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Puma twilight Race No.6 - 14th November , 2012

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Course: Start #10 (P) – Harken (P) – Woodbridge (P) - No.8 (P) - Harken (S) - Fin White(S)
Wind & Seas: Fresh to strong SE (30 - 35 knots). Temp: 24C. Seas choppy.
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum); No.2 Genoa (Quantum); A-3 Spinnaker (North): A0 Spinnaker (Quantum)
Crew: Charles Crosby, Craig Preston, Craig Latigan (aka Pinky), Damien Botha, Jason Gray, Trygve Roberts. Total Mass: (490 kg)
Max Speed: 14.8 knots
Distance: 7 nm
Position: 5th (Div 2 Spin)
Fleet size: Div Two Spin: 8

The Good Doctor
There are times when one has a bad result, yet you come off the water having had fun. This was one of those races. The weather had looked so promising earlier in the day with a forecast of 16 knots SE. By 17h30 it was a solid 30 knots gusting considerably higher. Many boats were putting in reefs and switching down to smaller headsails. Even sailing out of the harbour, there were breakages happening all around us. On the Fast 42 Maestro, their main halyard snapped and on Windpower the headsail ripped out of the luff groove. The Doctor was in town and he doesn't take prisoners!

To reef or not?
We also decided to reef and switch to a smaller fractional A3 spinnaker - and a wise decision that turned out to be. We had three new crew on board. Despite an on shore "show me the ropes" chat by Charles, there were bound to be glitches, which are invariably amplified by a thirty five knot wind. Our strategy was to start near the wall, as the weather mark is considerably more to starboard than the Paarden island mark. It turned out we weren't the only ones with that tactic as we found ourselves surrounded by bigger boats. It took some skillfull helming and trimming to break free into clear air, but the boat felt sluggish.

Kelp

So besides a mediocre start, we had to deal with kelp - a menace for boats with T-keels and which we have beeen luckly enough to stay clear of for many months. One of our new crew-members, Damien, spotted a huge piece of kelp around the keel whilst hiking out. We know from bitter experience, that you have to get rid of it so early in a race. We tacked away to clearer water and tried going head to wind and into the reverse mode, but in 35 knots it is a heck of a lot easier said than done. With three burly guys trying to hold the boom in backed mode, the south easter simply pushed them physically backwards and flattened them onto the deck. It took another two attempts, before we finally got it right. Of course, that put us in last place at the tail end of our division, so we had a huge amount of work to do, to play catch up.

A small rigging mistake = a big loss on the course
By the time we approached the weather mark, we had managed to pass three boats in our fleet and we found ourselves at the rear of the middle group of boats. It was a broad reach down to the Woodbridge mark and our opportunity to plane fast and make up lost ground, but as soon the kite went up, we noticed the sheet had been rigged under the lifeline by mistake. It snagged immediately and we spun out into one of those 'keel in the air' broaches. It took a good while to recover from that one, requiring the halyard to be eased and then a complete re-hoist. It was barely up, when we went into the second broach. Same story - halyard off, gather the kite in before it goes under the boat; sort out and rehoist. Finally we got the boat going fast, but the gybe mark was approaching fast. We were last (again!) after that little fiasco and had sailed back into the middle group of boats. Up ahead we saw the little Beneteau 7,5 Sports boat, not able to carry their spinnaker on the next reach, so we hastily got our spinnaker down. In that process our bowman, cut his finger.

Poor start + Kelp + rigging error + injuries + ?
Our gybe was OK and we climbed over the fleet at very good speeds for a fast reach to the No.8 mark, at times doing a shade over 12 knots without a spinnaker. In the process we managed to overtake the bulk of the fleet. The Beneteau sporty 'Always Well', had recovered nicely from their kite take down and had made good speed back on course to No.8, rounding a few lengths ahead of us. We rounded No. 8 in 5th place and were faced with a long, tough beat into the teeth of a blustery south easterly.

Blood Bin
Jason and Pinky were both bleeding from broach injuries, but both were OK to carry on with their duties. Jason went below and switched from the A3 spinnaker to the A0, which is considerably smaller and flatter, which we figured would be more appropriate for the angle of the final reach to the finish.

We did better on the upwind leg and got ahead of the J27 'Hillbilly'; The Beneteau 7.5 'Allways well' and the cruiser 'Carousal'. We arrived at the Harken mark with the L34 'Lapwing' and another big boat, but we had rights and got around first.

Code zero works
The final leg back to the finish was a reach, at time a bit tigher than 90 degrees, so we took the risk of getting the Code zero up and it paid off handsomely, sending us back to the finish line at around 14 knots, to take third place over the line. Nothing great about that of course, as our rating dictates that we should be first over the line. At least we had recovered from all our toils and troubles to regain some composure and self respect! Above all, we had fun.

On corrected time, we had dropped down to 5th. The Booths on the Beneteau 34.7 Necessity sailed a faultless race to take 1st place.

RESULTS: (Div 1)
Place - Boat - Design - Rating - (Skipper & Crew) Actual time - Corrected time
1st Necessity - B34.7 -Rating 1.050 - (David Booth) 0.53.53 - 0.56.35
2nd Hors DOuvre - L26 - Rating 0.955 - (Peter Bam) 1.00.31 - 00.57.48
3rd Lapwing - L34 - Rating 1.015 - (Alan Keen) 00.57.06 - 00.57.57
4th Hillbilly - J27 - Rating 1.000 - (Peter Hill) 00.59.26 - 00.59.26
5th Regent Express - Pacer 27S - Rating 1.090 - (Trygve Roberts) 00.54.57 - 00.59.54
6th Pure Magic - J27 - Rating 1.000 (Alan Taylor) 01.03.12 - 01.03.12
7th Always Well - Beneteau 7.5 - Rating 1.040 (Lance Burger) 01.0057 - 01.03.23
8th Carousal - B-Oceanis 390 - Rating 0.980 (Luke Scott) 01.0500 - 01.03.42