An Interesting Sail Choice

Last evening’s GFS Twilight race was always going to be bit of challenge with 15 knots from the north east in the forecast, the race started as usual outside of the Club, through Humbug, a lap of Cockatoo Island then around Goat Island and back to the finish via Schnapper and Spectacle Islands (See area map here).  Not long before the start we did a quick reconnoiter of the course and confirmed the obvious, brisk winds up to 20 knots at the eastern end of the course, and gentler winds, down to 8 – 12 knots in the west. As usual the best sail choice would have been two sails, with a couple of changes during the race, but as this was not really practical we came up with a creative solution.

As mentioned in previous posts the fleet we race in are all somewhat larger than we are and can carry larger sail area in the heavier winds and have a decent amount of sail area available in the gentler stuff. Our large # 1’s (Wes and Reg) are about 12 inches shorter in the luff than what they could be, this does not cost a lot in sail area but does allow us to store the sail on the furler at the and of the race. They are deployed with the tack on the deck but at the end of the race they are released from the deck and attached to the furler drum, a quick adjustment to the halyard and then furled, UV protection is taken care of with a covering sock. This allows the boat to be put to bed quickly and allows the crew to get to dinner and wine a lot quicker than would otherwise be possible.

Last evening we decided that we would use Reg, who is pretty happy up to about 15 knots and sort of usable to about 17, but fly him from the furler drum and not from the deck, reasoning that with the foot of the sail being somewhat above deck level it would lose the end plate effect and be a less powerful sail. The only downside of this was that with the clew sitting higher we were not able to achieve the best sheeting angles which probably cost us about 5-10 degrees of pointing ability, it would have been ideal to have the genoa cars back a further 3 to 6 inches on the works, but we were at the aft limit of the genoa car track. This seemed to work well, and with the addition of a reef when to wind got up around 20 knots we were not too over powered.

We held an easy 3rd place for most of the race with only Agrovation and Saoirse (a Dehler 38) ahead, it wasn’t until the final work down between Cockatoo Island and the Hunters Hill shore where we completely misread a huge wind shift was Izzi (A North Shore 38) able to slip by. It was gratifying to later have the Patrick Houlihan the skipper of Saoirse comment on the way G-whizz performed unusually well in the stronger winds.

While somewhat an unconventional sail choice it did mean that we had good control of the boat to windward, albeit losing some pointing ability, and have a decent amount of sail area up for the the reaches and runs. Ideally a racing #2 would be perfect, but as we don’t have one we need to make the best of what we have got and in reality we only have a handful of races each season where the wind exceeds 15 knots, in most of those instances Bas the #3 is the obvious selection, however in a Nor’easter the winds do vary appreciably in strength around the course.

We welcomed Richard from the UK on board last evening whose youthful enthusiasm, physical ability, sailing experience and great personality really assisted Ann and Graham, a crew of 3 would have made the race a lot more demanding.