An Unhappy Couple of Weeks

The GFS twilight race on the 14th of February was an enjoyable race, we were joined by Julian from the Young 88 “Mind over Matter” which is sold and his replacement boat is yet to arrive. Julian will be forgiven for breaking our dry boat race rule, he is the purveyor of fine wines from his company “Back Vintage” and brought along a bottle of his excellent bubbles.

We tend to think that if we can finish in the top three we have had a pretty good race, so a fourth across the line is pretty close to a satisfying result. A very fond memory of this race that we will carry for a long time is the tussle we had with Izzi (Northshore 38) almost all the way from Cockatoo Island to the start of Humbug.  On a close reach we were never more than a few meters apart, each of us moving ahead or dropping back as if connected by an elastic band, but most of the time we were beam to beam, there was some fantastic banter between the crews and between the skippers, Ross Springer on Izzi and myself on G-whizz,  it was one of those instances that really highlight the friendly competitiveness of yacht racing. We heard the next day that Ross died from a heart attack that evening, not long after returning home.

The Saturday point score race on the 17th was a forgetful affair still slightly glum with the passing of Ross and struggling in strongish winds with a short crew we finished the race without too much damage, although Ann was pretty shaken and left bruised after a bad gybe that had her flying horizontally across the deck and under the life lines, only staying on board only by raising her arms vertically, the only reason we did not retire there and then was that is was quicker to sail back to the club than to motor.

The Twilight race on the 21st was a melancholy affair with Izzi joining the race crewed by just about every one that has crewed on her and a number of Ross’s grandchildren. Most of blue division sailed with a black streamer flying from our back stays out of respect for Ross.

Friday before last Saturday’s race was Ross’s funeral, a large affair that was attended by many of his crew and competitors along with a huge number of his friends and people that Ross had touched in his professional career, I gather in a lot of instances the same people. One poignant moment was watching his coffin being carried into the chapel by the Izzi crew dressed in their crew shirts. In her eulogy Ross’s wife Helen made a passing reference to his pleasure in beating us on the water, a feeling that we also share about Izzi, hopefully to  continue as Ross’s sons have indicated they will try and continue to campaign Izzi.

Saturday’s race was held in strong gusty winds, not our favored conditions, but was memorable more by the antics of some of our competitors and other fleets on the water. on a couple of occasions we had competitors demand right of way while still in the process of tacking onto starboard, in hind sight I should have protested but to be honest my mind was not in it. Although I have now added a couple of boats to my “Stay Clear Of List”. We also had two other instances where matters could have turned out a lot worse. The first was when we were running on starboard but sailing a little by the lee in an attempt to make a navigation mark, (In GFS races all navigation marks are to be respected) when a Hartley 16 competing in their Saturday race decided to tack onto starboard without looking! We were able to miss them, Just! With another unwanted uncontrolled gybe! They went on their merry way seemingly totally oblivious to us, we had to do a 360 turn to leave the mark on the correct side, and left us wondering what the result would have been if an Elan 340 doing around 6 knots T-boned a wooden Hartley 16, we would probably still be trying to explain it to the coroner. In the second instance a close hauled port tacking Laser decided that he had more right to a piece of water that was also occupied by a starboard close hauled Elan 340, every time we pinched up a few degrees to give him room he appeared to do the same almost as if he was hunting us, at the worst possible moment he capsized and launched himself right in front of G-whizz, a quick crash tack saved the laser sailors life but also then put us on a collision coarse with a couple of dicing 12 foot skiffs and a Cherub being sailed by juniors. Fortunately good seamanship by all concerned avoided any further issues.

I have never thought that I would prefer to be somewhere else than on a sail boat but the events of the past week made me think about the enjoy ability of yacht racing. I’ll get over it! My apologies to the crew for my attitude have been profuse.