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Portugal Race Day.

Last updated on 25 Jul 2009

Race in a Nutshell:

Kindly sponsored and supported by: 

The Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
Rainbow Nation Fishing, Lusitania, Bright Electrical, 
P.K. Meat, Advanced Transport, Mercantile Bank, 
Brito’s Meat, Ocean Basket Tableview, Fish for Africa, 
Ocean Link, Bridge Auto, House of Colours 

The Course: #10 (S) - Barker Rock (P) - #10 (P) 
Distance: 15,5 nm Straight line distance. 
Wind: SW 22 knots to S 8 knots 
Crew for the day: Simon Penso (Bow); James Harvie (Mast); Phillip Rentschler (Pit); Greg Harrowsmith (Headsail/Spinnaker trimmer); Charles Crosby (Main); Trygve Roberts (Helm) 

Maximum speed: 12.6 knots 

This is one of those annual events at RCYC which are hugely popular with most yachtsmen. Fifty one entries bear testimony to that, notwithstanding extreme winter weather right up to the night before, with a set of four cold fronts sweeping over Cape Town bringing torrential rain and snow. Most of us went to bed on Friday night wondering whether the event would take place at all, but on Saturday morning a weak wintry sun made it's appearance and the race was on. 

Each year this event goes from strength to strength. It is well organised and well supported by many Portuguese busineses. This year, like last year, followed the same familiar social programme with folk dancers and a speech by the Portuguese Consul in Cape Town. There were some mistakes this year and I will try to point them out on this website in the form of constructive criticism, as the elimination of mistakes makes for improved events and that is what the club is surely striving for. The biggest mistake this year was moving the function into the shed. The acoustics are very poor and not a word could be heard by any of the speakers from where I was sitting. The seating was cramped and difficult to access, resulting in many cases of people having to walk on the benches to get to their seats. The time span from the end of racing to the prize giving was too long, resulting in most of the audience being fairly tipsy by the time the prize giving started. Tipsy people are noisy people and noisy people dont make for an attentive audience. PLEASE move this function back into the main hall next year! 

The traditional Portuguese folk dancers are lovely to watch, but perhaps 10 songs and dances could be cut down to 2 and the same message will have been delivered. They sounded so much better in the carpeted and curtained main hall last year. Or maybe add some other form of cultural event (like olive tasting). The formula needs to be altered a bit to add some more interest or at worst to be shortened considerably. 

On the positive side, the effort put into the decor was fantastic, the food and hot soup was welcome (it did need a serious dose of salt though) as were the free drink and meal vouchers. 

The band (made up mainly from members of the club) provided music for those who wished to listen, but I left before they started as by that stage the noise levels in the shed were becoming unpleasant and my eardrums were begging for mercy. 

On to the racing. The wind was South West and hoppping around between 12 and 22 knots, but it wasn't very cold. We decided to go with the #1 Genoa and the smaller A3 spinnaker, but that would be changed as the day wore on and the breeze faded.

The Atlantic was the colour of black tea, strewn with liberal quantities of plastic bags and kelp from the weeks' storms. We cast off an hour before our scheduled start time of 12h54 for our first ever sail on the new Pacer 27, "Hyperactive". Ant Wentworth had brought his Pacer 27, "Felix" around from Simonstown to join in the race, so we were looking forward to having a sparring partner. But fate was to have a hand in that not happening. 
The VHF was strangely quiet. Normally for pursuit races, each group of yachts are called up one minute before their scheduled start and counted down live during the final 10 seconds, but the radio in the bridge hut was broken and to take matters worse, there was no backup hand held. The result was an absolute fiasco. 

On our boat for example, when we realised that the bridge were not calling times, we singled out the L34 "Lapwing" as being competent starters and on time with a 10 minute head start on us as a good boat to take our start time from. We had our position on the line all figured out and our strategy in place for the long beat up to Barker Rock off Clifton. We were nonplussed to see our opposition "Felix" taking off some four minutes ahead of us. We looked at our watches and had a discussion and decided they had started prematurely and would be disqualified. Other boats scheduled to start around our time (like the Farr 38 "A-L") were all in apparent sequence with us, so were convinced we were right. With hindsight it would appear that the entire start procedure was a huge bugger-up and no-one really got it right except for perhaps the first two or three starts. The further one went down the starting order, the more the errors were multiplied, as the norm is to take your five minute signal off the boat that starts five minutes ahead of you, but the absence of audio confirmation quickly turned the whole lot into a shambles.  

We patiently waited for our gun and made a good start at full speed. It was destined not to be our day, as a mere few hundred meters up the first beat, going fast on port tack, we heard an ominous creak. Everyone said: "WHAT'S THAT?" Nothing further happened so we settled down and hiked hard to get maximum speed out of the boat. A minute later there was the sound like a shotgun going off, followed immediately by a splash and a shout (or was it a shout and a splash?). The lifeline lashing had parted and we had two crew overboard, Greg and Phill. 

Charles grabbed Phill and I grabbed Greg, but neither of us could haul either of them on board whilst still trying to steer and control the boat. Greg managed to grab onto the pushpit and haul himself on board, but Phill floated away to settle floating high in the water with a huge smile on his face - One of those smiles that said: "Gee I am glad I have a life jacket on" 

Once we had Greg on board, we tacked and sailed back downwind till abeam of of the MOB then gybed, But we were going too fast. The sea is very cold in Cape Town and it is really important to get a MOB back onboard in double quick time, so I luffed the boat hard in an attempt to park the boat right next to Phill. Willing hands grabbed him and we hauled him onboard via the open transom without too much trouble. I must say getting someone back onto this boat is relatively easy. 

As soon as we had our team on board, we tasked Simon with getting a spare line rigged for the lashing, but of course we were unable to hike hard until he was done. An observation on boats that have been dry sailed inland and stand under the ferocious Highveld sun, is that the UV is deadly on ropes - that is despite the fact that the lifeline lashings were 2mm Spectra!! They might be OK for inland but definitely not OK for coastal sailing.
Felix the Cat on their ear near the finish line.

Meanwhile "Felix" was a distant blip. We had given them another two minutes advantage and we would never make up the gap. The sea was lumpy and the breeze was fading. We had debated whether we should have the #1 or #2 jib up before the start and wisely decided to stick with the #1 as the forecast indicated the breeze would fade to 10 knots by the afternoon, which is exactly what it did. The boat felt good and we were holding our own with most boats around us. We decided to hug the shore all the way up and that proved to be a sound strategy as we gained many places to find ourselves midfleet by the time we reached that lump of granite called Barker Rock, itself subject to being washed every 15 seconds by huge waves. Most skippers gave it a respectably wide rounding as spinnakers were set for the dead downwind leg back.

Meanwhile we had Simon (our new bowman and more of that story later) down below derigging the A3 fractional kite in favour of a light A2 masthead kite. As we approached the rock, we had the 41ft 'AFTER YOU' inside us and a slower boat on our outside. We managed to gybe inside the 41 footer and got away with a good hoist, with our guest James, doing a good job on the halyard.
Exceptionally heavy surf around Barker Rock made for some dramatic photos.  

We got the boat up to 9 knots and headed offshore on the port gybe, really struggling to shake "After You" off. We did several gybes as we tried to gain positions, but the six minutes at the start had cost us dearly. We crossed the line finishing 19th overall. What is encouraging is that 'Felix' finished 5th overall. Well done to Anthony and his crew. The race was one by Lobelia. 

So still a few gremlins to sort out as we steadily get the boat up to coastal standards and hopefully we will acquit ourselves better in two weeks time during the Robben Island Pursuit Race. This will be another race with the potential for the Pacer to do well if the breeze is from the right direction. 

During the week I received an email from our long serving bowman, Nic Baigrie, advising with no notice, that he had moved on to a bigger boat, which left us with a bit of a scramble to find a replacement by the weekend. We wish Nic well in his endeavours on board the 43ft WINDPOWER after a five year stint with our team and a 14 year stint crewing with me on dinhies and keelboats. Simon will now take over the bowman position as we search for a replacement mastman. So if you are keen to join the Pacer team and are aged between 18 and 35, give me a call. 083 658 8888


1st Lobelia IMX 40 1.15 
2nd AL Farr 38 1.09 
3rd New Balance ILC 40 1.265 
4th PUMA Unleashed Pacer 42R 1.25 
5th Felix the Cat Pacer 27 sport 1.08 
6th Windpower Landmark 43 1.235 
7th Lapwing L 34 1.015 
8th Naledi J120 1.155 
9th Maestro Fast 42 1.15 
10th Hors D' Oeuvre L26 0.955 
11th Hill Billy J27 0.995 
12th Benba Farr 38 1.065 
13th Addis in Cape A35 1.085 
14th Hitachi L26 0.955 
15th 8 Seconds Leisure 42 1.165 
16th Perriwinkle Farr 38 1.095 
17th Pure Magic J27 0.995 
18th After You L41' 1.19 
19th Hyperactive Pacer 27 sport 1.08 
20th FarMed Miura 0.935 
21st Mafuta Bavaria 36 1.01 
22nd Majimoto II Farr 40 1.13 
23rd Touch n' Go Lightwave 395 1.08 
24th Impact Impact30 0.92 
25th Mighty Lemon Drop L mini ton 0.88 
26th Miss Isle Simonis 35 1.09 
27th Celine IV Comfortina 39 1.03 
28th Cabaray Stadt 34 0.94 
29th Indaba Stadt 34 0.96 
30th Morgenster L34 1.015 
31st Sirocco Jenneau 36 0.95 
32nd FTI Flyer Charger 33 0.985 
33rd Saoirse Atlantis 36 0.955 
34th Lets Go SA 2676 Bucanneer 0.8 
35th Apricot SA130 Miura 0.935 
36th Diel Diebold 19.2m 1.23 
37th Paragon Ocean 31 0.97 
38th Iechyd Da Miura 0.91 
39th Paprika Petersen 33 0.935 
40th Carousel Beneteau 390 0.98 
41st Storm Ocean 31 0.95 
42nd Julie III Miura 0.935 
43rd Ava Miura 0.935 
44th Sea Oyster Nose Be 38 0.98 
45th Main Contessa 32 0.88 RTD 

46th Thalassa Fortuna 37 0.835 RTD