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Twilight Racing - 9th & 16th March

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Race in a nutshell: 9th March, 2011
Position PHRF Class 1: 8th from 9 entries
Total entries all classes: 38
Distance: 12.0 nm.
Max Speed: 17.8 knots
Ave speed: 7.3 knots

Time: 1 hr 36 mins 32secs

Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind SE 22 knots Temp 28C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind SE 35-40 knots gusting
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Isl (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Isl (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Isl (S) - Red mark finish (S)
Seas: Flattish/ Chop 1.0m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), A3 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Pit), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Joshua Banks (Bow), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Allesandro Napoli (Mast) : Total: 510 kg

Sometimes our expectations are too high, sometimes not.

Last week (9th March) we went out for the final thrash of the Lewmar Twilight Series. It was a particularly nasty south easter in that it was exceptionally gusty and also very switchy. At the start area we discussed putting in a reef, but somehow never got to doing it. There's that saying that says, you should reef when you think about the possibility of reefing for the first time. We ignored that sage advice passed down through generations of salty types.

We rigged with a full main, a No2 Genoa and our masthead spinnaker. It was only halfway up the first beat, after being shaken, rattled and battered by a 35 knot gusting 40 Cape Doctor, that we lamely admitted defeat and sent Josh down below to switch to the smaller fractional spinnaker. We got the kite up and then started a roller coaster downwind ride which saw us fighting the boat all the way down to Milnerton. We fell over when we gybed and lay there on our side flogging the kite for about a minute. Eventually we got her going again, but our enthusiasm had been dampened. On the long beat back up to Paarden Island mark, all we could do was shift into survival mode sailing on a feathered headsail and no main working at all. A big fire had broken out in the industrial area of Paarden Island sending a thick cloud of smoke skimming low over the race course and making line of sight navigation (and breathing) difficult. Going through the smoke downwind was fairly quick at 15 knots, but we would end up spending a long time in that lot on the beat back. The incessant flogging of the main was so violent, that eventually the Windex on the masthead said "I've had enough of this crap" and launched itself into a 10 meter free fall to disappear gratefully into the quiet world of Davey Jones's locker. Typically, I do a mental count in Rands. There would be more.

For the second run down to Milnerton, it would be more of the wild, unstable planing surges, fighting the boat all the way. In the meantime, the natural light was fading fast, so I tucked my expensive shades inside my oilies jacket, only to find them A.W.O.L. a few minutes later after yet another broach. The accounting total was at R 3000 at that stage and I had not yet seen the tear in the kite. Finally, we managed to pull off two good gybes in succession, but we still faced that beat from hell though a smoke filled gale, one more time. Everyone went quiet on board - a sure sign that the fun thingy had extinguished itself. We were the very last boat to cross the line, where the south easter faded away rapidly to almost nothing - enough so that we could hear a loud cheer from the bridge (some 300m distant) as we crossed the line. The cheer said "Thank goodness! Now we can all go home. It's dark already"

There are not many times I arrive home after sailing feeling miserable, but that was one of them. It was just plain unpleasant - and expensive. Packing the sodden boat and sails up in total darkness kept the misery-meter ticking away. To add fuel to the fire, we came second last, having beaten the lovely Lobelia who had bailed out with a DNC. What an achievement! Driving home, not even the Eagles new CD could cheer me up.

And then there was week later.

Twilight Race 16th March - Excelsior Wines.
Race in a nutshell: 16th March, 2011
Position PHRF Class 1: Rebel Style DFL from 8
Total entries all classes: 30
Distance: 8.0 nm.
Max Speed: 18.3 knots
Ave speed: 7.7 knots
Time: 0 hr 51 mins 00secs
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind SE 14 knots Temp 29C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind SE 30 knots gusting 35 knots
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Isl (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Isl (S) - #10 (S)
Seas: Flattish/ Chop 0.5m
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), A3 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Simon Penso (Pit), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Joshua Banks (Bow), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Allesandro Napoli (Mast) : Total: 510 kg

Rigging was pleasant in almost zero wind, but the Doctor was waiting for us up in the corner - cane in hand! We all agreed immediately to put the No2 Jib up and have the main ready to reef, suitably chastened by the previous weeks' hiding. In addition, we went directly for the more manageable fractional spinnaker. Rules for this race indicated "FUN RACE - NO SPINNAKERS"
Well, that's a serious oxymoron if you sail a sports boat, so we had ours ready, just in case we wanted to change our minds.

We had a good start in a much reduced end of season fleet, keeping lots of room to leeward and a good angle to sail fat to the weather mark. What a difference it made having the reef in. The boat was much happier and the flogging and shaking reduced down to almost zero. Halfway up the beat it was blowing hooligans, so we thought it a good time to make a decision on the spinnaker issue. So the question was passed up the rail sequentially: "Do you want to fly the kite and go the rebel route with a DSQ and have a bucket full of fun or do you want to go downwind without the kite and stand a chance of finishing on the podium?"

First up from the front was our 15 year old bowman with a big Cheshire cat smile : "REBEL PLEASE!"
The rest agreed unanimously. Voting over. Democratic rule had prevailed. Once around the weather mark, we noted with a sense of reality that we were last in Class 1 and quite predictably so, since all the other boats were over 40 foot LOA. At least we had space to work with. The kite went up. We did a little jiggle as it filled and suddenly the boat accellerated straight up to 16 knots as we set off in pursuit of the skyscrapers ahead. It took about a minute and we reeled in the first boat. Up ahead, Puma Unleashed had also decided to go the rebel route and fly a spinnaker, but they went straight into a bad broach which ruffled their feathers sufficiently to send them home without completing the course.

The water was rough and the boat felt loaded most of the time, but the smaller sail plan was helping a lot in terms of being able to control it. We roared past the fleet one by one and then we also took Puma to windward. The wind angle was kind to us, allowing us to head directly to the downwind mark without having to gybe. Only the 52ft Thunderchild was still ahead of us, but we were going a lot faster than they were and managed to not only get ourselves into a 'water at the mark' position, but we also did a perfect strike keeping the boat fully under control. Thunderchild was having all sorts of problems of her own - enough to send her going straight on past the mark as the crew struggled with the sails. They too would go home with their tails between their legs.

Our mark rounding was a bit abrupt and we did a mini-broach, but recovered quickly to be the first boat on the beat back to Paarden Island. It felt good even though we were blatantly cheating, but we had a plan and were determined to compete in the Corinthian spirit. Halfway up the beat, we engaged the Class 2 fleet who had sailed a shorter course, but we managed to clear through most of them without having to hesitate, bearaway or tack. Once around the weather mark, we went for another spinnaker hoist and shot off out of the lee of the Class 2 leaders like a missile. The Pacer 27 loves flat water and strong breeze, so we put the hammer down with the crew pulled well back onto the stern of the boat to do the reach down to the finish line, peaking out at 18.3 knots. We nailed the finish line perfectly, just sailing on the wrong side of the finish mark to ensure we were scored DNF/DSQ and sure enough - no gun. Mission accomplished.

Please RCYC - You have no idea how much you pee on our battery when you bring in a NO SPINNAKER rule. Spinnakers are fun - no need to fear them.

Only two Class 1 boats finished the race.