We had an extremely enjoyable start to the new 6 month double handed racing series on Saturday this last weekend. The morning rain stopped and the skies cleared to welcome an impressive fleet of 20 yachts to the start area, with 8 Division 1 yachts and 12 Division 2 yachts. The division splits are slightly different for the Double Handed fleet: Division 1 comprises of all yachts with a handicap of 1.0 or above; and Division 2 is all yachts under 1.0. Courses were set for the predicted westerly 10-12 knot wind. [Div 1: length 11.0 miles: Start BH#10[s]; 4[s]; 2[s]; M[s]; 2[s]; M[s]; Harken[s]; Finish BHKling[s]] and [Div 2: length 9.1 miles: Start BH#10[s]; 4[s]; 2[s]; M[s]; 8[p]; WB[s]; Harken[s]; Finish BHKling[s]]
There were calibration issues with time on the bridge, so the start was at 1:58:20. We really should use GPS time, it makes it so much easier for the double handed start! The majority of the fleet crossed the start line at 2pm, having gone through a rigorous setup, but under time pressure. Many in the fleet took on an outgoing tanker with tugs on the first short starboard beat into the harbour mouth, and the multiple and repeated blasts from that ship clearly stated their opinion on the matter — yachts must stay clear of shipping!
Tacking onto port to lay #4 and then #2, the three bigger J yachts were relishing the conditions and looking very good. They were followed by Necessity and Nuthr Witch, then Scarlet Sun, FTI Flyer, Cabaray, Ambeloui, Me2Me, Humdinger and a pack of the Muiras, an Ocean 31, an RCOD, an Impact, a Holiday 23 and a Buccaneer!
For the long run down to Milnerton, the small crews started the process of the port tack hoisting of the light kites, with varying degrees of success! Once hoisted, a colourful line of yachts single-filed down to the next mark, with those that chose not to hoist weighing up a time advantage with a speed disadvantage. More often than not it is a toss-up which method is faster, apart from the super competent crews who hoist like clockwork. At the mark rounding, the divisions split to two similar courses, but with the Div 1 yachts sailing a longer course, and Div 2 sailing slightly kinder angles. The wind was more north than predicted, so decisions had to be made whether to prepare for the asymmetrical kites on the next hoist.
So, around the top mark and the order shuffled with varying performances, and the fleets set spinnakers again [or not!] to their respective leeward marks at Milnerton [Div 1] and Woodbridge [Div 2], before a spectacular reach across to Harken with Table Mountain as a majestic backdrop. It was really awesome to see the two new J111’s dicing it out with their massive 133m?? asymmetrical kites on long bowsprits. They made the reach up to Harken look even more spectacular. The other J, a J133, ran away with the race. She is set up for shorthanded sailing and had excellent sailors aboard. It was great to see FTI Flyer back on the water. Keith has done a lot of work on her, and it has paid off. From Harken, it was a short beat up to the finish, with the two divisions coming in together. There were a lot of positive tussles for position in the pack…with good spirit and intention. Welcome to the new series, especially if you are a newcomer to this format.
An ideal day on the water, in no more than 10-14 knots, and with a following swell downwind. Really nice…
Some things to take forward to improve performance. Prepping and putting the yacht to bed is critical, and especially so in double handed sailing. The difference that good dockside preparation makes out on the course is phenomenal. A check list of both procedures is very important. What also can help is keeping an accurate log, that in addition to voyage details, would also record breakages and maintenance visits. A big advantage of the double-handed series is how all the competitors sit together and chat afterwards – there is a lot of sharing of knowledge – so bring your questions to this gathering…
Remember, there is a talk at the club at 6pm on Wednesday evening, and the first race of the winter series is on Saturday, with the first start at 1pm.