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.


Two Different Races

The first two twilight events at Greenwich Flying Squadron were two different races, race 1 was held in winds that varied between 8 to 20 knots with some gusts to over 25 knots,for  race 2 the maximum wind speed was  closing in on 4 knots but most of the time it was around 2 knots.

There were 48 yachts started race 1 in all divisions, a little down on a normal twilight but probably due to the predicted conditions and some not having their new season’s paper work in order. We were a little late at the start, a circumstance that was all my own doing, I could not make up my mind as to where I wanted to be on the start line compounded by a desire to keep a distance between ourselves and a coupe of other boats, I digress a little but there are a few boats in blue division that I will race very close to, they are quality yachts with quality crew and quality skippering, there are some I will not! My lack of a viable starting plan combined with taking avoiding action on some boats meant that we were last across the line, but with the number 3 and a reef the boat was handling the gusty conditions easily and we were about the fourth or fifth boat out of Humbug and in a strong third around Cockatoo Island, KoKo (Elan 37) and Aetos (Northshore 38) were way off into the distance.

We consolidated our third place on the reach down the Balmain/Birchgrove shore a little in the lee of the shore, I again made a poor decision, conned by the lower wind along the protected shore and shook out the reef the folly of this action was demonstrated as we rounded Birchgrove Point and were back into 15 to 18 knots with gusts over 20 knots, we sailed pretty much on the jib with the main trimmed for minimum power, just to keep her under control, needless to say some of the bigger heavier boats were able to run us down. on the broad reach from Goat Island to Greenwich Point were were able get one or two positions back, but were again overrun in Humbug as the boats behind came up on a strengthening Sou’wester. Race 1 was bit of an interesting baptism for the season but enjoyable all the same.

G-whizz looking for wind
Looking for the wind

We again missed the start in race 2 not for lack of effort and planning but due to an extremely unlucky wind shift, we were about 25 meters from the pin with about 90 seconds to go, the rest of he fleet were about 100 meters away, we started a 360 to kill some time but halfway through the wind shift quite a bit to the east leaving us in a hole and filling the sails of the rest of the fleet, we pretty much sat there and watched them start wondering what to do next. somehow we managed to get back to the fleet at Greenwich Point, but some of the front runners were already way out in the the Parramatta River. the picture  was taken by Jeff Lewis on Aurora and gives a pretty good indication of the conditions, you can see most of the crew with Michael hidden behind the headsail holding on to the forestay divining some wind.

Humbug carpark
A group of yachts going nowhere in Humbug Race 2

By the time we got to Goat Island we were up into second place, behind KoKo who was some distance ahead, but were listening on the VHF to all the boats retiring believing that they wold not make it to the finish before the 2015 cutoff, we too knew that we wouldn’t make it, but kept going in the hope that the predicted strong Nor’easter would kick in and get us home, this was not to be, the only consolation was that no one in our division made it. Out of the 62 yachts that that started only 10 all from the earlier starting divisions made it home in time.


Wind and Handicap Conspired Against Us

Sunday’s Blues Point Yacht Club race was held in beautiful conditions, conditions that were in stark contrast to the preceding week that featured strong winds rain and un-pleasantly cool weather. We will not begrudge the rain as it is needed although it is a little frustrating that it falls along the coast and not west of the Great Dividing Range where our drought stricken farmers could really use it. The conditions on Sunday were almost perfect for us, except that the wind and handicap conspired against us.

BPYC races are pursuit starts, in this race we started off 35 minutes, 3 minutes ahead of a J/109 (“Blue Sky”) and 6 minutes ahead of an IMX 38 (“Martela”) and a whopping 17 minutes behind a Farr 36. The conspiracy between weather and handicap was too much for us, the wind was holding up in the 12 to 15 knot range until we were on our final run down the line when there was wind shift from the south west to the south east accompanied by a speed drop to 5 to 8 knots, the boats that started ahead of us had the benefit of the sou’wester while we together with Blue sky and Martela had to battle the reduced winds from the start.

We finished 5 seconds behind Martela and 36 seconds ahead of Blue Sky although Blue Sky’s missing their start time by about 2 minutes probably made the handicappers efforts look better than it actually was. Our finish was about 23 minute behind the Farr 36.

The race was pretty un eventful being bit of a soldier’s course, although the heart rates did rise a bit as we were approaching the final mark, the Sailing Australia mark just off Shark Island, where we were windward of a fleet of Couta boats heading for the same mark, as they had right of way to the mark as well as having rights around it we decided to give them plenty of room, especially as we did not know where their next mark was and not sure of their manoeuvrability if we got into a tussle. The biggest problem was a large sailing boat (under motor) positioned at the mark with a load of spectators aboard, they were fixated on the couta boats, fortunately one of the spectators was a little moreaware of their surroundings than the helmsman who needed quite a nudge from the alert spectator and respond to our hails and whistles and give us the room to be able to give the couta boats the room they were entitled to.

As it transpired there were 3 finish lines set very close to each other, ours, the couta boats and a dinghy race, all three fleets were hitting the line at the same time ass us, Martela which flew a spinnaker on the short run to the finish, took a very wise decision to douse the kite and finish bare headed to give them more control in the very busy water – a very smart decision. Ann who was on the helm was quickly sedated with a glass of bubbles as soon as possible after the finish, the rest of the crew had a medicinal beer before setting course to the west to return to Greenwich.

When 2nd Last is a Good Result

When is 2nd last a good result? When you win a 2 boat race!

We have written before about the Blues Point Yacht Club, it’s a great little inclusive club that is based in the Blues Point Hotel, we have been doing a few of their races over the last couple of years, however this year we decided to do the entire series, made easier (for us) by being, with only a couple of exceptions, on Sundays. We hope that this works out for the club as today there were only 2 starters, Ourselves and a Seaway 25 Megisti. Although Chris the Club’s Commodore has been saying for the last week that he was expecting a very small entry.

These race are handicap starts, which without the stress of start line crowding make for a relaxed race. Ann steered today and must have wondered if we were ever going to finish after being completely stranded for about 15 minutes as we sat there watching and waiting for the south easterly coming out of Rose Bay to reach us. The wind did eventually fill in to a fairly constant 5 to 8 knots which was enough to get around a course starting at Clarke Island, down to Manly and back via a little loop around Shark Island.

We were able to make up the 30 minutes we gave Megisti on the work from Manly to Steele Point, and finish the race in first place, as usual it was great to catch up with our competitors back at the Blue Point Hotel where Hugh, Megisti’s skipper was mentally trying to rationalise if he was last or second.

Hope there are more starters next race, these are really enjoyable events.



G-whizz Protest Appeal Upheld

Back in February this year we had one of those moments that we all would like never to happen, In race 2 of the Twilight Autumn series we had a coming together with Paul William’s Jeanneau 36i “Takana”, while I believed that we were in the right, we ran into a boat that should have stayed clear of us, we tried to avoid them but circumstances were against us. At the time I noted “Subject to Protest – We should be OK – But you never know.” The protest result was that both boats were in the wrong and were to be disqualified.

We appealed that decision with Sailing Australia and I am extremely relived that our appeal has been up held. Unfortunately this still does not take the bad taste away that we did have an incident with another boat and that incident left both boats with some damage. I was never comfortable with the Protest Panel process on this occasion and while I respect that all involved are volunteers giving their time freely I suspect that a better result with far less acrimony could have been reached, interesting that the appeal decision included the sentence “The format of the hearing decision mixed the facts and conclusions.”.

A copy of Sailing Australia’s Appeal Decision is displayed below, it is two pages the pages can be scrolled by clicking on the image and using the up/down arrows at the bottom. The full PDF can be down loaded from G-whizz-vs-Takana-Protest-Appeal.pdf

Also a special thanks to the guys at Sailing Australia who give their time to process these appeals, time that could be better spent in other more productive pursuits if the original protest panels were more considered in their decisions, not to mention we the competitors that should be able to keep out of each other’s way.

G-whizz protest appeal upheld!

elan 340 G-whizz vs Takana Protest Appeal

Elan 340 | G-whizz Kept Our Best for Last

As is usual the West Harbour Winter Series has been an enjoyable series, we get to race against non GFS boats on some interesting courses around the West Harbour Islands and various marks.

Last year we won Division 3 on PHS and were 4th on scratch (Interestingly the same scratch result as this year) this years PHS result was not quite as flattering. For most of the series we were achieving reasonable results, but seemed to be missing that little something, not only were we unable to keep pace with John Veale’s Dehler 32 “Hasta La Vista” a boat of similar proportions and performance to G-whizz but were on many occasions behind boats that we know that we can beat. We can make excuses, but in the main we were just out-sailed.

Elan 340 G-whizz and Star Elan
Elan 340 G-whizz and Star Elan passing Cockatoo Island on their way home after a close race

In race 6 (the second last race) we had a great race long tussle with Jefferson Smith’s Elan 320 “Star Elan”, it was a bit weird though as the Elan 320 has the current fashion wide stern design, making her very good at reaching and running, especially under spinnaker, G-whizz is more of a classic design and generally a faster boat to windward, all race we would fall behind her on the works but catch up and sometimes pass her under spinnaker, the opposite  of what previous performances would suggest and also opposite what the respective design’s polar charts would suggest. Later that afternoon Ann and I went to the Longueville Sporting Club to have a drink with Jefferson to personally congratulate him on his performance. It was then that Jefferson suggested it was time that the Elan’s showed what they were capable of and show the other boats what our sterns look like, especially the other GFS boats in the division.

We started Race 7 with a hull that had been cleaned only days before and with sufficient crew to fly spinnakers, after a conservative start we were up with the leaders on the work from Woolwich and down to the Schnapper Island mark, just after this mark we called Starboard on Pam Joy’s “Tana”, this allowed us to get over to the side of the channel that appeared to have the best wind but unfortunately it started a little chain of events behind us that dramatically hampered a few boats’s race position, Star Elan included.  The move worked out well as the wind held in and we were able to make ground on Hasta La Vista and clear the field behind. We decided on using the asymmetric spinnaker on the broad reach back to the Woolwich mark and managed to perform some a than perfect Spinnaker raise and a few less than perfect gybes, so less than perfect we let a few boats past. We decided to leave it up for the very shy run down to Mann’s point, this was bit of a master stroke as we did a good gybe and with a true wind angle of around 100 degrees (an angle that G-whizz and her Assy uniquely thrive in with lightish winds) we managed to re-pass the boats that had caught us and nearly caught up with Hasta La Vista. Only to give it all back with a slow headsail raise and a less than perfect drop, it was about 100 meters passt the mark before we could  head back into the wind on the work back to Cockatoo Island.  On this work we were able to take advantage of a huge wind shift to pass every body and get to the mark nearly 50 meters in the lead. At this point I am not going to say it was luck, Graham, on the main and I had quite a discussion about what the wind was doing, we decided to take the chance and it worked out.

The next lap was just a matter of not doing anything wrong and cover the boats behind us, we even left the spinnaker in the bag (the crew did suggest that we had had enough spinnaker practice for one day) and opted for a poled out headsail on the final run. A fastest time for the day was a great way to finish the series.

Elan 340 | G-whizz West Harbour Winter Series a Start

The combined Clubs West Harbour Winter Series commenced on Sunday 5th of May with G-whizz sitting forlornly on her mooring. There were some conflicting events that meant we were unable to race. An upside was that I was able to fill in on the start boat for the first race, with 4 divisions to start and just the 2 of us on the boat life got a bit hectic for a while. This experience did bring home to me the great work the volunteers in our sport do (probably true in most sports come to think of it). These people give their time to enable the rest of us to  participate in our sport.

Race 2 was never going to be a great result, G-whizz’s bottom had not been cleaned since the end of the Twilight series and she looked like she was hosting a whole ecosystem underneath. Boat speed was way down and we were consistently 1 to 2 knots below our target speeds. While we did not bother the time keepers to much and watched some of our target boats (Those that we tend to measure ourselves against) disappear into the distance it was a very pleasant day on the water, and great to catch up with the crew whom we hadn’t seen for a little while, good news is that they enjoyed the day out and have committed to returning and are looking forward to getting the big coloured sails out in the coming races.