The day was full of promise; the weather prediction was promising, winds – it doesn’t matter what the speed forecast was, there was a forecast for wind, very unusual for West Harbour Winter Series where we are more used to abandonments due to a lack of air movement. As a bonus the temperature was predicted to be above average for this time of the year.
The morning didn’t start well with Rob calling in sick, which would have left us with three, no big deal but with 16 to 20 knots predicted a crew of at least four would make life easier, so a call went out to Michael, who fortunately was available to join Chris, Ann and myself.
The next issue was sail selection, the wind was predicted to max out in the high teens at about start time, the prediction was for it to slowly abate as the afternoon went on. Not long before the start it became apparent that we would be starting in about 15 knots, with most of the race being reaches, the logical choice was the number 1 light and put up with the extra power on the short works. My choice was influenced by a more pragmatic outlook, the number 1 heavy is more suited to the maximum expected winds, is nearly 10 years old and is really approaching the end of its useful life, the number 1 light is a lot newer, is not really suited to the expected maximums, my thoughts were that I would cry less if the heavy was damaged than if the light was damaged, number 1 heavy it was.
We made two mistakes before the start, the first was that I had no clear strategy for the start which meant we missed the start by about 45 seconds. The second was that although the course map was on display in the cockpit, none of us paid it real attention.
We decided against spinnakers, as did the majority of the fleet, and worked our way into a reasonable postion towards the top of the fleet, there was some very close action on the run down to Goat island, what could have developed into a dangerous situation was averted by all the skippers abiding by the rules an displaying good seamanship, thank you John on Hasta la Vista and Julian on Mind over Matter, thanks also to about 3 other boats and skippers that I did not identify.
After getting around Goat Island we set about making the best of our pointing ability and solidifying our position in the top two or three, after negotiating some anchored fishing boats and sundry pleasure boats we were well ahead of the field, looking back we witnessed a lot of the fleet sailing into a hole near Manns point, after a brief period of congratulating ourselves on how smart we were Ann looked at the course map, which was on clear display in the cockpit for all to see, and declared we have got to go around that mark. A quick tack that took Mick and Chris by surprise and almost sent Ann overboard we were off to the Manns Point mark rejoining at the back of the field.
Another lap of Spectacle, Schnapper and Goat Islands we were able to get to second place, John Veale on Hasta la Vista sailed the last couple of miles really well and were able to pass us on the final loop around Cockatoo Island in very light air.
We were extremely happy with our third on scratch, but what could have been if I thought more about a start strategy and did not miss it by some 45 seconds, if we (should I say me) read the bloody course sheet and did not miss the Manns point mark meaning we sailed 1000 to 1500 meters more than necessary. Still that’s yacht racing, we still had a most enjoyable day and as usual the comeraderie on the Deck of Knowledge post race was at its usual convivial best.