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RCYC Bay Race

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Race in a nutshell: 6th November, 2010

Position PHRF: 1st from 13 entries
Distance: 13.5nm.
Max Speed: 13.9 knots
Ave speed: 6.2 knots
Time: 1 hr 37 mins 34secs
Weather Forecast: Cloudy with 30% rain. Wind NW 14 knots Temp 17C
Weather Actual: Sunny, no rain. Wind SE 5 to 12 knots. Temp 20C.
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Isl (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Isl (S) - #10 (S)
- Milnerton (S) – Paarden Isl (S) – Finish Red Laid Mark (S)
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum), A0 Asymmetric Spinnaker (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby ( Main ), Steve Meek (Genoa/Spinnaker), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Connor Leech (Mast), Erhardt Joubert (Bow) : Total: 466 kg

Occasionally the roll of the dice goes our way. Mostly we really have to sail incredibly well to finish in the top third of the fleet of the ubiquitous windward/leeward courses coupled with a handicap rating akin to a 40 footer. I try to accept that as a suitable punishment for the sheer joy of sailing a high performance boat. Then we get a day – maybe two or three in a year – when everything just goes our way. This week's race was one of those.

We had two crew replacements. Simon went to Tietiesbaai (he goes there a lot) so we got Steve Meek from North Sails in his place, whilst Josh was at a dinghy regatta at Voelvlei and Erhardt (our new cap) was happy to tackle the job of bowman. We asked Phill to move from main trim to pit, whilst Charles shifted back to main and we asked Steve to trim headsail and kite, whilst Connor was left in his customary position of mast man. It would prove to be a potent combination.

The forecast of a rainy day with a moderate north wester was dismantled completely by a clear, sunny day with a light south easterly and flat water. In other words – perfect weather for a Pacer 27 Sport. These boats revel in flat water. Add to that we had exceptionally light and switchy conditions. With its sensitive rudder and light weight, we are able to adjust very quickly to changes in wind speed and direction and accelerate quickly. With a 14 boat mixed fleet, we had two 40 footers as likely competition as well as the new Beneteau 34.5 “Necessity” skippered by David Booth (ex owner of the Mount Gay 30 “Just Fun”)

It wasn't a serious race, just one of those low key club events. The breeze went very light about 3 minutes before the start, so we worked our way over to the pin end where we felt we would get quicker access to the fitful south easterly just teasing the bay here and there. “Neccesity” was the only other boat at the port end of the line. They were smack on the line and were the only boat that had any real speed. At the start gun they were directly in front of us and whilst we parked at almost zero boat speed, they took off upwind in what appeared to be their own mysterious band of wind. A minute later we got it as well and set off in pursuit. The rest of the fleet remained firmly planted behind the line with no breeze at all. So it looked like it was going to be a two boat race. We have to give the Beneteau 35 footer about 2 minutes per hour, so we had a lot of work to do, to not only catch them, but get far enough ahead to eradicate the handicap advantage they have over us.

By the time we got to the weather mark we had chipped away about 10 boat lengths from the 40 odd that they had over us. They put up an asymmetric spinnaker and headed down to Milnerton making good speed. We rounded about 2 minutes behind them and got our kite up and sailed the boat as hot and fast as we could heading for the beach, where we threw in a well timed gybe in just 3m depth. When we crossed on port behind Necessity, we had closed the gap down to about 10 lengths. We were further out to sea but they had also gybed coming out to sea with us. They were sailing deeper angles than we were, which effectively put them downwind of us, as the breeze clocked around to the west, it gave us a 90 degree reach to the Milnerton mark. Within another minute, we were ahead. As we closed in on the mark and the two boats' angles converged, Necessity was about 3 lengths behind us.

We got our headsail up and dropped the kite in preparation for the mark rounding, whilst Necessity kept their spinnaker up, hoping to carry it all the way on the reciprocal heading, but we know from experience that it is not possible. That would cost them plenty as they soon realized they could not hold the angle to the next mark, which meant getting their headsail up on an upwind leg and then try to get their spinnaker down. By the time they got that lot sorted out, we extended our lead by 300 meters. Going up close to the beach and the surf line was the best way to tackle the beat and along that stretch we made some more gains, but Necessity had recovered well and was also using the big lifts on port tack to make gains. As we were approaching the Paarden island mark, the first of the rest of the fleet were just rounding it on their first leg. They must have parked off there near the start line for ages! Someone on board said we might end up lapping some of the boats. Prophetic words!

After rounding the Paarden island mark, we had to do a weather hoist but we pulled it off neatly and soon saw in excess of 12 knots on the log as we planed all the way down to the No.10 mark. When we looked back, we had virtually doubled the lead we had on Necessity to about ¾ of a mile. We only just laid the No 10 mark and were close to being on our ear with the wind at 90 degrees apparent and blowing through at a solid 18 knots. We did another really good gybe and headed back towards Milnerton on the starboard gybe. It soon became evident that we would not be able to hold the correct angle, so we got the headsail up, and took the kite down, which allowed us to work our way back onto the rhumb line. Whilst that was happening, we got our bowman to button on the Code Zero. It took longer than we hoped, but when we hoisted it; our speed went up another two knots as we closed in on the Milnerton mark. Ahead there were three or four of the tail enders still rounding Milnerton on the first round. So, we would lap them after all.

After a good strike and rounding, it was kelp dodging time as we negotiated islands of the stuff and headed directly to the beach on the headering starboard tack. With all of us watching the depth sounder like hawks, we made the call to tack when the depth read 2.8m – a wee bit tight. There were waves there as well which could easily alter those readings by a meter within as many seconds. Necessity had grounded briefly on the previous beat, so we were a little weary of repeating the exercise!

Four or five tacks up the beach kept us in the hunt and we passed another half dozen boats in the process – all of them being lapped. The wind was all over the show, both in strength and direction, so a lot of concentration was required by the crew. We rounded Paarden Island just behind an Ocean 31, who also about to be lapped, and got the R1 asso up in about 20 knots of breeze, as we planed away down wind, but our angle was well off course and we would not be able to hold the kite for long. This was perhaps one of the few tactical mistakes we made as we should have kept the Code Zero asso for this leg. We did a seamanlike strike of the R1 after getting the genoa up and headed high for the finish line.

It was perhaps our best race in terms of performance in a mixed fleet since we have started sailing the Pacer 27 Sport. We had a 24 minute winning margin over the Beneteau 34.5 on actual time, which corrected down to 22 minutes. A fabulous day on the bay for us and great to be back on the podium for a change.


1st Regent Express - Pacer 27 Sport - 1.080 - Trygve Roberts - 1hr 45m 22s
2nd Necessity - Beneteau 34.7 - 1.050 - David Booth - 2hrs 7m 24s
3rd Impact - Impact 30 - 0.920 - Jackie Brand - 2hrs 20m 4s
4th Iched Da - Muira - 0.910 - 2hrs 26m 46s
5th Majimoto ll - Farr 40 - 1.910 - 2hrs 29m 10s
6th Celine lV - Comfortina 39 - 1.050 - 2hrs 29m 16s
7th Cabaray - Van der Stadt 34 - 0.940 - 2hrs 39m 14s
8th Lets Go - Buccaneer - 0.800 - 2hrs 39m 24s
9th Zeeslang - Van de Stadt 30 - 0.925 - 2hrs 40m 8s
10th Paragon - Ocean 31 - 0.970 - 2hrs 40m 14s
11th Apricot - Miura - 0.925 - 2hrs 40m 19s
12th Wallbanger - Simonis 35 - 1.095 - 2hrs 42m 31s
13th Ava - Muira - 0.925 - RTD