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Flag Officer's Team Racing.

Last updated on 05 Dec 2009

Race 1 in a nutshell: 
Position IRC: 10th from 13 
Total Entries: 34 
Distance: 34nm. 
Max Speed: 18.1 knots 
Ave speed: 7.8 knots 
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind South East 17 to 22 knots. Temp 22C 
Weather Actual: Wind started at 20 knots and built to 35 knots 
Course: Butt cat (S) – Paarden island (P) - Milnerton (P) - Blouberg (S) - Milnerton (S) - Blouberg (S) - Milnerton (S) - Butt Cat (S) 
Seas: Choppy 1.5m. 
ails: Full and Reefed Main (North), No. 2 Jib (North), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum) 
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Main), Greg Harrowsmith (Genoa), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Craig Latigan (Mast) Simon Penso (Bow), Total: 530 kg

This is the regatta that replaced the old Rothmans Sailing Week/ Table Bay Week. I was one of the prime protagonists in moving that event out of the December pre Christmas time slot and into a time more suited to most skippers and crew in terms of time off work and more importantly, more favourable sailing conditions. This weekend reconfirms with absolute conviction the reasons for the change were correct and yet there are still some sailors who think December is a good time. This weekend has seen some of the most ferocious south easterlies in Cape Town with gusts into the 50 knot and beyond range. It was a bit too much for a light sports boat, so we ended up throwing in the towel just after the start of the second race when it was patently clear we were already into the 40 knot wind range, but let's go to the first race of the day. 

The Crocs Regatta is supposed to be based on the concept of Antigua Week. We had the sunshine, the steel band, the free beer, the party and the girls aplenty but somehow that raging dust borne howling south easter just didn't fit the picture. For my sins I was asked to be race chairman so some of the decisions taken I must accept responsibility for. The race officer, Matthew Thomas is a sailor himself and very experienced. The idea was for Saturday 12th December, to have a longish bay race, followed by a BBQ in Granger Bay at lunch time, followed by another bay race in the afternoon. 

We started in about 20 to 22 knots of breeze and decided (very wisely) to put the smaller #2 jib up, but we went for a full main and the big R1 asymmetric for the downwind legs which proved to be a good choice as well. 

We had a good pin end start but typically, it didn't take long before the big boats rolled us.

There were some weird patches of breeze up near the first mark which caught a number of skippers napping. One of them was Alexandre Monet of the A35 "Addis in Cape". We heard the yells of 'STARBOARD!' from the Farr 38 "A-L" with increasing urgency and then the unmistakable crunch of fibreglass breaking. 'Addis' hit 'A-L' on the port side behind the primary winch. The impact was followed by a lot more shouting, then 'Addis' did her penalty turns and resumed racing, whilst 'A-L' retired, which seemed a bit odd to me as the boat causing serious damage MUST retire. There is no option of doing penalty turns. Things would get even worse for the boys on Addis, as at the end of racing a protest was lodged against them for changing mainsails for the second race without permission. So for all their efforts in one very long, windy day of racing, they ended with a RTD and a DSQ!

We rounded just behind the main bunch and got the R1 kite up and drawing. Speed on, turbos running and off we go...12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 knots... spray flying, nose going under every fifth wave....lots of white water in the cockpit, but we are flying and passing many of the big boats.

Regent Express running in overdrive, beautifully under control at a top speed of 18.1 knots - a new record for us. 

Soon we drew level with the Mumm 36 'Ballyhoo Too' and gybed ahead of them, as we were running out of depth and needed to go offshore. Looking behind us we saw them doiung an almighty broach as they tried to gybe, but our speed was a bit down closer to the 12/13 knot range. We were also concerned about running out of pressure, so we decided to head back inshore. Our gybes were all good and well controlled as we surged back onto a full plane on the starboard gybe. We were killing the big boats downwind.

Pam Newby's pic taken from the beach at Milnerton taken as we started running through the big boats. Regent Express is third from the left

Ahead of us loomed our bigger sister ship, the Pacer 376 (37ft) 'Cape Storm' but we powered under and through their lee, to gybe head and clear away from them. The pic below shows the little Pacer 27 closing on the 376. We had the good fortune in that Pacer Yachts had chartered a large power boat and Trevor Wilkins to get some good promotional photos of the two Pacers - and he was right on the button as usual.

After another two gybes, we found ourselves rapidly catching up to Puma and Windpower with Crocs a hundred meters ahead. Our final gybe for a starboard approach onto the Blouberg mark had us level with Puma and Windpower and having to give the two big boats water at the mark. We were feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves. On corrected time, there could be no doubt we were lying first overall, but the long upwind slog to Milnerton was waiting for us and that 1st place was destined to become tail end Charlie before the day was over. 

The breeze was manageable at around 25 knots, but the typical pattern on this coastline is that the further south you go towards Table Mountain, the harder it will blow. The boat felt quite comfortable doing 6.8 knots upwind, but our angle of point is necessarily lower than the conventional boats. Our strategy was to pick up the port lift along the beach, so we consistently headed inshore to the beach, tacking only when the depth sounder registered 2 meters. On one of these inshore tacks, I noticed what looked like a large rubber pipe floating just above the surface – that turned out to be a very large whale and her calf, so we tacked very quickly to keep out of her way. There were several more wallowing around in a depth of about 5m. 

One by one the big boats started passing us. We were matching their speed, but not their angle of point. It’s just one of those things in sports boats. You cant have it all. By the time we got near the Milnerton turning mark, the wind was getting close to 30 knots and we were sailing with the mainsail as a passenger, so we had a quick chat about putting in a reef and decided the best place to do it, would be just after rounding the leeward mark. 

We enjoyed another scintillating downwind reach down to Blouberg, and made up lots of ground (but not enough) on the big boats. Up ahead of us Ballyhoo Too had a man up the mast sorting out a problem, as we got stuck into the task of putting a reef in the main, whilst we sailed steadily sideways on the jib only. Once the reef was in, we got the boat back up to speed and started the very long slog back to the finish. The south easter cranked up a notch to 30 to 33 knots, then crept up steadily to 35 knots, which is just about the upper limit for controlling the Pacer 27 Sport. The rudder repairs appeared to be holding up nicely.

We crossed the finish line last in our fleet, other than those that had retired, not started, or been disqualified. All in all a bit disappointing for us, but that is the nature of sports boat sailing. 

The fleet all went to Granger Bay, where it was magically calm and a BBQ lunch was enjoyed (except on the Pacer 27 where absolutely nothing was dry and I was eternally grateful for the foresight to not bring charcoal and a BBQ on board). 

Race 2 was started around 3pm and we decided to give it a go if we could cope, but it was a bit wild out there in 40 knots of wind. After a fair start and 300 meters up the first beat and three knockdowns, we decided in the interests of our boat and our sanity, to retire and head back to our mooring. Amongst the rest of the fleet there was plenty of damage with (amongst others) Gumption blowing a kite, Puma breaking their outhaul, Pacer 3 ripping their mainsail and many other boats returning to port with damages. 

During Saturday night the wind raged into a frenzy setting burglar alarms off and doors banging all over the Peninsula and by Sunday morning it had only dropped a few knots with a forecast for it to become 10 knots stronger than Saturday. Sanity prevailed and we called racing off for the day. During the day on Sunday the south easter went beserk with speeds of 144 kph (70 knots) recorded at Cape Point, Rooi Els on the False Bay coast recorded 178 kph (85 knots), Hout Bay suffered damage to their marina where three boats were damaged and closer to RCYC, wind speeds in the container terminal reached 70 knots. Severe wind damage is being reported from residents all over the peninsula. This is truly the Cape of Storms. Regent Express was dancing wildly on her tethers under bare poles and she looked as though she had been sailed airborne through a coal mine. Everything on the windward side is covered in a thick coat of dark grey grit, but nothing that some fresh water and soap can't sort out.  

Racing will resume on Wednesday 16th December, when three back to back races are planned.

Above: Brisk conditions on Table Bay with Addis (Alexander Monet) in the foreground trying to get their spinnaker under control, whilst Ballyhoo Too (Dave Hudson) in the background, struggles to come upright after a gybe and broach. 

A-L lodged a protest against “Addis in Cape” for the port/starboard incident, but “Addis”  had already retired from the race on their return. A-L also lodged a second protest against “Addis” for changing their mainsail between race 1 and 2. For this “Addis” was disqualified from Race 2. A-L also applied for redress and was given average points for the regatta. Later this would turn the event on its head, as they won both the races on the Wednesday, leaving them with two firsts and another two firsts on the redress issue. Game. set and match! 

Wednesday turned out to almost make up for the first two days with a perfect 10 knot westerly which built to around 18 knots by mid afternoon. It was steady in direction and provided fair racing. A-L was back on the water and looking ship shape. This is always the boat to watch and frequently turns out to be a regatta winner. 

Race 3 was started near Milnerton Beach with a long windward leg up to the No.2 channel marker and a dead downwind leg back to Milnerton. This was a fairly boring course for most competitors and not many opportunities to make gains. 

The race was won by A-L with Corum and Windpower taking up 2nd and 3rd places respectively. We decided to go with the A2 .5 oz asso and soak deep on the downwind leg, which sort of kept us in the game but we didnt really gain on anyone either. The upwind leg was just about a one tack beat. We finished a minute or so behind Addis, but on handicap, we were stuck in 10th place. This was the kind of race one forgets about overnight. It really was dull and boring. Thank goodness for a steady breeze. We worked on our upwind boat trim and had plenty of time to discuss tactics, but they were barely needed. 

The fleet was again dispatched to Granger bay for lunch with some crews even being brave enough to take a dip in the chilly waters of Table Bay. Sitting in the lee of new Cape Town Stadium made for a new vista for photographers. 

A fairly long course was set for the final afternoon race, which would take the fleet to a windward mark, a reach to landfall, a run to Blouberg, a fetch to Milnerton, a beat to No.2, a run to Milnerton, another beat to No.2 and a fetch to the finish at No.10. It was a course which appeared to suit a sports boat, so we got a bit excited and prepped the boat with the R1 asymmetric. 

Crocs led the fleet around the course, and as is usually the case for us in the Pacer 27, we got round the weather mark almost last but right on the heels of all the big boats. The moment we got the kite up, we took off and got our boat speed on 11 knots. We were sailing a nice, hot angle and steadily reeled in almost all the big boats, until only Crocs was still ahead of us, but the next leg down to Blouberg was almost dead downwind, which meant, we had to put in some gybes. They worked out nicely and we rounded Blouberg with Maestro (Fast 42). Just after rounding, Maestro lost a crewmember overboard. We watched till they had him back on board, then focused on our next leg up to Milnerton. It was a tight fetch, so we decided to see if we could carry the spinnaker. We gained quite a bit on the big boats ahead and carried the kite for almost two thirds of the leg, before striking and hotting up for a two sail fetch to the mark. 

Once around Milnerton it was another long beat up to the #2 channel mark in a freshening breeze of around 18 knots and we had to start dumping power from the main. Just like before, the big boats nail us on the upwind legs, but we have to live with it. 

On the next run, we went hot and fast, peaking out at around 15,3 knots. This was a thoroughly enjoyable leg and we made some nice gains on Maestro, Addis and AL, rounding the leeward mark ahead of all of them. 

The next beat was more of the same and trying to protect our lead, but inevitably, all of the big boats, except Addis got past us on the upwind leg, but we had a short fetch to the finish and again we did half of it under kite and the final reach in going for a two sail fetch. We did manage to get ahead of both Benba and Maestro, but with a rating of 0.985 Benba klapped us on corrected time, but at least we beat Addis and Maestro. It is the first time that we have actually finished ahead of Addis. So we take our victories in a different format to walking up and collecting silverware. 

The Farr 38 “Benba” took the 1st place, with A-L in 2nd and Windpower in 3rd place. 

It was a far happier group of sailors on the terrace than a few days before. The prize giving went off smoothly and a good party was enjoyed by everyone in idyllic weather. 

Final results IRC only: 
1st A-L (Farr 38 - 1.012) Robert van Rooyen 7pts 
2nd Windpower (Landmark 43 - 1.162) Rick Nankin 8 pts 
3rd Gumption (ILC40 - 1.191) Mark Sadler 13pts 
4th Corum (P Briand 43 - 1.130) Jan Reuvers 14pts 
5th Benba (Farr 38 - 0.985) Dale Kushner 22pts 
6th Lobelia (IMX40 - 1.085) Rob Meek 25pts 
7th Cape Storm (Pacer 376 - 1.115) Geoff Meek 26pts 
8th Ballyhoo Too (Mumm 36 - 1.099) Dave Hudson 32pts 
9th Tenacity (Fast 42 - 1.089) Errol Stern 34pts 
10th Regent Express (Pacer 27 Sport - 1.032) Trygve Roberts 45pts 
11th Puma Unleashed (Pacer 42R - 1.188) Hylton Hale 46pts 
12th Addis in Cape (Archembault 35 - 1.036) Alexander Monat 49pts 
13th Maestro (Fast 42 - 1.089) Ankie Roux 49pts 
14th Pacer 3 (Pacer 27 Sport - 1.032) James Harvie 60pts