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Training Day.

Last updated on 25 Sep 2009

I had written down a list of about ten things we needed to brush up on before the upcoming Pacer 27 Nationals on the Vaal Dam in September. Well, the truth is, we never got to any of them as conditions on Table Bay were, to put it mildly, FRESH! 

The Lipton boats were returning from an exhausting 12 nm race as we left the safety of the harbour. We had a summer wind with winter temperatures. Chilly! We decided right at the dock that we were going to sail conservatively and not break the boat. People who had been out to watch the racing advised us to stay put. We did have a 10 second debate and finally said: "Let's go". The only real problem would be whether the outboard was strong enough to reverse against the wind pressure. 

We put a reef in the main and the No.2 Jib on the furler whilst Simon buttoned on the A3 spinnaker - the smallest one we have. As soon as we cleared the breakwater, we hoisted the kite. With Greg being involved in Lipton, we had James Harvie on spinnaker trim and Craig Latigan (Pinky) joined us as mast man. In 25 knots you need six crew - guaranteed! 

Fetching out of the harbour we were already doing 10 knots without a spinnaker. As soon as we got the A3 up and drawing, the speed increased to 13 knots. We got Simon back to sit behind me and started hotting the angle up as we hit the full power of the south easter. 

Up went the speed again 14, 15, 16 knots as we speared wave after wave with white water cascading over the bow. Then we hit 17 knots and eventually we topped out on that reach at 17.73 knots - a new record for Regent Express. At those sort of speeds we cover distance pretty quickly, and we still needed to sail back as well, so we took the kite down and set the boat up for the long beat back to the harbour. There were huge smiles (albeit wet ones) all round. For most of us this was a new adrenaline high in high speed sailing. We were doing an average of 7.3 knots boat speed upwind with the boat feeling beautifully balanced. One of the main lessons we learned was that on the Pacer 27 (in terms of sail area in strong breeze) less is more. 

We then decided to have another downwind burn and see if we could capture some of the action on Charles's waterproof camera. This time we went off on a port gybe towards Green Point and threw in a gybe (being determined to get some gybing practice in) but as we gybed we sailed into a quiet patch, so it was a very low key gybe and not what we really needed in terms of practice. It took 20 more seconds before we were back into the pressure. With our confidence boosted from the previous record run, we worked the boat a bit harder kicking into the waves and trimming more agggresively. Up went the speed again until we were sitting on 17 knots steady. It was probably a good gust coupled with perfect timing onto a wave face that got the speed so high. Even at that speed, we could feel the accelleration as we hit our new maximum speed of 18.0 knots. We kept on saying "one more burst" over and over. No-one wanted this fun to stop. Reluctantly we dropped the kite and did the upwind slog back to the harbour. 

I came away from the afternoons sailing with one overwhelming impression - Very good control. It has to be a better proposition being so in control of the boat rather than fighting bigger sails and falling over. 

Crew for the day: 
Simon Penso (Bow) 
Craig Latigan (Mast) 
Phillip Rentschler (Pit) 
James Harvie (Spinnaker trimmer) 
Charles Crosby (Mainsail) 

Trygve Roberts (Helm)