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Club Race - Winter B Series PHRF Race 2.

Last updated on 14 Oct 2009

Race in a nutshell: 
Things are generally less robust during winter with many light wind races in the offing. (L to R: Nic, Trygve, Charles, Greg)

Line: 2nd 
Position PHRF: 1st 
Total Entries: 11 
Distance: 15 nm. 
Max Speed: 11.3 knots 
Ave speed: 6.5 knots 
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind NE to NW 3 to 7 knots. Temp 21C 
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind WSW 10 knots. Temp 17C 
Baro: 1006 hPa. 
Course: #10 (S) – #2 (S) – Milnerton (S) - #2 (S) - Milnerton (S) - #8 (P) – #10 (P) 
Seas: Long swell 13 secs 1.0 m 
Sails: Full Main (North), No. 1 Fusion Genoa (Quantum), A2 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North) 
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Waldo Zevenster (Main), Greg Harrowsmith (Genoa), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Simon Penso (Bow), Total: 420 kg

Perhaps for us the highlight of this race was beating Lobelia on corrected time on a course that favoured them and not us. Lobelia is a modern 40 footer that rates very well under IRC and generally delivers consistently good results. We have only beaten them once before (and that on a triangular course), so this win has given us a nice confidence boost. 

Race Officer Peter Bam, who sails an L26 ‘Hors d’Ouvers’, set a course which turned out to be two long windward/leeward legs (and what we commonly refer to as an "anti sport boat course"). That equated into us having to contend with the dreaded DDW legs. (Dead Down Wind). Ten minutes before the start we had a very nice breeze topping out at just under 15 knots with the first white caps just starting to show. Based on that wind strength, we opted to use our A2 Light asymmetric. The start plan was basically similar to the previous week’s race – which was start on port tack near the pin end. Our target boats were Lobelia (IMX40), Hors d Ouvers (L26) and Celine IV (Comfortina39). 

Our main trimmer, Charles, was overseas so we had Waldo Zevenster standing in. Our start was as good as could be expected and we hit the line doing 6.5 knots on port. The only boat to leeward of us was Lobelia. Lobelia steadily pulled ahead and then went into point mode. She can outpoint us by about 5 degrees. It wasn’t five minutes and she had climbed ahead and over us. so we had to contend with being in her dirties. With a one leg beat to the first mark, tacking away into clear air was not an option, so we just soaked a bit lower and kept our speed steady. 

During the week, I read an interesting article about steering fast upwind. I have always been a helmsman who has steered by the telltales of the headsail. This 'new' theory states that one should steer by angle of heel, which if you keep the angle of heel steady, will give you best upwind VMG. The more I thought about that, the more sense it made. I shared the theory with Waldo and so we tried it out. Obviously the main trimmer plays a pivotal role in steering in that format. 

By the weather mark, Lobelia had a 90 second lead on us. We rounded second with Celine IV about 30 seconds behind us. The 15 knot breeze we had at the start had since faded down to between 8 and 10 knots and we found ourselves with the wrong spinnaker on deck. We could not change it at that stage, so we hoisted and opted for best VMG. We were getting on average 7.5 to 8.5 knots with the occasional burst of speed as we kicked in on a swell. Our best speed on this leg was 11.4 knots – not bad considering how light the breeze was. 

Lobelia put up a symmetrical kite and went directly downwind to the Milnerton bouy. We were a little quicker than her, but of course, sailing a greater distance. We did three gybes on the first downwind leg, which were all good calls, except for the last one, which left us with quite a tight angle, but in the end it worked out quite nicely. We did Mexican drops on both downwind legs, which work very well. At the leeward mark Lobelia had increased their lead on us to about 3 minutes. To be fair, Lobelia looked to be under-crewed, but that did not seem to make her any slower. 

We settled down for the long upwind leg back to the #2 buoy, not wanting to make the same mistake of the previous week, where we had tacked off onto starboard too early. We were holding Lobelia’s tacking angle, but our boat speed seemed lacking. We were only doing 5.6 knots average. I know this boat will do 6.2 knots in 8 knots of breeze upwind, if it is trimmed properly. We had the main set up the way Charles normally does it - with lots of twist, but nope, that wasn’t doing the trick. We tried various combinations of traveller height and leech tension, but nothing was getting the speed up to target. We then moved on to the Cunningham, then vang tension, but still no improvement. It was about that point where I wondered if we didn’t have another plastic bag on the keel. We did take the precaution of reversing the boat before the start, but plastic bags seem to be an increasing problem in Table Bay. The greater the volume of shipping, the bigger the volume of rubbish that is dumped into the bay. If I think back to only five short years ago, the problem of plastic pollution has increased tenfold. And how are we ever going to reverse the trend? 

We were on the lay line to #2 bouy and could see Lobelia had under-stood the mark and were pinching to lay it to avoid having to put another tack in, so we sailed on for another 5 boat lengths, which would allow us to sail fat and fast to the buoy. The moment we tacked, our boat speed went up to 6.2 knots. So the question was, why were we doing 5.6 on starboard tack and 6,2 on port? Was it the way the swell was hitting the boat? All in all, quite puzzling. Then Greg said he had moved the genoa car position back one notch. Ahh…..revelation. He changed the opposite side as well. We would see on the next upwind leg if that was what the problem was. 

We had increased our lead on Celine IV to about 3 minutes. For our second DDW leg, we decided we would try to sail a lower, slower angle (what we call the 'super-soak') and see if we could make up some time on Lobelia. Our angle was about 10 degrees lower, but also about one knot slower. Even if the low/slow groove is ultimately the better one, it is not very pleasant sailing at those more pedestrian speeds. Post race analysis of the GPS showed that on the first run we had sailed hot/greater distance at an average speed of 8 knots and covered 2,8 nm. During the second run we sailed lower/slower goove and covered 2.4 nm at at average speed of 6 knots. What is the telling factor is that we sailed the first leg (hotter/longer) in a time of 21 mins 49 seconds and the second leg (shorter/slower) in a time of 21 mins 30 seconds. To be fair the breeze was lighter on the second downwind leg. So it oould seem it is much of muchness which way one sails a sports boat downwind - the real difference coming in if a boat can plane or not. 

On teh second downwind leg, we did five gybes and fluffed up the drop ever so slightly on the last one by gybing a bit too close to the mark. Lobelia continued to stretch her lead on us and we did the same to Celine IV. The two L34’s were far behind, followed by all the smaller Class 2 boats. The last beat immediately showed (on the compass) to be five degrees lower than the previous one. That meant we would not be able to lay the #8 mark on one tack- yet up ahead Lobelia was using her pointing ability to do just that. The extra 5 degrees of point would get her around on one tack. Our log was back on 5.6 knots and after making all the minor adjustments, we got it to 5.8 – but where was the magical 6.2 that we always look for? This really had me puzzled. I was sailing the boat low/fast and still the speed eluded us. I had discounted the plastic bag theory, as it would have affected us equally on the port tack. I then asked the entire crew to move a half meter further aft and Bingo! 6.2 knots on the log immediately and it remained there. And so we learn each week. In that specific swell/chop situation it paid us to have the crew one station back on the starboard tack and one position forward on the port tack. Who would have thought that? 

It was obvious we would not lay the #8 mark, so we focused on boat speed. It only required a short hitch on starboard to clear the mark. We could see Lobelia did not carry a kite down to the finish, so we thought with an asymmetric we would give it a go, being able to sail tighter angles, but once we turned downwind, the apparent wind was on 70 degrees and trying to hold the A2 at that angle was not going to result in anything except a broach, so we cancelled the order and two sailed Regent Express to the finish line – throwing in a final gybe to change the angle to the line to cross 2nd – some 7 minutes behind Lobelia, but managing to take 1st place on corrected time by 1 minute 14 seconds. 

This was a particularly pleasing result for us as there was no reaching component in the course at all. If we can achieve this without a reach, then we are looking forward to sailing courses with reaches. The results simply have to come. 

We have had excellent sailing conditions this winter, with hardly any cancellations due to bad weather. I am astounded that the winter series (which in reality is actually warmer than summer due to lower wind speeds/less spray) attracts so few boats. A fleet of some 350 yachts and only 10 to 15 boats that pitch for racing? Why? 

The twilight series starts in two weeks time and suddenly we will see between 40 and 80 boats flogging about in a 25 knot Cape Doctor. Oh well, such is life…and whatever tickles your pickle. 

Next week Regent Express gets packed up in preparation for the long trip up to the Transvaal for the 2009 Pacer 27 National Championships. The event runs from 24th through to 28th September. This website will be quiet till our return, after which you can expect a big report on all the on the water action. 

For those not in the know.... The Vaal Dam is one of the major fresh water dams in South Africa and is situated on the border of the Free State and Gauteng. At it's widest point is more than 2 nautical miles and supplies the bulk of the PWV industrial area with fresh water. It is home to about seven yacht clubs and plays host to so many yachts that more than equals the rest of South Africa's yacht clubs put together. It is also the waters on which I first learnt to sail; in addition it is the same club where I won my first national title (in dinghies) back in 1995. We are expecting 10 Pacer 27's for the Nationals which should produce typically tight one design racing. This is destined to be a light wind event, so typically, the coastal sailors will be hoping for decent breeze, which, after looking at the 30 year wind rose history of 7 knots average wind speed for September, will be a highly unlikely scenario. It will be puff hunting, for sure. 

But wait, there is more. Waaayyyyy back in 1995, when I won the Mirror Natonals at this same club, my (then) 30 kg crew was a skinny little boy by the name of Andrea Giovannini. And by the fates of the sea gods (or whatever) here we are 14 years later and the same young Andrea, now 6ft 2inches tall and right on top of his game as a professional sailor, will be competing against me head to head. Not only am I looking forward to that challenge, but it gives me enormous pleasure to see the youngsters that passed under my mentorship, proving their mettle at the top levels of competitive sailing. 

Let the games begin....

1st Regent Express (Pacer 27 Sport- 1.080) Elapsed: 1:44:49 Corrected: 1:53:12 
2nd Lobelia (IMX40 – 1.170) Elapsed: 1:37:48 Corrected: 1:54:26 
3rd Celine IV (Comfortina39 – 1.050) Elapsed: 1:1:50:07 Corrected: 1:55:37 
4th Lapwing (L34 – 1.015) Elapsed: 2:8:32 Corrected: 2:10:28 
5th Aquavit (L34 – 1.015) DNF 
Class 2: 
1st Impact (Impact30 – 0.920) Elapsed: 2:6:11 Corrected: 1:56:5 
2nd Hors d’Ouvers (L26 – 0.955) Elapsed: 2:4:6 Corrected: 1:58:31 
3rd Mighty lemon drop (Lavranos Mini Ton - 0.880) Elapsed: 2:15:25 Corrected: 1:59:10 
4th Arial (RCOD – 0.925) Elapsed: 2:11:54 Corrected: 2:2:1 
5th FTi Flyer (Charger 33 – 0.985) Elapsed: 2:4:31 Corrected: 2:2:39 

6th Saiorsi (Atlantis 36 – 0.965) Elapsed: 2:18:7 Corrected: 2:13:17