A Beautiful Night for Racing

21 Jan 2015

Crew: Derek and I, Tim, Willem, Nick, Michael, Anne & Andrew
BYC Twilight race 2 – Division 2
Course: A: Start – P – A – X – Finish
Wind: N-E to Easterly, variable, 3-12 knots

What a beautiful way to spend an evening, and today it actually was summer! With Derek in Hobart for the first Wednesday evening twilight race in a long time, and a beautiful balmy 28 degree day, we seized the opportunity to join the race. Tim and three of his mates Willem, Michael and Nick, all lovely young men, joined us with the faithful Anne and Andrew. This meant we had plenty of muscle on board. The lads folded away the dodger and bimini, accentuating the boat’s clean lines and almost making it look like a serious racer, rather than a comfortable slow cruiser – the main reason for this is that Tim and his mates are too tall to stand beneath the shelter of the dodger to work the winches and lines on the cabin top without getting sore backs! I’m just short enough to fit and work there comfortably, which is great in cold weather as it’s protected from the wind. But tonight was so balmy that no-one even needed a jacket.

Prior to the race start at 5.55 pm, we milled around in the river with the rest of the fleet noting how fickle the wind was, shifting from north-east to easterly and back. Usually after a hot day such as this, Hobart gets a sea-breeze from the south-east, but today it hadn’t really kicked in at all. We got ourselves into position, with Derek at the helm (never any question of that) Tim on the foredeck, the three lads on the jib sheets, Andrew  and I on the main sheet (as well as sundry other ropes which I won’t mention by name for fear of frightening off all my non-sailing readers) and Anne working where needed, and headed for the start line with about thirty seconds to go to the starting signal.

We were a fraction late to the start, but got ourselves in a good position for the long reach down to Punches (mark P) off the end of Tranmere. It was one of those days with light variable winds where luck plays almost as much as tactics. Some boats went close in shore, looking for a squirt of wind down the shoreline. Others headed out towards the middle of the river, hoping for stronger winds. We just made straight for the mark, and our tactics paid off, with the wind staying with us most of the way. By the time we rounded the first mark we were still towards the back of the fleet but doing reasonably well, only having to give-way to one boat coming into the mark on starboard.

Round the mark it was time to ease everything out, and for Tim to do some pole-dancing on the fore-deck (no, not that kind!). With the wind behind us he poled out the head-sail. Once again the dilemma was which course to take? And again we took the middle road, avoiding the shoreline or heading too far out to the middle. Sailing downwind everything is pretty cruisy on our boat. Derek keeps an eye on the trim, as do I, but my main role on this leg is the catering. Pre-race I’d stocked the fridge with a selection of drinks and purchased some nice dip – so it was beer, cider and soft-drink all round, with chips, pitta bread and dip, and icy-poles to cool off.

We feasted, whilst all the leading boats in our division managed to get themselves bunched up and becalmed close inshore at Bellerive Bluff. As we neared the bluff, heading back to mark A (the start point, off Kangaroo Bay) we noted their predicament and kept well clear of the Bluff. Thus we rounded the second mark (stowing all the catering first of course) in a much improved position, and headed out to mark X (mid-river). On this leg we had a better angle to the wind at first, but once past the Bluff it dropped out and changed direction and we had the agonising sensation of watching other boats scoot past on wind we couldn’t feel. We stayed down a bit too far, going for speed over direction, so when we reached the mark we had to tack back quite a way to round it, and lost a few places in the fleet. However we made a good leg back to the finish and even though the wind was dropping out, a combination of luck and skill kept the boat moving downwind in the now extremely light breeze. We were ninth across the line in our division, which was pretty good considering we’re competing against a number of much lighter boats that are built for racing, and don’t carry things like a freezer, 110 litres of water, a generator or an inflatable kayak, not to mention a barbecue!

Many hands make light work, as the saying goes, and in no time we had berthed and packed up the boat. Anne and Andrew raced off to do some errands, the lads all headed off for tacos and Derek and I joined Gary and the crew of Ciao Baby II for a light meal and the race results at the clubhouse. And the results proved we had sailed a good race – we were first on handicap in our division! And we have added one more to our collection of BYC race shirts!

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