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a win on the water

April 23, 2012

I was called up in the morning on Saturday to crew on Prism, a Stewart 34. The race was the second in the collinson series, which is sort of a second nationals series for the s34’s. The main series is about 22 races on Monday nights through the summer.

Although I hadn’t sailed with them before, I knew the boat well enough having seen them on the water so many times. They were short of crew after the regulars pulled out. I jumped at the chance as I hadn’t been out for a while due to glandular fever ruining my summer. Racing non-spinnaker in light winds what ideal for me to find out if I could cope with sailing again.

The forecast was variable 5 knots. You know you are in for a drifter when you see that. Especially at this time of year when the sun does not heat the land enough for a decent sea breeze. I love light wind races. It is more like a chess match than a fight. The challenges include predicting where the best wind will come from, difficult sail trim, and handling the frustrations of being becalmed. I used to think that luck decided the race in these conditions. A few races with Bill Millar taught me otherwise.

Our start wasn’t that great. We were well behind the line after changing our mind too late and being too late for the start. Not easy to get going when the wind is under 5 kts. We were on the correct side of the course though. After about 20 minutes, a patch of wind appeared near the tank farm and the race became all about getting there first. We did reasonably well getting there, but there were quite a few ahead. We spent much of the race trying to work out if any were in our division, or if all of them were in the spinnaker division that had started 5 minutes earlier.

Once in the wind, all 6 knots of it, the challenge was all about staying in it. We were also trying to pick the shifts, but that was very much secondary to staying in decent pressure. When the tide is going out strongly, normally we would stay in the middle – but there was no wind there. So we short tacked up the wall and copped some abuse from the fishermen. Don’t they realise that we sail close to the rocks for a reason? They could pull in their lines instead of watching us collect them. Luckily we weren’t fouled.

Staying on the right was the rule all the way past the first mark resolution and until we had to cross the harbour to torpedo. The tide had turned by now and it was pushing us away from the mark. The first boats got around much more easily than us. We struggled to get past, every tack costing us, every light patch costing us even more. The frustration of drifting away from a mark when mired in light wind and adverse tide has to be experienced to be understood. We lost far less than the competition and overtook a boat at the mark. Eventually we did get past and off we went on a reach to bastion on the other side of the harbour. We were on a reasonably steady course for quite a while. We sailed downwind a touch in the breeze to stay in the wind for longer, and sailed up more in the lighter patches to reduce the time in soft wind.

The next challenge was at the mark, as there were dozens of dinghies going nowhere, including Geoff who gave us a wave. He suggested to John that he give me a call. Navigating a 4 tonne boat past a little dinghy is not easy, especially when the dinghy sailors were mostly asleep and not paying attention to what was bearing down on them. But a boat on starboard has rights over a boat on port no matter what size or what they are doing. We had to tack out of the way and lost a lot of ground. After avoiding the little ones, we sailed right over to the reef between Bean Rock and the mainland. As close as the skipper could stomach. We found a patch of wind there and made big gains. So much, that we never saw the boats behind us again.

From there and a few tacks we cleared the lighthouse, not without a few lumps in the throat as the wind died when just off the rocks, but it picked up just in time and we had no troubles. We tacked immediately at the mark despite protests from some of the crew and had a faster beat down to the next mark in a steadier breeze. The course was shortered here, obviously not enough time to finish the original race course. Over 3 hours had passed and we were less than half way. The time limit was approaching.

We thought we were second as we knew another boat in our division was up ahead. Much to our surprise, we found out that they had not entered, so we had won! We also won the series, as we had the same points as Psychic. However, we won the second race so won on countback.

I loved being out again. Makes it even sweeter helping the boat to win the race and series.

Race result:

Prism 1 – 3:12

Psychic 2 – 3:28

Precedent 3 – 3:31


Prism 2, 1 (wins on countback)

Psychic 1, 2


From → The Sea

  1. Laree Anderson permalink

    On the beautiful Waitemata harbour? Auckland? For those not local readin g this blog?

  2. Aye, start under the Auckland Harbour Bridge and out to Browns Island (Motokorea). 36S 50′ 174E 54′.

  3. Well done winner.

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