By James Bennett
photos Adrian Dyson and David Gervas
Sunday 26 April dawned bright and breezy, in a similar manner to the previous three days when strong easterly winds had blown each morning, fortunately the wind gods decided to moderate Sundays wind to a more sociable but gusty 8 to 17 knots from the ENE.
The OGA race committee worked very hard in the weeks leading up to the race to ensure that there was a good turnout, and judging by the number of boats sailing around the start line they did a good job. ‘B’ and ‘C’ fleets sailed the same course but raced for separate honours, and ‘A’ and ‘D’ fleets sailed a longer course. As with previous years OGA regatta the race was organised as a pursuit race with each boat given a starting time based on their handicap with the smaller, slower boats starting first and the larger, faster boats last. This type of start is fun as there is time to assess the wind direction, best position to start and even make some practise runs at the line. It is less stressful as close encounters are minimised, definitely preferable for those in smaller boats who often get intimidated by the large bowsprits of some of the bigger boats. It is however slightly disconcerting watching similar boats to your own starting their race on an earlier time and knowing that you have to catch them up before the finish line.
Promptly at 9.55am the 5 minute warning signal was displayed from the start box of our hosts, the Royal Fresh Water Bay Yacht Club, and the infamous illuminated count down board displayed the number 26. I say infamous because the number board can play tricks on the unsuspecting by blowing critical light bulbs half way through the count down. Anyone with the numbers 9 or 8 and 6 or 5 in their start sequence can be misled if a critical bulb has decided not to work. It is sensible to get a timer going on the warning or start signal and use that as the count down for the individual start times. With the number box facing north into the sun the numbers displayed were in any case unreadable from more than 50 metres away. Another trap for those new to this type of racing is to only cross the start line when your number changes to the next number in the count down, this error cost a few boats a one minute penalty.
With an easterly course set the first buoy for B and C fleet was Miller, the beat demonstrated the shifty nature of the wind and to add to the entertainment the wind is slightly squeezed between Point Walter and Point Resolution. Kite sailors and a couple of wind surfers were also out taking advantage of the stronger winds in the gap, but it was a wind without its earlier teeth. Once around the top mark it was a very broad reach down to Parker carefully avoiding the usual band of crab pots before another broad reach south to Mosman.
What a joy it was to sail to Mosman on a reach rather than the usual beat. On a beat the wind descends from the heights of Mosman Park to the south of the mark intent on causing mischief and mayhem or at least profound depression to the helm of any boat with massive headers (never a lift) the closer to the buoy a boat gets. After Mosman was Suicide buoy and then a long reach north to Burnside. For Kailani we still had Crazy Bird, Araluen and Solquest ahead of us when we rounded Mosman. We were also very aware of Wimbrel being sailed single handed during the race, while a shorter boat than Kailani had excellent boat speed and was never far from us, ready to pounce if we made a mistake.
Despite the orange flag not being displayed from the start box, everyone avoided sailing through the east-west start line at Fresh Water. The short beat from Burnside to College created some interesting situations with wind shifts of up to 150. This was a great area to play catch up!
It was here that we finally caught and passed Solquest and Araluen. Just after the College buoy was also the scene of this year’s award winning ‘screw up of the regatta’, which was witnessed and heard by several boats and most of the shore front residents of Dalkeith, when Genevieve’s spinnaker misbehaved. Various descriptions from those who saw this event occur speak of a wine glass in the spinnaker, a jib with no sheets attached and the clearly audible one way debate on how the situation should be speedily resolved between the skipper and the forward hand, this being quite a feat above the noise of flogging sails. It is a well-known phenomenon of acoustics on sailing boats that conversations between the cockpit and the foredeck cannot be heard by either party but are clearly audible to on-lookers some distance away. After several moments of chaos Genevieve’s crew tamed the spinnaker, re-captured the jib and settled down to regain their dignity and get on with the race.
While we are speaking of incidents, there were several witnesses to a man over board incident on Bacchante, when a member of the crew slipped off the boat near the bow and was plucked out of the water by his life jacket as he passed the cockpit. Well done and great reactions to whoever managed that!
After the race with all the crews sitting relaxing under the trees at Freshie it was clear from the many conversations that everyone had enjoyed the close racing in company with similar boats, a feature of a handicap start. It was great to see several new boats on the river and special mention should be made of Geoff Black in Minim Cove, Peter Kovesi in Wimbrel (who was a constant presence in our race) and our long standing and excellent photographer Paul Ricketts sailing in his own boat Araluen (helmed by Peter Edmunds). Finally the Spirit of the Regatta Trophy was awarded to Grant Hymus sailing in James Cook, who was taking part in his first race since he was 6 years old.
For the crew of Kailani, our day was made not only by winning the Fossmarine Trophy awarded to the fastest boat over the course in C Fleet, but also by John Longley’s comment that he had really wanted to win that trophy rather than the Handicap prize. He also admitted that one of his crew had been timing Kailani each time we rounded a mark to see by how much we were catching up Crazy Bird. This coming from a person whose sailing credentials are impressive was the best compliment!
Thank you to the race officials from Royal Freshwater Bay and to the OGA regatta organising committee for a great day out on the river. Kailani’s training for the defence of the Fossmarine Trophy starts next week!