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Puma Twilight Series Race 7 - 30th November, 2011

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Watch for the MOB self-recovery at 2.10 in this video clip
Race in a nutshell: 30th November, 2011
Position PHRF Class 1 Spin: 2nd from 12
Total Entries: 48
Distance: 6.0nm.
Max Speed: 17.7 knots
Ave speed: 6.8 knots
Time: 1 hr 04 mins 08 secs
Weather Forecast: C lear. Wind SE 18 knots Temp 22C
Weather Actual: Clear. Wind SE 22 to 32 knots. Temp 22C
Course: 10 (P) – Paarden island (P) - Milnerton (S) – Paarden Island (P) – Woodbridge (P)- No.4 (P) - Finish (P)
Seas: Flat.
Sails: Reefed Main (Quantum), No. 2 Genoa (Quantum), A3 Asymmetric Spinnaker. (North)
Crew: Trygve Roberts (Helm), Charles Crosby (Genoa/Spinnaker), Phill Rentschler (Main), Craig Preston (Pit), Allesandro Napoli (Mast) Joshua Banks (Bow), Total: 505 kg

STOP PRESS: It's official. The 2012 Pacer 27 National Championships will be held in Cape Town from 22nd to 25th February, 2012 using the same format as last year, with two days of buoys racing in Table Bay followed by the two distance races of the Mykonos offshore.

Summer has officially arrived in Cape Town and with it the Cape Doctor takes up residence somewhere in the region of Devils Peak, where folklore has it he smokes his pipe, creating that tumbling white cloud down the face of Table Mountain (now officially one of the seven natural wonders of the world). For sailors and more importantly, boat owners, it usually means weekly trips to the sail loft getting torn sails repaired. Well love it or hate it, this is what one gets in Cape Town at this time of year and it certainly builds character. Each week the yacht club faces the “will/we wont we” dilemma with multiple checks on the various anemometers around the race area, but as the sun starts to move towards twilight time, which just happens to coincide with the start time of the races, the breeze will invariably ratchet up a good 10 knots above where it was just minutes ago. So our policy now is simply ‘If it looks like we should maybe reef, we just do it'. Even in the five minute countdown for this race, there were wild changes in wind speed near the start line, so our question was, had we done the right thing by reefing down? We were the only boat in our division to have done so and that invariably makes me ask questions of myself. But then again, we sail a sports boat. We have completely different dynamics to the regular keelers.

Go for the pin end
With a touch of southerly in the mean wind direction, we opted for a pin end start, knowing we would get a lift in the second half of the first leg. What we had was seven 40 footers all around us with exactly the same idea. Bad, bad, bad….. There was a huge tussle for position and most of the boats were too early. We luffed Lobelia over the line and that caused a chain reaction resulting in three boats being recalled OCS. The peculiar thing was that none of them went back to restart. Did they not hear the radio call or hear the second hooter? Or did they all just decide to ignore the OCS call? Sadly, a day later, I spoke to the skipper of one of those top three boats and his response was “Well, these are not really serious races. The courses are lousy and besides no-one else turned back. I sail for fun and I don't give a f*ck about the results”. This has been bugging me ever since I heard it. So where is the Corinthian spirit? What kind of an example are these guys setting for those newbies just starting sailing? I think that attitude sucks. That's my whinge for the week. No names, no pack drill, but if you have a conscience at all, think about it and comply with the racing rules. This is where bad habits and worse attitudes breed. Or in the inimitable words of the SABC slogan 'It's the right thing to do'

Spat out the back like bad sushi
Needless to say, on the upwind leg, we very quickly got spat out the back and had no choice but to suck dirties for a few minutes as the big boats quickly pulled away from us. However with three non-returning OCS boats amongst them, it would mean our placing would automatically improve by that amount. The boat was powered up exactly right. The reefed main/No2 Jib combo was the right choice after all.

Time to catch-up
We rounded the weather mark stone last and hoisted the A3, which gives us a beautifully balanced downwind sail plan for strong breeze. The speed went up quickly to hover between 15 and 16 knots as we took the windward channel next to the beach in the flat water. It was gorgeous sailing. Perhaps not as exciting as the man overboard scenario of two weeks back, but just fabulous, fast, controlled, downwind sailing. The sort of leg that makes you think: ‘This is why I sail' (suffixed with a large smiley face). We had caught up nicely, making up most of the distance we had lost on the upwind leg. We gybed onto port just above the layline to the Milnerton mark, which took us straight back into the heavy traffic. We weaved our way through that lot and gave the instruction to strike the spinnaker.

Our new party trick
During the drop, our mastman, Sandro, tripped and lost his balance, falling overboard backwards. For a sickening moment I thought to myself ”Two man overboard incidents in two outings! This cant be happening surely?” Then I saw an extraordinary thing. Sandro came back out of the water as if it was a movie going in reverse. There was a quick shake of the head to get rid of the water and he went straight back to dropping the spinnaker. Somehow one of his feet had hooked into the mast stays and he performed a feat of pure athletisism – only possible when you're 15 years old and play prop for your school's first rugby team. Maybe I need to get some MOB recovery lessons from young Sandro. Bravo!

No Water!!!
Whilst that lot was going on, we were fast approaching the mark, where a nice gap opened up for us. The J133 ‘Speed of Yellow' was having a poor race and they left a nice big hole for us to get water at the mark and do a proper rounding. However, the A35 ‘Docksafe' was behind us and did not have water, but they saw a small gap opening up and decided to take it. It was breathtakingly close with just a foot or two separating the two boats. An outstretched arm would have connected the two boats. We called to them to do a penalty, but our request was ignored. Have a good look at the video and make up your own mind. That little maneuver cost us a lot. We got buried under Docksafe and had to tack away to clear our air, losing valuable time. The breeze strength was variable between 22 and about 30 knots. There was the odd moment when the boat felt a little underpowered, but 90% of the time it felt right and we were able to stay with the fleet back up to the weather mark.

Deep Run
A short run followed to the Woodbridge mark, which didn't do us any favours as we had to sail it in two gybes, followed by a two mile fetch to No.4 harbour mark, which was just too tight for a spinnaker. Despite that, we were two sail fetching at around 9 knots and holding our own with the 40 footers. The J133 was having a terrible race and fluffed their kite strike at Woodbridge, resulting in a prawning session of note. They were just getting back into the race as we were approaching. This boat started its season off really well, with a string of first places but for the last few races, they have had some awful clangers. It happens to the best of us I suppose. Someone made a remark about the 'Speed of Jello' It was funny at the time.

Last beat
All that remained in the race was a short beat to the finish line. The breeze remained patchy and gusty, but it did provide a few opportunities to gain a few places. We took some decent decisions in terms of tacking and crossed the line at speed, achieving a 2nd place on corrected time (behind Docksafe of course!)

All in all, an enjoyable race, but our overall standings remain in the bottom half of the fleet for this series. This is partly because we missed the first race and had to carry a DNC result and one really poor race where we had an 8th place. Those are all minor issues in the greater scheme of things. What is really marvelous is that we get to sail in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Never mind the Cape Doctor….and the kelp…..and the 10 degree Atlantic ocean….. and a terrible IRC rating…..and. Oh never mind!

1st DockSafe - Archambault 35 - Alexandre Monat - 1.1 - 01:08:21
2nd Regent Express - Pacer 27 - Trygve Roberts - 1.08 - 01:09:16
3rd Puma Unleashed - Pacer 42R - Hylton Hale - 1.255 - 01:09:28
4th Southern Storm - Pacer 376 - Harry Brehm - 1.19 - 01:10:21
5th Tenacity - Fast 42 - Errol Stern - 1.17 - 01:12:56
6th Speed of Yellow - J133 - Patrick Holloway - 1.155 - 01:13:12
7th Lobelia - IMX40 - Gordon Kling/Rob Meek - 1.135 - OCS
8th Naledi - J120 - Felix Scheder-Bieschin - 1.15 - OCS
9th Windpower - Landmark 43 - R Nankin/P Gutche - 1.25 - OCS
10th Corum - Briand 43 - Jan Reuvers - 1.2 - DNC
11th Mini Mace - Melges 24 - Nicholas Mace - 1.08 - DNC
12th Aladdin - Farr 40 - Bjorn Geiger - 1.1 - DNC