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Crocs Summer Regatta 16-19 December 2010

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Above: This classic shot of Table Mountain epitomises conditions for much of the regatta.

Crocs, the footwear company, have sponsored this event for the 4th year running – in itself quite remarkable in this modern day and age. Skippers were presented a bag full of Crocs goodies and loads of free meal/drinks vouchers for the duration of the event. In the final analysis it was a successful event in that the benign and unseasonally pleasant Cape weather made for a good vibe and easy sailing, but from a competitors point of view it was far too much of the lottery stuff for my liking.

Race 1 in a nutshell: 16th December, 2010
Position IRC Class 2: Race cancelled due to missing mark.
Distance: 10.0 nm.
Max Speed: 15.6 knots
Ave speed: 7.2 knots
Time: 2 hr 30mins 00secs
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind SE 10 knots Temp 26C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind SE 14 to 25 knots
Course: Start - 10 (P) – Paarden Island (P)- Milnerton (P) - Paarden island (S) - Finish mark (S)
Seas: Flat with small chop 0.5m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm/Main), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli (Mast), Phillip Rentschler (Pit) : Total: 427 kg

Above: Upwind leg of the first (cancelled) race approaching the Paarden island mark. Mmmmm....about that spinnaker sheet in the water?
Photo: Brenton Geach

UNBELIEVABLE! Another missing mark!
16th December was my 61st birthday and what better way to celebrate it than being out sailing. Funny; peculiar; odd, weird were all appropriate words for describing the weather. There was zero wind in the northern suburbs but 30 knots SE at Cape Point. Heavy leaden clouds all over the peninsula, yet the old standard “table cloth” was present over Table Mountain . How on earth were we supposed to read that lot? And it was pouring with rain in Paarl - just 60 kms north of Cape Town and floods in the barren, almost desert like regions of Vredenburg up the West Coast.

The start of the rot
I volunteered my opinion that it would drop as the day wore on. It would turn out that I would be wrong. The day started off with bad news. Two of the crew became sick overnight. One with gastro, the other with a migraine. Gastro bailed completely for the entire four days, leaving us in a real pickle, but migraine turned up, but a bit groggy from the Myprodols, but all due credit for pitching up. Notices on the club board and PA system announcements dredged up zero in the volunteer crew department, so we would just have to tough things out five up for day one. Not a spectacularly wonderful start to a regatta, but Crocs seems to dish up these surprises and challenges year after year. As they say - "it builds character!"

We split the 6th crew members' duties amongst the five of us and did a few practice hoists and gybes. The 37 strong fleet had been split roughly down the middle between IRC and PHRF (or more accurately, the racing and the cruising fleets). Then these two main fleets were further split into class 1 and 2, which was actually quite nice being able to race against boats of similar speed and size. In IRC Class 2 we had 2 Pacer 27's; a J105; the A35; a Farr 38; a Mount Gay 30 and a 35ft Beneteau – certainly plenty of competition there for us. The IRC Class 1 fleet had almost every top skipper in the Cape on the start line, including the Laidlaw owned Corby 49, crewed by a whole squad of rock stars. The starts would be interesting for sure.

The first race kicked off at 11h30 in about 17 knots of SE breeze. The course was interesting enough – a short beat (probably too short by 50% for the bigger boats), followed by a one mile single leg beat; then a 3 mile run; a 3 mile beat and a final broad reach to the finish. The Class 2 course was the same but we had to turn back upwind at Milnerton, which would turn out to be another serious blunder in terms of mark laying. It has not been a good year at RCYC in terms of marks going missing.

Our start was spot on, being right at the committee boat, going at speed. That got us to the weather mark right up with the bigger boats and we were able to hold our position reasonably well up till the Paarden Island mark. The visiting Pacer 27 “Skwert ll”, helmed by Derek Robinson was slightly to windward but about 20 boat lengths behind us as we approached the top mark. We rounded just inside the Beneteau 34.3 “Necessity” and had to luff them to secure the windward channel along the beach. They took the bait and went deep. As soon as we had our spinnaker up, our log went up to 12 knots and we enjoyed a lovely downwind reach. We threw in 3 or 4 gybes as we worked the breeze, but Skwert ll only had their fractional asso up and were sailing much deeper and slower than us. At first it looked like they were gaining on us, but after the third gybe it became obvious we had made a lot of ground on them.

Above: A gusting south easterly put many boats into a broach. Here the Mumm 36 'Ballyhoo-Too' shows off her bottom (and unpainted cradle marks)

But a far bigger problem loomed. There was no Milnerton mark! As the leading boats radio'd the bridge boat with this bit of information the fleet continued sailing steadily on towards Blouberg (the Class 1 downwind turning mark) which seemed the obvious thing to do. Radio transmissions were scratchy and distorted making it very difficult to hear what was going on – more so planing downwind at 12 knots! The second mark laying boat was right there and one must wonder why they didn't radio the bridge earlier with this rather useful bit of information and substitute the boat for the mark?

All of the boats in our IRC2 fleet seemed to be quite happy to continue on to do the Class 1 course. Those conditions were heaven for the Pacer 27 and we quickly worked our way into the front of the IRC 2 group to take the lead. By the time we got to the Blouberg mark, we had caught up to the tail enders of the IRC Class 1 group, who had left 5 minutes before us. We found the mark and did an early strike, but the headsail top batten popped out on the windward side ( a sort of jib Chinese gybe) and that is a very difficult problem to resolve going upwind, so were forced to continue past the mark until we got the headsail sorted. That cost us about a minute. The messy strike would result in a massive spinnaker wrap on the next hoist and cost us several more minutes. That 6th person on board was being sorely missed. By the time we did our first tack back onto starboard, the A35 had caught up to us and eradicated our lead.

Above: Regent Express in full flight on the way down to Blouberg.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

It was a long beat back to Paarden Island , so we sailed right up to the beach where we usually get a lift in the south easter and worked the beach zone all the way back. The breeze was getting up into the twenty knot range, but quite steady. The other Pacer went offshore and lost out badly. We still had the final run down to the finish line to complete, but Murphy was not done with us yet. When the spinnaker went up, it had a 2 meter long sausage wrap in the middle. The longer we had it up the mast, the worse the wrap was getting. Eventually we got it down on the deck and from there things went pear-shaped fairly quickly without a full complement of crew. The foot disappeared over the side and filled with water and suddenly I could feel the boat slowing abruptly and losing steerage. I turned upwind to allow the speed to come off and get the kite back on board. Time was ticking by as the foredeck guys struggled. By the time the water was out the sail, the boat had lost way completely and we were in irons – unable to turn downwind. It took another minute to get some motion back and do the downwind turn and rehoist the kite. Incredibly when it went up, it wrapped again! But we managed to shake the twist out and then enjoyed a very fast flat water reach along the harbour wall with the press power boat keeping station for hopefully, some good footage. Two more gybes saw us crossing over the line in a reasonably respectable position.

But is was all to be in vain as the race officer cancelled the race for all fleets due to the missing mark. This was a great pity as it had in fact been a fair race for all, but the decision was correct and by 2pm and a half days sailing under our belt, there was still no result. Two days later, that decision was reversed for IRC Class 1 after all the skippers signed that they had not been materially prejudiced by the mark being missing.

The fleet headed off to Granger Bay to anchor off for a leisurely lunch break in the shelter of the western breakwater. We tied up behind our nemesis "Lobelia" who had a BBQ going on their stern causing some mouth watering aromas to come drifting down on us, as we worked our way through a biscuit based cold lunch - sports boat style!

Race in a nutshell: 16th December, 2010
Race 2
Position IRC: 4th
Distance: 2.5 nm.
Max Speed: 16.4 knots
Ave speed: 7.6 knots
Time: 0 hr 30mins 00secs
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind SE 10 knots Temp 26C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind SE 22 to 25 knots
Course: Start – Laid weather mark (P) – Laid Offset mark (P) - Landfall (P) - Finish mark
Seas: Flat with small chop 0.8m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm/Main), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli (Mast), Phillip Rentschler (Pit) : Total: 427 kg


The afternoon race started near 15h00 and would prove to be very short for the Class 2 IRC fleet. A very short 5 minute beat, followed by a 1 minute fetch to an offset mark and onto a very fast broad reach to the Landfall mark and straight back upwind to the finish line. We had another very good start in the prime position but we lacked speed and soon found ourselves languishing in other boats dirties, unable to tack clear with more boats on our hip on starboard. A gap opened and we grabbed it, to clear the windward mark in 4th position. We delayed the hoist until we were past the offset mark and then charged downwind to pass all the Class 2 boats and arrive first at the leeward mark, peaking out at 16.4 knots. The J105 did a spectacular broach just behind us, allowing us to increase our lead further. But that lead was not enough to hold the big, heavier boats at bay till the finish. The A35, then the Farr 38 and finally the J105 got through us on the upwind leg, before the finish. This race was sailed in about 22 to 25 knots providing sufficient thrills and spills for the competitors. We ended with a 4th place, which is about par for the course for a windward/leeward course for us. The other Pacer 27 "Skwert ll" were well off the pace and not comfortable in the stronger Cape wind, but that would all change the next day when the fluky stuff arrived.

Back at the club it was free drinks and rolls for everyone in a good carnival type atmosphere. Crocs 2010 was off to a fine start.

1st Docksafe (Archambault 35) - 1.105 - A.Monet
2nd A-L (Farr 38) 1.012 - Robbie van Rooyen
3rd Pants on Fire (J105) - 1.016 -Dwayne Assis
4th Regent Express (Pacer 27 Sport) - 1.080 - Trygve Roberts
5th - Just Fun (Mount Gay 30) 1.026 - B.Preston
6th Skwert ll (Pacer 27 Sport) - 1.044 - Derek Robinson
7th Necessity (Beneteau FC 34.3) - 0.982 - David Booth

Above: A lovely shot of Skwert ll ahead of us near the finish line at sunset

Race in a nutshell: 17th December, 2010
Race 3
Position IRC: 6th
Distance: 4.0 nm.
Max Speed: 11.3 knots
Ave speed: 4.2 knots
Time: 1 hr 30mins 00secs
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind S 9 knots Temp 25C
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind SE 8 knots variable with patches of calm
Course: Start 10 (P) – Paarden Island (P) - Milnerton (S) – Paarden Island (S) - Finish mark
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli ( Main ), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Oliver van der Pitte: Total: 487 kg

The race organisers had sensibly decided to accommodate the working folk by only having a single twilight race scheduled for the day. This allowed most of us to put in almost a full days work.
I'm not a gambling man, but this race required a serious throw of the dice to achieve a good result. Top sailors ended at the bottom of the fleet and tail end Charlie's won - not across the board, but in sufficient quantity to make things obvious. Despite that, it was still fun and in general it was all smiles amongst the crews back at the clubhouse. As a perfect example, we finished ahead of the Farr 38 "A-L" on both line and handicap results - something we have never done before. There were holes big enough to swallow groups of boats and keep them there for long periods of time. It was more luck than skill that determined the outcome of this race.

We managed to find a sixth crew member to help us out in the form of a young teenager from MAC (a dinghy sailor, in the diminutive form of 13 year old Oliver van der Pitte) who took over from Allesandro as mast man, allowing us to move Allesandro back to do main trim. Allesandro himself is not be trifled with weighing in at 86 kgs for a 14 year old - and there ain't no fat either! A black eye for the skipper by the end of the regatta would bear testimony to Allesandro's ability to yank in the boom.

Above: Our least enjoyable style of sailing - in zero wind. Trying to clear the start line in Race 3
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

The start was like the rest of the race – something of a lottery. In IRC Class 2 it was the Mount Gay 30 “Just Fun” who had an excellent port tack start to pull far ahead, whilst the rest of the fleet struggled through the patchy breeze to get up to the weather mark, which was almost a true beat in the average easterly wind direction. We had mixed fortunes as we worked the shifts up the beat and managed to round in 4th place and still be close enough to catch the fleet on the downwind leg. We were a very long way ahead of "Skwert ll". The breeze clocked around to the south east allowing for a nice reach down to Milnerton. Ahead and to our right we had the Mount Gay with Docksafe on their tail and closer and to leeward we had the J105.

Judging by the general behaviour of the Mount Gay skipper so far in the event, he would be guaranteed to go aggressively into a luffing match, so we left that to other competitors and decided to soak low and to leeward of the luffers. Then the J105 also decided they wanted to sail high. It wasn't long and both those contenders went to war with the Mount Gay, the latter which lost out twice. We smugly sailed faster and lower than all three to get into the lead. We were looking pretty for a comfortable first place leeward mark rounding, when ahead lay a very large hole surrounding the mark and all navigable water around it for 800 meters. Most of the Class 1 IRC boats were parked in there and had been in there for at least 10 minutes as we had caught up to them, despite having started 5 minutes later. Our hard fought lead was about to be whisked away. And there was more bad news. Behind us, we heard bow waves. Coming down fast with spinnakers drawing was the rear half of the IRC Class 2 fleet as well as the leaders of the Club Class 1 fleet. Oh boy! Soon we were surrounded by about 18 boats of varying sizes.
Above: In this pic we are virtually stationary, but the boat with the blue spinnaker is ploughing right past us at speed. The very fast Corby 49 to the left of pic is only just heading back towards the upwind mark.

The other Pacer 27 “Skwert ll” had also closed a big lead we held over them and were now right next to us. The mark rounding was a fiasco, but at least the south easterly had pushed through a bit which allowed the fleet to split tacks. We know the bay well, and headed directly for the beach to pick up the port tack lift there, whilst "Skwert" tacked immediately after the mark to head offshore. Completely opposite to what should happen, they actually gained on us and crossed about 10 lengths ahead when they came back inshore on starboard. With the bit between the teeth at that point, all they needed to do was cover us, which they did with precision.

Above: Many boats of differing sizes arriving at the Milnerton mark in a group. Skwert can be seen to the left of the buoy, whilst Regent Express got shafted in between a whole bunch of big boats, unable to tack. We are the 4th boat from left of picture, just behind the ILC40 'Gumption' who also had a shocker of a race.

The 10 knot breeze held and we rounded the top mark still about 10 lengths adrift of "Skwert". At that point it was hard to tell how well or badly we were lying as the fleet was placed in such an erratic order. "Skwert" was having kite problems, so we figured our opportunity to get past them had just appeared. That pleasant thought was short lived, as we too, ended with a kite wrap – our fourth of this regatta. We haven't had wraps for many months and cannot understand why all of a sudden this is happening. Our wrap took longer to dismantle than theirs and in the process they extended their lead a bit more.

Above: Regent Express playing catch-up on the final sprint to the finish of Race 3. The boat ahead is the Beneteau 34.5

We tried sailing higher and faster and whilst we did gain a bit of the gap back it was not sufficient. Meanwhile the Mount Gay predictably went into a luffing duel with "Skwert", leaving both boats with spinnakers flapping. We closed the gap some more, but the finish line was coming up fairly quickly and there was not enough time left for fancy tactical maneuvering. We sailed as high as we dared aiming for the bridge hut on the harbour wall. We started discussing tactics when the Mount Gay started engaging us in a luffing duel as well. I instinctively knew it was going to happen, so we had planned ahead. It was their fifth luffing match in a single race, but we were ready and immediately called to them that they could not luff us into a continuing obstruction and we called for water. The Mount Gay skipper was having none of it and started shouting and insisted we did have enough water – this despite that our boom was about 3 meters away from the concrete wall. I was then told to go and learn my sailing rules by the Mount Gay skipper. So I did…… and this is the section that covers our situation:


18.5 Passing a Continuing Obstruction While boats are passing a continuing obstruction, rules 18.2(b) and 18.2(c) do not apply. A boat clear astern that obtains an inside overlap is entitled to room to pass between the other boat and the obstruction only if at the moment the overlap begins there is room to do so. If there is not, she is not entitled to room and shall keep clear.

We did have an overlap (for quite a long time) and we did have plenty of space at the time the overlap was established. As we all know, writing about these protest situations is subjective as only one side of the story is being presented. In short, we should have protested. So, for the rest of this regatta, we shall keep as far away from Mr. Luffer as we possibly can. This was definitely not our finest hour, but then we were in good company with some other illustrious boats whose wheels came off completely in this race. Saturday heralds the medium distance race. With a forecast of only 5 to 10 knots of WNW breeze, it could be a good day for us if the angles work out well.

Above: It seems appropriate that the white heared and heavily bearded skipper of Skwert comes from Boskop Yacht Club. Here they have rounded Paarden island mark just ahead of us. The mealie farmers gave the Capies a quick sailing lesson in the light stuff!

1st Pants on Fire (J105) Dwayne Assis
2nd Docksafe (A35) Gerie Hegie Jnr
3rd Necessity (Beneteau FC 34.7) David Booth
4th Just Fun ( Mount Gay 30) B. Preston
5th Skwert ll (Pacer 27S) Derek Robinson
6th Regent Express (Pacer 27S) Trygve Roberts
7th A-L (Farr 38) Robbie van Rooyen


Race in a nutshell: 18th December, 2010
Race 4
Position IRC: 6th
Distance: 22.0 nm.
Max Speed: 12.1 knots
Ave speed: 5.2 knots
Time: 2 hr 50mins 09secs (Actual)
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind WSW 7knots Temp 24C
Weather Actual: Accurate
Course: Start – Laid weather mark (P) - Barker Rock (P) – Robben Island (S) - Finish mark at Murray Bay
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum), R0 Asymmetric Spinnaker (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli ( Main ), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Oliver van der Pitte: Total: 487 kg

The day started with promise and a renewed vigour to rectify the silly results we had been producing so far in this regatta. It was starting to get a little embarrasing! A long distance race in light conditions and flat water was just what the doctor ordered. Nope - not really. We ordered the doctor!

The reality would turn out to be two totally different things. It was fitfully light. Only 4 or 5 knots of breeze touched down on the day from WNW exactly as had been forecast. The IRC 1 start was aggressive as always with individual recalls and one collision – the latter which I later heard about in detail as I was asked to serve on the protest committee. It was a straightforward and all too common incident of barging.

We had a good start and quickly worked our way into the front group of boats. We had good speed and height, rounding the weather mark in 2nd place. From there it was a long upwind leg up the Sea Point coast to Barker Rock – our next mark to round. Our instructions were to leave it to port, which sounded weird as the string theory would have it to starboard. Our strategy was to fly the Code Zero and fetch in to Barker Rock at a tight angle. Soon after hoisting the Code 0 we started dropping off towards the coast line and our speed was not as good as what we would have liked. It was just a few degrees too tight, so we took it down and went back to the headsail, but we were also sailing out of the pressure band, so we were left with little option but to take a hitch back out to sea. In the process, we lost our position and in one minute went from 2nd to 7th as Skwert ll also came steaming past us. It was quite an emotional yo-yo and this pattern would continue for the rest of the race. We had to put at least three hitches out to sea and with each port tack, positions would be lost incredibly quickly. But it was the same situation for everyone. Only the Beneteau 34.5 could point high enough to remain constantly to the seaward side.

What followed was quite comical as all the boats that followed us, went into exactly the same trap and we went back into 2nd place again. It was terribly frustrating as we were all sailing parallel to the mark and not towards it. Once we had Barker off our port bow, we could see large areas of calm around the rock and each skipper would have to roll the dice in terms of which approach would work best. No matter which route one chose, it meant having to sail through several areas of calm. Necessity and Skwert went well past the beam point before turning east, whereas A-L, ourselves and the J105 soaked down early. We had worked our way back into 2nd place behind A-L as we approached the rock in a mere whisper of breeze. Then we slowed and parked as the entire Class 2 fleet bunched up in close proximity – almost like the race was starting over again.

There were funny rotors and swirls with huge headers and lifts, but progress was painfully slow. During one of those dead slow roll tacks, our mainsail battens typically didn't pop through. We use a developed technique to invert them, which involves the trimmer grabbing the boom and pulling it quickly to windward and downwards. We have done it a thousand times. I stood up to remove my splash jacket as I was getting hot, but my timing was less than immaculate as the sharp tip of the boom smacked me hard just adjacent to my right eye. Then there was a lot of blood and a very embarrassed and apologetic young Allesandro apologising profusely, but it was my own fault. Wrong place, wrong time!

That little episode got us distracted as I had to hand the helm over to Charles as Phill got the first aid kit on deck. By the time we rounded Barker Rock, we were well and truly last – by a very big margin! But we still had a long fetch to Robben island with time and opportunity to make up the gap.
Above: The Code Zero in action after rounding Barker Rock. Conditions were ideal for the use of this sail, but the heading to the next mark was too low.

Once around the rock, we hoisted the Code Zero again and went high towards the north west , whilst the rest of the fleet had gone towards the cliffs off Clifton. It was yet another light wind gamble. The Corby 49, leading the Class 1 IRC fleet, rounded just behind us and we were happy to note they had chosen the same routing as ourselves. The breeze progressively picked up to around 12 knots SW and we were struggling to hold course with the kite up. Skwert also had good breeze and although far downwind of us were making good speed. After 10 minutes we had to hoist headsail and strike the kite to get back on course. Slowly but surely we started gaining on Skwert.

Up near the western shore of the island there must have been 40 boats fishing (and catching!). We weaved our way through the fishing fleet trying to make sure we didn't hook up any lines in the process. Our one and only opportunity to overtake Skwert lay in our local knowledge of depths around the island.

Above: No shortage of fresh snoek. They were pulling them out as we sailed past.

We took a short cut and got our R1 kite up and suddenly we were 5 boat lengths astern, and closing, but the finish line was looming. We just didn't have enough gas to close them down and finished 2 seconds behind. A very close race, after almost 3 hours racing.
Above: Skwert's crew keeping a close eye on us as we try sneaking through the inside lane, just before the finish..

We anchored off Murray Bay to enjoy a leisurely lunch as we waited for the afternoon's drag race back to RCYC to commence at 15h00

1st Necessity Ben First 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 0.982 02:45:55
2nd Al Farr 38 SA630 Robert Van Rooyen 1.012 02:48:59
3rd DockSafe A35 Archambault FRA 34635 Gerry Hegie Jnr 1.037 02:52:10
4th Pants On Fire J/105 SA3786 Dwayne Assis 1.016 02:52:37
5th Skwert II Pacer 27 015 Derek Robinson 1.044 02:57:11
6th Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport 17 Trygve Roberts 1.044 02:57:38
7th Just Fun Mount Gay 30 SA1796 Mark Devitt 1.026 02:58:38
Above: Chasing Skwert down to the finish in Race 4 - Good tight racing after 3 hours on the race course

Race in a nutshell: 18th December, 2010
Race 5 (or how to get to RCYC from Robben island in a fun way)
Position IRC: 6th
Distance: 16.0 nm.
Max Speed: 12.6 knots
Ave speed: 5.5 knots
Time: 1 hr 58mins 50secs
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind WSW 9 knots Temp 25C
Weather Actual: Accurate. Wind increased to 15 knots later
Course: Start at Murray Bay – No. 1 (P) - Landfall (P) – Finish mark near Granger Bay
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum), R0 Assymetric (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli ( Main ), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Oliver van der Pitte (Mast) : Total: 487 kg

After having had time to wash the blood off my face and the decks, we sat down for some lunch under very pleasant conditions just north of the Murray Bay harbour. It was a time for some introspection; to lick our wounds and wonder just why we weren't getting better results. It is never easy picking oneself up and getting back into a positive, race winning mind set. Up to that point, it had been a series of hard luck issues which had bedevilled us starting with crew problems, a good race result being cancelled, picking time consuming holes to sail into, kelp around the keel and courses that always seemed to be just too low or just too high to maximise the boat's good features.

For the start of Race 5, it was obvious everyone wanted to be at the pin end so the R.O. put up the I flag and just as well, as the IRC 1 fleet were called over in their droves, with more than half the fleet having to reround the pin end. Five minutes later it was our start but miraculously none of us were over early. We decided to drop down early and shave the corner of the island to be able to make up time on "Skwert" who had gone on a much wider (and safer) rounding of the island's north shore, but the Farr 38 "A-L" went perilously close inshore. At one stage we watched them virtually stop as they hit a forest of kelp. Nothing holds those guys back and they in fact went on to win the race. This is a tactic they always employ going round the island, but they have a conventional rearward raked fin keel, so getting kelp off is a lot easier than on a T Keel.

We paid for our eagerness of cutting the corner, by picking up a nice fat piece of kelp on the keel. From there it was that agonising decision to take the kite down, luff head to wind, back the main/reverse, turn back downwind, kite back up - guaranteed a 3 minute operation, whilst you watch the oppoistion sail off towards the horizon; or tough it out and sail one to one and a half knots off your peak speed with the kelp in place and hope it eventually breaks off, but history tells us that that seldom happens - even doing 16 knots, kelp will simply sit there until you reverse. It is tough stuff. In a one design boat, it is very difficult to ever make up that deficit. With all that rationale in the forefront of our minds, we carried on, whilst Phill set about creating a flosser, but after a few attempts, we gave up on that as well - it just doesn't work on a T-keel. We sailed the entire race with the kelp attached right at the bottom of the foil just above the bulb.

Above: Regent Express doing our favourite thing - kelp harvesting off the north shore of Robben Island!

The small lead we had built up on "Skwert" could only remain as long as we kept them slightly behind us and in our dirties, but Derek is a wily old fox and soon figured out a better plan. They soaked low to separate from us. It was obvious we were a little slower, as when we wanted to also soak low, they would quickly make up distance on us. That lead soon vanished as they sailed easily through our lee and went on to build a big lead over us. Once through, they sailed higher, so we went for the low/slow soak, but the kelp was holding us back and the gap steadily increased until it had increased to about 1000 meters. It was a long and slow reach to the No1 mark, but the breeze had been slowly building over the last half mile to peak at around 15 knots. We were trailing by about 50 boat lengths at the No.1 mark. The leg to Landfall was a one leg beat, so no opportunity for superior tactics existed either. It was yet one more item to add to our shopping basket of regatta blues. Our 13 year old crewmember started getting very bored and listless on the reach and he had had enough and used the time and opportunity to announce his non availability for the final day's racing. Make that another tickbox!

Before we got to the Landfall buoy, we could see boats coming back down to the finish were struggling to hold their spinnakers, so we sent Simon down to switch back to the Code Zero. After rounding, we got it up and drawing and our speed settled in between 9 and 11 knots, but we were pretty much on our ear and had to dump sheets a couple of times to avoid a broach. We were closing in on "Skwert's" lead. They were also sailing a higher track, which would mean they would be low and slow coming in to the finish without a kite. We had our tails up and gave it our best shot, but it was yet another nail in our coffin as we closed the gap fully, but finished a second or two behind them - just not enough distance in the leg to make up the deficit, but desperately close. With that result, we went right to the bottom position of our class. Geez. Talk about demotivating!

Above: Regent Express pulling 18 knots in last years' Crocs Regatta.
1 Al Farr 38 SA630 Robert Van Rooyen 1.012 01:53:08
2 Pants On Fire J/105 SA3786 Dwayne Assis 1.016 01:53:27
3 DockSafe A35 Archambault FRA 34635 Gerry Hegie Jnr 1.037 01:55:10
4 Necessity Ben First 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 0.982 02:01:28
5 Skwert II Pacer 27 015 Derek Robinson 1.044 02:03:55
6 Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport 17 Trygve Roberts 1.044 02:04:04
7 Just Fun Mount Gay 30 SA1796 Mark Devitt 1.026 02:12:06


Race in a nutshell: 19th December, 2010
Race 6 (FINAL)
Position IRC: 5th
Distance: 10.0 nm.
Max Speed: 13.7 knots
Ave speed: 5.8 knots
Time: 1 hr 15mins 51secs
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind SE 10 to 15 knots Temp 24C
Weather Actual: Clear - cloud on the mountain. Fog in the west. Wind WSW 8 knots becoming SE 35 knots later
Course: Start – No. 4 (P) - Milnerton (P) – No. 8 (P) - Paarden island (S) - Finish
Seas: Flat
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Bow), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Allesandro Napoli ( Main ), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Shereen (Mast): Total: 487 kg

Funny how one's goals change during a regatta. We started off optimistically hoping the courses would suit us and we might end on the podium, but by the start of the fourth day, our goal was simply not to finish last. Lofty ideals indeed!

A young lass, called Shereen volunteered rather shyly to crew for us. At the marina I could already see she was going to be fine as she immediately set to work tidying up ropes and repacking spinnakers. What a pleasant surprise to have such a competent person on board. We have a new crewmember on our regulars list! |

The forecast was for a 10 knot south easterly building to a 15 knots in the afternoon. What we needed was a good blow where we can plane the boat downwind. Instead the light wind lottery style conditions would persist. So far it had been a Hartebeespoort Dam type regatta in terms of the weather. With a light westerly on the water we got off to another decent start with a clear track of wind. Boats going up to the wall side looked like they were sailing into a light patch, so we tacked off for better pressure offshore. The wind was switchy and puffy - a forewarning of what was to come later. The first beat saw the standard set of results with the bigger, heavier boats easily getting around the can first. We managed to round about 5 lengths ahead of Skwert and set off in pursuit of the trio ahead.

Above: What we do down bigger boats on downwind legs

A long broad reach followed with boat speeds in the 8 to 9 knot range and of course we weren't planing either. We decided to soak low so as not to tangle with Mr. Luffer and Necessity. We got through their lee without too much trouble, whilst Skwert went on a low groove with good speed. It was quite interesting to see if there was any difference in boat speed between the two Pacers by carrying different types of asymmetrics. There didnt appear to be much in it, but we had the upwind track, so we had less dirty air to worry about than Skwert. The Joburg boys were getting into the Pacer scene with gusto and giving us some tough competition - a massive improvement on how they had sailed on the first day. We had overtaken the A35, the Mount gay and the Beneteau 34.5 and were close behind the Farr 38 and the J105 as we arrived at the bottom mark.

Above: GPS Track of Regent Express for the final race. The track at the start and finish show two diametrically opposite wind directions. This was tougher than a Tuffy Bag or a Hilux chassis. The dull blue is the track when we went out later for the 35 knot 'super burn'

The next leg up was a one leg beat in steady breeze of around 10 knots. We were able to hold the Farr 38's angle of point, but could not quite match their speed. Skwert went low/fast and got through our lee, but by the time we got to the top mark, we had taken about 40 boat lengths on them as they still had to tack twice to lay the mark versus our no tack/high point option. Finally, we did something right!

Our strategy was to do a bearaway hoist, then gybe immediately so we could stay in the better pressure on the left side of the course. It was just as well, as up ahead Docksafe and A-L had both parked up on the right near the 'dolosse' and the J105 was going slower as well, but heading our way. We gybed onto port and headed offshore in pursuit of breeze - and found it. When we were on the gybeline we rolled back onto starboard and headed back inshore towards the mark, where we had caught right up to the J105. The other two boats were still stationary. We gybed back onto port on the hip of the J105 and went back offshore with them, but it soon became clear we were sailing away from the mark, so we gybed again and headed directly for the mark. A hundred meters later our speed dropped, the kite flopped into a heap and we joined the parking lot. That was the final straw for Charles, who specifically moved to Cape Town from the Reef, so that he didn't have to sail in fluky conditions. The J105 sailed a long circle route, followed by Skwert who had also caught up nicely. Once again, just like the previous day at Barker Rock, it was a total park up, making something of a mockery calling it a yacht race. There were several deadly minutes as the boats got the new breeze in a random pattern. We were the fourth boat to get a puff and accellerate out of there. The dice had been rolled again.

Above: Class 1 boats still trying to cross the transition zone from a foggy light westerly into a stiff south easter. The pic was taken from on board Regent Express in a small area of complete calm.
Photo: Charles Crosby

The new south easterly was being born. It was shaky, fitful, switchy and gusty, making spinnaker setting quite a task. We half broached three times on the way to the finish line, before finally getting our speed up, and crossing the line on the plane. Immediately after the line, it was flat calm again. Another 5th place for us and yet another light wind parkup. We were fairly fed-up with the racing at that point, but there was one more race scheduled and it looked like it was going to blow hard. We were determined to make the most of it. We sailed off into the harbour to stick in a reef and change down to a smaller headsail and spinnaker.

1 Necessity Ben First 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 0.982 01:12:52
2 DockSafe A35 Archambault FRA 34635 Gerry Hegie Jnr 1.037 01:15:06
3 Al Farr 38 SA630 Robert Van Rooyen Robert Van Rooyen 1.012 01:16:12
4 Pants On Fire J/105 SA3786 Dwayne Assis 1.016 01:16:32
5 Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport 17 Trygve Roberts 1.044 01:19:11
6 Skwert II Pacer 27 TBC Derek Robinson 1.044 01:22:19
7 Just Fun Mount Gay 30 SA1796 Mark Devitt 1.026 01:23:56

Race 7

The race we were so looking forward to was cancelled due to excessive wind speed and the fleet sent back to moorings. End of regatta and with it, any last minutes hope of salvaging some pride with a good result.

We decided to go for a burn, (literally to burn off four days worth of frustration) seeing that we had set the boat up for 35 knots of breeze, which was blowing at that point. We radio'd the bridge to advise of our intentions and set off in the direction of Paarden Island, where we turned downwind and hoisted the A3 asso. I suppose it would be fair to say we also wanted to prove a point - that conditions were in fact, sailable.

The seas had built quite quickly which had the bay full of waves and white horses. As soon as the bowman was off the foredeck, we turned onto 90 apparent and the speed shot up to 16 knots. We then had a magical sleigh ride down towards Blouberg registering a maximum GPS speed of 17.9 knots. Not our fastest, but it was just such a fantastic feeling to sail unfettered with the bow scooping up a wave every 5 seconds sending white water cascading over the boat and crew and out the back of the cockpit. Noise levels of the hull planing were intensely high but control was precise and comfortable. All of this to the sound of the crew all whooping with delight as we burned flat out towards Blouberg Beach. Finally Charles broke the spell and suggested it would be a very long sail back upwind in 35 knots - which it was. That was a good way to shake off those post regatta blues.

Matthew Thomas - the principle race officer for this event deserves praise. He did a great job under extremely trying conditions, but more importantly, he maintained a friendly, jovial disposition for the entire event and never denied a request for a repeat of the course, no matter how many times it had already been announced. Great job!
IRC Class 2 Final Results:
1st DockSafe A35 Archambault FRA 34635 Gerry Hegie Jnr 1.037 1st 2nd -3rd 3rd 2nd 8 pts
2nd Al Farr 38 SA630 Robert Van Rooyen 1.012 2nd -7th 2nd 1st 3rd 8pts
3rd Necessity Ben First 34.7 SA4114 David Booth 0.982 -8th 3rd 1st 4th 1st 9pts
4th Pants On Fire J/105 SA3786 Dwayne Assis 1.016 3rd 1st -4th 2nd 4th 10pts
5th Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport 017 Trygve Roberts 1.044 4th -6th 6th 6th 5th 21pts
6th Skwert II Pacer 27 015 Derek Robinson 1.044 -6th 5th 5th 5th 6th 21pts
7th Just Fun Mount Gay 30 SA1796 Mark Devitt 1.026 5th 4th -7th 7th 7th 23pts

And now for a three week break from sailing. See you in the new year.