by Bernie Kaaks
Tradition has it that at this time of year, balmy warm breezes drift across Geographe Bay. Metropolitan yachties from Perth join their country cousins from across the State for a week of relaxed and blissful sailing on the clear, pristine waters on the edge of the State’s premier wine growing region. At least that’s how the script reads. Today someone tore up the script and sent down a steady 25 knot westerly with some boats reporting gusts more than 10 knots stronger.
With the rudder blade snapped of cleanly at the bottom of the box, control was impossible.
The hard luck story for the day probably belongs to Alan Stein and Will Hammond in their recently acquired BW36 X Factor. In today’s long passage race they blasted their way around the course to grab line honours by more than nine minutes, only to see the IRC result go to Peter Hickson’s Beneteau First 35, Mulberry, by a margin of just one second. 'It just goes to show,' said a reflective Hammond after the race, 'that you cannot take anything for granted. The number of places we could have picked up that extra second all count, and even that extra litre of water you took on could be significant.'
Black Betty scored another first and fastest, but not before lying the boat flat following a gybe to the finish line. Terry Posma’s Jaffa completed an identical manoeuvre just a few minutes later, while Knee Deep and General Lee passed so close to the finish boat that they could have high fived the crew on the way by.
The under 10 metre division was scheduled to do three windward and return races this afternoon, but after the first race, following a broken rudder, a couple of torn sails and several spectacular broaches, it was decided to head for home after the first race was completed, with steep seas and wind fluctuating between 25 and 35 knots making life very difficult.
Peter Godley, sailing the Jean Genie, blasted past our camera boat at an estimated 15 to 18 knots, making great progress until it broached. For a moment, it looked as though the boat was back under control, which was probably about the time that the rudder blade snapped off cleanly at the bottom of the rudder box. An inconvenient gust then pulled the yacht right down until the starboard spreader was immersed, until finally the crew managed to release some sheets and stand it up again. To their credit, they then fired up their outboard and calmly motored back to the Port Geographe Marina before a rescue boat could arrive to assist.
It was an excellent sailmaker’s day, but it seems that all the Perth based sailmakers left their machines in the sail loft.
Tomorrow’s program calls for windward leeward races early for IRC boats, and passage races for the Premier Cruising fleets, before the IRC fleet returns in the evening for the night race, which is usually a highlight of the regatta. With unsettled weather, we might have another interesting day.