The GFS Twilight race on the first of March was one of those evenings when just about everything went right.
First G-whizz came off the slips that morning after her annual bottom strip and paint at Michael Bartley Shipwrights, as well as the inevitable rust blooms on the cast iron part of the keel were removed and treated. So she was as slippery as she will be for the next 12 months.
Second the winds were forecast to be less that 10 knots all evening, and that is the way they panned out, the highest I saw all night was 8 knots of true. This is right in our sweet spot.
Third we were a crew of only 3, actually plenty in the conditions, but we were able to pick up another Club member who’s normal ride was not racing that evening, Chris is a very experienced keel boat racer and having a 4th set of eyes looking for the wind was an absolute bonus.
Our start was not the best after misjudging the time it would take to get to the western end of the line, we got ourselves caught clearing what seemed to be the whole fleet on starboard tack. But we were able to get past most of the fleet Greenwich point, assisted by some of the most localised wind I have ever seen. We were doing around 1.5 knots passing Chris Stannard’s Jeanneau 39i which was dead calm in mirror water, they were only 5 to 6 meters to our starboard beam. Chris commented that he wanted us to be swabbed for a drug test. Behind us were 6 yachts that in any other circumstance would have appeared to be rafted up doing about a knot, I now wish that I did not tell the crew to not move around the boat in the light conditions, allowing one of them to get a camera to record the incredible sight.
As the race went on we were able to move ahead of the fleet with only Izzi, a Northshore 380 ahead of us, whom we were able to pass after picking the right side of the river on the work down to Goat Island. I was worried about Izzi and Agrovation catching us on the track around Cockatoo Island, we were trying to pick our way through a number of boats from other divisions, Izzi and Agrovation were coming up quick in clean air. In the channel between Cockatoo Island and Clarkes point Agrovation had nearly caught us, for a while I tried to cover them by getting above them but thought it a lost cause and decided to keep as much boat speed and settle on a handicap win. Some how we were again able to find our own patch of localised wind and sail away from them. Michael on Agrovation later said that they watched helpless in no wind while we sailed off with both sails drawing.
The last 100 meters to the finish was literally under tidal power, we had no boat speed, no steering and drifted across the line at about .5 knots SOG, fortunately on our own, never have I been so happy to get over the line and start a motor.
In the original marketing blurb for the Elan 340 they talk about it’s design brief to be a great light air sailing boat, I’m sure that they did not have conditions like those in this twilight race in mind, but G-whizz really did show her light air abilities on this evening.