The wind forecast for the last GFS Twilight race of the season was for wind speeds in the low teens with an increasing trend. Mid afternoon I took G-whizz around to Birkenhead Point Marina where they have an excellent fuel facility for a fill up prior to leaving for Port Stephens. Returning to the GFS pontoon for a water fill the wind east of Cockatoo Island was blowing at around 14 knots, my thoughts were that this is what we’ll have this evening. We had taken most of the sails off G-whizz to clear a cabin for crew on the trip to Port Stephens, the only sails on board were our light weight number 1 which is not really suited for 14 knots (Known on board as “Wes”) and our Dacron number 2 Roller Furling Genoa (Known as “Tom”) a great sail for cruising but lacking the pointing ability of the deck tacked laminate sails , I was in bit of a quandary as to what sail to use, We were in with a chance for a series win, so the selection was fairly important, I decided on the All Purpose Number 1 (Known as “Reg”) which is a bit smaller than Wes, cut a bit flatter and is a bit heavier, this sail is good up to 15 knots but still is quite effective in light air. This decision necessitated a trip back to the mooring, a row back to the mud flats appearing at low tide in Woodford Bay and a wade through that mud to get Reg out of my car.
Michael Groves from Agrovation joined us on the evening, Agrovation is currently out of the water having its annual bottom service. Michael is a great sailor and is well known around certain dinghy circles as one of the guys to beat. Ann refers to him as the wind whisperer, with some justification. It occurred to me later that he may have been influenced a bit by an ulterior motive in his decision to join us for the evening, Agrovation was running second in the scratch results series, for him to win Ross Springer’s Izzi would have to finish 3rd or worse, if he could coach, cajole, harass G-whizz to a good result and finish ahead of Izzi, something we have only done on a couple of occasions, he could stand a good chance of winning the scratch series.
Michael made it clear that we had to be hovering on the line with 2 minutes to go, with about 3 minutes to go we were moving nicely in about 5 knots of breeze, in easy reach of the line when, the wind dropped out, almost completely , there we were drifting in company with Faarst Company, French Connection and Sirocco, I received a not unwarranted berating from Michael about not being closer to the line during the prestart stage. about 15 minutes later we celebrated when we actually crossed the line, a long way behind the fleet ahead. Michael went forward to the bow and proceeded to call the wind, which most of the time was below 4 knots, I was ruing my decision to go with Reg and not Wes.
With Michael calling the wind shifts and the crew concentrating on sail trim we were able to get mid fleet by Long Nose Point where we had a Port/Starboard altercation, with the obligatory congenial discussion between boats, adding some spice to the evening. Michael then became obsessed with Izzi’s position, at this point his ulterior motive became apparent. Some great wind calls and super tacking enabled us to hit the lead by the Goat Island port lateral mark, we able to keep up a reasonable speed with the Headsail poled out to get back to Greenwich point with bit of a buffer on the field, the drift through Humbug was bit of a lottery but we maintained our lead to the finish, in doing so we actually passed some of the bigger Black division boats. Saorise finished just a minute behind, a Dehler 38 she performed surprisingly well in the light conditions, Chis Stannard’s Jeanneau 39i Worlds Apart was a further minute behind and putting the icing on Michael’s cake was Izzi who came in fourth 3 minutes behind us.
Our first place on scratch and handicap was somewhat of a surprise, as I was considering giving up before we had crossed the start line. The result also gave us a win in the Autumn series. As Michael said, “Never Ever give up”.
Not surprisingly our best results are achieved in light airs, G-whizz is getting a reputation as bit of a light air specialist (According Elan she was designed to be a good light air performer), what is surprising that some of those light air results have come, like last night when the water and fuel tanks are full, adding some 300kg of unmoveable ballast.
Special thanks to our regular Wednesday crew of Graham Dicker, Chris Lowe for supporting Ann and myself in racing G-whizz in the twilight all season. Now to get G-whizz up to Port Stephens for the Regatta starting next Monday, Let’s hope the forecasts are correct and we will be able to leave Sydney tomorrow afternoon by which time the current strong winds will have passed.
As an aside I do enjoy sailing with really good sailors and I consider Michael Groves to be a really good sailor, inevitably I learn something new each time. The benefit of being up on the line with 2 minutes to go is something I doubt I will ever forget. The other impressive ability that Michael has is his ability to read the wind, Most of us can see pressure variances on the water but with Michael it is at a whole different level, as an example at one point last evening I could see two bands of pressure ahead of us, Michael could see the same pressure pattern but could read a whole lot more from them,he called that we’d be hit with a short knock then a good lift, he told me to steer up, ignore the knock and wait for the lift. Exactly what happened, our momentum took us through the knock then benefited from the acceleration in the lift, maybe Michael’s ability is the normal level and I’m sub normal, I think not; Michael is the wind whisperer.