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Portugal Day Race - 11th June 2011

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Above: Weather systems gone awry. That's the smoke from the Cape Doctors pipe billowing over Table Mountain. Nothing unusual about that except that it's mid-winter!
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

Race in a nutshell: 11th June, 2011

Position PHRF : 26th
Total entries : 62
Distance: 16 nm.
Max Speed: 15.8 knots
Ave speed: 6.5 knots

Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind SE 5 to 10 knots. Temp 20C
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind SE 22 knots
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden island (P) - Milnerton (P) - Celi 1 (S) - Milnerton (S) Red mark finish (S)
Seas: Choppy 1.0m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Assymetric (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Simon Penso (Pit), Shereen Smith (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow), : Total: 485 kg

This annual race attracts a large entry. Like the Mykonos Offshore, it has it's own special allure which is hard to peg down. Is it the fun element; the free food; the folk dancing; the rock band; the Portuguese vibe? Who knows, but the winter hibernators turned up in their droves to participate with a very solid entry of 62 boats. The race is held in the pursuit format (slowest boats start first) and for race organisers this style of racing presents several challenges. So just how do they determine start staggered times based on the length of course and the wind strength, when it keeps changing? In broad terms, pursuit racing has a few advantages.

1. It gives the smaller, slower boats a chance to be in the front of the fleet
2. It presents a challenge for the bigger, faster boats to play catch up and have to endure dirties for a change.

Most people like pursuit racing as it radically changes likely outcomes and often throws in some wildcard results. At coastal venues, the seabreeze generally builds as the day wears on, giving the bigger, faster boats an advantage in that they spend more time sailing in good pressure, but every now and then we get a curved ball thrown into the mix. Saturday was one of those.

Above: Regent Express on the final fetch home - and overpowered.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

The forecast of a light south easterly was a 50/50 one. The weathermen got the direction right but not the speed. As we cast off from our mooring, we noticed the tell-tale table cloth settling in and dropping over the lip of Table Mountain. That is almost a guaranteed sign of having to change down to a smaller headsail or reef the main. But it's mid-winter! Surely the south easter can't have any real punch? We have a standing joke on our boat that there is no such thing as a light south easterly. The more we sail on Table bay, the more that theory holds true.

We sailed out of the harbour with our big sail plan up in a moderate north westerly. Yes, NW! How that happens is that the wind squeezes around the sides of the bulk of the mountain giving a south easter on the east side and a north wester on the west side. Somewhere in between that lot is the convergence zone, which is of course, calm. And it just so happens that the RCYC fixed starting line oftens lies in that zone. The wind is fickle and sometimes the SE wind is there, sometimes calm and sometimes the NW wind is felt. Starting a race under those conditions is a bit like going to the casino. It is purely luck if there is or isn't breeze in your allotted starting time.

Above: Regent Express in her element going downwind fast.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

And so it was with our start. We watched in dismay as the fleet ahead of us sailed into the distance as we lay becalmed on the start line. Those few minutes feel like hours. The Melges 24 which was right next to us, picked up a whiff of breeze and got away. Their lead stretched to some 400 meters before we got to the first mark. So basically, our race was blown, before we even got out the starting blocks. But its a fun race, so we dont complain (much!). Yeah right! Our start time was 53 minutes after the first boat over a 16 mile course, so we had a LOT of catching up to do. The good news was that once we were into the south easter proper, we would be able to sustain good downwind speeds and get through the fleet.

After 10 minutes of flopping about in the calm zone, we finally got into the south easterly and settled down into full race format. Immediately after rounding the Paarden Island mark, we got the big asso up and went straight onto the plane and started ticking boats off as we sailed down the coast towards Blouberg. This was just not destined to be our race as the course was a dead run. That meant having to do many gybes down the coast and with each crossing of the fleet, it was a bit like playing Dodgem cars as we weaved our way behind and in front of bigger boats, but we were making steady progress. One of the things one doesn't pay much attention to in a pursuit race is navigation. Why bother, when we have the entire fleet in front of us to show us precisely where all the marks are? It would turn out that the entire fleet (bar one) would end up sailing the wrong course. It is quite a common scenario around the world. Bah, bah, white sheep.

Above: Some of the fleet dealing with blustery conditions on the final leg
Photo: Trevor Wlkins

We had closed the gap on the Melges and managed to overtake it as well. Abeam Milnerton we started talking about possibly doing a headsail change. On a boat without a twin foil system, this is a lot more difficult than it appears - not to mention time consuming. It takes almost 10 minutes, if you are working fast. Add to that little lot the fact that we are planing along at 15 knots and have to send a bowman to the foredeck, which is (a) very wet and (b) changes the way the boat handles. In short, we think long and hard before making the final decision on a headsail change.

That day, we decided the very long beat back would see us overpowered with a No1 Genoa up, so we sent Josh up front to his thing. He took the first wave full in the face which would have him chattering with a quivering jaw and a bit blue around the mouth an hour later. It's a tough job being bowman! With the headsail change done just in time, we planed past several big boats with very little space to spare, to do the mark rounding of the Celi 1 - a bit of an odd place to have a mark, as it is quite shallow and congested. This would later turn out to be the subject of much embarrassment and even anger for several competitors and some dubious communication in the sailing instructions. But hey - it's just a fun race? Right?

We did a seamanlike rounding and strike and settled down for the long beat back to Milnerton in a stiff 22 knots of south easterly and plenty of chop. Not really ideal conditions for a Pacer 27. The zone around the mark and directly behind the stern of the wreck was messy and tricky with the big fleet coming and going in both directions. Being hemmed in by the bulk of the wreck added to the congestion. It was not a good place to put a mark. Later we were to discover that the mark which everyone thought was the "mark just north of Celi 1" was in fact just a danger mark, to warn mariners of the new sand bank that had developed there. The 52 ft Thunderchild promptly ran aground when she tried rounding the mark. It was a miracle that none of the other deep draft racing boats didn't hit the putty.

Only the L26 "Hors d Ouvers" had correctly interpreted the SI's and sailed another 2 miles further north and located and rounded the correct mark. Imagine the awkward situation for the organisers? Sixty one boats disqualified and one winner of all the prizes? Skipper of the L26, Peter bam, is not only a good sailor, but a good sport as well. He agreed to take average points and for the race results to stand. Well done Peter. That was gentlemanly of you.

Above: Josh, Shereen, Simon and Charles doing the hard yards upwind.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

The beat back was cold (on a small boat) and more so if you were wet. We looked for all the shifts, but there wasn't much to be had. We were well pleased to be holding our own upwind against the L34's. Before we reached the Milnerton mark, one of our halyard deck blocks burst, sending our jib down to the deck. It took about 5 minutes to jury rig another halyard and get going again. [The block that disintegrated was one of the new generation, expensive, light weight, cheekless carbon blocks. We will replace it with a more robust stainless steel framed unit]

The leg from Milnerton to the finish was a tight fetch and the breeze was building the closer we got to shore. Our finishing place of 26th was about right considering our time spent in the calm zone at the start and the halyard problem. The race was won by the main organiser, Vitor Medina in his Miura "Far Med". For once the smaller boats did well. The big cat "Isla" was smoking on that last fetch. She must have passed more than 20 boats on one leg to sail into 3rd place. Nice to see the multihulls participating!

The festivities were once again held in the shed (with its poor acoustics). Numbers of attendees were well down on previous years. This can no doubt be attributed to (a) the very high volume of noise in the shed. Add a rock band + poor acoustics + 500 happy sailors and that will account for many having fled for the sanctity of their homes and (b) a Super Rugby game featuring the home team.

So how does one tweak an event that is well attended and a lot of fun? I'm not really sure on this one, but I get the feeling that perhaps it is time to introduce a few changes. The event has followed the same format (of soup and rolls; folk dancing; inaudible speeches; main course; deafeningly loud band; end of all conversation) - for the last 6 years with no change. I think it is time to innovate a little. This year, I was one of those that just couldn't face the noise in the shed, so I left early for home. Perhaps I'm just getting old? Those that did go home early probably improved available space for those that stayed.

It would be remiss of me not to publish the team results (especially seeing that our team managed to come last) - Like I said "not our finest hour" . The illustrious Vasco da Gama team who were placed 1st last year have had our butts kicked! In the 2010 event, Regent Express scored a 4th from 51. Shweee! How the mighty have fallen. Team results are listed below the overall results.


1 SA1335 Far Med Muira Vitor Medina
2 SA2360 Saoirse Atlantis 36 Tony blackwell
3 SA 4123 Isla Wilderness 1480 Ian henderson
4 GBR 3733R Jacana J 133 Patrick Holloway
5 SA797 Iechyd Da Miura* S Hundt
6 SA3444 Maestro Fast 42 Paul van Ass
7 SA3737 Windpower Landmark 43 R Nankin
8 SA 4114 Necessity Ben 34.7 David Booth
9 SA 893 Chen Muira M.Saunders
10 US43434 Spilhaus Swede 55 Ted Kuttel
11 SA66 Indaba Stadt 34 John Levin
12 SA2700 Lobelia IMX 40 Rob Meek
13 SA3800 Puma Unleashed Pacer 42 Hylton Hale
14 SA630 A-L Farr 38 Robbi van Rooyen
15 SA858 Rockstar Farr 38 mod Brian Gardener
16 SA198 Hillbilly J27 Peter Hill
17 9 Ray of Light Ben First 44.7 Michael Kavanagh
18 SA1967 Storm Ocean 31 M Peper
19 010 Lapwing L34 A Keen/J Burger
20 SA74 Ambre Trimtwas 36 Larry Davis
21 SA3141 Always Well First 7.5 Burger/Thomas
22 SA 3786 Pants on Fire J 105 Jorge Dwayne Assis
23 SA969 Corum Briand43 Jan Reuvers
24 13 Ariel RCOD Toni de Villiers
25 SA2447 Paragon Ocean 31 Ann Fletcher
26 17 Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport Trygve Roberts
27 SA250 Freedom Farr 38 C.P Van Der Merwe
28 SA2018 Cabaray Van der Stadt Ray Matthews
29 SA3740 Celine IV Comfortina 39 V Vierhaus
30 SA2954 Sheshisa Bav Match 38 Arnold Sheman
31 047 Vortex L34 Mike Atkins
32 014 Nuthr Witch L 34 Dave Garrard
33 011 Tally Ho L 34 John Waller
34 SA818 Ava Miura K Botwood
35 SA 223 Impact Impact Tommy Walker
36 SA1146 Cathy R Compass 47 J Rabie
37 SA978 Aurora Atlantic Mel Hawtrey
38 SA1027 Auto Atlantic Thunderchild L52 R Goldswain
39 SA1178 Touch 'n Go Lightwave 395 Dave Smith
40 SA898 Me2Me Farr 38 D Shuttleworth
41 SA917 Vodoo Lavarnos 52 mod Wayne Hemmings
42 SA765 Majimoto II Farr 40 Paul Mare/Lindsay Birch
43 SA190 Pure Magic J27 A Taylor
44 SA410 Mini Mace Melges 24 Nicholas Mace
45 SA399 Paprika Peterson 33 Howard Minne
46 SA1235 Sizwe Muira Hennie McLaghlan
47 SA1326 Picasso Sovereign 54 Ray Alexander
48 SA 1011 Carousel Benet Oceanis 390 Luke Scott
49 011 Southern Cross Holiday 34 John Flemming
50 SA2996 Reaction RCOD Charl Cilliers
51 SA 3615 Zeal o Cat Robertson Caine 46 Ernie Aylard
52 SA1839 Siesta Flamenca D.J Griffin
53 SA654 Spindrift Muira Rob Brennan
54 SA702 FTI Flyer Charger 33 Keith Mattison
55 SA264 Spirit Miura Mike Phillips
56 SA569 Gremlin Spirit 28 Mod Eva / Alan Versfeld
57 SA 2676 Lets Go Buccaneer Duncan Johnson
58 44 Hors D'Oeuvre L26 P Bam
59 SA 141 Chantecler Roberts 45 Ralph Mothes
dns 005 Sensation L34 Michael Moore
dnf SA2462 Charisma Sadler 32 F Booyse
dns SA2773 Naledi J120 Felix Scheder-Bieschin

1st Team

Gil Eanes  
Yacht Points
Celine IV 29
Always Well 21
Iechyd Da 5
Impact 35
Isla 3
Necessity 8
Ray of Light 17
Jacana 4
Discards -64
1 58

2nd Team

Infante Don Henrique  
Yacht Points
Chen 9
Lets Go 57
Saoirse 2
Indaba 11
Nuthr Witch 32
Touch 'n Go 39
Majimoto II 42
Far Med 1
Discards -99
2 94

3rd Team

Fernao Magalhaes  
Yacht Points
FTI Flyer 54
Pants on Fire 22
Ambre 20
Cabaray 28
Vortex 31
Me2Me 40
Maestro 6
Puma Unleashed 13
Discards -85
3 129

4th Team

Antonio De Saldanha  
Yacht Points
Sizwe 46
Zeal o Cat 51
Southern Cross 49
Storm 18
Tally Ho 33
Mini Mace 44
Lobelia 12
Windpower 7
Discards -100
4 160

5th Team

Diogo Cao  
Yacht Points
Charisma 62
Spindrift 53
Chantecler 59
Paragon 25
Hillbilly 16
Rockstar 15
Sheshisa 30
Vodoo 41
Discards -121
5 180

6th Team

Bartholomew Dias  
Yacht Points
Spirit 55
Siesta 52
Ariel 24
Carousel 48
Lapwing 19
A-L 14
Spilhaus 10
Discards -118
6 222

7th Team

Pedro Alvares Cabral  
Yacht Points
Pure Magic 43
Aurora 37
Ava 34
Reaction 50
Cathy R 36
Freedom 27
Naledi 63
Picasso 47
Discards -110
7 227

8th Team

Vasco Da Gama  
Yacht Points
Paprika 45
Corum 23
Gremlin 56
Hors D'Oeuvre 58
Sensation 60
Regent Express 26
Auto Atlantic Thunderchild 38
Vodoo 41
Discards -114
8 233

(Phew! At least we weren't part of the discard group on our team)
Oh well. You cant win 'em all, can you.