‘Q’ for Quebec

Wednesday evening was dark and grey, with a strong blustery north-easterly wind threatening rain. The wind was mild, however, and we didn’t need to rug up, with light jackets doing the trick. Once again I found myself the only female amongst a bunch of fellas – Derek, Tim, Willem, Nick, Paul and Andrew from Nubenna. Unfortunately it looks like we will be without Rohan, my understudy on the main, for the rest of the season, as he now has a regular Wednesday night gig for work. Perhaps Alice will step into the breach?

Divisions one and two were given course Q – a run with the wind behind us down to the Garrow mark off Sandy Bay, a beat into the wind across the river to Howrah point, and a reach back up to Bellerive Bluff, which then became a tight reach – and hard work – to the finish line. The wind was quite strong and we debated putting a reef in the main – basically pulling the bottom down a metre or two to make a smaller sail – but decided against it in the end. This sort of course, with the wind behind us on the first leg, rather than riding the sea-breeze to the finish line, is unusual for summer. The wind kept its strength up to the end and we found the final stretch to the finish quite a battle with the full main, and a couple of round-ups (where the boat becomes overpowered and turns its nose into the wind) lost us valuable time.

My job as main-sheet hand becomes hard work in a strong wind, and I had to enlist the help of Willem and others during the evening. The main sail is basically the boat’s engine, and the way I trim the sail determines how fast or slow we go. To trim it, I have the choice of about nine different lines – each has a different colour, and name (and none of which is ever called a rope) – two cabin-top self-tailing winches and a bundle of jammers. As well as these, I’m also in charge of another six (or more) lines which help trim the headsail (genoa, jib or the spinnaker if we’re flying one). All these lines converge on the cabin top where yours-truly is positioned.

It’s only the jib sheets (or spinnaker sheets) that go to the other two bigger winches at the back of the cockpit. So, there’s always something to keep me busy, and when the wind is behind us and the captain calls for a gybe I find I suddenly need to adjust most of my lines all at once in some form of organised chaos! First to gybe the pole, in coordination with our fore-deck hands (Tim and Paul tonight), I release the ‘pole topping-lift’ so they can swap it to the opposite side, and put it on again once they are made, then adjust the ‘pole downhaul’ and ‘barber-hauler’ to trim it sweetly. In the middle of this manoeuvre I also need to gybe the mainsail – which means bringing it from way out on the one side, to way out on the other side as Derek turns the boat and the wind catches the main, slamming the boom dangerously from one side to the other. Here it’s my job to first warn the crew by yelling ‘gybing, heads down!’ (the deadliest thing on a yacht is to be hit in the head as the boom swings over with enormous force) then helping the boom over using the ‘traveller’ and ‘main sheet’ in a smoothly orchestrated manoeuver to prevent it smashing over and breaking something (aside from a skull). This all requires sturdy gloves, quick wits and strong biceps – oh, and a strong young assistant at hand (thanks Willem!).

Tonight we were disappointed that our previous mathematical progression didn’t continue – the second-last, second, last pattern didn’t end with a first, but seventh instead. Next time perhaps? It was Trouble, the first boat we raced in, which took out first place tonight. Congratulations to Mark and crew.


Busy at the finish line – Ariadne’s Clew (sail number 539) obscured by Just In Time, Wildfire and Rouseabout all hard on the wind – photo courtesy BYC


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