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Puma Twilight Series Race 1- 10th October, 2012

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Course: Start #10 (P) – Paarden Island (P) – Milnerton (S) - Harken (S) - Finish White (S)
Wind & Seas: Fresh SE (18 - 22 knots). Temp: 15C. Seas flat.
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum); No.2 Genoa (Quantum); A-3 Spinnaker (North)
Crew: Daniel Spratley, Jason Gray, Phillip Rentschler, Craig Preston, Charles Crosby, Trygve Roberts. Total Mass: (492 kg)
Max Speed: 17.4 knots
Distance: 5 nm
Position: 2nd
Fleet size: 8

The longest winter

To be fair, its been a long winter. A fair sized fleet of 41 boats ventured out into a fresh south easterly for the first Wednesday Twilight race of the new season. We are now sailing in Division 2 spinnaker which is very much more enjoyable than being the smallest boat in Division 1. Theoretically being the boat with the highest rating, we should also be the boat that gets line honours, but so far, that is not the case. Now it's a question of finding out if we are lousy sailors or our rating is too high.

On the Plus side
We have learned so many times that when the cloud appears over the mountain in a south easterly, that its going to blow hard. It's been a good rule of thumb to follow. The forecast was for an 18 knot southerly, but even at 17h00 it was clear the direction was more SE, so the forecast which is given for the airport, can be doubled for Table Bay at 'windy corner' as Paarden island is more commonly known by the sailing fraternity. So we went conservative and stuck in a reef and rigged the No.2 jib with a small fractional spinnaker - the theory being that it's quicker and easier shaking a reef out, than putting it in..

Starting well
With the Div 1 fleet out of the way, there was a lot less congestion for our scheduled start at 18h05. After a minute and a half jostling for position with YOLO and Hors d-Ouvers, we pulled off a nice fast start on the gun. We had YOLO on our leeward side, gradually edging up towards us. Both boats seemed fairly even, but measured over 3/4 of a mile, YOLO proved to be slightly faster (tight fetch), rounding the weather mark about 4 lengths ahead. We were in second place and the boat had behaved beautifully up the first leg, showing great balance, point and speed. However, YOLO was sailing in the non-spinnaker section of Div 2, so once we got our kite up, we leapt ahead very quickly and led the Div 2 fleet on the downwind leg (as we are supposed to). But things were to change.

The other sporty
With the smaller rig in use and a drop in wind pressure, it meant having to sail hot to keep our speed up. Behind us the other sports boat in our fleet, Always Well (Beneteau 7.5) was coming down on a fresh wave of breeze, sailing much deeper than our angle and with no reef in their main. They were gaining fast. Gaps and angles change incredibly quickly on sports boats, so we decided, it would be best to throw in a gybe and head back offshore, to get into the new pressure band. We ended up being on a collision course with Always Well and had to cross just astern of them. Iit was a high speed crossing with both boats doing around 15 knots and only centimeters to spare. We had lost a 40 boat length lead in a single leg! We needed our masthead kite and a full main. We had been a little too conservative in our sail choice.

Milnerton Buoy - Traffic Jam
There are only so many marks the RC can use on Table Bay. There are at least three different courses to set and in the greater scheme of things, sometimes we end up with a situation where boats from different divisions are rounding the same mark in opposite directions, as was the case at the Milnerton mark. Luckily for us, we had a gap and could do our spinnaker take down unfettered. Always Well rounded about two boat lengths ahead of us. They had sailed well and used their options intelligently to have rounded in first place. So we were faced with the prospect of not only getting ahead of them upwind, but making the lead sufficient to cancel out their rating advantage [ours 1.090 - theirs 1.040]

Upwind duelling
We were confident we could hold the smaller sports boat upwind, as long as the breeze didn't fade too much. The Pacer felt great the moment we turned upwind and we got ahead of the Beneteau fairly quickly. With better point and speed, we managed to round the Harken mark about 40 lengths ahead, but would it be enough for a win? We hoisted the fractional and enjoyed a good beam reach back to the finish, but our patch of breeze was fading and with it our boat speed plummeted.

Dicing for the line honours
We were stuck between a rock and hard place proverbially, as we watched Always Well hoist their kite and sail deep remaining in the pressure band all the way down the leg. Systematically they worked their way to the finish line, whilst we had slowed right down. Our lead we had worked so hard on building was being eradicated swiftly, just as had happened in the previous downwind leg. They just kept on coming, planing all the way right through our lee, to take line honours from us by a few seconds. Well sailed to their crew! We had to be content with a 2nd place on corrected time, some 2mins 21 seconds adrift of the little Beneteau. This was an enjoyable little race and we only have ourselves to blame for not having taken a bullet. Conditions were favourable for the sporties in terms of course angle and wind strength.

Position Yacht Class SAILNO OWNER/SKIPPER RATING Elapsed Corrected
1 Always Well Beneteau 7.5 SA13141 Ralph Thomas 1.040 00:48:37 00:50:34
2 Regent Express Pacer 27 17 Trygve Roberts 1.090 00:48:44 00:53:07
3 Lapwing L34 SA825 Jennifer Burger/Alan Keen 1.015 00:53:54 00:54:43
4 Nuthr Witch L34 14 David Garrard 1.015 00:55:00 00:55:50
5 Hors d'oeuvre L26 44 Peter Bam 0.955 00:58:51 00:56:12
6 Carousel Beneteau 390 SA1011 Luke Scott 0.980 00:59:23 00:58:12
7 FTI Flyer Charger 33 SA703 Keith Mattison 0.990 01:00:59 01:00:22
8 Hill Billy J 27 SA198 Peter Hill 1.000 01:00:25 01:00:25