Finally a video from the Crown Series

During the Crown Series races in February I didn’t get much of a chance to take photos, but my daughter Alice took some video during the Saturday races. Rohan has put it together in the following clip for your enjoyment. It gives you a great sense of the action on the water. Hope you can play it!



A Balmy Breeze

It was one of those hot late summer days we get in Hobart – when the mercury pushes over 30 degrees and you can feel the desert heat on the northerly wind. All day I was anxiously watching the wind buffet the plane trees in Salamanca Place and my office window – an old French door that was propped open to relieve the heat – and watching my weather app which promised the wind would drop to a comfortable strength for the evening’s race.

And it did. By the time I’d mustered my crew, readied the boat and motored out into the river, the wind had dropped to a brisk 15 knots, and remained between 10 and 22 for the race. With Derek still overseas, the crew for this final race in the series was Tim, Nick, Paul, Michael, Andrew and Anne – who decided she would leave the work to the fellas and enjoy the beautiful evening.

We were set course T for Tango – a two lap course beginning with a triangle to mark X at mid-river, to B1 (permanent mark off Bellerive) back to the start line, and then a ‘sausage’ from the start out to X and back to the finish.

I was determined to make a better start this week, and steeled my nerves to jostle with the quicker boats around the start line. As usual, Tim played the role of tactician, and also confidence-builder, encouraging me on at every step. I offered him the helm this race, but he declined, preferring the role of encourager, delightful boy!

With the wind from the north-west the race began with a down-wind run. We crossed the line mid-fleet for a change! Then pointed our bow towards the mark and set the head-sail out on the pole. With the wind behind you sailing is quiet and the boat remains flat. You can hear the sea sizzle along the hull. The sun beat down on us, turning the river to copper. What a way to spend the evening!

Despite our better start we eventually ended up near the back of the fleet, crossing the line only 13 minutes behind the outright winner, Hot Prospect. So I added another 13th place to my belt – oh, well, I don’t really like those T-shirts they give out for first place… I’m hanging out for the prize next week for the women’s race! Oh, and Tim did take the helm to park the boat, doing a super job of reversing.


Boom Bag!

Wednesday was our first trip out on Ariadne’s Clew for a few weeks. After completing the Crown Series in February the boat had been sitting idle. Derek has been overseas for work, and with Tim busy or unavailable I hadn’t ventured out. But this week I was determined to have a go, even with a small crew of only three strong young men. My trusty old hands Tim and Willem, and their friend Steve, who hadn’t been out with us for a number of years.

When we arrived at the boat we discovered the sail-maker had been to replace our old torn and worn boom bag with a new one! Another expense to keep the boat looking neat and trim.

We motored out and hoisted the sail… wait lads! Stop! I spotted the halyard was twisted around a lazy-jack, and we dropped the sail again, narrowly avoiding a nasty jam. Willem and Tim fixed the problem, and with the sail up we buzzed around the start line in a steady ten knots of wind waiting for our signal. Being second division to start it’s good form to stay away from the start area until division one begin, giving us five minutes to get in position for our start. But I was late turning around, and we found ourselves a long way from the line just as the wind dropped! No motoring within 5 minutes of the start, so we crept painfully towards the line, finally crossing (red faced) well behind all the other boats.

From there things looked up, and we sailed a good tactical race. The fact we were behind meant nobody got in our way, no time wasted luffing or ducking or tacking unnecessarily, and two clean mark roundings. Our race was shortened – the days are getting shorter and we need to finish before dark. We were assisted by a hole in the wind at Bellerive Bluff, which caught quite a few boats unawares. We saw them becalmed, almost on the rocks, and steered wide to stay in the edge of the breeze, catching up and even overtaking a number, including Silicon Ship, with Willem’s Dad on board.

A very pleasant evening on the water, even if the result was not so wonderful! 13th over the line and 13th on handicap. With only one race left in the series we are sitting near the bottom on 14th place, and unlikely to rise! There is hope though, for the final race of the women’s series coming up soon…


Late Starters

Friday night was the first race in the BYC Crown Series Regatta, the biggest racing fixture for our club, and the biggest sailing regatta in Tasmania. The competition includes six different classes, from trailable yachts to tiny dinghies to keelboats. We are in the Cruising Spinnaker class, which has three divisions and around 37 entrants. There is also a Cruising Non-Spinnaker class as well as a class for serious racing keelboats – almost 100 larger boats are entered, not to mention the Off the Beach series for the smaller boats.

With an earlier start time than our usual twilight race there was a rush to get away from work and to the yacht club by 4.45. Being my birthday as well as my non-working weekday I had spent the day pleasantly, celebrating with my Mum and sister Nancy at a winery. So I made my way there in leisurely fashion. The club was transformed, with marquees in the carpark, bunting and an excited hum of activity. The wind was blustery again, but thankfully not as strong as on Wednesday.

Our crew arrived and we set off for the start line under leaden skies, with showers veiling the mountain. With so many divisions on the water there were multiple start lines, ours being a way offshore at the start boat ‘Alaska 45’.

We began milling around in readiness, but with the conditions predicted to change the orgainsers decided to delay the start by ten minutes to give the wind a chance to settle in. Looking down-river we could see a line of dark water, hemmed with a line of angry white-caps. We presumed this was the edge of the sea-breeze, coming in later than usual. By the count-down to our start the change still hadn’t arrived, so we set off on course O for Oscar, heading for the Garrow Mark, still under a fickle wind which swung from north-east to north-west and back again. Somehow we badly calculated our start and ended up way at the back of the fleet. We spent the whole race trying to catch up, but sadly we ended up second-last over the line and last on handicap.

The little ray of sunshine on the horizon being that there is only one way to go – we looked forward to improving the result on Saturday.

Race Abandoned

All day on Wednesday the wind blew hot from the north as the temperature climbed. After a very cool and changeable summer so far, with rain on and off over the past few days, we were suddenly facing a day of extreme fire danger.Through the day I kept my eye on the bit of harbour I can see from my office window, to see boats bobbing around on the choppy water. The huge plane trees lining Salamanca Place were being buffeted by the wind with aging leaves torn free to dance in the eddies. I watched the anemometer, mounted on top of a pole right outside my window, spinning madly, the wind vane switching direction in confusion. It looked like it would be challenging conditions out there tonight.

On Sunday we had taken the main sail off the boat and on Tuesday morning taken it to the sail-maker for a minor repair. One of the lugs that run inside the track on the mast, securing the luff (mast-side edge of the sail), had broken when we did a fast gybe a week or two ago. Perhaps it was when we had a reef in the sail or  it had been too strong for me to ease with the sheet and traveller. Either way, the repair, though very minor, required taking the sail off the boat. Many racing boats remove and stow the sails after each race, but our boat, built for cruising, has a furling headsail (this is stored by wrapping it around itself on the fore-stay) and a canvas bag on the boom into which we drop the main, flaking it into neat folds, and zipping it up to secure.  So removing the main-sail is a bit of a chore. On Sunday it had been fairly windy as well, and Derek and I had tied the sail into a bundle then slid it out of the boom-bag, rested it on the marina arm to remove the battens, then folded it up to wheel back to the car in a wheelbarrow.

On Tuesday we had dropped it off to the sail-maker on our way to work, and picked it up again on Wednesday afternoon before heading through the snarling traffic to the yacht club. On the bridge we got a good view of a frightening bushfire burning on the Lindisfarne hills – gumtrees bursting into red flames and billows of black smoke rising. Two small planes and a helicopter were hovering anxiously as the fire front threatened to sweep downhill towards houses. Downwind, the marina was veiled in smoke, with wind whistling through rigging and halyards clanging. As I walked out towards the boat I was afraid I’d be blown off the narrow walkway as I held tightly onto my dress! I looked back at the club flagpole and saw the sorry sight of two racing code flags – N (blue and white chequers) and A (half blue, half white) signalling ‘Race Abandoned’. The yachties I passed expressed disappointment mixed with relief.

When I reached the boat, Nick, Paul and Lockie, who had arrived early, had already prepped the boat for departure, but now we set them to work helping to re-mount the mainsail that Derek had wheeled out in a barrow. It was a struggle in the wind to unfold and flake the sail on the marina arm ready to re-install the battens. Then, again tied up to prevent it flying away, we all heaved it back into the bag, slid all the lugs into the track and reattached all the ropes – outhall and two reefing lines – and two big shackles at each end of the foot. Once that was done we zipped up the bag, packed the boat back up and headed into the club for an early dinner.

Regatta Fireworks

Alongside the Wooden Boat Festival runs the Hobart Regatta, culminating in a fireworks display on the waterfront on Monday night. We hadn’t competed in any sailing events for the regatta, but this was a different way we could participate, taking along a boat-load of family and friends. So we rallied the troops at the boat well before sunset and set off across the river for the Regatta foreshore. The weather all day had been horrid – squally rain and cold (whilst the rest of the country suffered intense heat and bushfires!) – so we all rugged up.


We anchored a little way off the jetty where people in high-vis vests were preparing the fireworks display. We judged our distance perfectly, as any boats between us and the jetty were moved on by the Water Police in their patrol vessel, Dauntless. At anchor we brought out the wine and cheese (and beer and chips) and watched the water settle to a mirror as the sun began to set. Quite a number of boats had gathered for the fun, including the Navy flag-ship, some of the sail training vessels and a number of wooden boats, as well as launches and a fleet of jet-skis. It was just after dark when Willem (who had been waiting for Tim – his frisbee training went late!) motored along and rafted up beside us in his beautiful wooden sailboat. His first time doing a rafting-up manoeuvre and he looked like a pro!

Then the fireworks began, and we discovered the reason for keeping us back – many of the first set went off right in the water in front of us! Soon they were popping and banging overhead in myriad patterns and colours.

In celebration of Tim’s birthday the previous day, we broke out the ginger cake, singing him a Happy Birthday.

We motored back into the marina in the dark. A great night out for all.

Wooden Boat Festival

Every two years in February the Derwent River comes alive with a vast collection of wooden boats. On Friday I made my way to meet my Mum and sister Nancy down at Sandy Bay Beach to watch the sail-past, which begins the festival and brings hundreds of boats into Sullivans Cove. It was quite a spectacle, with many of the replica tall ships enabling us to imagine we had slipped back in time to early Hobart.

Boats ranged from kayaks and open row-boats, to sloops of all eras, and huge square-rigged sailing ships, including the sail-training vessel Tenacious. This ship, 65 metres long and 10.6 metres wide, was launched in 2000 and is rigged as a three-masted barque. It is owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a UK charity and is equipped to carry a crew of about 40, half of whom may have a physical or sensory disability. Late last year our crew member Willem’s sister Julia was accepted as crew, and has done a stint on board, sailing around Australia.

On Sunday Derek and I joined good friends Dawn and Gary at the Festival on the waterfront. For a while there it looked like we had got the better of the erratic Hobart weather – we sat outside in the sunshine for a while then visited the exhibitors shed in PW1 just as the rain came down. Dawn purchased a lovely slice of famous Huon Pine as a cheese-board for daughter Emily’s upcoming wedding, I got temporarily lost at the book stall while Derek and Gary visited all the gadget stalls and managed to come away without making any impulse purchases!

When we left the shed the sun was shining again and we took a tour of the marinas. So many beautiful wooden boats were on display, all varnished and polished and decked out with flags and pennants, creating a true carnival atmosphere.

We wandered around gazing and admiring the beautiful craftsmanship. Everywhere we saw evidence of countless hours of hard work and passion. Then the rain came down again and drove us under cover for  a drink until we were rewarded with a stunning rainbow.