How can you get frustrated on such a beautiful day? Leaving the mooring I commented to David Edmiston (Passion X), Club Commodore and mooring neighbour, that I thought we may not have enough wind to get a race in, he was a bit more optimistic. It was another sensational winter’s day in Sydney, maxing out at about 18 degrees, and not cloud in the sky, light breeze, very crisp, very enjoyable.
The race officials announced course 2 short for this race 5, which is basically 2 laps of buoys located in the vicinity of Spectacle, Schnapper and Goat Islands with a loop around Cockatoo Island before the finish. In what I suspect was an attempt to set a squarish line the starters were close to the southern side of the Parramatta river not in the vicinity of an area between Greenwich and Clarkes point as per the course chart, trouble is not long before the start the very light breeze had backed from North West to South West. There was a huge bias on the committee boat end, so that’s obviously where we all wanted to be. The wind was wavering in the high 2 knot, low 3 knot area when Division 1 started. About 18 boats do not fit into an area about the size of a basketball court, much shouting and desperate fending, fortunately no real damage that I noticed. I did hear that the most bashed up boat was the committee boat. Having seen the Division 1 melee I decided to adjust our start plans and sail around the outside of the fleet then run down the line, we were a little early and ended up a bit too far down the line, Julian Tod in his Young 88 “Mind over Matter” had made the exact same decision, the two of us were beside each other for quite a while, being the leeward boat we had the opportunity to push him OCS, but being a nice guy (Actually I couldn’t see any advantage to us in doing so) I decided to let him go. we were able to slow enough to allow us to throw onto port tack just astern of him as the gun sounded. I did however enjoy the excellent glass of red that Julian offered me in appreciation later back on the “Deck of “Knowledge”.
On the tack towards Clarkes Point we were able to move ahead of most of the fleet with the exception of two J/70s, in fact by that stage we had also overtaken some of the division 1 fleet that I think had performed penalty turns subsequent to their entertaining start. As we sailed up the Parramatta River we won the wind shift lottery and now only had one J/70 ahead of us. The area around Pulpit Point was not so lucky for us, where we were now on the side of the river that only minutes before looked as if it had good pressure now had virtually zero. While we still in a very good position relative to the rest of the field, except for the pesky J/70s we found ourselves in no wind and the tide pushing us onto Pulpit Point. The only action I could take was to start the engine (Allowed in GFS Sailing instructions in such instances, provided no advantage is gained. I’m not too sure about the situation at Balmain Sailing Club though) and motor on a course that was away from the rocks and at 180 degrees to the mark for about 50 meters. after turning off the iron spinnaker we tacked towards the mark, now back with the rest of the field.
The area North West of Spectacle Island was now a car (boat) park with what ever wind that was present was shifting around in an arc of about 100 degrees, There were boats flying spinnakers (just hanging) while others were close hauled with sails flapping gently, no one was able to get anything set. Looking around we could not see any evidence of any wind anywhere, looking ahead the Division 1 boats were hanging at different angles, so we decided that a cold beer back at the club was the best option. Starting the Volvo for the second time it was apparent that the best way to extract ourselves was in reverse, which is what we did, still with all sails up. Some of the comments we heard from other boats were amusing. “Hey look we’re passing G-whizz! Oh I think they’re going backwards”. “Well at least they’re moving!” “Set up the tables Graeme, we’ll see you back there soon”. Not long after getting the headsail down we heard on the radio that the race had been abandoned. At least my record is still clean, every race that I have pulled out of early because of wind shortages have been abandoned.
It was a bit frustrating, I thought that we did a really good job of avoiding the melee at the start, then using the wind that was available in the early part of the race to our advantage, the crew did a great job performing every tack to perfection, and moving their weight to the best positions without any direction. I really did feel, early on, that were in for a good finish.
I was left with a couple of observations and points to ponder:
I am sure that the raymarine wind instruments have trouble calculating true wind in pressure less than 2 knots and boat speed around 0.5 of a knot.
Picking wind shifts in such light air is a lottery, if you get a few right be prepared to get the next few wrong!, and consider what the tide will do to you when you get it wrong!
And geez doesn’t it get cold all of sudden when the sun goes down!