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RCYC - Bay Race.

Last updated on 25 Nov 2009

Race in a nutshell: Cancelled 

Total Entries: 15 
Distance: 6 nm. 
Max Speed: 14.3 knots 
Ave speed: 6.5 knots 
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind North West 30 knots. Temp 17C 
Weather Actual: Accurate 
Seas: Choppy and lumpy. (4 to 5m) 
Sails: Reefed Main (North), No. 2 Jib (North), A3 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North) 
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Alan Keen (Main), Charles Crosby (Spinnaker), Perry Harrison-Hyde (Pit), Daniel Spratley (Mast), Craig Latigan (Bow), Total: 455 kg

It was scheduled to be a low key ‘one off’ club race. One of those nondescript courses around Table Bay which never seems to deliver a true beat or run. We kind of like those courses because for sports boats we revel in the reaches and invariably we deliver fairly good results. Half of our regular crew were unavailable for a variety of reasons, ranging from a motorcycle rally to having to work, the latter being a euphemism for “I am required to spend some time with her” 

The L34 ‘Lapwing’ has a very large hole amidships on her port side – the consequences of being rammed by a Farr 40 some weeks ago in a port/starboard incident. She is now standing on the hard awaiting the ministrations of the repair crew. Meanwhile her crew are boatless, which is how I managed to get Alan Keen and Perry Harrison-Hyde to come sailing on the Pacer 27 and Craig (Pinky) Latigan from Quantum was free to fill in for Simon, as bowman. We had to reshuffle the crew around a bit with Charles taking over headsail/spinnaker trim and Alan handling the mainsail. Perry looked after the halyards, whilst Daniel and Pinky looked after the bow. We were all looking forward to some seriously fast downwind legs in the forecasted 25 knot north westerly, but Saturday morning revealed a very strong and gusty (unseasonal) pre-frontal weather system with lots of very dark clouds in the north. I knew the probability of getting a race in seemed unlikely, but we all went down to the mooring anyway and started rigging the boat. There was a unanimous agreement on sail plan – reefed main, #2 Jib and A3 fractional kite. I had driven in to the harbour via the container terminal where one gets a good view of the bay - And it wasn't pretty - plenty of white water and rolling green hills of Atlantic. Rough stuff. 

By 13h00 of the 15 odd boats entered, only four were rigging in a deteriorating weather system. By 13h00 the race officer came over to inform us, we were the only boat intending to go out, so he was cancelling the race. That was the correct decision, without question. I suggested to the crew, that we go out for “a quick burn on the bay”. Everyone was OK with that. 

Pacer 3 only had three of their five crew pitch, so they also said they would go out for a short run within the harbour. I suppose it was ironic in some ways that of all the heavy weather boats at RCYC, the only two boats willing to go out were the ultra light Pacer 27’s. Perceptions are bound to start changing. 

After the last race we had sailed back onto our mooring without the outboard, which was still secured down below. To avoid having to haul it out twice for a short spin, I suggested we sail off the mooring. We planned it nicely and executed the plan perfectly, but there were problems lying ahead. First, let me explain that the small craft harbour at RCYC is a triangular shaped basin with only one entrance/exit. In the past year, a lot of rearranging of moorings has taken place to accommodate 55 new moorings. In the process the arms of the jetties have extended a lot further into the entrance channel, leaving a width of perhaps 18 meters. A few months ago, we had a problem motoring out the channel into a strong NW wind which just so happens to blow directly down the channel. On that occasion our furled headsail had come partially undone higher up, rendering the little outboard incapable of getting the boat up the channel, so we had ended up having to escape down one of the access channels, hanging on to the stern of a moored yacht, so we could get the headsail down and refurl it. We ended up having to motor sail to clear the channel into Duncan Dock. 

Now, as we were approaching the left hand turn into the channel, I started having those recall moments described above and I called for max point mode and speed from the trimmers (remember, the outboard is down below). We cut the corner as finely as we could, but we had some problems ahead. One was the large power boat “North Star” moored on the starboard side of the channel. The other was a Farr 40 moored on the “wrong” side of the second last finger jetty, directly opposite “North Star”. This greatly reduced the available space to clear the channel. So we have an 8m boat with a 2,5m beam in a channel which is now 15m wide and a 25 knot headwind to deal with. Oh Yeah! Fun, fun, fun.... 

The distance we had to sail up the channel was maybe 80 meters, but it took about 20 tacks, to get through it, barely making 2 meters upwind progress per tack. Painful! 

Once we were in Duncan Dock, we were able to power up and sail comfortably at 6,5 knots upwind under the reduced sail plan. The harbour was, for once, strangely absent of any commercial shipping. We ventured out past the breakwater on port tack and noted the waves were breaking over the top of it -We were met with some very ugly seas beyond the breakwater extremity. The waves were easily four to five meters high, very confused and every third wave was breaking. This was not really good weather for small boats and we all agreed at that point, that had a race been started; there probably would have been no finishers. We have been out in some pretty rough conditions over the years on Table Bay, but this was amongst the worst in terms of sea state. We took a couple of solid waves over the bows and then tacked over on to starboard, heading towards Green Point. This tack had us sailing directly into the waves and it was very, very wet! The boat would lift up the wave faces like a cork and crash through the white water at the crest, then slam down onto the back of the wave. Once we had sufficient upwind height, we eased sheets and headed back to the harbour. We prepped the spinnaker, but we were rolling around so violently in the confused seas, we decided to hold the hoist, till we were back in the harbour. Racing down the wave faces felt like being in toboggan with some very steep slopes, but the Pacer never flinched at having a good old extended surf. 

Once past the breakwater, the water was a lot flatter and we hoisted the A3 to enjoy a nice, fast reach back into Duncan Dock at 13 to 14 knots steady. Not record breaking stuff, but very enjoyable and grateful that we at least got a sail in for the day. On the way back we passed Pacer 3 on their way out. We docked under sail power only with precision, but we had the ouboard secured on the stern and idling - just in case. As we pulled the boat cover on after packing up, the first drops of rain started and it hasn’t stopped in 24 hours with more rain for the whole of next week. Hey! – This is supposed to be our summer time! 

One of the good things about going out in bad weather, is simply to experience the power of nature first hand – and know how the boat feels in those conditions, with the safety of the harbour close at hand. 


Here is a rule situation. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent and easily offended!) Test your knowledge of the sailing rules... 

Two boats of the same design are approaching the weather mark which must be left to starboard. P1 is clear ahead (by half a boat length) and three boat lengths to leeward of P2 as they enter the 'zone'. (3 boat length circle around the mark) 

P2 is on the starboard layline and sailing faster than P1 but still does not have an overlap on P1. 

P1 hails P2: 'NO WATER!" 


P1 tacks onto port. 

P2 crash tacks to avoid a collision with P1 and manages to complete her tack directly in front of P1. 

There is no contact and P1 does not have to change her course. 

Both boats clear the windward mark and continue to the next mark which is down wind. 

Which boat is in the right? 

According to the experts...... 

P2 was in the right. In the case of a weather mark to be left to starboard and both boats are on the same starboard tack, you simply remove the mark and apply normal sailing rules. P2 may continue on starboard tack for as long as she wishes and take P1 with her. In a protest situation P1 would have been disqualified for tacking onto port in front of P2.