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Intasure Spring Regatta - FBYC

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We sailed Regent Express back to Cape Town on Thursday, 30th September. I think yesterdays sail back must rank as possibly the most enjoyable of my life.

Above: The Pacer 27 performing at speed - an absolute joy to sail.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

With only 230 kgs of crew mass on board I went ultra conservative and rigged a reefed main and the North “#4” small jib despite the forecast indicating only 14 knots of wind. It howled all night at our home and when I picked Joshua and his pal Allesandro up in West beach it was pumping there as well. I was fully expecting to abort the trip on arrival at Simonstown, but strangely the south easter was very much as forecast with the odd white cap here and there. Very much sailable.
We left at 0800 sharp and tackled that very long beat to Cape Point. We were fortunate to have a large school of dolphins swimming with us for almost 40 minutes. When we tacked, they came with us. There was one ‘little un' of only 2 ft length learning to surf bow waves. At that point I knew our trip would be a good one. We also sailed close by a whale but luckily it was swimming to the west and away from our track. The wind remained fairly steady in strength and we were able to sustain 6.0 knots upwind speed most of the time. Josh helmed most of the way to the Point. It was getting quite chilly near Cape Point as the sky went gray and overcast.

The sea was exceptionally rough at Cape Point. It was so bad that I didn't want to risk putting the kite up, so we 2 sail reached about half a mile clear of the land before hoisting the R1. There were at least 30 commercial fishing boats active in the area west of Cape point, so we planned to keep well clear of them. I was a bit concerned whether we would be able to hold the boat upright with the big kite up, but the boat behaved itself nicely and soon we had 10 knots + on the log. We had set the kite to clear Slangkop light, but typically we ended up sailing tighter angles than expected. I could feel some kelp on the keel, so when we gybed to clear Slangkop, we did a Mexican drop, reversed to clear the kelp, then got the R1 back up and headed back out to sea. We stood out far, until I was certain we could clear Karbonkelberg on a single gybe. The only boat we saw after Cape Point, was a large cargo vessel which passed us about a mile off heading south. There was something eerie about being the only pleasure craft at sea on a midweek working day.

After the next gybe, the breeze picked up to 20 knots and our speed started hovering on 12 knots with the odd foray into the 15 knot zone. I have never felt this boat so light and responsive, no doubt a product of the light crew mass. It was a fantastic sail from Scarborough through to Camps Bay – all of it on the starboard gybe. At one stage our ETA showed 1.30pm! The seas were very rough with huge swells off Hout Bay, but other than a few nose dives, the boat recovered well and sustained very high speeds with images of Volvo Open 60s with decks awash in white water. Josh did all the downwind kite trimming – he is a fast learner and soon got the hang of recovering the kite after those blistering surfs. I think he probably slept better than me last night!
At Camps Bay, the breeze started dropping rapidly, so we gybed back out to sea and picked up some fresh breeze. Here the seas were much flatter and we nailed 16,2 knots quite easily. Two more gybes got us to Green Point, where the breeze finally petered. Time for the donkey and we motored in past the breakwater at 4.15. A total of 8hrs 15 mins from when we left. We sailed the whole way back with a reef in the main. It was waaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy nicer than being at work!
Total distance: 65.1 nm Max speed: 16.2 knots Average: 7.5 knots Time: 8hrs 15 mins

And now on to the regatta itself.....

Fabulous racing/hunting waters for yachts, Great Whites and Southern Right Whales. The race course shown is for a south easterly breeze.

This event was exciting and highly enjoyable with thrills and spills in abundance. There were crash tacks to avoid whales, shredded spinnakers, broken gear, collisions and near collisions, man overboard scenarios, people shouting about suing each other for being luffed onto the wrong side of the committee boat, enough shouting and bad language from a certain top IRC boat to last most of us well into 2012 and prawning operations (of which perhaps first prize should go to Thunderchild for a full on dragnet operation right over the finish line). There were one or two exhibits of really poor sportsmanship and even gamesmanship which dont belong in the sport of sailing. Then were some competitors who had little concept of the racing rules. I suppose those are essentially all minor issues when one considers we had a large number of people enjoying the sport of sailing - that is first prize.

Races 1, 2 & 3 in a nutshell:
Position IRC: Race 1 -7th, Race 2 - 11th, Race 3 - 9th
Position Pacer 27s: Race 1 - 2nd, Race 2 - 3rd, Race 3 - 1st
Total Entries: 52
IRC Entries: 14
Distance for the day: 47.6 nm.
Max Speed for the day: 13.2 knots
Weather Forecast: Clear, Wind S 10 to 14 knots. Temp 19C
Weather Actual: Accurate.
Course: Windward/ leeward x 3 loops with last run past an offset gybe mark to a down wind finish.
Seas: Flat with small chop present.
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No.1 Genoa (Quantum), A2 Masthead Asymmetric Spinnaker (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Oliver Hobson (Genoa/Spinnaker), Phillip Rentschler (Main), Simon Penso (Pit), Connor Leech (Mast), Joshua Banks (Bow) - Total: 470 kg

Above: Regent Express pounding upwind through the chop. [Race 5]

The first thing one notices about False Bay is the scenic beauty of the area. It is in the "deep south" of the Cape Peninsula - renowned for it's stormy weather and it boasts to be the home of some of the biggest Great White sharks in the world. So not falling off the boat becomes quite an important aspect of racing here. Despite that, I know of at least two man overboard incidents during the event. One of them, I will get to a bit later.

The weather forecast indicated almost perfect sailing breezes for all three days, but that too, would prove to be something of a fallicy. Our spinnaker trimmer, Charles Crosby, was unable to sail, so we recruited the services of Oliver Hobson via our good friend Andrea Giovaninni who himself was seen trimming on nothing less than a Flamenca - and I find that admirable. Oliver is a student at UCT doing his masters and is a talented sailor in his own right, who taught us a few new tricks last weekend. He slotted into his role as tactician and trimmer easily. False Bay Yacht Club has improved enormously since my last visit there many years ago and I was immediately impressed with how spotlessly clean everything was - including the ablutions. With 52 entries there must have been some 300 sailors milling about and getting boats ready for the regatta.

Above: Some furious manouvering on the start line. Here Corum is forced onto the wrong side of the committee boat.

FRIDAY 24th September

Regent Express had been moved three times since our arrival and finding the boat again on Friday morning was an interesting exercise in hide and seek. We were on one of the last downwind marinas on the last pontoon making it perfect for sailing directly off the mooring, without having to use the outboard. What is interesting about FBYC is that they have a lot of small yachts there and an abundance of Buccaneers, Flamencas and Muiras. For all three the classes the event would double as their national championships. Competition amongst those fleets was ferocious as we were to find out during the following few days. There were a LOT of kids sailing and that augers well for the sport. The organisers had split the fleet up into the IRC class (13 entries); Class 2 (12 entries); Class 3: (10 entries); Class 4 (19 entries) and a Cruising class (6 entries).

So across the race course we had boats from 22ft to 52 ft with greatly varying speeds and angles of point. Things were bound to be interesting. The start area was set near Fish Hoek Beach with the faster boats having to round a mark about 1.5nm upwind, whilst the smaller boats rounded a closer windward mark. This led to some fairly hair raising situations and several collisions occured, of which none seemed to be too serious. A light 8 knot southerly made it's appearance with nice flat seas, which suited the Pacers nicely.

Above: These four youngsters were out each day in the Bucanneer class enjoying the racing and looking ever so serious.

In the IRC fleet the starts were aggressive and tight. Some starboard line bias saw all the top boats fighting it out for the slot next to the committee boat. Race 1 got underway with the fleet splitting tacks upwind. Our main opposition was 'Felix the Cat' and 'Unmatched' (both Pacer 27 Sport one designs). Disappointingly, the Melges 24 was nowhere to be seen. We were keen to see how it would perform against the Pacers. It was fantastic having the other Pacers to race against and I think all of us who own these boats know that we will never be on the podium in a competitive IRC fleet on windward/leeward courses - and that is exactly what the sailing instructions indicated. All of the races would be windward/leewards with the final loop being a triangle, but as things turned out, the R.O. positioned the gybe mark so far downwind, that it was to all intents and purposes simply an offset mark for a short fetch to the finish line.

Above: Heavy going in a stiff south easterly on Regent Express [Race 5]

The Farr 38 'A-L' was the boat tipped most likely to win with it's very good rating, first class preparation and a hot crew of youngsters. Most of us knew the likely outcome of the regatta in advance. We decided to use the event as a platform to have really enjoyable one design racing against the other Pacers and we voted to not worry at all about the rest of the IRC fleet. 'Felix the cat' sailed well in the light breeze and outpointed and outmanouvered us to take an easy victory in the first race. We ended up dicing with 'Unmatched' for 2nd place, which we managed to secure..

Race 2 took place in short order in slightly stronger breeze of around 10 knots. We were doing fine until we picked up a large clump of kelp on our keel coming down the first run and to add insult to injury our spinnaker halyard snap shackle came adrift after the first kite drop which meant we had to fly a fractional kite for the next leg. 'Unmatched' and 'Felix the cat' both overtook us, relegating us to 3rd in the Pacers. So we dropped from 1st to 3rd in a blink! We did manage to retrieve the halyard once we went downwind, but it took time to switch spinnakers again and that was basically destined to be our worst result and our discard.

Above: Regent Express out in front in the heavy air 5th race.

We barely had time to lick our wounds when Race 3 got underway. This time we sailed better and got our noses out in front, but 'Felix the cat' very capably sailed by a bunch of Hobie rock stars, were not going to go down without a fight. The two Pacers were breathtakingly close around the course, both boats being almost exactly even. It was just boat handling and tactical positioning in the big multi fleet which could cause places to be lost. On the final downwind leg, we went inshore for more pressure and a double gybe, whilst Felix went for a single gybe out to the port layline. It became evident that both boats would reach the gybe mark at exactly the same time. We were on starboard and had rights, but we also had to gybe precisely at the mark, to be able to lay the finish line with the big kite up. It was a nail biting moment as both Pacers came reaching in fast to the mark. We didn't bother calling for rights as the guys on 'Felix the cat' know what they're doing. We held our course and just at the moment de critique, we went into our gybe. At the same time, Felix dumped their spinnaker sheet and luffed hard to climb above us and roll us, but the luff was too sharp and they lost their momentum. Being at the back of the boat, I saw this huge red spinnaker floating down on top of me - missing our back stay by 2mm. Really close, high speed stuff! We surged ahead and increased our lead to about 20 boat lengths managing to nail a 1st place home down the final leg to end the day on a high.

Above: Regent Express planing in less than 12 knots of wind.

The first day had provided excellent sailing across the board for all fleets and the organisers must have been well pleased with how efficiently the races had been concluded, with a minimal amount of time wasted between races. That night the pub did a roaring trade, but behind the scenes there appeared to some issues with incorrect finishing times/positions and at least one boat put in a request for redress. There had been several individual and one general recall showing just how competitive things were in the IRC fleet.

So after three races, 'Felix the cat' had a scoreline of 1st, 1st, 2nd against our 2nd, 3rd, 1st and Unmatched had a 3rd, 2nd, 3rd result. Graham Wentworth (owner of 'Unmatched' has improved enormously compared to the last time we raced against them).

Above: 'Felix the cat' taking two firsts on Day 1.

Races 4 & 5 in a nutshell:
Position IRC: Race 4 -7th, Race 5 - 7th
Position Pacer 27s: Race 4 - 2nd, Race 5 - 1st
Distance for the day: 35.2 nm.
Max Speed for the day: 17.3 knots
Weather Forecast: Clear, Wind SE 14 knots. Temp 21C
Weather Actual: Accurate, except wind went up to 30 knots.
Seas: Very choppy with 2.5m swell.
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No.1 Genoa (Quantum), No.2 Jib (Quantum), A2 Masthead Asymmetric Spinnaker (North), R1 Masthead Spinnaker (Quantum).

Day 2 was meant to be another day like Day 1, but this is the Cape of Storms after all. Driving down the Glencairn Expressway revealed a bay awash in white caps with a wind speed of around 30 knots. Whilst rigging, we decided to go out with a blade and a reefed main. We would test the R1 masthead kite on the way to the start area, but more likely switch down to the A3 fractional kite. As we headed out through the well named 'Hurricane Alley' and out of the wind shadow of the big naval boats, the breeze didn't feel quite as strong as we thought, so we hoisted the R1 kite and were surprised to only see only 11 knots on the log. As we headed down to the start zone, the breeze kept on dropping. In the space of 15 minutes, it dropped right down to 5 knots. the AP went up on the bridge boat as the RO waited for the breeze to settle a bit. After half an hour, a pleasant 10 knot south easterly moved in and Race 4 got underway. We had a good start and worked the right hand side of the course to round the top mark in 1st place, but 'Felix the cat' were right on our tail, so it was another full on dog fight down to the leeward mark. Just before the bottom mark, a small boat (Buccaneer) approached the mark on port, whilst the two Pacers were charging in to the mark on starboard with spinnakers up doing 10 times the speed of the Buccaneer. Howls of 'STARBOARD!' from both Pacers had the Buccaneer skipper looking as bewildered as a deer caught in headlights. We roared through without hitting them, did a Mexican drop and headed off upwind, but 'Felix' had much more of a problem avoiding the Buccaneer.
Above: Regent Express leaping over a wave in the heavy air 5th race. No wonder our bodies are sore after three days of this!

Then we made a bad mistake. We had a 38 footer directly ahead of us giving us dirty air, so instead of taking a hitch to windward, we soaked low to get through their lee. That allowed 'Felix' to climb over us to windward and so we lost our lead. Just after hoisting for the second downwind leg, Felix's spinnaker burst into tatters. By the time we got to the windward mark, they had already switched down to their smaller fractional spinnaker, but we immediately went on the attack, trying to sail lower and faster than them. By the leeward mark, we were within 20 boat lengths. Then we picked up a large piece of kelp and our upwind speed was almost a knot slower than normal. Felix stretched their lead but we still had the final triangle to close them down with our bigger spinnaker. The kelp was causing a light shudder on the rudder and the boat felt lethargic. There was no question of stopping and reversing. That would take up to two minutes, so we had no choice but to forge on. We did close the gap, but it was not enough and we finished about 5 lengths behind them. We were enjoying excellent one design racing.

RACE 5: Whilst we were waiting for the rest of the fleets to finish, the breeze started building. Within 20 minutes we had a solid 25 knots, so we switched down to our No.2 jib but decided not to reef. We also switched to our A3 fractional spinnaker, which would make things even with Felix on the runs. Some starboard bias had developed on the line and an almighty bunfight ensued with both Puma Unleashed and Corum being forced onto the wrong side of the committee boat.
Above: Hectic start line action

We had a good start and it soon became evident we had better upwind speed than the other two Pacers. Felix were still using their fractional A3 kite and were going for broke downwind, when their lifeline parted, dumping young Matthew (Wenti) Wentworth into the drink. They managed to throw a lifering to him, but then the problems multiplied as the kite wrapped around the forestay as the hapless crew member drifted rapidly away from the boat. The SA Navy entry 'Umasha Moya' had seen the incident and came to the recsue and picked the youngster up. That meant 'Felix the cat' was out of the race, allowing us to sail conservatively for the rest of the race and finish in 1st place. Many boats high tailed it back to the harbour, so the RO wisely decided to call it a day. Once again the bar sales were setting new records as the weary sailors sought solace in the keg.
After 5 races our score (amongst the Pacers) stood at 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd = 9 but we still had a lot of work as 'Felix the cat' would be able to discard their DNF result.

Sunday 26th September:

Races 6, 7, & 8 in a nutshell:
Position IRC: Race 6 -10th, Race 7 - 4th, Race 8 - 10th
Position Pacer 27s: Race 6 - 2nd, Race 7 - 2nd, Race 8 - 2nd.
Distance for the day: 38.7 nm.
Max Speed for the day: 15.4 knots
Weather Forecast: Cloudy. 60% rain, Wind SW 7 knots bec S 12 knots. Temp 16C
Weather Actual: Accurate, except wind was NW 10 to 25 knots.
Seas: Flattish with some chop and 1.5 swell.
Sails: Full Main (Quantum), No.1 Genoa (Quantum), A2 Masthead Asymmetric Spinnaker (North), R1 Masthead Spinnaker (Quantum).

Things looked promising for a light to moderate, flat water race and with a short delay relayed via an AP flag, Race 6 got underway with a number of boats OCS. The left of the course was paying but in a mixed fleet of boats, tactics have to include keeping clear air. We worked our way over to the left but there was a huge knock on starboard tack, allowing both the other Pacers to get ahead of us at the weather mark, but we were close enough to play catch up. On the second beat we caught both Pacers and got to the top mark first. Congestion and inter-fleet traffic was rather exciting with some near misses. We were also broaching our boat a lot, which is uncharacteristic, but we were a bit light in the mass department. What we didn't know is that we had picked up a huge chunk of kelp and we were definitely a knot or two down on our normal speed. We realised we were in kelp trouble when an L26 rolled us. From there things deteriorated rapidly as we lost our lead to Felix once again. Kelp is proving to be our nemesis. We have been affected by kelp in at least a dozen races this winter, despite having our bow guys constantly on kelp watch, we seem to attract the stuff like sharks to a seal colony.

Above: A contrite but happy Wenti after his swim and rescue after Felix the cat broached in Race 5.

Race 7 kicked off fairly quickly and this time we rounded the top mark first, but Felix and Unmatched were right on our stern. This race turned into a titanic battle between 'Regent Express' and 'Felix the cat' with the lead swapping no less than 5 times during the race. There were some huge windshifts, which we tried to get right most of the time. 'Felix the cat' pipped us at the post after we had a huge broach and they managed to sail over the top of us. There is nothing quite as much fun as one design racing. I must pay the crew of 'Felix' a compliment for managing to avoid hitting us as we went into our broach - that was good seamanship.

Race 8 got underway after a long and cold wait in soaking rain. The pin had been moved to set more port bias on the line, but the wind shifted as well which made it almost impossible to cross the line on starboard. We pulled off our best start of the regatta in this race as we were able to tack onto port right inside the pin and make a clean getaway. Two minutes later Lobelia (our other nemesis) forced us over onto starboard as they outpoint us by 10 degrees. We got to the top mark first. Unmatched had retired for the warmth of the clubhouse, but the rest of us were still enjoying very close racing, despite the rain and the cold. Once again the lead swapped a few times, but when it came to crossing tacks and gybes we were meters apart and then we hit another clump of kelp. Damn! We could feel the energy being squeezed out of the hull as we watched Felix opening a lead on us, to take another 1st in the final race.
Oh yes, the winner of the IRC division was -the Farr 38 'A-L", followed by the IMX 40 Lobelia and the Briand 43 'Corum' in 3rd place. Congratulations!

Regent Express finished 8th overall in the IRC fleet.

Full results with lots of photos are available on the official regatta site: Intasure Spring Regatta

Synopsis: This a very enjoyable event and we will most certainly return again. There was not much to fault but as usual, there is always room for improvement.

As a first time competitor in this event, I found it generally to be a very enjoyable experience, although there are one or two points worth mentioning to make things a bit better for 2011
1. Excellent sailing waters – really nice to sail on a clean ocean!

2. Excellent facilities – Good, clean club house and well staffed bar. Enough hot water. Spotless ablutions.

3. Friendly and welcoming club.

4. Length of races very well worked out with minimal waiting between races.

5. Efficient but tolerant bridge crew. They did a good job. 6. Lovely scenery around the racing area.

7. Highly competitive fleet with top quality racing

8. Very reasonable entry fees and bar prices were not inflated for the event.

What can be improved on:

1. Format of racing becomes boring after a couple of races. Not 8 x windward/leeward races please! Having every race over exactly the same wind angles favours certain boats. The gybe mark was not a true gybe mark, but more of an offset downwind mark. The sports boats had to gybe twice to get to the gybe mark. Perhaps employ the Lipton format, where a different course is sailed for each race. Eg. Windward/ Leeward; Olympic; Square; 3 x triangles with true 90 degree reaches; and a medium distance race. A variety of courses does mean more work for the bridge and mark layers, but it would make this event very much more enjoyable, testing and interesting for all competitors.

2. Parking is a problem.

3. FBYC website not updated.

4. Results not always correct. Better to show actual finish times so competitors can identify mistakes earlier.

5. Ensure the mark layers have sufficient fuel so marks can be reset/adjusted when necessary (as in Race 8)

Well done to all those involved at FBYC.

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