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Excelsior Wines Twilight Racing - 23rd March

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Race in a nutshell: 23rd March, 2011
Position PHRF Class 1: DSQ from 10 entries
Total entries all classes: 35
Distance: 4.5 nm.
Max Speed: 12.3 knots
Ave speed: 5.9 knots

Time: 0 hr 52 mins 30 secs

Weather Forecast: Cloudy. Wind NW 18 knots Temp 22C
Weather Actual: Cloudy. Wind W 10 knots
Course: 10 (S) – No. 2 (S) - Woodbridge (S) - No. 8 (P) - Red mark finish (P)
Seas: Lumpy/ Swell 2.0m
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No. 1 Genoa (Quantum), R1 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Simon Penso (Pit), Erhardt Joubert (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow), : Total: 490 kg

The final twilight race of the summer had arrived. Fleet entries were down, the wind was North West and there was a coolness in the air we haven't felt in a long time, with the odd rain shower being experienced around the peninsula. Autumn had arrived.

Last week (16th March) we decided to forsake an official finishing position for the pleasure of a nice downwind reach with the kite up. For the second and final Excelsior Wines Twilight Race, we figured we were not in the running for any prizes due to our DSQ the previous week, so we rigged once again to fly the big spinnaker, despite the 'NO SPINNAKERS' rule for those two races. Someone must have have whispered in someone important's ear that it is more fun sailing without a spinnaker than with one, but I can assure any reader willing to listen, that a sports boat without a spinnaker is like a Formula 1 race car running on a 1300cc engine. In short, it simply can't be justified. And it looks doff!

Out on the start line, Table Bay had that typical wintry look about it. Dark, low clouds hanging over the mountain in soft, mushroom-like shapes, whilst the sea was the colour of black tea, making it quite difficult to spot the ubiquitous clumps (no, some of them were almost islands!) of kelp that peppered the bay. It is almost with relief that we say goodbye to the south easterlies and welcome the more gentle westerlies that winter brings, but the presence of kelp is another issue every boat with a T-keel has to constantly worry about. We did a quick 'Jose' before the start to clear any kelp. [We call reversing the boat a 'Jose'. It is so named after a Portuguese crew member who sailed with me in 1975 in a brand new Sweet Pea. On approaching the jetty, I asked him to back the main (to slow us down) - instead that hapless confectionary salesman sheeted the main in, causing us to thunder into the jetty, sending spectators running. I will leave the rest to your imagination. It is funny now, but it wasn't at the time! ]

Our start was weird. We were right where we wanted to be, but we had Puma coming up under us forcing us up and over the line. They bore away at the last moment, leaving us above the line. So we had to dip back quickly to clear and restart. We didn't lose out by much and soon were able to tack away so we could head offshore on port tack and better pressure. We held our own with most of the 40 footers upwind and managed to get ahead of three or four of them before the weather mark. Only Puma Unleashed had a reasonable lead as the fleet started heading on a dead run to Woodbridge. We rounded on the tail of the main bunch. We hoisted our masthead kite and soon had 9 knots+ on the log, making the most of the swells to quickly overtake all the Class1 boats except for Puma, which took us almost the entire run to overtake. Closer to the Woodbridge mark, we started sailing into the Class 2 & 3 fleets who were sharing the downwind mark with us. We sneaked in towards the mark and managed to get ahead of Puma about 10 lengths from the mark, (and nice to see Puma giving us water at the mark without having to ask) but we had a cluster of small, slow boats at the mark to deal with. The problem is our faster speed and mostly it is our salvation as well. With speed comes manouverability. We had a slow 28 footer rounding the mark clear ahead of us and we had to make the decision whether to round to leeward or windward of him, when suddenly I spotted a Pacer 27 size gap opening up between that boat and the mark and we shot into it and were gone, much to the chagrin of their skipper, who was muttering something about illegal spinnakers. I suppose he had a point. If he had protested us, that would have come to nought as we were going to get a DSQ anyway. So what rights did we have on the racecourse in reality by intentionally flaunting the 'No Spinnaker' rule?

The next leg back upwind was a fetch and it suited the Pacer nicely. We enjoyed a fast fetch up the No.8 mark, rounding about a minute behind Puma Unleashed, who had quickly run us down on the upwind leg. All that remained was a tight reach in to the finish, so we popped the kite again for a fast, but uncomfortable (in the 'we're almost falling over' tradition) sail through to the finish line, which we (like last week) elected not to cross.

All in all, an enjoyable sail. Back at the dock, we stripped off the four central stancion posts - now bent badly out of shape by the many broaches we do in the summer months. They have been sent in to an engineering shop for beefing up to be able to handle twelve pairs of hands suspending some 500 kgs of human flesh - like on a washing line.

Next race is the annual Seniors Race on the 2nd of April and congratulations are in order to the organisers who have listened and will allow spinnakers to be flown in this years event (with a time penalty). However I see that spinnaker flying is limited to skippers between the ages of 60 and 69. I think I should organise all the old toppies for a toyi-toyi session inside the sailing office as a form of protest against segregationalism. Ah well, I shouldn't complain. I got one division right!

Results for this race available here: