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Lewmar Twilight Race No.5

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Race in a nutshell: 24th November, 2010

Position PHRF Class 1: 4th from 7 entries
Position IRC Class 1: 5th from 6 entries
Total entries all classes: 25

Distance: 6.0 nm.
Max Speed: 17.6 knots
Ave speed: 7.4 knots

Time: 0 hr 51 mins 54secs

Weather Forecast: Clear. Wind SE 23 knots Temp 22C
Weather Actual: Accurate except the wind was SE 30 to 40 knots.
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden Isl (P) - Milnerton (S) - Paarden Isl (S) - #10 (S)
Seas: Flattish/ Chop 0.5m
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum), No. 2 Jib (North), A0 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (Quantum)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Phillip Rentschler (Pit), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Simon Penso (Bow), Gabriel Fernandez (Mast), Chris Gough (Main) : Total: 510 kg

That wind!
"Must be the season of the witch" sang the 70's rock group 'Bloomfield Kooper Blues Band' which very few of you will remember. It's that time of year when the Cape Doctor pumps for days on end and sets the populations' nerves on edge; of exam times and of end of year stress. I found this bit of information on our famous summer breeze via Google:

The prevailing Spring and early Summer wind , the South-Easter (otherwise known as the "Cape Doctor") arises as a spin-off from anticyclones deep in the Southern ocean. It arrives at the peninsula by way of False Bay, its velocity often being given a boost by the "corner effect" round Cape Hangklip. One arm of the South-Easter sweeps around the eastern flanks of Table Mountain, where its moisture, picked up from the ocean and the warm waters of False Bay, helps to keep the vegetation green through the heat of summer. It is also a vital factor in the pollination of many plants, including the Silvertrees. The South-Easter continues on around Devil's Peak, before descending on the city. There, it behaves somewhat in the manner of a trapped tiger, careering around in the bowl between mountain and sea. A couple of days of this is enough to purge the city's air - nowadays it is the smog instead of the plague of old which is banished. The South-Easter tends to overdo the cure, outstaying its welcome. A possible record was its performance in November 1936, when it howled without a break for 15 days, ravaging suburban gardens and penning the staff in the upper cable station for 5 days.

So there we were at the yacht club having arrived from the Northern Suburbs where there was only a hint of breeze to arrive at the embattled and windy foreshore where the car park ar RCYC was a cauldron of airborne sand being whipped up by a 30 knot south easterly. The last two races have been cancelled due to excessive wind. Was this going to be the third one in a row? Duty Officers Harry Brehm and Bjorn Geiger had a tough call to make. Half the sailors want to race, the other half dont fancy the prospect of being hammered by a gale. I radio'd the harbour master for an accurate wind reading which was given as 35 knots gusting 40 (bearing in mind their anemometer is 30 meters up in the sky). Well that's pretty strong in anyone's book and doubly so for a light weight sports boat. I gathered the crew (we were still one short at that stage) as we discussed whether we should go out or not. After 10 minutes we decided we would race and high tail it back to moorings if conditions were too robust for us.

We rigged the boat with a deep reef in the main, our smallest jib and the A3 deep running heavy weather asymmetric. Once out the harbour and faced with the full brunt of the wind, we switched the kite right down to the almost hanky like Code Zero. Getting the main up in very strong breeze means we simply have to head into the wind for a few minutes otherwise there is too much friction in the mast track. We picked the wind shadow of a huge oil rig in the harbour for this exercise. Remember what I said about the "season of the witch'.....?


Oil rigs of various shapes and sizes have been tying up at that particular quay for several years now. One gets used to them and they all seem similar in bulk and shape. I parked the boat right up close in the quietest spot behind the oil rig (like I have done dozens of time in the past) whilst the crew got the main up, then I killed the outboard and turned the boat downwind to clear out of the harbour, but we stopped abruptly. We had hooked something under the boat. It turned out to be a berthing warp as thick as my arm and some 80 meters in length - attached to a bollard on the quayside at one end and to the outer corner of the oil rig at the other.. The previous oil rig had been anchored to the harbour bottom with it's own anchors. This one had been secured differently. When we motored in, there had been a lull in the wind and the oil rig had moved towards the quayside, lowering the warp enough to become invisible in the turgid waters of the harbour. It allowed us in and then a minute later as the south easter pushed it away from the dock, the rope went taut - a bit like one of those guard dogs that invite you in to property then bite you when you want to leave. We were at that stage, trapped in a small triangle of water, unable to get out. With the main up, the outboard just could not get the boat off the warp and of course we have a T keel which means it enjoys grabbing itself onto any underwater object and staying there. It took us a good few minutes to figure things out. We needed to be patient and wait for a lull in the wind, which would allow the rig to move a bit closer to the quay side. Finally, after four attempts, the warp sagged enough for us to just make it over the warp, scraping the bottom of the keel on the warp as we bounced over. The whole sequence was a combination of embarrassment and yet another lesson in seamanship. Visions of having to call the NSRI were uncomfortably close.


Out at the start area the wind didnt seem that bad, but it was very gusty with a 15 knot gust differential making trimming and steering , shall we say, interesting! We had our bowman switch kites from the A3 right down to the tiny Code Zero. That was a very smart move. We picked a spot high up on the line as we wanted to sail as free as possible up the first leg. The much reduced fleet of big boats soon pulled away from us, despite us showing a solid 6.5 to 7 knots boat speed upwind. There were some wild gusts but we managed to get through them all unscathed. We settled down after rounding and got the small spinnaker up and made good speed down to the Milnerton mark in the process overtaking a number of boats, including the Pacer 376 Cape Storm which appeared to be having spinnaker halyard problems. The Pacer 27 was perfectly under control with around 14 knots average downwind speed despite the very small sail area. The two gybes we threw in were executed to perfection with the Code Zero making life very comfortable on board. Many boats were having problems with halyards, overwinds, inverted headsails and such like. We made the most of their errors and made up places where we could.

We headed off towards the beach on starboard, trying to hold our position in the fleet, but this is where waterline length always gets the better of us as one by one the big boats were getting through us, but not all of them. We sailed well and rounded Paarden Island mark in a cluster of 40 footers. We got the kite up smartly and then took off like a scalded cat down wind, with the log sitting between 16 and 17 knots as we belted downwind, unfortunately not going quite where we needed to. Our angle was a good 20 degrees too low. We hung onto the kite for as long as we dared, with our new crew staring wide eyed in amazement at the speed of the Pacer 27. The last bit would have to be a two sail reach to clear the line with the 10 knots speed feeling awfully pedestrian after 17 knots.

It was marvellous being out there and doing some high speed summer sailing again. A good ad for the Pacer 27 - the smallest boat out and we came back with zero breakages, thanks mostly to our very competent crew.

Our current series position after allowing 1 discard is 3rd overall with 20 points, with Gumption in 2nd place with 16 points and the Pacer 376 Southern Storm in 1st place with 8 points. This series winds up in two weeks time, when we end the season with the Crocs Summer Regatta, followed by the Christmas recess, when not much happens in the way of racing.

RESULTS PHRF - Corrected times shown
1st Gumption - ILC40 - 1.270 - N.Mace/Mark Sadler - 00:51:12
2nd Southern Storm - Pacer 376 - 1.175 - Harry Brehm - 00:53:14
3rd Necessity - Beneteau 34.7 - 1.050 - David Booth - 00:55:47
4th Regent Express - Pacer 27 Sport - 1.080 - Trygve Roberts - 00:56:03
5th Docksafe - A35 - 1.105 - Alexandre Monet - 00:56:38
6th Me2Me - Farr 38 - 1.070 - Derek Shuttleworth - 00:57:00
7th Tenacity - Fast 42 -1.170 - Errol Stern - 01:03:13