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OLD (but still on it!)

The Most Prestigious Race:

The Oldies Magnificent!
This one is a real pleasure, a highlight on the club calendar, and one of the easiest events to organise! There is no shortage of skillful and competitive spirit amongst the 60-year-old-plus members of our club. Add to that all the wonderful prizes for all entrants that the organising team of Jacquie Brand and Ray Matthews assemble each year, and you have the instant recipe for success.

Then there is the crew friendly race format: a non-spinnaker pursuit race. If the course and times are right, you’re in for a fantastic treat on and off the water.

But come race day morning on Saturday, and you could see the universe reflected in the glassy pond that was Table Bay; smoke stacks giving no clue of wind direction; and ships at anchor across the bay in all different directions, including north east. What a nightmare!

The wily weather gods tricked us all into thinking it was going to be a non-event, but then turned up the charm just before the first start time at 14h00 with a beautiful breeze from the west, flat seas and wonderfully warm weather.

Fortunately, we’d made provision to hunt the wind with laid marks and a mobile bridge. The bridge was stationed off Granger Bay, and the course was set up the western Atlantic Seaboard.

This increased the spectacle tenfold, as the parade of some fifty yachts beat their way westward alongside the busy promenade, past the lighthouse, and to the laid weather mark off Three Anchor Bay. Then a long run down to Landfall, before a reach across to the finish off Granger Bay – a course of just over 7 miles.

Not being old enough to compete, I took the opportunity to watch the start from the Radisson (where beers cost exactly double what they cost at the club) and then followed the fleet by walking along the promenade. I noticed a staggering number of onlookers enjoying the sailing spectacle and snapping their cameras to boot. At the weather mark, it was clear that the conditions were perfect on the day, and that it would be a close race both in terms of the majority of the finishers, and also the proximity to the target finish time of 15:33:45, being based on an elapsed time of one hour for the highest handicapped yacht in the fleet.
As it turned out, of the 48 finishers, the first 10 finished within 10 minutes of that target, which is a handicappers dream. Perennial performers A-L won (just two minutes off target time), followed by Windpower, Nuthr Witch, Touchwood and Lapwing. There was a reasonable mix of finishers across the fleet with Div 1, 2 & 3 present in the top 7 finishers, with 3, 3 and 1 yachts respectively.

It seemed that the biggest two factors in succeeding on the day were:-

(1) hugging the inshore lifts on the upwind leg, with plenty of profits being made by those who so dared, especially near the lighthouse…remember also the importance in a pursuit race of sailing into clear air, and to looking for breeze strength advantages.

(2) and to carrying a larger jib for the run and reach.

In terms of class results – and in this race the classes are age groups – the largest group on the water was the 70-79 age group with 26 finishers, followed by the 60-69 age group with 14, then the 80-89 age group with 7, and one Hein Schipper leading the way again in the 100+ age group!
The sailors aboard yacht Carousel look forward to this day like no other, with Hein sailing with his son-in-law Richard, and grandson Steven. When Steven’s young daughter gets her sea legs, they’ll have a remarkable four generations on the water together! Well done Hein!

Another triumph for the club and its senior members. Thanks to Ray, Jacquie, Vicky Stevenson, Toni Mainprize and Tony de Villiers for race management and organization.

A last word on the pursuit race format. I always find myself rooting for the little guys…thinking “sail like hell you little guys”…and I am always distraught when they get swamped by the bigger yachts, as if they were being bullied. It is a challenge, but also a lot of fun setting the times and the course – and something I really enjoy.

Ceteris Paribus, if handicaps are correct, theoretically there are only three possible outcomes in a pursuit race (assume all yachts are equally well sailed and prepared):

1: all yachts cross the finish line simultaneously (the wind and course were perfect)

2: the lowest handicapped yacht finishes first, followed by all other handicaps in ascending order (the wind was stronger or the course was shorter than intended; yachts finish before the target finish time)

3: the highest handicapped yacht finishes first, followed by all other handicaps in descending order. (The wind was lighter or the course was longer than intended; yachts finished after the target finish time)

If the handicapper gets it right, every boat would be at the same place at the finish time, but the vagaries of wind, tactics, personal performance, etc. means the boats are usually well spread out. This does not even take into account variable wind, were a building breeze over the duration of the race could favour the higher handicaps, and conversely a dying breeze over the duration of the race could favour the lower handicaps…

It is interesting to note, and it stands to reason, that if there is a reasonable mix of yachts from different divisions amongst the top 10 or so, then the start times and course can be seen as having been a success. This has fortunately been the case for the Seniors Race for the last two years, and also the last pursuit race before this weekend, being the Mykonos Bay Race. A big thank you to the various members of the handicap committee who repeatedly put in the good work and diligence to produce these outcomes…

As the oldies say: “not so loud!”

Race like a bat out of hell!

Luke

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