35 and double that distance behind Lobelia. It was dispiriting being tail end Charlie so we just decided to have as much fun as possible and had a discussion on doing spinnaker peel changes.

For the repeat leg of the fetch we had the Code Zero up and drawing just after gybing at Milnerton and made good speed all the way up to Paarden Island . By the time we got there, the other two IRC boats had already finished, so we had that awkward feeling of being the last boat on the bay with the committee boat waiting for only us. The wind switched back to the west again, which meant we had a true beat up top the finish.

For a laugh we decided to sail back to our mooring under spinnaker which was probably our most successful move of the day. Just after docking, I noticed a very large section of kelp attached neatly right at the bottom of our keel. Whilst Lobelia and Addis had a good dice, finishing only 13 seconds apart on corrected time, our little piece of kelp spaced us some 20 minutes adrift of the A35s – just in case anyone thinks having a lump of kelp doesn't make any difference – believe me, it makes a HUGE difference. Thankfully, that was the final IRC race of the winter and we can now get back into some big fleet sailing as all the fair weather sailors dust the cobwebs off their boats in preparation for twilight racing.

We will be sailing Regent Express around to Simonstown in two weeks time, which in itself should be an interesting exercise and a new experience for most of us, who have never sailed around the notorious Cape Point before. The reason we are going to Simonstown is to participate in the Spring Regatta – another first for us. Four Pacer 27's are expected to enter, so at least we can look forward to some solid one design racing again.