Ahoy Undoubting Double Hander!
14 yachts braved blustery conditions to take on the elements double handed on Saturday afternoon, 8 March 2014. This was the third date in the current series.
Courses were set with limited options for marks (Milnerton and Blouberg buoys are not there at the moment) and with an eye on keeping the fleets close together and safe in the building SE breeze. There was still some SW breeze from the morning further out in the bay, so we needed to avoid the transition if possible. Both divisions were set six legs comprising two anti-clockwise loops for the 18 knot SSE breeze (with 25 knot gusts) as follows:
Div 1: Start.PE.#2.PE.WB.#8.Finish : 8.4 miles
Div 2: Start.PE.#8.PE.WB.#8.Finish : 7.1 miles
The courses set ensured that it would be close on the finish line between both fleets, and also that racing would be concluded within about 90 minutes of the start.
Credit to all the yachts out there on the day. The double hander fleet has a strong will to sail that overrides armchair bar-talk negativity around wind speed and weather conditions…and have happily sailed in rain, fog, monster swell and big breeze, and even fly kites…although none of that on this day! White sails, flat seas and stiff breeze under a partly cloudy but nonetheless sunny afternoon was the order of the day.
Great to see the old men back on the sea – Colin and Ken, senior and junior septuagenarians respectively. These perennial participants have been absent from the club racing scene since their sad retirement from the Rio Race in early January, where both yacht and crew suffered damage. Both are now restored, and with that, a warm welcome back to yacht Ava! Incidentally, they tell me that they experienced gusts in the mid seventy knot range at the height of the Rio storm. Wow. It was no surprise then that they appeared on the start line with full main and a large overlapping headsail, because obviously these were Micky Mouse conditions for them!
I experienced the race this weekend from the bridge, as my unfortunate brother, with whom I sail in this series, contracted the same debilitating manflu that I had on the last double handed date, and was understandably completely out of action…poor chap.
The bridge is a fantastic place to watch the racing, and Ron kindly let me get involved with the bridge duties on the day, together with perennial bridge contributors Liz Matthews and John Connor.
As the courses were announced and the Y flag hoisted, some yachts were reassessing their sail plans (but alas no chance of that by the brave aboard Ava!), reefing down mains and swapping headsails, even into the countdown to the start. As a result, few yachts got away well at the start, and many were late over the line. The First 40 got off to a cracker start, and diced closely with the J133 for the first two legs. The L34, Nuthr Witch, also had a great start ahead of all the other division 1 yachts and held 3rd in the on-water order for the first two legs. She was going to be a contender on handicap for sure. The dicing and dueling between the identical J111’s was going to be an interesting spectacle to watch unfold, especially given that Mwah had chosen to reef, and Tenacity had a full main. The healthy spirited competition between these yachts is quite engrossing, and they really seem to participate in everything they can get their hands on! Good to see Batelleur out on the water too, although she retired after two legs.
In division 2, it was going to be a bunfight on the water, with Cabaray, First Lady and Saoirse all with similar pace, and the little Astove 28, Humdinger, punching well above her weight to fight it out with these yachts boat for boat.
FTI Flyer got away beautifully at the start and set the pace all the way, but would have to watch out for Humdinger on handicap.
Unfortunately, the L26 Warlock was very late to get to the start and had to play catch up all the way, with Storm and Ava providing stiff resistance at the back of the fleet.
An interesting aside here: 6 of the 14 yachts on the water were penned by Angelo Lavranos: Nuthr Witch (L34), Saoirse (Atlantis 36), Warlock (L26), Humdinger (Astove 30), Storm (Ocean 31) and FTI Flyer (Charger 33). All different models. Interesting, huh?!
With the third leg, a long upwind leg to PE from either #2 or #8 (div 1/2) over after about 40 minutes of sailing, all that was left was a run down to WB, a careful gybe, a fast reach to #8, and a short beat to the finish between #10 and BH.
FTI Flyer had managed to stay ahead from leg 3 onwards, but was being rapidly hauled in by Jacana, who glided up through the division 2 fleet having sailed the longer division 1 course. FTI held on right up until the start of the last leg, and crossed the line 3rd behind Jacana and First 40.
Tenacity, First Lady, Cabaray and Humdinger crossed the finish line within seconds of one another.
What is great to observe and learn from the bridge vantage point is the form, trim and execution on the course by the various yachts – all very easy to see through binoculars around the whole course. You can see why some yachts typically do well and others struggle. That is not a handicap matter. Sailing, and particularly racing, is a complicated combination cocktail of so many factors. The thing that makes us try harder, to come back, is the hunger to work the puzzle out. Even those fitting more pieces together can still find some out of place. What a thrill and a big love this is…
Another great double handed day on the water. The next double date is 5 April!
Jacana, Nuthr Witch, First 40, Tenacity, Mwah, Batteleur (RTD)
Humdinger, FTI Flyer, Cabaray, First Lady, Saoirse, Ava, Storm, Warlock,
Yours with both hands