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Pacer Nationals/Mykonos Offshore 2011. 23rd to 26th Feb

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Unruly in fine form. helicopter shot taken during the 2010 event
Unruly takes Gold
Another hugely successful 2011 Pacer 27 nationals saw crews and skippers heading for home very satisfied with the format and quality of racing. Most agreed it was competitive in the extreme with the slightest mistake being punished by a lost place or two. There was drama aplenty, some controversy and a few crew were washed overboard in the frenetic start of the distance race, but the final winner “Unruly” did what was necessary with a consistent performance and placings no lower than 3rd to take the gold medals. Owner Iain Gibson from DAC on the Vaal Dam, had selected his crew cleverly with two Cape Town sailors on board in the form of Richard Tanner on the helm and Davey James trimming. Unruly, all agreed, was the worthy winner.

Pacer Yachts recently commissioned a promo video for their products which features the Pacer 27 in the first half. It gives a good idea of the boat's downwind speed and ease of handling. Click on the link below.

Above: Unmatched and Regent Express off to a flying start in the distance race.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

New faces in the Pacer scene
Run in Cape Town by the Royal Cape Yacht Club for the second year running and combining with the hugely popular Mykonos Offshore Regatta, the event drew good support from Pacer owners around the country with eight entries received. Everyone arrived in one piece with the exception of Russell Morgan from Port Elizabeth, who arrived a day late, due to personal and business issues, in the process missing the first three races. Newcomer to Pacer sailing, Rian Turner, of Hout Bay Yacht Club, assembled a strong team of talented sailors aboard a rented boat (Pacer 1), but they took a while to settle in to the rigours of sports boat sailing with some lower end results, but things would change during the non-discardable, double scoring distance race which they won, thus bringing them right back into the placings and ensuring a 2nd place overall.

A great group of sponsors make this an amazing event.
Let the games begin...

The event kicked off on Tuesday evening 22nd Feb with a welcoming function, registration, skippers briefing and weigh in. Most of the crews weighed in around 510 kgs. The scene was set for a good regatta, but on Wednesday morning a thick blanket of fog had unseasonally descended over Table Bay requiring all boats to be confined to harbour. The call from the bridge boat came at 12h00 for the fleet to proceed to the racing area at the Paarden Island side of the bay. A light westerly made its appearance and soon Race 1 was underway. All races for the first two days were scheduled to be windward/leeward races of two loops apiece, with a down wind finish. The start line was short and it meant fighting hard for a good position.

The fleet was off with a clean start. Veteran Rob de Vlieg on Sebago showed good skills in getting to the top mark first with a respectable gap ahead of the rest of the fleet. Racing was incredibly close, as one expects in a one design fleet. Sebago went on to take the gun, followed by Felix the Cat (Alan Lawrence) in 2nd place and Unruly (Richard Tanner) in 3rd . Your scribe, on Regent Express, who had been 4th at the top mark, managed to lose a place to score a 5th . On the final run down to the finish Regent Express noticed their top batten protruding through the leech of the mainsail. They radioed the bridge to ask how much time there would be before the start of the next race and were given the go ahead to quickly repair the batten pocket. This would later prove to be a sore point when exactly the same thing happened to Sebago, but the race sequence had already been started. It would result in Sebago scoring a poor result in Race 2 and a DNF in Race 3 and lots of unhappiness on shore after racing.

Managing Director of Pacer Yachts, Tim Dykins, handed out the prizes for the Pacer 27 Nationals.
Race 2 started with a general recall as most of the fleet were over eager on the line. Race Officer Matthew Thomas, waited one minute and then dropped the recall flag and went straight back into the five minute sequence. It was in that period that Sebago had their batten problem. The second attempt at starting was more successful with the fleet getting away cleanly. First at the top mark was Felix the Cat, followed closely by Regent Express and Unruly. Those three boats pulled away from the rest of the fleet to finish in that order in a breeze which had freshened to around 12 to 15 knots with some nice planing reaches. Those teams who had not practiced much gybing soon came unstuck as several broaches were seen in the fleet. The first three boats finished within a ten second window.

Fog makes the final call

Race 3 followed promptly, but the fog was persistent causing the race officer some concerns about safety, as the fleet disappeared from his view halfway up the beat, which was only 0.7nm in length, resulting in very quick (and exciting) races of about 30 minutes duration. Regent Express pulled off a good start on the starboard end of the line and showed good upwind speed arriving at the weather mark together with Unruly, but she had to dip Unruly who was on starboard. These two boats forged ahead of the fleet and had a tight duel up and downwind. In the meantime, the race officer had decided to shorten course, but no-one had heard the hooters or the VHF call. It meant the race would consist of only one beat and one run with a downwind finish. Being the only locally based Pacer 27, Regent Express might have had a greater awareness of what the wind was doing, as it had shifted distinctly to the north. In second place and hot on the heels of Unruly, they took the gap and gybed early, leaving Unruly and the rest of the fleet to continue on the starboard gybe down to the port lay line. It would prove to be an astute move, as their angle to the pin was perfect, whereas the rest of the fleet were all struggling to hold their spinnakers on a very tight reach. Regent Express were also lucky to have spotted the Shorten Course flag flying from the bridge boat, allowing them to hot up their angle a few more degrees to take a comfortable win. Unruly was 2nd with newcomers Derek Robinson and his crew on Skwert ll from Boskop Y.C. in 3rd place.


A request for redress by Sebago in races two and three, was denied. At the end of the first day's racing Unruly was lying 1st overall with a score line of 3rd , 2nd , 2nd and 7 points, followed by Felix the cat with a 2nd , 1st , 5th and 8 points and Regent Express one point shy with a 5th , 3rd , 1st score and 9 points.

Thursday 24 th February.
Weather forecast – 28C. Southerly wind of 14 knots in the morning becoming SE 19 knots in the afternoon. The south easterly settled in nicely around 11h00 all along the beach at Paarden Island allowing a good course to be set. The fleet made a clean start with Felix the Cat and Regent Express rounding the top mark in close succession. Russell Morgan's ‘Wild Thing' made its first appearance on the water, but they were well off the pace of the rest of the fleet. Race No.4 was sailed in a moderate south easterly of around 10 to 12 knots. Felix the Cat sailed a blinder and gradually pulled ahead to win with a one minute margin over Regent Express and Unruly. Up till that point, these three boats had been dominating the round the buoys racing with consistent speed and good boat handling.

Above: Club Mykonos Marina. It's a tight squeeze getting so many boats into that small marina. And it's a lady in charge. Great job by marina manager Anchen Stemmet.

The Cape Doctor usual

The breeze faded to almost nothing after the race ended, which resulted in the race officer requesting the fleet to head up to Granger Bay to set a course in a light westerly, but in the end, the Cape Doctor dictated and the fleet was sent back to the east end of the bay to sail race No. 5 in a stiff south easterly. This race started in 15 knots and ended in 25 knots which saw several boats switching to No.2 jibs and lots of spectacular broaches.

Another crisp, tight start saw the fleet off on the first beat with Unruly and Regent Express setting the standard and rounding in that order, but things were destined to change on the downwind leg as several broaches saw the order changing. Local boat Regent Express, made the most of the fresh conditions to emerge the leader at the leeward mark, but the fleet was hot on their heels. The second beat to the weather mark saw Regent Express losing their lead to Unmatched as a close fought tussle with wild wind switches tested crews. In the final run down to the mark, Pacer 1 sailed a good downwind leg to take the gun from Unmatched and Unruly with Regent Express being relegated to 4th place. Felix the Cat had a terrible race, barely surviving a savage broach after the spinnaker tack line was tripped by mistake. Sebago suffered a similar fate and both boats ended with typical discard type results. The race officer wisely decided to call things off as the wind seemed determined to head up into the 30 knot range. The boats needed to be ready for the distance race the next day and the forecast was for strong breeze.

The Mykonos multitude arrive

On Thursday evening, the registration and skippers briefing for the Mykonos Offshore took place. Using the same formula as the previous year, the Pacer 27 fleet made good use of the hugely successful Mykonos Offshore as their final two distance races. With the Pacer results still wide open, it looked like a three way tussle between Unruly, Regent Express and Felix the Cat. The double scoring, compulsory long distance race would prove who would rule the roost and with hindsight it was probably not the right way to have written the rule in terms of producing a fair set of overall results as both Felix the Cat and Regent Express took the more offshore route and paid dearly with poor results which had to be carried. This solitary race would take both boats right off the podium.


Friday morning dawned blustery with a massive traditional table cloth tumbling down over Table Mountain. The wind over the bay at the weather mark was gusting close to 40 knots and would ensure that the 128 strong fleet would see plenty of drama. All the Pacers went down to No.2 headsails, but only Skwert ll put in a reef. It was wild at the start area. The race organizers had given the Pacer fleet their own separate start some 15 minutes after the Class 2 start and 15 minutes ahead of the Class 1 fleet. Many VHF calls were made to the Class 1 fleet to keep the line clear, but some of the bigger boats chose to either ignore the request or could not control their vessels adequately. This caused some frustration amongst the Pacer fleet and in one specific incident the Fast 42 ‘Maestro' parked right on the start line with two minutes to go to the Pacers start. Unbeknown to the Pacer fleet, this boat had only minutes earlier heard a loud and sharp crack. Their carbon fibre mast had developed a large crack at the gooseneck and the skipper was trying to save the rig, whilst some of the Pacer crews were yelling at them to get out of the way. Maestro would end up back at moorings unable to start the Mykonos Offshore.

Flogging upwind
The one leg beat up to the weather mark was in reality a series of mini knockdowns with mainsails flogging incessantly, but everyone made it around the mark to tackle the 65 nm downwind dash to Club Mykonos. This is what most of the guys had entered for. A race that is pure downwind adrenaline producing planing. Unruly, Pacer 1 and Unmatched all opted for masthead spinnakers, whilst the rest of the fleet chose the more conservative fractional kites. The first 10 minutes would be about surviving the tempest. Unruly was the first boat to broach which saw four of their crew overboard, two of whom were separated from the boat and had to be retrieved. It would set them back into last place for a while. Pacer 1 and Unmatched also both broached badly when they gybed, allowing the better controlled , smaller spinnakered boats to forge ahead, but ultimately the breeze would drop to the point, where they would also have to waste time doing a spinnaker change, thus cancelling out any advantage they had.

Regent Express in trouble

Regent Express was the first boat to suffer damage, when their fractional halyard sheave ripped out the mast, rivets and all. That was followed by the masthead spinnaker's halyard shackle coming undone during the hoist. A 15 minute stop with them having to winch a man up the mast to retrieve the halyard delayed them further. By the time they got going, they were stone last with a lot of catching up to do. But that was just the beginning of their woes. Pacer 1, Sebago, Wild Thing and Unmatched had all opted to stay in the pressure inshore, whereas the rest of the fleet had gone offshore, where the breeze traditionally freshens into a westerly giving a perfect reaching angle to Dassen island gate whilst those on the beach are usually left with little wind and a bad angle to work with. 2011 decided to reverse that tradition, leaving the two offshore Pacers for dead (Felix the cat and Regent Express). It was extraordinary to have started the race in 40 knots and approach Dassen Island in 6 knots of wind.

By the time the Pacers got to Dassen Island, they had sailed through the entire Class 2 fleet, but the Class 1 leaders had caught up and some of the faster multihulls were also crossing gybes with the Pacers. Beyond Dassen Island, the wind freshened from the south, making for a lovely, fast leg through to South Head. For those playing catch up from the back, nothing seemed to work as the leaders got further away.

Broaches, broken masts and pitchpoles

The final approach through the cut between South Head Light and Jutten Island is nearly always tricky. This year was no exception. Regent Express, bringing up the rear of the Pacer fleet would continue with their run of bad luck as a very strong gust came barreling in from behind. It would dismast a Farrier trimaran behind them and send them into a full knock down broach, from which they would take some 4 minutes to recover as the boat lay on its side in the channel with big boats careering wildly to avoid hitting them. Earlier in the day around 13h00, a strong gust hit the Seacart 30 trimaran, which had taken the outer route into Saldanha Bay (leaving Jutten Island to starboard), being lifted down the face of a big swell and pitchpoled, leaving all the crew in the ocean and the tri upside down. They were doing 22 knots at the time with a kite up and went from that speed to zero in one second, causing all the internal ballast to shift forward and unstabilise the craft. Due to some sensible preparation by the crew, who all wore life-jackets and the skipper had a GPS and portable VHF on his person, they were able to arrange a well ordered rescue without panic. The Bog Monster was later recovered by a harbour tug, more or less unscathed and some of the crew were picked up by the local pilot boat.

The final beam reach in to the finish line in a 25 knot southerly was like being hosed down by a fire hose with salt water. Wet! This race was won by Pacer 1, followed by Sebago, Unruly, Wild Thing, Unmatched, Felix the cat, Skwert ll and Regent Express. All the Pacers rafted up together at the fuel jetty, causing lots of public interest, but maybe it was the cute models in the hot pants the crowd were staring at!

7-up is more than a drink
With one race left to complete, Unruly was in a strong position to win the Nationals. They only needed to finish one place ahead of the second placed boat, Pacer 1, which had been chartered by Rian Turner. He had assembled an array of rock stars in the form of Andrea Giovaninni, Roger Hudson and some of the crew from the Isivunguvungu Sailing School. There was some controversy surrounding Pacer 1 who had increased their crew numbers to 7 on the second day of the regatta, then decreased back to 6 for the Mykonos legs. It would result in a protest being lodged against them. [Ed note: The protest was heard on 10th March, 2011, but was not allowed due to a tecnicality. The Class Association has immediately closed this loophole by inserting into their class rules, the restriction on not allowing the number of crew to be changed during an event]

Saturday morning was perfect for sailing with a steady southerly on the bay with flat water. This year race organizers had decided to shorten the route for the smaller craft by about 5 nm. The leg into North Bay was removed as well as the leg to the North east buoy. The Pacers started at 11h47 with Regent Express and Unruly starting well. Just before the weather mark, a collision occurred between Felix the Cat and Sebago, where Felix the Cat (on starboard and with their pole extended) collided with the stern of Sebago, resulting in some damage to their bow. At the first mark, it was Unruly around first, followed in close succession by the rest of the fleet. With spinnakers up, the fleet split as some of the boats gybed back inshore. Unruly chose a middle route, but Felix the Cat and Regent Express went to the left. That group benefitted most and arrived at the tip of the ore jetty in that order. Pacer 1 and Unmatched led the second group around the jetty.

Tight racing in a fleet of 110

Above: The marina at Club Mykonos

At the Dial Rock mark, both Unruly and Regent Express tacked immediately, exploiting the natural starboard lift in the bay, whilst the rest did a hitch out on port. Up at the channel mark, Regent Express had overtaken Unmatched and were lying close behind Felix the Cat in 3rd place. The long beat to Jutten Island was tricky and again local knowledge paid off as the four leading boats all headed directly over to Salamander Point to pick up the header close to shore. Unruly had their skirts up and were sailing very well and getting them selves into an unassailable lead, whilst the rest of the fleet fought things out for the remaining places. Regent Express managed to get ahead of Unmatched in the channel with some good tactical gybing.

The penultimate leg to the weather mark was a one leg beat which saw no changes in the order and presented few opportunities to make gains, but the final downwind drag race to the finish is always fun. Regent Express had closed in on Felix the Cat as the two Pacers ripped through the fleet at high speeds. Tactically, Regent Express chose the better options, as Felix the Cat found themselves buried in lighter breeze on the right, whereas Regent Express had found good pressure to finish 2nd behind Unruly, enabling them to reclaim some of their lost pride from the day before. But the focus was on Unruly, who had done a solid job of winning the 2011 Nationals with a display of consistently good sailing and a worst place of a 3rd , which they were able to discard.

The prize-giving. Mumble, mumble, mumble...

Above: 2011 National Champions. Unruly with Iain Gibson and Richard Tanner and crew. (Girls in the white dresses are not part of the crew ! )

The prize giving was noisy and the speeches inaudible – as one would expect with about 1000 semi-inebriated sailors in a confined space. The 2012 Pacer nationals will move to another venue, possibly as part of MSC Week or to Port Elizabeth. This event was simply marvelous and whilst there is always room for improvement, no-one can say they did not have a good time. The vibe at Club Mykonos was fantastic with the blue and yellow clad Mykonos models strutting around and directing skippers to the champagne stand, making it feel really international. This is by a very long stretch, the best offshore event in South Africa.

Above: Second overall was Pacer 1 - Rian Turner and crew

With renewed interest in the Pacer 27 Sport, another five have been commissioned to be built in Cape Town. This augers well for the class and it's ability to attract first class skippers and crews from around the country. This is true one design racing at an affordable price. The Pacer 27 has now proved itself beyond all reasonable doubt to be a fast, seaworthy sports boat. Extrapolating the results/times of the Pacer fleet into the IRC 1 fleet, the Pacer 27's would have come 1st, 2nd, 3rd , 4th, 5th, 7th and 11th .

Final Results

1st Unruly - Iain Gibson/Richard Tanner 3, 2, 2 ,3, 2, 3, 3, 1 = 19 -3 = 16
2nd Pacer 1 - Rian Turner 6, 4, 6, 4, 1, 1, 1, 5 = 28 - 6 = 22
3rd Felix the Cat - Ant Wentworth/Alan Lawrence 2, 1, 5, 1, 7, 6, 6, 3 = 31 - 7 = 24
4th Regent Express - Trygve Roberts 5, 3, 1, 2, 4, 8, 8, 2 = 33 -5 = 28
5th Music Sebago - Guy Nottingham/Rob de Vlieg 1, 7, 9, 6, 2, 2, 4 = 37 -9 = 28
6th Unmatched - GrahamWentworth/Markus Progli 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 5, 5, 6 = 37 -6 = 31
7th Skwert ll - Derek Robinson 7, 6, 3, 7, 5, 7, 7, 7 = 49 -7 = 42
8th Wild Thing - Russell Morgan/G.Ochabski 9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 4, 4, 8 = 59 -9 = 50