Paul Lindeman of Biddu Hu II has won the ‘Bundaberg at the Festival of Sails’ Memory story competition.
The first running of the Portarlington passage race.
It was a beautiful morning at RGYC, the wind was blowing a nice 10 to 15 knots, sun shining and the cruising fleet was heading to the start line for the first running of the Portarlington passage race.
Biddy Hu 11 with 13 crew on board were very excited, it was to be a spinnaker start, with a broad reach down the hopetoun channel all the way up to Port, the 5 minute gun sounds and the tension rises, we must get a good start to get out in clear air, with the main up only we go through the process of where we are going to start on the line, the pin end was certainly the preferred position.
Bang one minute to go, we jostle our way to our position, spinnaker poised for it to be hoisted, poles up, brace and sheets loaded onto winches, 25 seconds to go I yell, Get it up, with a frenzy the crew start hoisting the spinnaker halyard and the winches begin to buzz as the sheets are tightened, 10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 bang we have started perfectly, the red spinnaker ablaze, great start I yell to the crew, as we look around there is a sea of color with spinnakers full and boats powering down the channel.
In our line there was about 12 boats all striving to get into that perfect position, people screaming up! Up! And then spinnakers start collapsing, we stayed low trying to keep out of the congestion and looking for that allusive clear air, while the others played cat and mouse in the chaos.
We sailed through seemingly unnoticed, we had to back our third in the Melbourne to Geelong passage race. A couple of the faster boats had pulled slightly ahead and were now up to 10 to 12 knots of speed, we came through the end of the hopetoun channel to see a lot of pressure coming from our starboard side approximate 2 miles away, how much we were not sure, however it looked nasty, we continued on with spray flying over the bow and some of the disgruntled crew looking back at me starting to look like semi drowned rats, wet weather gear should probably have been on!
Then a boat up ahead begins to round up under the new pressure coming to meet us, the spinnaker than begins to flog and look more like a bed sheet on a washing line than a spinnaker, we drive the boat down as the wind hits and the boat takes off like a ski boat (well it felt that fast).
The pressure builds up over 30 knots and we are heading too low to make the mark so a kite drop it what was needed.
The foredeck crew head forward to do what they do best, well hopefully, I looked behind and no longer was there a sea of color, but a sea of disaster, boats rounding up spinnakers cracking, boats horizontal, spinnakers in the water and even one man up the mast trying untangle their web of ropes.
With two men hanging off the dousing rope the bucket decides to start collapsing the kite, while the others start easing the sheet and brace, while another two sit waiting on the bow to stuff the knacker into the hole with waves now crashing over them drenching any dry clothing they had left, it’s a success the kites away.
We unfurl the Genoa and start heading back on course doing between 10 and 15 knots down the waves, and the mayhem behind us fades into the distance, I call out 'Guys we are looking good here, well done'. The crew scramble to the gunwale and hang out as far as possible.
We round the turn mark outside port and start to head back to home, just off the wind with the genny furled, this was going to be our day, as we entered back into the Geelong harbour I knew we had done enough to win it, and we had, well done to the crew for such a great effort, and of course we celebrated with a few Bundy Reds.
Festival of Sails 2012 website http://festivalofsails.com.au