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Cape Town Sailing Week 2010

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In it's second year, the amalgamation of the old Table Bay Sailing Week and the Admirals Regatta, has gained some impressive sponsorship, adding attractive cash prizes for competitors as well as TV coverage. This year the format was changed to span two weekends of which the first was a long weekend. This might be the reason for lower entries this year and perhaps the event should revert back to being sailed over a single weekend.

With some gleaming new Mercedes-Benz cars on display on the quayside outside RCYC the competitors set to preparing their boats for the first race on Saturday 20th March, in perfectly windless conditions, resulting in a one hour postponement. Closer to lunchtime, a light westerly set in of around 7 knots, allowing race officer, Doug Alison, to set a good length course.

The IRC fleet was disappointingly small with very noticeable absentees – amongst them Corum, Benba, Ballyhoo Too, Aladdin and 8 Seconds. However, three Pacer 27's added some one design aspect amongst the smaller boats and bolstered the IRC fleet to a total of 13.

Above: Some of the IRC fleet on the startline in Table Bay. 'Regent Express' is closest to the camera with 'Unmatched' to leeward.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

Two back to back races were completed with the ever present Farr 38 A-L winning race 1 and Rick Nankin in Windpower (Landmark 43) winning race 2. Arch rivals 'A-L' and 'Addis in Cape' ended up having a downwind luffing match, which resulted in 'Addis in Cape' having to do a penalty, which took them right out of contention in Race 2 (they had obtained a 2nd place in Race 1).

Amongst the Pacer 27's it was Ant Wentworth's 'Felix the Cat' showing good tactics and slick boat handling to win both the races easily from 'Regent Express' and 'Unmatched'.

Sunday 21st March, promised more of the same style of racing, except the wind had a touch more north in it. After a short delay waiting for the breeze to settle, Race 3 kicked off with a general recall and a restart a few minutes later. Windpower, Gumption and A-L took the top spots. Amongst the Pacers, Regent Express came out with guns blazing - perhaps a little over eager on the start line, scoring an OCS after a solid performance the whole race, coming in several minutes ahead of Felix the Cat and Unmatched. But it's the results that count, which left 'Felix the cat' with the best score.

Race 4 got off to a clean start with Windpower, A-L and Addis in Cape taking the top spots. Amongst the Pacer 27's it was again Regent Express out in front with a commanding lead. Sporting a new Quantum mainsail, Regent Express was showing good upwind speed and point.

Race 5 was started late in the afternoon in a freshening westerly up to 12 knots. The fleet got away cleanly with the finishing order being A-L, Windpower, Addis in Cape. The two Pacer 27's (Felix and Regent) had a neck and neck dice to the finish with Felix the cat snatching victory by a few seconds from Regent Express.

Above: 'Regent Express' sporting her new Quantum Fusion mainsail. With the bigger roach, we need to sort out some backstay issues.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

Monday 22nd March. Medium Distance race from Table Bay to Noordhoek beach (30nm). With a strong South Easter forecast and a rhumb line routing taking the fleet right through the wind shadow of Sea Point and Clifton, this was always going to be a messy, lottery style race and would unlikely find much favour with any of the crews. (There really needs to a Plan B in place for this eventuality). The race kicked off with a short beat to Paarden island, followed by another short reach in a stiff south easter, but this soon petered out after Green Point. Those that went inshore parked for a while, whilst those that ventured offshore, enjoyed good breeze much further out. That group included Tenacity, Lobelia, Addis in Cape and Regent Express. It would cost them dearly as the day wore on. The inshore group managed to get ahead by a mile or so until they too, parked off Clifton in hardly any breeze. Gumption tacked far off to close in with the shore, whilst Windpower, Puma and Felix the Cat tracked down the middle. After that it was a case of the ‘rich get richer' as the advantages multiplied themselves out tenfold for the leaders. Once the south easter kicked in to a solid 25 knots, the whole fleet were able to finish by 4 pm after a very long, lumpy and wet beat past the Karbonkelberg to finish close to Noordhoek beach. Windpower took the gun from Gumption and Puma Unleashed.

After five races and a discard the leaders were Windpower, A-L and Gumption. Crews have four days to recover tired bodies in preparation for the final weekend's racing.

Above: Tight downwind racing in light conditions on Table Bay. From the left 'Felix the Cat', 'Regent Express' and a Fast 42 'Maestro' closest to the camera.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

Saturday 27th March, 2010

Hout Bay. The weather is distinctly autumnish. Low scudding, dark clouds, grey lumpy seas and there is intermittent rain. We had four days to recover from last Monday's thrashing in a strong south easter on that very long beat to the finish. The bay is spectacular from a scenic perspective, but the corrollary of the theory is that it plays havoc with wind direction.

Never mind, we were there and ready to do battle. With another two crew changes for the day (Daniel and Joshua off to sail the Mac 24, replaced by Bruce Webber and James Harvie) we set the boat up with the full Quantum rig - and that new main is a honey of a sail, which we are not quite doing justice to yet. We decided to sail out of the harbour in the north westerly to save having to rig the outboard twice. That went off smoothly, but on our way to the start area, after we shook out the R1 kite, whilst doing a leeward drop, the foot got torn - a large gaping hole of 1m horizontally. Simon was asked to switch to the A2 kite. No big deal under normal circumstances, but these weren't normal at all. We had a very uncomfortable and lumpy sea running. After 10 minutes of kite packing, Simon emerged distinctly green and sweaty. We gave him a pill, but the damage was done – in both senses of the word. By the end of the day, the lumpy seaway would have got the better of the entire crew in greater or lesser degrees. Phill and I used Stugeron, which is very good, but the side effects are a very dry mouth and a lack of concentration coupled with sleepiness, But I suppose it is the lesser of the two evils.

As always at Hout Bay, the start was delayed. The problem is that the water is generally very deep which makes it difficut to lay marks that don't drag and it gets deeper quickly further offshore, making the problem even worse. The net result is a fleet reaching up and down in cold, lumpy and wet conditions waiting an hour and a half for a race to start. Many boats had seasick crews. Some of the boats high tailed it back to the club before the race even got underway. One look at the bridge boat (a sleek power boat) indicated serious rolling at anchor. There were bound to be seasick people on board with the resultant loss of concentration.

Our start was OK – being the closest boat to the pin, but 'Felix' and 'Unmatched' did better, starting near the boat end. By the time we crossed tacks, 'Felix' was ahead by 8 boat lengths and we were level with 'Unmatched'. Sailing the Pacer 27 was difficult in the lumpy conditions and all three Pacers were making heavy weather of things. On our approach to the weather mark, it became clear that we would need to pinch a bit to clear it. I haven't hit a mark in many, many years, but this day would prove to be different. The pinching slowed us down and we hit the mark firmly with our port bow, unable to get around it. It took ages to stall the boat and get it to reverse, bear off, do our 360, and re-round. By the time we got our our kite up, 'Felix' had pulled out a 600m lead on us and 'Unmatched' was right on our transom.

The downwind helming and trimming was just plain difficult, with the apparent wind shifting through arcs of up to 40 degrees. The port gybe proved to be fairly fast, but the starboard gybe was a real toughie. Things were just not going well for us. Twice the spinnaker sheet flipped over the end of the boom and once the top batten of the main resolutely refused to flip through the backstay. We then slightly overcooked our angle to the leeward mark and were forced to do a windward drop. The leeward mark was a small red inflatable mark which from Pacer deck level was almost invisible in the heavy offshore swell and we ended up sailing right past it, mistaking the pin (yellow) mark for the leeward mark. That cost us at least 400m of extra distance. 'Unmatched' dutifully followed us and made the same mistake, whilst 'Felix' extended their lead.

The second beat was more of the same agony with the boat lurching and slamming over the waves, making trimming a 100% concentrated effort. We opened up our lead on 'Unmatched', but the sailing was unpleasant and definitely not what the Pacer was built for. The beats were 2.5 miles long and straight after rounding the weather mark, turning downwind we would have the A2 spinnaker folding and collapsing as the apparent wind would swirl forwards and backwards as the boat surged and stopped in the turbulent water. Gybing onto port helped a lot and we saw a few spurts up to 16 knots, but the speed remained generally in the 10 to 11 knot range - quite slow by Pacer 27 standards. Had it been flat water it would have been a different ball game alogether.

The finish was coming up, but the original bridge boat was nowhere to be seen. The mark layer was in attendance, lying very close to the pin and they were flying a red/white flag. What had happned is that the bridge boat's anchor rode had snapped, followed by engine trouble, followed by a hasty retreat back to the club – leaving the mark layer to finish the fleet, after hastily transferring the recorders (in itself quite a feat of seamanship).

By the time we crossed we were perfectly placed for second last, but as we all know, you never stop racing till you are over the finish line. Several of the boats did not cross the line correctly and our finish position jumped from 11th to 6th – but after hearing of 8 or more requests for redress, this is likely to change by Sunday.

The final straw was finding a large sheet of blue plastic floating off our keel after we had docked, in the perfect pattern of the Pacer 27 keel foil. How long had that been down there? I reckon we used up a years worth of bad luck in a single day. Things could only improve!

That must rank quite easily as amongst the three worst races I have sailed in the last forty years.

Sunday 28th March 2010

It was like a ‘kyk weer' (rehash) of the 2009 event, except this year we actually managed to get a final race completed. A very quiet and calm day after the big weather and waves of the day before. The bridge boat (a different one this time) was late again and headed out to the same starting area off the beach from the day before. Halfway there, the breeze petered out completely, forcing us to haul the outboard out again so we could motor to the start area. We ended up waiting off the beach for almost an hour as the RC waited for the breeze to fill a little. It wasn't nearly as painful an exercise as the day before, due to a much smaller sea state.

Eventually the AP came down and we went under starters orders, but there was too much starboard bias on the line with almost the entire IRC fleet wanting to hug the committee boat. The RO blew the three hooters, reset the line and started the countdown once more. This time we got things exactly right. The fleet was over eager and almost everyone was on the line with a minute to go and drifting down the line. We hung back, on the off course side of the committee boat, until 30 seconds before the start, then luffed up into a nice gap left by 'Windpower', giving us pole position at the committee boat. 'Windpower' soon called ‘Weather boat' forcing us to tack onto port, but we had clear air and we were heading towards the correct side of the course. Felix had to restart having started OCS, from which they were unable to recover. Unmatched did not restart and sailed a very good race only to find themselves with an OCS score at the end of the day - much like we did in Race 3!

We worked the upwind leg perfectly, making no mistakes and taking all the conservative options. That got us around the weather mark first out of the Pacers, followed by 'Unmatched' (who have really been picking up their game nicely) about 40 meters behind us and 'Felix the cat' some 120m behind us. Conditions still required crucial judgement on the helm with big swings in apparent wind, but we managed to maintain our lead. 'Unmatched' had closed a bit on us by sailing slightly deeper angles, but we were able to hold them off. The final two gybes down to the leeward mark, saw us pulling off two crucial gybes at exactly the right time, to get further ahead of 'Unmatched'. 'Felix' had taken a risk and gone almost onto the port layline and paid dearly by sailing into a hole. Due to the light conditions, the race was shortened allowing us to come in ahead of both the other Pacers. For the first time since I have been sailing Pacer 27's 'Unmatched' (Graham Wentworth) finished ahead of his brother in 'Felix the cat', (Anthony Wentworth). In the IRC fleet, despite our flawless performance, it got us nothing more than a 7th place, but that is part of the package one must accept when sailing a one design sports boat in a mixed fleet on a windward/leeward course. Mykonos was our moment of glory!

The fleet waited for another 40 minutes but the wind just faded into a flat calm not allowing any further racing to take place. End of the day. End of another regatta.

We now go into April which is basically a month of rest - and well deserved too.

Above: Five seconds before the start of the final race. Two Pacer 27's already OCS, but we got this one right. You can see our sail just aft of the committee boat sneaking into the windward spot bang on time for a great start.
Photo: Trevor Wilkins

1st Windpower Landmark 43 RCYC Rick Nankin/Phil Gutsche -3 1 1 1 2 1 2 8
2nd A-L Farr 38 mod RCYC Robert van Rooyen 1 -5 3 2 1 5 1 1 9
3rd New Balance Gumption Simonis 43 RCYC Mark Sadler 5 2 2 -7 5 2 3 2 16
4th Addis in Cape Restaurant Archambault 35 RCYC Alexandre Monat 2 -8 5 3 3 7 5 4 22
5th Lobelia IMX 40 RCYC Gordon Kling / Rob Meek -7 3 4 5 4 6 4 6 26
6th Puma Unleashed Pacer 42 R RCYC Hylton Hale -6 6 6 4 6 3 6 5 30
7th Felix the Cat Pacer 27 Sport FBYC Anthony Wentworth 4 4 -10 8 8 4 8 36
8th Regent Express Pacer 27 Sport RCYC Trygve Roberts 8 7 6 -15 9 8 9 7 45
9th Cape Storm Pacer 376 RCYC Sean Cumming 10 10 7 11 12 -15 7 8 53
10th Maestro Fast 42 RCYC Ankie Roux / Paul Van Ass 9 11 8 10 7 -15 15 15 15 60
11th Unmatched Pacer 27 FBYC Graham Wentworth -15 9 15 12 10 10 10 15.0 66
12th Auto Atlantic Thunderchild Lavranos 52 M RCYC Rhett Goldswaine -15 12 9 9 11 -15 15 15 71
13th Tenacity Fast 42 RCYC Erol Stern -15 15 15 15 15 9 15 9 78
14th Bally Hoo Too Mumm 36 RCYC Ian Park Ross 15 -15 15 15 15 15 15 15 90

Wednesday, 31st March, 2010
Delivery trip Hout bay to Cape Town.

We needed to bring 'Regent Express' back to RCYC. With the Easter weekend approaching, and hardly any crew available due to the WP Dinghy Champs, I looked for a decent weather window and decided to go for a midweek trip, as lots of the teenagers are on school holidays, equating to lots of willing crew available. Wed 31st March looked good with a 15 knot South easterly forecast, after a gale force South easter the day before. Well, we all know that one adds 10 knots onto any SE forecast around the Cape Peninsula and Wednesday was no different.

Charles jumped on board at the last minute being a real sucker for a midweek sail. In addition I had invited the new owner of Smackwater Jack, Paul Smithson, to come along for the sail. He is currently sailing a 39 footer from Croatia to Tanzania via Brazil. This is his final leg from Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam. Adding to the three adults, we had Daniel Spratley and Joshua Banks plus a guest from Johannesburg, Sheldon (15), who had never set foot on a sailing boat before. Methinks he is a permanent convert now!

Whilst we were rigging in Hout Bay harbour, the breeze was persistently picking up - and typically gusty. We put a reef in the main and rigged the No.2 Jib as well as the smaller fractional A3 spinnaker - one we seldom use - and based on the performance that day, one we should employ more often!

Leaving Hout Bay, the top section of the jib unfurled itself, leaving us with a headache trying to get it unravelled. Its not the first time we have experienced that problem with the furler. The secret is to roll it up tight and keep it under tension.

We tacked onto port to clear the Karbonkelberg and were soon sailing pretty much on our ear, despite the reduced sail area. Then we hit the lee of Chapmans Peak and were underpowered for a while. After 10 minutes, we were back into a solid 25 knot south easterly and enjoying speeds of 9 to 10 knots fetching under two sails over some big swells.

The first issue was trying to visually locate Vulcan Rock. Being spring high tide, it would be submerged, so it was a question of looking for a patch of turbulent water. Easier said than done. The next problem was dodging crayfish nets. There must have been more than a hundred of them laid in rows at given depths. This continued for about 1.5 miles, so we delayed putting up the kite, which inhibits our ability to change direction, as we really didn't feel like getting that T keel entangled in a crayfish net. Once clear, we got the kite up and saw the log sitting nicely on 14 knots.

We needed to do a gybe so we could clear the Karbonkelberg reefs and get onto a heading towards the NE and our destination. We decided to do a dinghy style gybe without a foredeck hauling the sheet through, but just as quickly realised that was a bad idea when we saw a solid wrap developing. Once it was sorted, we settled down to enjoy some really enjoyable, fast reaching. The boat was happy and fully under control. We found the boat much easier to drive and not quite as directional as under the R1 masthead kite. It was simply a matter of diving very low down the wave faces, then bringing the angle of apparent wind quickly back to 90 degrees as the speed bled off. That way, even though we were sailing an erratic S type course, we could sustain remarkably high speeds and make maximum use of the waves with a much lower chance of broaching. We were smoking along having a great day off from work. We peaked out at 19,5 knots, which is our second fastest recorded speed to date. Halfway past Llundudno, we swapped some of the crew around to give others a chance at trimming and driving.

It took just 50 minutes to reach a point abeam Clifton, where the breeze faded quite quickly, so we shook the reef out, but 10 minutes later it was time to haul the outboard out and motor through the vast wind shadow of Table Mountain.

The sea was alive with marine life and unusually, the water was very clear - a deep indigo blue. There were millions of jellyfish and also many sunfish to be seen. In fact I have never seen such a proliferation of sunfish before. Lazy buggers!

We picked the south easter up again just after Green Point, allowing us to sail the rest of the way in. Total time taken. 2 hrs 30 mins - and well short of that record breaking sail two years ago on Smackwater Jack of 2 hrs 2mins 4 secs.

We now have a two week recess before we start with the autumn programme.

Thanks to all the crew who gave of their time for this event.

CTSW crew:
Trygve Roberts (Helmsman), Charles Crosby (Spinnaker/Headsail trimmer/Tactician), Daniel Spratley (Mainsail/Mastman), Joshua Banks (Halyards), Connor Leech (Mastman),Simon Penso (Bowman), Michela Byrnes (Mastlady), James Harvie (Halyards), Phillip Rentschler (Main trimmer), Bruce Webber (Mastman), Paul Smithson (Main trimmer), Sheldon (Grinder).