'Like a hobo’s disappearing act, Vagrant were off as soon as the gun went and never looked back. - Nautilus Marine Winter Series'
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The newest Winter Series on a frostbitten Port Phillip in Melbourne is offering thousand dollar prizes for the winners of each division, across both the International Rule, Club (IRC) and Australian Measurement System (AMS) categories. Little wonder then that over 30 boats expressed their interest to be part of its inaugural year. With grizzly conditions forecasted and a cool breeze already rolling across the top of the Bay, several did not appear and a few even gave it away before the commencement of proceedings.
Alas it was not so miserable yet, but certainly dark, cold and gloomy with the rain ever so desperate to come in from the South. A Nor’wester of 15 knots that occasionally made 18 was virtually as straight as an arrow from 280 degrees. International Race Officer, Garry Hosie, was the PRO for the day’s racing from the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron in cosmopolitan St Kilda. ‘Looks to be fine for the moment and an ideal sailing day, as well. I’ve set 1.25nm at 280 degrees and we’ll get Division One to do four laps, Div2 will do three and Div3 will do two windward/leeward returns. Our non-spinnaker division will get away first, go to the top and then off to the side course for one windward return.’
As it turned out, the non-spinnaker division was absolutely nowhere near the line when the gun went, with Vagrant some 250m away from the line, which they got to around two minutes later. Dalliance went next with Xit Strategy to follow and blissfully they all made it before the five-minute window had expired.
Somewhat ominously, the cloud cover increased dramatically at the time of start. Interestingly, there was a lumpy and confused seaway around, which given the lack of fetch it had from the shore at Williamstown, had us all pondering a little.
Next off was Division One and there was no barging to be seen, in fact the vessels were not to be seen for a while either, as they were all well below the line. Addiction was first, then Dekadence, with Tigris and Ninety Seven jockeying for third. Interestingly, the infamous Sudsy was driving a boat today called Sunshine and in homage to that, he wore just a T-shirt and shorts.
Division Two was very orderly with Gienah, Ellipse and Sea Eagle leading the all clear comment from the PRO. This was the Division to have the many Adams 10s that have gathered in these parts taking to the racetrack. Division Three would be the closest to the line at the time of the gun and were lead there by Take Five, with Café Latte, Seduction and Bushido all in the mix, too. Not only was it closely contested, but the front row were virtually bang on the line when the gun went bang itself.
By the time all of these divisions had gotten away, the non-spinnaker gang had enjoyed a 20 minute clear run and Vagrant now had around a half a leg over second place and then about a whole a leg over third. Given they had around 200m at start and this was now something like 450m, it was looking really positive for them, provided they kept on doing it.
Now as is often the case with getting crews back on the water after a break, skills can be hard to find again in a hurry and such was to be the case with kite control, reading of the Sailing Instructions and mark identification.
On the first run down for the big craft, Dekadence was leading Ninety Seven and Addiction was in third. Ninety Seven was the first to gybe, albeit very slowly and so Addiction went through, as if on skates. Being behind did not look to be a good outcome, however, until you saw that it put them directly inline to come at the bottom mark. The others would eventually see the error of their ways later and be forced to reach in to the mark to account for over-stepping by a hefty margin.
By picking the correct course, Ninety Seven had indeed blitzed and the others would not realise it for a long time. Dekadence and Addiction had to come back from the final mark, which was below the start/finish line, which only Addiction managed to avoid going through, even if for a brief while their headsail looked a tad like a handkerchief out of a car window at 100km/h. Dekadence collected their DSQ for going straight through the line and you knew, but they did not yet, that this would certainly hurt at the bar later on in the afternoon.
No sunshine on board sunshine, but at least ‘Sudsy’ was trying to encourage it! - Nautilus Marine Winter Series - Alex McKinnon Click Here to view large photo
Now one thing you get when you have a fleet predominantly flying symmetrical spinnakers is colour. On a dark and gloomy day it is really interesting to get the Div2 and 3 boats all coming down with an array of colours in an absolute myriad of patterns. The wind was already abating by now and was lucky to be 14 knots. There was a course change to 290, as well. One thing that was constant was its temperature, which never got above painful. Another constant was the fact that so many boats were still reaching in to the bottom mark, with Bushido the exception. In fact they had understepped the mark and had to gybe to get around. Sunshine, the boat, went home and we could not help but wonder if this was to get more gear, for later in the clubhouse, all the crew had matching fleecy jumpers on.
There was a truly wonderful wineglass for Ninety Seven on the second run and we could not determine if they were trying to get a headsail up or focus on getting the kite down as the weaved a merry little course down the track. Tigris went inshore for something different, but keep eye on pin, whilst over on the parallel course, Vagrant had an easy 800m lead under their belt.
By the time Ninety Seven had two-sailed in from down South, Tigris have taken distance out of everyone. Ian Lodewyckx for the little Flying Tiger 10, said afterwards, ‘Yes we sailed conservatively and we kept it deliberately small in the rag department, but with everyone else going all over the Bay, we felt that the tortoise approach was always going to pay dividends. When it dropped to under 10 knots for the last run, we blew the reef and got the large bag out to consolidate our efforts.’ Those efforts would see them take out the Australian Measurement System (AMS), as well as the Performance Handicap System (PHS) for Division One on the day, which puts them in touch with the opportunity to earn $2000 worth of insurance discounts from Nautilus Marine.
At this time, Addiction had a wineglass and wrapped it around the forestay so their day was over. As they disappeared South to recover, they dropped their mainsail and went to Diesel, things were not looking good and we eventually saw the bowman up the rig sorting it all out. Richard McGarvie, the skipper, commented back at the pen that they were ‘…all fine and no damage to gear, so we can look to that for positives.’
The leader of non-spinnaker was now going back up whilst other two were coming down, so plenty of cement had been applied to that mould. Division Two boat, Portofino, had been enjoying a great time and we had been waxing on lyrically about it too. In short, we feel guilty for we think we put the hex on them, when they attempted a really, really late drop. It did not work for them at all and they went off to the side and more than 80m below the mark. In the meantime, Salamander III, Siren and Gienah all marched in through the open door.
Monica Jones was skippering Salamander III and commented about their sensational IRC and AMS wins in Division Two, later on at the clubhouse. ‘We did have a poor start and also had to reach in on one of the marks, so it was not all to plan. Thankfully, our great crew, who have been together for a while now, did not panic and we just get grinding away it and walked away with a super result.’
Meanwhile Addiction was still recovering and we were still seeing plenty of kite issues, particularly overshooting and super early drops, yet it was the third run down by now, so it was perplexing. One boat not experiencing these dilemmas was Take Five form Division Three, who not only got the gun, but also the AMS prize on the day. Jurgen Pfeiffer said, ‘We’re just really happy and the crew did so well. Additionally, we had a great tussle with Seduction and were happy to get a break on them eventually and keep it. Really good to have them their.’
Take One would be the last Div3 boat home and this was before the first of the non-spinnaker boats would arrive, Vagrant, who by now had a massive 1.2nm lead over the others. The gun was theirs for sure and with it too, the day’s loot for their division. Ninety Seven would use a different kite for the third run of the day and then went for a windward drop. Alas it was performed so late, that they once again ended up reaching away once more.
Dekadence went past the correct mark once more and again past the Committee Boat and in between them and the finish mark, this time only by a few feet, so if they had not been pinged the first time, they were bound to be this time.
We had been raving about Tigris’ super conservative path all day, but it got them around the bottom all clean and packed away, so they certainly were about to serve it up to their compatriots. There was only one thing that could stand in their way and that was a dying breeze, which for the final hurrah got in to the 5-8knot band. Alas, they had the extra gears to go down and so protected their chances at collecting one or more of the sensational insurance discounts each category winner will receive from Nautilus Marine.
Given that some boats have received DNS, DNF and DSQ for the first round, you can still have a tilt at getting some of the loot yourself. Even better, there’s a sponsored big bash BBQ in the middle of the Nautilus Marine Winter Series, that is sure to put a smile on your dial.
by John Curnow
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4:06 PM Sat 23 Jun 2012GMT
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