The conditions this evening were not uncommon for the West Harbour sailing area, a South to Sou’Easter of around 10 to 15 knots dropping out to not much around sunset. What was not uncommon though was that David Leslie was giving his new to them Elan 37 KoKo its first outing in twighlight racing, Obviously we had a challenge! No need to read to the end, they beat us.
The start was not our best, we were a bit early on the final run down the line, and while I wanted to start at the windward end we were getting there a little early, in our efforts to correct this we found ourselves in a position where we could not muscle ourselves to the line on the gun. “Agrovation” an “KoKo” along with “French Connection” and a couple of others timed their start to perfection and were well on the way through Humbug while we contended with a situation where 4 or 5 boats wanted to be in exactly the same part on the Lane Cove River, there was “Conquitser” a Farr 36 pinching up along the the line of moored boats towards Onions Point, then us doing our best to keep up speed in the fickle winds and contending with the disturbed air from Worlds Apart (Chris Stannard’s Jeanneau 39i), there was another boat to windward of “Worlds Apart” but I have absolutely no idea of who it was, there may have been more in the line to windward but we were a bit busy to see. “Saoirse” the Dehler 38 found themselves in that horrible situation where they were clear astern of the 3 of us but got a bit of a puff and accelerated towards our stern, somehow we all found the inches to give him some room, however not without the obligatory on water rules discussion, probably led by myself with something along the line of “You are the overtaking boat, you have no rights!” A nasty situation was avoided with common sense and good seamanship from all involved, we are still all friends but geez it was close!
The course was a Port rounding of Goat Island and back to the finish, for reasons that too ka little while to identify we were unable to find optimum speed or height for quite some time, until a few judicious adjustments to the headsail sheet car position and back stay adjustments gave us the speed that G-whizz is capable of giving, we had some hope of getting near the leaders but when a Sydney Ferry came up behind us we had too pinch up to give him room to pass between us between the “Dolphins” in Snails Bay and us, He also took his time to pass us, travelling quite slowly to ensure the safety of both of us. Unfortunately it did cost us quite a bit of time, but that is one of the “Joys” of racing on a busy working harbour.
We continued aground Goat Island and took off on the run back to the finish in Mid field able to stay ahead of the boats behind but unable to make any ground on those ahead until we rounded Greenwich Point and saw about 25 to 20 boats parked windless in an counter accommodating tide (Now isn’t that a weird way of saying the tide was against them?) they were all towards the western Shore of Humbug, the generally accepted place to be in these conditions. I decided that if we were going to get past them we would need to do something different, that we did, taking a course along the Eastern side of Humbug, reasoning that we would be in less tide and would give us the first use of any wind that existed as it was now tending from the East.
It worked, we sailed right around the fleet and finished third on scratch, behind “KoKo” and “Agrovation” who had finished minutes ahead of us. After the race while we were dropping sails, Chris Stannard sailed up to us and said “We could almost hear your motor running” while obviously in jest it must have been frustrating to be stuck going nowhere while a competitor just sails by.