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RCYC Club Bay Race - 12th May, 2012

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Course: Start #10(S) – No.2 (S) – Milnerton (S) – No.8 (P) – No.10 (P) – Milnerton (P) – No.8 (P) - No.10 (P)/Finish
Wind: Mod SW (6 to 10 knots). Temp: 17C Intermittent fog.
Sails: Full Main (Quantum); No.1 Genoa (Quantum); A-2 Spinnaker (North); A1 Spinnaker (Quantum)
Crew: Joshua Banks, Daniel Spratley, Craig Preston, Charles Crosby, Phillip Rentschler, Trygve Roberts
Total Mass: 495 kg
Max Speed: 10.2 knots
Distance: 8.5 nm
Position: 1st
Fleet size: 17

The fog season continues
At 11h00 on Saturday morning the crew SMS's started arriving: “Are we really sailing today in this fog?”
It was another one of those days in May where the fog looked like it was in for the day. To make things a little more realistic and up the angst a bit, a commercial radio station had just broadcast that a Japanese fishing trawler had run aground at Clifton. Fog is a real drama queen and it is quite astounding with all the modern equipment these large vessels have on board (like radar and chart plotters) that they can still get themselves into trouble simply because of poor visibility or poor seamanship. Rumour has it, they were asleep at the time. What? All 30 of them? On the other hand, I don't know all the facts and maybe there was a valid reason?

Setting a safe course in fog.
By 13h00 the fog started clearing on the east side of the bay, but the line extending westwards from Granger Bay to Robben Island was still thick with fog. I was tasked with setting the course for the day, so I suggested to the RO an ultra conservative course with four options for shortening and to keep the fleet close inshore and away from the shipping lanes. However the RO had a change of heart and felt something a bit more exciting was required and added in the Milnerton mark for a more triangular format. I (delicately) suggested that the fleet be kept away from the No.2 channel marker, but apparently the bridge crew could see the mark clearly, so we compromised that only the first beat would go to the No.2 mark.

It was fair sized fleet considering the foggy conditions and with half the fleet opting for a port tack start, things got a little interesting on the start line. We went for a starboard start halfway up the line. That was the plan anyway, but we had the Fast 42 Tenacity on top of us initially, then later under us, which severely affected when we could tack, but eventually the course opened up and we found ourselves being the most windward boat and just a little concerned that we were over-standing the first mark – which, in the meantime, had become invisible to all and sundry as the fog came right down to sea level. We had a crew member go below to the chart plotter and call the bearing and distance to the mark every 20 seconds, just to be sure. We nailed it spot on and rounded in 5th place. There can be no doubt that the Pacer 27 loves flat water as most races we do well in, testify to. Strong wind/upwind work in choppy conditions is our worst. This day we had perfect conditions, with the only negative being the omni-present kelp.

Blind navigation
There wasn't much breeze to work with. We hoisted the big A2 kite and headed off all on our own on the port gybe doing 6.7 knots. The idea was to do the longest gybe first, so it was once again back to the chart plotter, trying to figure out optimum tactics. We had 15 year old Optimist sailor, Daniel Spratley, calling downwind tactics. He was a bit miffed and came up with the retort: “We don't sail Oppies in fog!”

It was gybe time as we were more than halfway down the course and didn't want to "bang the corner". Once on the starboard gybe, we started converging with boats which were heading DDW towards the Milnerton mark. We crossed slightly ahead of Tenacity and continued on to the right hand side layline. The visibility was much better on the east side of the bay and we could play the chess game much better with visual contact on the opposition. There was also better pressure closer to the beach and our speed picked up nicely on the final port gybe in towards the Milnerton mark. We had managed to get just ahead of Tenacity (Fast 42) and Majimoto (Farr 40).

Kelp! Up! Down! Down some more! Up, Up, Up!
Our mark rounding was excellent and we had a good, clear lane upwind towards the No.8 mark. We had a nice view of Hylton Hale's new toy – a GP42 – which is basically a 42 foot sports boat. It was looking in fine form as a press boat followed her up and down the bay. Another hazard for yachts in fog is kelp. The two are synonymous and we had been successfully dodging the stuff so far. We were clinging onto to 3rd place, when we picked up a very large piece of kelp, complete with tail feathers, crown and root. We know better than to try and race with that lot around the keel and went immediately into the "head to wind and reverse" maneuver, which felt alarming as we were heeling severely – but it worked and we lost maybe 30 seconds in ‘dekelping”. It did cost us our 3rd place though, as both the Fast 42 and Farr 40, rounded No.8 just ahead of us.

Turning on a tickey
The short leg from No.8 mark to No.10 was a tight reach. We had anticipated that and switched to an A1 spinnaker. That helped us to close right up onto the stern of the Fast 42 by the No.10 mark. A beautiful gybe right at the mark, saw us accelerating quickly and we regained our 3rd place in just a few seconds. The angle down to Milnerton would also suit us nicely as it would be a beam reach all the way. Up ahead we had the Beneteau 44.7 Ray of Light in the lead with the J120 Speed of Yellow in second place. Instinctively everyone followed them, but our ever sharp main trimmer, Phill, figured out they were sailing to Woodbridge and not Milnerton. I checked my course card and confirmed it was in fact, the Milnerton mark we had to sail to. Just to make sure, I called up the bridge on the VHF for confirmation. This happened just as the two leading boats were rounding the Woodbridge mark. The bridge confirmed the Milnerton mark was the next mark of the course, but neither the J120 nor Ray of Light showed any signs of changing course. Both boats were resolutely heading back upwind. It was decision time. Had they not heard the VHF transmission that had just taken place? Do I leave them or do I call them up? I decided to be nice and called them up. Then they responded!

Several ways to skin a cat
In the meantime we had opened up a considerable gap on the Farr 40 and the Fast 42. As a consequence of the wrong mark rounding saga, we were also ahead of Ray of Light which was experiencing an unhappy spinnaker wrap, which left us in 2nd place, right on the stern of the J120. In the meantime the wind had shifted about 10 degrees into the North. The J120 did not pick up on that, as they hardened up and went offshore on port tack, whereas we tacked immediately and found that we could almost lay the No.8 mark on a single tack. Conditions were perfect for the Pacer 27 – flat seas and light breeze. We were doing a solid 6.3 knots upwind with fairly good point, but never as high as the lead mines – but we were looking really good for a handicap win.

We had to do a short tack to get around the No.8 mark and got the A1 up and drawing pronto. We were 3rd over the line just a few seconds behind the J120 and Ray of Light. On corrected time, it would be a solid win for us.

Winter sailing at its best
This was another great autumn/winter style race in Table Bay. For those of you who hang up your sea boots during winter, you don't know what you're missing. Come and enjoy some tactical racing in fine weather, where the chances of even getting wet are slim. (And the Cape Doctor isn't blowing the hell out of your expensive sails!)

Posn. -Sail No.- Boat - Skipper - Design - Rating - Corrected time
1st 017 Regent Express -Trygve Roberts -Pacer 27s - 1.080 - 1.55.31
2nd 014 Nuthr Witch - Dave Garrard - L34 - 1.015 - 2.00.48
3rd SA4114 Necessity - Dave & Carol Booth - Beneteau 34.7 - 1.040 - 2.1.56
4th SA1178 Touch n Go - Dave Smith - Lightwave 395 - 1.080 - 2.2.56
5th SA765 Majimoto - Mare/Birch - Farr 40 - 1.140 - 2.3.06
6th SA084 Ray of Light - M & H Kavanagh - First 44.7 - 1.165 - 2.3.34
7th GBR Speed of Yellow - Patrick Holloway - J133 - 1.180 - 2.3.34
8th SA2018 Cabaray Ray - Mathews - vd Stadt 34 - 0.940 - 2.7.49
9th SA4242 Tenacity - Ant Cassar - Fast 42 - 1.170 - 2.8.36
10th SA190 Pure Magic - Alan Taylor - J27 - 0.995 - 2.8.37
11th SA3740 Celine IV - Volker Vierhaus - Comfortina 39 - 1.045 - 2.10.03
12th SA76 Lets Go - Bucanneer - 0.800 - 2.12.00
13th SA1011 Carousal - Luke Scott - Beneteau 390 - 0.980 - 2.18.40
14th SA702 FTI Flyer - Keith Mattison - Charger 33 - 0.990 - 2.23.17
15th SA130 Apricot - Bat Tromp - Muira - 0.935 - 2.23.46
16th SA2360 Saiorse - Tony Blackwell - Atlantis 36 - 0.965 - 2.24.17
17th SA818 Ava - K Bottwood - Muira - 0.910 - 2.26.35