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PPS Inter-Professionals Race. 14th May, 2011

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Race in a nutshell: 14th May, 2011
Position Overall : 1st
Total entries : 26
Position Team: 1st
Total Teams: 7

Distance: 5.0 nm.
Max Speed: 6.5 knots
Ave speed: 4.1 knots

Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy. Wind NW 3 to 7 knots. Temp 19C
Weather Actual: Accurate.
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Island (S) - 10 (S) - Paarden Island (S) - Finish 10 (S)
Seas: Flat (with kelp and assorted garbage)
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), A2 Spinnaker (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Craig Preston (Pit), Allesandro Napoli (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow), : Total: 490 kg

Above: Intense concentration in the cockpit. Looks more like we were getting a whiff of Cormorant guano off the wall! Phil is not doing a wind dance. He is making sure the top batten doesn't hook on the back stay - one of our light air maladies.
Pic: Trevor Wilkins

We had been making jokes about how much ring-rust we were likely to have for this race as there has not been a single race we could do since 2nd April. That is some six weeks in the waiting. It was a very pleasant surprise to go out there and positively clean up. There is nothing quite as good for crew morale.

No butchers or bakers nor candlestick makers....
This sponsored annual race takes place in May each year and is meant to promote sailing amongst young graduates (and also to gain new members for the sponsors). With two engineers on my squad, we entered under that category and have nearly always done well over the years, even going back to the J27 days.

With 28 boats entered and very little breeze to work with, the organizers were a little concerned that there would be any racing at all, but a very light north wester made its appearance just before the 14h00 start time, allowing a course to be set, but that upwind/downwind course was quickly changed when it was noted that there was no breeze at the weather mark. Instead the RC (wisely) set a downwind/upwind [x 2 loops] course, which always makes for an interesting start and it would end up favouring us a lot. There were roughly four boats in each team, with the best three places counting. We had two L34's and a J27 making our numbers - essentially a small boat team which is normally a handicap offshore Cape Town, but under the prevailing weather conditions, it turned into a potent combination, as we took the overall first team spot as well as individual 1 st overall. As they say - Every dog has his day.

A good tactical plan....
Charles called tactics and opted for a starboard start with spinnaker up and drawing closer to the port side of the line. That is easier said than done in 5 knots of wind, but the plan worked well as we started just behind a 49 footer, whose crew was so absorbed in not being over the line early, that they never noticed us coming up behind them.
Above: A light, down-wind start. The Regent white spinnaker can be seen in front of this group, drawing nicely and giving us enough gas to get our nose out in front of the fleet.
Pic: Trevor Wilkins

On our windward side we had a nice sized gap with no boats in it, but would the 49 footer luff us? As things turned out, by the time they noticed us, we were already through the gap and going along nicely - enough to get ourselves into the overall lead in less than 60 seconds. Our main competition, the Melges 24, had a terrible start, so we only had two other boats to worry about, namely the new boat in town (a J133 - Jacana), skippered by Patrick Holloway and our old arch rival, Lobelia, an IMX 40, with Rob Meek at the helm. The J133 was sailing directly behind us, also with an asso up, but Lobelia was going the more direct DDW route to the leeward mark. It seemed we had enough horses to stay out front and get to the leeward mark first. To be fair to the crew of Jacana, it was their first time out and they were experiencing a few teething problems.

We picked our shifts carefully and employed our main goal of trying to remain in the little pressure that there was. Conditions suited us with very flat seas and light winds, which meant the bigger boats were struggling to keep moving. We just had to make sure we didn't pick up any kelp. Things worked well for us as we rounded the lee mark about 10 lengths ahead of the J133, with Lobelia about the same distance behind them, to take the lead for the first downwind leg. Its peculiar how well we sail when we are in the lead, but I suppose that applies to all crews.

Above: Regent Express, just after rounding the leeward mark, going well in the ultra light conditions with good hull and sail trim
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

On the windward leg we chose to sail right up to the harbour wall, before tacking. That kept us just ahead of the J133. As soon as the wind pressure increased above 6 knots, Lobelia would point higher than us and start catching up, but as the breeze faded, they would fall back behind again, unable to track any higher than us. It must have been frustrating for them, as they normally wipe us off the map upwind if there is good breeze. We remained first overall at the weather mark, but the two big boats had closed up a fair bit on us. After rounding, we did a bear away hoist, followed by a quick gybe to tactically remain between Lobelia and the leeward mark. The J133 had fallen back to third place with a slow hoist. Behind that there was a huge gap between the three leading boats and the rest of the fleet.

Above: Utilising the light air nose down trim, so effective in this type of boat.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

It was looking very light towards the wall as we could see slower boats still coming up on the first beat looking awkwardly slow and upright. That was enough motivation for us to gybe back offshore to remain in the best possible pressure, but the glassy patches on the water were deceptive as there was still wind around, but hard to see. We executed another two gybes and by the time we came back inshore on the starboard gybe, both the big boats had caught up quite a lot. Out lead had been whittled down to about six boat lengths. We did a Mexican strike and narrowly hung onto our slender lead as we headed back upwind to the wall, followed by the J133 which had overtaken Lobelia down wind. All three leaders were pointing approximately the same as we approached the wall area, where there was a distinct drop in pressure. We had to make a choice.

Tack offshore and stay in the pressure or go for the lift in the lighter breeze next to the wall and risk being becalmed? We chose the early tack option and that decision would end up costing us line honours. Needless to say, on corrected time, we would slaughter the two big boats. We were more concerned about Lobelia out-pointing us, than the J133, which was not pointing particularly well. We picked up a good lift as we headed offshore, followed some twenty lengths behind by Lobelia. The J133 had gone virtually right up the dolosse next to the harbour and was consequently on a higher track to windward and astern. Once the shift headed back to it's original heading, we tacked back onto starboard to cover the opposition, but as we closed in on the J133, we could see we had lost out a bit, so we went back onto the lifted port tack, still hanging on to a very slender lead. We could see we would not lay the pin of the finish line, but we would at least have the benefit of being on starboard tack, once we tacked for the finish.

The last few minutes were tense as the three boats closed in on the line, but the J133 just had enough gas to sneak over about 2 seconds ahead of us to take line honours, followed by Lobelia some 10 seconds later. On handicap, we had beaten Lobelia into 2nd place by 5min 35 secs and the J133 into 3rd place by 8 mins 16 seconds. It had been a very good performance by Regent Express in a fairly big fleet and probably our best result of 2011.

PPS put on a smart prize giving, where the Engineers 2 team took the overall honours with 22 points.
Above: Some of the crew from the four winning boats on the Engineers 2 team - Regent Express, Hillbilly, Lapwing and Tally-Ho.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins


1st Regent Express (Pacer 27 Sport) 1.29.08
2nd Lobelia (IMX40) 1.34.43
3rd Jacana (J133) 1.36.22
4th Hillbilly (J27) 1.37.35
5th Pure Magic (J27) 1.38.10
6th Hors d' Ouvers (L26) 1.38.20
7th Siesta (Flamenca) 1.38.40
8th Ariel (Miura) 1.40.50
9th Cabaray (Stadt 34) 1.42.04
10th Storm (Ocean 31) 1.43.52
11th Chen (Miura) 1.44.04
12th Spectrum (L34) 1.44.42
13th Indaba (Stadt 34) 1.44.43
14th Freedom (Farr 38) 1.46.38
15th Melges (Melges 24) 1.47.20
16th FTi Flyer ((Charger 33) 1.47.25
17th Lapwing (L34) 1.49.12
18th Sheshisa (Bavaria Match 38) 1.49.14
19th Tally Ho (L34) 1.49.20
20th Majimoto ll (Farr 40) 1.49.32
21st Nuthr Witch (L34) 1.50.38
22nd Necessity (Beneteau 33.4) 1.51.44
23rd Aurora (Atlantic 49) 1.56.34
24th Miss Isle (simonies 35) 1.58.31
25th Carousal (Beneteau 390) 1.59.32
26th Ray of Light (First 44.7) 2.05.56

Team results:

1st Team Engineers 2 – 22 points
2nd Team Engineers 1 – 25 points
3rd Team IT – 34 points
4th Team Medical – 37 points
5th Team Legal – 39 points
6th Team Accountants – 40 points
7th Team Construction – 47 points