The 3rd race in the current RCYC Double Handed Series with Kling Wines took place in challenging but pleasant conditions on Saturday.
Following a less than ideal morning test match between the Boks and the Kiwis, there was some pent up frustration to release out on the water, and we were greeted by a very pleasant fresh north-of-west wind, accompanied by a large swell at slow intervals. This was effectively a perfectly timed window between the two strong fronts that pounded the peninsula this weekend.
Courses were set for the two divisions that envisaged some overlap in terms of finish times, comprising of a 10.6 and 9.6 mile course for the two double handed divisions: Div 1 (TCF 1.0 and over) and Div 2 (TCF under 1.0) respectively.
With a couple of the regulars either currently in False Bay or giving a wide berth to the weather window, 9 yachts were represented at the briefing, and 8 made it to the start: 5 from Div 1 and 3 from Div 2.
This is the first time in the three years since I have been a regular in the double handed fleet that I can recall a bigger Div 1 fleet, so here’s an all call to the Div 2 yachts to gear up and prepare for the next race day and flex your traditional numerical majority muscle!
The courses focused on longish legs zigzagging up and off the wind from the start BH
(s); #4(s); WB(p); LF(s); M(s)(Div 1) or WB(s)(Div 2); PE(s); finish BH&Kling(s).
I am learning more and more that preparation is paramount, especially with double handed sailing. Although we went out early, in the hour or so pre-race, we faffed around trying to set up, and wasted so much time with this that we didn’t get to feel out the conditions, test the start area, lay lines, etc and that put us firmly on the back foot. Proper set up, preparation, clean bottom etc makes a dramatic difference on the water. It is something we all can do, even if we are not rock star sailors, and it gives such an advantage – like having an imaginary windfall on your rating.
The guys aboard Jacana also went out early, but seamlessly, and even had time to sail around to check mark positions, reporting back that WB mark was missing. This led to a bold but clear and immediate decision by the bridge to substitute a virtual mark in its place, with stated coordinates, which would provide an additional navigational challenge and opportunity.
A starboard start at #10 was the way to go, and most of the fleet got off to pretty decent starts, bar the two stranded at the wrong end…and given our poor preparation, you can account for one of those two already. We rounded #4 well behind, which provided a very nice overview of the full fleet ahead, while knowing that at least we’d pass some yachts on the reach to the virtual mark!
Having a handheld GPS is very useful, especially in this format, and after careful consultation, we established that the virtual mark position was higher and closer than most of the yachts observed, and only Humdinger and Ava profited from what felt a bit like burglary as we hardened up higher and earlier than FTI Flyer, Necessity and Nuthr Witch, as well as front runners Jacana and Mwah before them.
The long upwind leg to Landfall was mostly a starboard beat into the swell, but the relatively short port tack leg/s across the swell felt like I would imagine sailing in a giant washing machine, as the swell surged and the wind swerved.
The wind was a little more north than had been predicted or expected, and this meant a tighter wind angle on the downwind leg. It also meant that it would be possible to hold a kite all the way to Paarden Eiland. Lekker.
We watched Jacana and Mwah round Landfall well ahead, with Nuthr Witch and Necessity in a boat-for-boat battle swapping positions in the last two tacks before the mark. With our boatspeed and preparation on Scarlet Sun well off where it should be, we rounded next, ahead of FTI Flyer, with the smaller Humdinger and Ava further back.
My mind started to play games…having rounded in a similar actual position so many times before on Carousel ahead of FTI, (with Carousel being a good 7 minutes an hour slower than Scarlet Sun on handicap), we were definitely in the wrong relative place in the fleet! And then, although with kite up and boatspeed into double figures, reeling Necessity and Nuthr Witch back in, I realized the onset of Booth Garrard Syndrome (BGS), a complex state of mind we are developing aboard this fantastic new yacht that we are learning to sail, whereby we are being regularly thumped (even boat-for-boat) by two very good sailing teams on yachts with lower handicaps than ours…we are going to have to up our game!
The onset of BGS bugged me all the way to the drop just before Paarden Island, which was a double drop: the kite and my trusty waterproof GPS, now resident on the ocean floor about 100 north of the mark!
With Jacana having held their turquoise asymmetric all the way to Paarden Eiland, they were now well ahead of Mwah. Nuthr Witch had extended away from Necessity, who did not fly a kite (and do quite well through this consistent tactic). FTI rounded next, having sailed a shorter course, followed by Scarlet Sun, Humdinger and Ava.
What was encouraging was that we’d effectively taken a mile off FTI since starting to stretch our legs after Landfall, and reeled in a lot of ground on Necessity, who’d murdered us upwind, sailing higher and faster. Most yachts managed the last leg in one starboard beat, but poor FTI stalled in their tack away from the wall just short of the line, and possibly threw away a handicap victory. Could they too be suffering from BGS?
In Division 1: Well done to Dave Garrard & Damon Lyons aboard Nurthr Witch, ahead of Patrick Holloway & Neil Gregory on Jacana, Dave & Carol Booth on Necessity, Gordon Kling & Rob Meek on Mwah, with Luke & Gideon Scott aboard Scarlet Sun bringing up the rear.
In Division 2: Well done to John Waller & Will Gubb on Humdinger, ahead of Andrew Collins & Barnaby Steynor on FTI Flyer, and the legends Colin Horton & Ken Botwood aboard Ava.
So, as it turns out, we all suffered from BGS on the day, with the lowest handicapped yachts in each division winning!
Even with just 16 sailors competing on the water, and together at the prizegiving afterwards, you get to discuss and share ideas and learn so much from each other in this format of racing at RCYC. While it is undoubtably challenging both physically and mentally, the duo aboard Ava (with a combined age of 148 between the two of them) prove it is an all inclusive format. More double-handed sailors please!
To conclude, please diarise that Race 4 is on Saturday 12th October, Race 5 on Saturday 16th November, and the final Race 6 on Saturday 7th December. Thanks to our bridge team, and to Kling Wines for the prizes and the open wines for all sailors at the post race get together.
Come Double Handed Sailing!