Ghost Ship?

As usual the 2019 Balmain Regatta was a great event, this year we sailed under the Blues Point Yacht Club burgee but were also one of three Greenwich Flying Squadron yachts racing, coincidentally all in the non spinnaker division.

The wind for the day was forecast to be a  10-12 knot westerly dropping to almost nothing as it backed south then picking up again to sub teens as it backed to the east. The forecast was accurate which meant that the start was in very soft winds as the wind went through its slow shift to the east. We had a new crew member on board who we had neglected to instruct on our headsail deployment process, its simple, it works well but it is very unusual, Alec was given the job and was completely un-prepared for what was required. (our Number 1 racing sails are cut a bit shorter in the luff to be able to be stored on the furler, after a race they are “un-tacked” from the deck and lifted to the furler drum, furled then covered with a sock, deployment is the reverse unless a sail change is required – its a system that works very well for us). While all this was being sorted we found ourselves some distance from the start line.

The Balmain regatta is a handicap start event as as it happened we were the last boat to start in the regatta giving twenty one minutes to the scratch boats in our division. After getting the headsail sorted about 15 minutes from our start time we were already racing in that we had to get to the line, we made it with about 45 seconds to spare and needed to kill a bit of time, however a big power boat motoring through the line made it impossible for us to do a 360 and set up for a reasonable angle, we had to be content to luff up leaving us with a square run to the first mark at Schnapper Island.

We set off on the course that went from in front of the Balmain Sailing Club to a buoy off Schnapper Island to Spectacle Island to Manns Point goat Island over to Hunters Hill the back to Goat Island via Manns point then to the finish. The further we went the more the wind picked up to its forecast 10 knots. We were ticking off our competitors as we passed them, after the second rounding of Goat Island we only had 2 boats to catch, “The Saints”, (Another GFS boat) who we could see in a position half way between Goat island and Birchgrove and “Freedom” that was no where to be seen.

As we passed Birchgrove Point there was only “The Saints” about 300 to 400 meters ahead with clear water ahead of them, giving us some anxiety was Pam Joy (our GFS Commodore) on “Tana” not too far behind. We were able to hold “Tana” off but there was no way we could catch “The Saints”. We heard “The Saints” get the finish gun – well actually a hooter – for being the first boat in our division across the line with us following almost 2 minutes ahead and tan seconds behind us.

Back at GFS we were having the usual debrief and were celebrating the fact that three GFS boats filled the first three positions with Pam and her crew, I was a little dismayed that a Ghost ship”Freedom” was recorded a finish time just 40 seconds ahead of “The Saints”. I am probably wrong it may have been there and our entire crew missed seeing it. However our assumed second suddenly became a third, as I said we probably just did not see them, however I have always wanted to write something about a “Ghost ship”.

All in all a really enjoyable day on the water and we really enjoined our race with Tana, it fascinating that we quickly made up the 2 minute that we gave them on the handicap start but were unable to get away from them, swapping positions in some tacking duels, it was not until Pam caught a bad wind shift that enabled us to get reasonable distance on them, however we could not move further ahead.