by Trevor Joyce
After a briefing on the steps of the baroque cathedral in Milna on the island of Brac in Croatia, the crews on eleven Benetau First 45’s cruised to the rendezvous in Salines Bay for race 1 in the 2013 Croatia One Design Yacht Rally.
Leaving Milna to begin the race
A suspicious six knot south easterly breeze lured some of the crews into trying their new spectre sails but the forecast suggested something more potent from the north-west later. How much later was the question? Anchored in the bay, the crews lunched and swam and the sun shone while rally director Trevor Joyce scanned the western horizon.
Around 1.15 a dark line appeared and the breeze swung through 90 degrees. 'Let’s move', was the call. At 1.35 the yachts started the race for Vis in a building north westerly mistral. On a course of 220° for the port of Vis they romped along with the breeze just aft of the beam.
Kim McKee on Galata said later at the presentation at Lola’s restaurant in Vis town,' it was such a great buzz to sail on a yacht that was designed, built and fitted out to sail fast. We were ecstatic; there’s no other word for it'. Nine of the eleven yachts finished within two minutes and fifty seconds of each other and the mood was seriously buoyant as the yachts berthed a few minutes later on the quay at Kut on the eastern side of Vis harbour.
Eight year old Kate Sydes and six year old brother Harry were on the rail with mum sailing with father Peter and the Vleugals from the Mornington Yacht Club. Peter and John race a Couta boat at Mornington but 'this is another kind of experience all together', said Peter after the race. 'The 45 is easy to sail, it tracks beautifully and it certainly is very fast. We clocked 10.1 knots briefly and most of the time we were reading nines.'
The race was won by 17 seconds by Chris Gendala from the Sandringham Yacht Club who steered Xena, chartered by Graham Swan from the CYCA and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. They held off the fast finishing Zephyr with the Hammonds and the Lawsons on board, also from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Richard is a prominent Etchells sailor from the squadron and a regular participant on Mariner Boating rallies.
'The race today was well managed and the sailing was terrific', he said over dinner. 'We had a problem with our instruments before the race today but the technician had it fixed in no time at all. We don’t use instruments much on Etchells'.
Vis is a sleepy little place but an adverse weather forecast saw a big slice of the Croatian charter fleet turn up looking for protection. Competition for berths was frantic but of course the rally berths had been pre-booked.