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Puma Twilight Races - 2 & 3 / 18th & 25th Jan 2012

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Puma Twilight Race No. 2 - 18th January, 2012
Course: Start – Paarden (P) – No.2 (P) – Paarden (S) – Woodbridge (S) - Paarden (S) - Finish (S)
Wind: Mod SE (12 knots bec calm). Temp: 34C
Sails: Full Main (Quantum); No1 Genoa (Quantum); A-2 Spinnaker (Quantum); Donkey (Mariner 5)
Crew: Joshua Banks (Bow); Sandro Napoli (Mast); Craig Preston (Pit); Charles Crosby (Spin); Phill Rentschler (Main); Trygve Roberts (Helm)
Max Speed: 13.2 knots
Distance: 11 nm
Position: RTD

This report covers two twilight races. Let's cut to the chase and deal with the 18th January first. It was a hot day in Cape Town with the mercury parking off at 34C. It was one of those rare days when you could go sailing in shorts and T-shirts. A pleasant south easterly (is there such a thing?) of around 12 knots made for unusual and enjoyable sailing. We pulled off a decent start and held our own with the big boats and quickly got back into the mix once we could go downwind. Boat speed was decent enough considering the moderate conditions and we hit our maximum speed of 13.2 knots on the first starboard reach. After gybing, we set off in pursuit of the 40 fokkers/footers and were doing really nicely when we suddenly picked up a massive header and a big loss of pressure, which had us doing a quick headsail up/kite down sequence, only to find ourselves totally becalmed. We (and the rest of the Div 1 fleet) had sailed into Table Mountain's famous wind shadow. The race had only just begun and we still had almost 70% of the distance to complete. Previous experience at RCYC with cut-off times favouring the big/fast boats, left us in no doubt as to what we should do. We radio'd in our intention to retire and got the donkey started, so we could at least enjoy a nice cold beer before heading home. We managed to capture some of the sailing on the video clip above.

A comprehensive explanation followed the next day, in writing by the race officer, explaining the rationale behind his decisions, which was not necessary to do. These things happen. No-one can read the wind 100% correctly every day on Table Bay. Despite many boats retiring, some forty boats did manage to finish the shortened course.

We missed the first race of the series due to the your scribe being away on holiday. A RTD result in Race 2 would place us securely right at the bottom of the results table. I have written to the club about the issue of fairness viz-a-viz cut-off times and I have been promised that it will be raised at the next SAILCOM meeting. More about that when (and if) it happens.
Puma Twilight Race No.3 - 25th January, 2012
Race in a nutshell:
Position PHRF Class 1 Spin: 9th
Total Entries: 47
Distance: 10nm.
Max Speed: 20.2 knots
Ave speed: 6.2 knots
Time: 1 hr 32 mins 52 secs
Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind SE 15 to 18 knots Temp 26C
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind SE 35 gusting 40 knots. Temp 26C
Course: 10 (S) – Paarden (P) - Milnerton (S) – Paarde (S) – Milnerton (S) – Paarden (S - Finish (P)
Seas: Choppy.
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), A3 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Daniel Spratley (Main), Craig Preston (Pit), Allesandro Napoli (Mast) Joshua Banks (Bow), Total: 470 kg

Above: Toughing it out on the first upwind leg to Paarden Island - sucking dirties from Alladin and Docksafe. - Photo: Charles Crosby

I have many regrets in my life. For this race, it was not having emptied all the files from my camera disc. The footage that could have been obtained, would have been sensational. Cest la vie....that's life.

At 17h45 the breeze was already belting down the bay at around 22 knots. We had selected the No.2 jib, but we had a full main up. It didn't take much convincing to reef, as there were two long beats up the beach of 2 miles each, which would be into the teeth of a building south easterly. And build it did! Right up to some wild gusts of over 40 knots, which for us on a sports boat, means hanging on for dear life downwind and feathering upwind to prevent knockdowns - and that is slow.

We had a decent start and typically, being the smallest boat in Div 1, we fell to the tail of the fleet by the weather mark, but we did have a nice, long run coming up where we could play catch up. The Corby 49 was first around the mark. They decided not to risk putting up a kite, but all the other boats (except Ray of Light) did, with rather spectacular results - not to mention expensive entertainment!

It was a day of carnage and I know there will be many discussions about safety (once again) about when to pull the plug on club racing, but honestly, everyone should be able to handle their boats in these wind strengths. It's not like it's unusual in Cape Town. There were two serious collisions in Div.2, both of them on upwind legs, involving simple port/starboard incidents. All four boats have experienced and competent skippers. I suppose then it is true to say that the number of collisions are directly proportionate to the wind speed.

In the first incident the Compass 47 Cathy-R, T-boned an L26 Hors D'Ouvers, taking her mast down. The bigger boat found herself not being able to lay the weather mark, so put in a short port hitch to clear. The skipper did not see the smaller L26 as the sun was in his eyes. Fortunately the bigger boat was going very slowly at the time. If it had been a full speed impact, the L26 would probably have been sunk.

The second incident involved an L34 and a 30 footer, with the port tack skipper also claiming he did not see the starboard tacker. Let's face facts, most of us that sail, have an awareness level of boats around us and we certainly don't have a crew member on permanent watch as we need everybody on the rail (especially in such strong breeze). Very few boats have windows in their headsails and I am equally sure, that this subject has been discussed to death around the globe. Why not make jib windows compulsory for all sailing craft? Anyway, it's our sport. It has traditions - and that is one of them. Collisions will occur from time to time in big fleets and strong breeze - or as ex-commodore Russell Volmer stated so eloquently at prize-giving (after three glasses of Cape Merlot) : "SHIT HAPPENS!" It is of interest to note that 17 of the 41 boats retired from this race, giving a clear indication of how rough things were out there.

When we rounded the weather mark for our first run to Milnerton, we had to work our way through the Div 1 fleet, doing in some cases, double their speed. Normally we just sail really hot and overtake everyone to windward. Since we are small and fast, most of the big boat skippers dont mind us doing that, but this day saw us having to sail quite deep as any higher angle of attack, would see a broach for sure. That meant weaving our way to leeward of the "blocks of flats" as we call them. We were doing OK, till we got in behind Ray of Light and were looking good to take them to weather, when a huge gust forced us to dip down - in showers of spray - and go for a leeward pass, but we were too close and fell into their wind shadow. What followed was a painful minute trying to extract ourself out of that 10 knot speed level and get back to the 18 plus range. We managed to pass Windpower and Corum (all of whom had broached at some stage) rounding in 3rd place. Pretty cool for a Dinky Toy!

When we turned back upwind at Milnerton, things were hairy with a full 35 knots on the nose. It was survival time for us. Even with our smallest sail plan, we were still grossly overpowered. The only way we could ease the pain, was to short tack next to the beach to stay in the flat water. Needless to say, we lost all we had gained downwind and rounded the top mark last again. Hey, but who cares, we were having such a blast on the runs! Every boat in Div 1 had at least one broach and the nature of the broaches indicated (to us still going upwind) that things were going to get even more hairy on the next run. Windpower blew her red kite, followed minutes later by Corum blowing her yellow kite. Ironically both boats have sailmakers on board as skippers! Cape Storm broached, then Lobelia - it was wild out there. If we could pull the next reach off without a big broach, we could give ourselves a pat on the back. We did not want to break anything on the boat either with the nationals coming up soon.

The nature of the course and strikes, meant we had to do a bearaway hoist and a gybe and it didn't go quite as smoothly as we would have liked. We broached and lay on our side for about 30 seconds, when a brief lull allowed us to get upright and back under control, without having to douse the kite. What followed for the next 3 or 4 minutes was incredible. We got the boat into a groove and took off. At some stages there was so much water coming over the boat, that some of the crew were being physically shifted around the boat. We have never seen volumes of water like that before. I had a chance to take a furtive peep at the GPS. It registered 20.2 knots! We regained a lot of ground and passed several big boats and then history repeated itself, with us losing all our gains on the upwind leg back to Paarden island.

We got Josh to clip on the Code Zero for the final reach to the finish, but it was way too tight. Being tail-end Charlies, we decided to give it a try regardless and after a brief burst of 18 knots and sailing away from the finish line, we spun out quickly into a broach, which necesitated a complete kite drop and recovery.

It was just pure fun. A fantastic sail at high speeds and no gear or sail damage. Brilliant!

I will not leave my GoPro at home again.
I will not leave my GoPro at home again.
I will not leave my GoPro at home again.
I will not leave my GoPro at home again.
I will not leave my GoPro at home again.

Being one of the last boats to return to harbour we had the privilege of this beautiful view of the Queen Mary 2 with her funnels just catching the last rays of the sunset.

Photo: Charles Crosby
For a full set of results for all classes go to