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PPS Inter-Professions Team Racing - 19th May, 2012

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Course: Start #10(S) – Laid orange mark Radisson [S] - No.2 (S) – No.10 (S) – Laid Yellow Mark Granger Bay (S) – Landfall (S) - No.10 (S)/Finish
Wind & Seas: Mod W (6 to 10 knots). Temp: 15C. Seas lumpy – Lots of kelp
Sails: Full Main (Quantum); No.1 Genoa (Quantum); A-2 Spinnaker (North); A1 Spinnaker (Quantum)
Crew: Joshua Banks, Allesandro Napoli, Craig Preston, Charles Crosby, Phillip Rentschler, Trygve Roberts
Total Mass: 505 kg
Max Speed: 8.9 knots
Distance: 11.3 nm
Position Individual: 9th
Position Team: 2nd
Fleet size: 42

The main prize
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. PPS (Professionals Providend Society) put in a big effort to ensure the event lived up to its name. Last year there were 26 entries. This year there were 47! Lack of parking at the club is always a sure indicator of the number of people involved. It was packed to the rafters. But there is one man I would like to single out for a job very well done, and that is Luke Scott. Take a bow, you're da man! Young team captians had been apointed which was a really smart concept as it brought a freshness and innovation that sailing so desperately needs and deserves. I have always said that sailing's worst enemy is tradition, sad as that may sound. We have to look far ahead allow the young leaders to explore their ideas. Smart move on the part of the organisers.

It was clear from the moment one entered the registration hall, that a lot of effort and planning had been put in. Quietly working in the background and making a big difference at RCYC, is Toni Mainprize, who is living up to her name. As in most well planned events, there is one thing you cannot get quite right and that is the weather. Whilst everyone was having fun and a great public spectacle took place with yachts racing up and down next to Green Point, the wind was not quite as forecast, which led to a somewhat boring course, but we can all live with that. This is the sport of sailing, after all!

At the registration area, tables were neatly organized into the various professions, where indemnity forms had to be signed and team flags obtained. This year we were entered into the Engineers 1 team. A quick glance at our fellow team members, indicated a very strong team (Farr 38 – AL ; Beneteau 7.5 – Always Well; Farr 38 – Rockstar ; Farr 40 - Aladdin & Pacer 27S – Regent Express ). I had every confidence that this team could win the event, but as is so often the case in yacht racing, that which seems obvious, is not obvious at all.

That start line!
There was only one start indicated for all 42 boats. Not that the start line at RCYC is too short, but it is unusual having one big start, and would be bound to make things a little exciting. The club frequently tasks me to set courses and no-one understands better than I do, how difficult it is to plan a perfect course, when one has so many weather variables to work with – and doubly so in Table Bay with its fickle breezes. With too much North in the breeze, the well thought out course changed things a lot. Tactics had to put on the low burner, unless your tactics included crossing the shiping lane at the same time as a container ship or picking up kelp on your keel. The course delivered two heavily starboard biased beats. One fetch (too tight to carry a spinnaker); a very long single tack beat and two dead runs. The only thing we could do to gain or maintain position, was boat speed and kelp avoidance.

With two minutes to go to the start, the fleet started clamouring for a position on the line. Haven't we seen this all before! The one thing we know about big fleet starts in a small boat, is to keep clear air at almost any cost, so our strategy was to hang back at the pin and only enter the start zone after the one minute signal. There was lots of shouting for rights as boats jostled for position, but they were all too early, as is typical of a big fleet start. We waited patiently and when the gap predictably opened up at the pin end, we pounced and had, arguably the best start in the fleet – right at the pin, going fast, with a nice gap to leeward and no-one astern to run over us, plus the freedom to tack offshore for clear air. Three boats were called back OCS. We had been desperately close at the start gun and were relieved not to hear our name. We were watching our sparring partner carefully – the Melges 24, which carries the same rating as ourselves. They had been with us at the pin, but too early. They ended up way down the line, right in the dirty air. It would cost them dearly.

Tenacious by nature
After a few minutes the Fast 42 Tenacity, started pointing up under our leeward side, forcing us into a clearing tack. Most of the big 40 footers can outpoint us by as much as 8 degrees. We factor that into our tactics and race strategy and it doesn't phase us any more. That worked out nicely in the end, as it put us further out to sea, away from the kelp and in a slightly better pressure band. We were happy with our position, but the sloppy sea and light wind conditions were not doing us any favours. In the process we slightly overstood the weather mark. We rounded in about 12th place and were the first boat small boat at the mark. That first beat counted as one race. On corrected time, we got a 10th place. That seemed about right, considering the sloppy seaway and upwind work not being a sports boat's finest asset, but that terrific start had paid good dividends.

Above: Sloppy seas and light winds near the weather mark with the Farr 38- AL in the forewater.

Too tight to mention

On the first downwind leg (if you could call it that), some of the leading boats were carrying spinnakers, but it looked like they were hard pressed to hold their angles to the No.2 mark. We had selected our A1 spinnaker which is cut slightly flatter at the head, but halfway down the leg, we realized we would not be able to carry it all the way to the mark, as we were on our ear and slow, so we rehoisted the headsail and took the kite down, only to find we were doing exactly the same speed, but were able to easily lay the mark with the bonus of having a flat boat. We had neither lost, nor gained on that leg, but in theory, that should have been a leg where we would normally have gained, except the course was about 20 degrees too tight, thanks to the windshift.

At the No.2 mark, we had the 55ft Spilhaus on our tail, plus we were faced with a dead run back to No.10. We soaked low on the port gybe where the swell action helped us, and steered hot on the starboard gybe to keep the speed up to get across the popple and cross seas – in the process sailing almost double the distance of the conventionally rigged boats. Trimming the spinnaker in the 'light wind/ sloppy sea' scenario was more of a concentration issue than a physical one, but we were still more or less in the top 15 boats. Times were taken at the No.10 mark, counting as the second race. Our position improved to score a 6th, which also seemed about right, considering the very tight reach and then the dead run, neither which had done us much good.

Round No.2
The next beat up to the inner weather mark, held few surprises, other than the odd clump of kelp, which required some evasive action, but the wind had dropped a knot or two, leaving us with just 5 knots of breeze to work with. The third leg was scored at the inner mark, where we scored a 14th place. We still had a long, one leg beat to the Landfall buoy to complete, as the penultimate leg. We were still ahead of Spilhaus and much to our surprise we were also ahead of the A35 Docksafe, but they had experienced a very bad spinnaker wrap on the first reach, which had damaged their kite.

Spilhaus with their extra waterline length, gradually started reducing our lead. By the time we got to Landfall, they were right on our transom. The breeze remained light, so we had changed spinnakers to our A2 which is the fullest masthead kite we have. Even so, boat speeds were gentle, seldom getting anything more than 7,5 knots. The angle to the (hook) finish was once again, DDW, which in those conditions is just not good for us. We took four bites at the leg (gybes) and were at least happy that we had caught Tenacity (also carrying an asso) and finished ahead of them. For that leg we scored a 9th. So typically, with a scoring system like this it is easy to see the Pacer 27 gaining on the downwind legs and losing on the upwind legs. Nothing new or surprising there - just a solid confirmation of what we already know.

Windpower sailing for the architects team sailed consistently well to take a comfortable line honours win. Hylton Hale's new GP42 was second over the line, with perhaps unkind angles for them (they would have the same issues with the course as ourselves, being essentially a very big sports boat). They also got shafted badly on their second beat, when a large ship exited the harbour, forcing them to tack offshore. It became apparent to us watching from our downwind leg, that they were actually sailing at the same speed or even faster than the ship, which meant they were going to have to sail in the lee of the ship for a very long way. Eventually they tacked back onto starboard and luffed until the ship had passed. It must have caused a lot of frustration for them on their first outing. Windpower had managed to get past the bow of the ship. Like I said earlier, in yacht racing, nothing is cast in concrete.

This was a good event, sailed in benign winter weather. Kudos to PPS for the excellent sponsorship and prizegiving. Congratulations to the architects team of Windpower, Corum and Necessity on a well earned victory.

That was our last race sailed on our club rating of 1.080. Notice has just been issued that three boats have had rating increases of 1%. Those are Necessity, Ray of Light and Regent Express. This means we have to sail even better and I guess that's not a bad thing.

Top 10 Results (individual):
1st Windpower - Landmark 43 - Rob Meek
2nd Ray of Light - Beneteau 44.3 - Michael Kavanagh
3rd Speed of Yellow - J133 - Patrick Holloway
4th Corum - Briand 43 - Dave Gough
5th AL - Farr 38 mod - Robbie van Rooyen
6th Vulcan - GP42 - Hylton Hale
7th Hillbilly - J27 - Peter Hill
8th Necessity - Beneteau 33.7 - David Booth
9th Regent Express - Pacer 27S - Trygve Roberts
10th Aladdin - Farr 40 - Bjorn Geiger

Team results:
1st Architects (Windpower, Corum, Necessity) 14 points
2nd Engineers 1 (AL, Regent Express, Aladdin) 23 points
3rd Accountants 1 (Ray of Light, Nuthr Witch, Spilhaus) 34 points
4th Legal 1 (Speed of Yellow, Docksafe, Yolo) 42 points
5th Engineers 2 (Hillbilly, After You, Me2Me) 43 points
6th Medical1 (Freedom, Pants on Fire, Pure Magic) 44 points
7th Architects 2 (Picasso, Sheshisa, Saiorsi) 73 points
8th Legal 2 (Vulcan Isla, Indaba) 84 points
9th IT/MBA1 (Mini-Mace, Farmed, Unleashed) 91 points
10th IT/MBA2 (Celine IV, Chen, FTi Flyer) 99 points
11th Medical2 (Tenacity, Tuch n Go, Umoya) 99 points
12th Accountants 2 (Cabaray, Viking, Storm) 108 points