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UPDATE: RCYC Triumphant At MSC

UPDATE: RCYC Triumphant at MSC

All at RCYC extend a hearty well done to Harry Brehm and crew who represented RCYC at MSC Week.

Harry and Crew won the IRC division with a day to spare.

RCYC team wins IRC class at the MSC regatta in Durban(by Harry Brehm)

The whole campaign started when Tim Dykins from Pacer Yachts asked if a RCYC team would like to race on Southern Storm in the MSC regatta and also generously offered to fly in a crew from Cape Town. Two boats would be made available for accommodation.

Durban is well known for a lot of sunshine and light winds during the winter months and this alone made it easy for me to get my crew signed up. It didn???t matter that the weather eventually did not live up to our expectations.

My plan was to get the right mix of senior sailors from my previous campaigns and youngsters from the RCYC Sailing Academy to sail with me. In the end 3 seniors and 4 youngsters checked in to the flight to Durban, to be joined by two more crew members from Durban. Two of the young sailors have never sailed on any bigger boat than a L26, the other two had very limited big boat experience. We all agreed that this would not be a big problem in the forecasted light wind conditions.

We arrived two days earlier in Durban to have some time for sail training before the regatta.

To accommodate 7 people with luggage in a 6 seater is no challenge for a Durban Taxi driver.

Unfortunately we had very light wind conditions of only 4-6kn during the practice days, but at least the young crew had some practice before the start of the event. Stepping on Southern Storm was like coming home for me.  Three of our crew did campaign the boat for 2 and ?? years in Cape Town with me and knew everything to make her fast. It was just a matter of how to transfer the knowledge to the other crew members as quick as possible. It was a lot of information in very short time for most of them.

The final crew order on the boat was as follows:

Fordeck – Mornay Harding (RCYC Sailing Academy, 21 years of age)

Mast ??? Mark Goad (PYC Durban)

Pit ??? Matthew Thomas (ex RCYC)

Cockpit – Abdul Thompson (RCYC Sailing Academy, 17 years of age)

Cockpit – Ricky Samuels (RCYC Sailing Academy, 16 years of age)

Trim down – Bjorn Geiger (RCYC)

Trim up – Alex Hesketh (PYC)

Main – Duane Petersen (RCYC Sailing Academy, 20 years of age)

Helm – Harry Brehm (RCYC)

Unfortunately we only had 5 boats in the IRC class but we expected a stiff competition from Bellatrix ( Beneteau 40.7, skippered by Greg Hurter) These boats rate very well under IRC and have won most IRC sailing events in Europe. Greg seemed to gather all the Durban hot shots on his boat for the regatta.

The second boat to look out for would be Flying Spaghetti Monster ( Mount Gay 30, skippered by the Robinson brothers). Despite their Lipton Cup win in 2012, Ricky and Brennan were not allowed to campaign for RNYC in the 2013 Lipton event and decided to sail in the IRC class instead of the L26 Nationals.

The other two boats and owners were unknown to me.  Wynleigh a Fast 42, skippered by Tony Cunningham and Flyer a Beneteau First Class 10, skippered by Brad Rayson.

The opening ceremony at the PYC was something to be remembered. Captain Sarno not only had a very touching speech to deliver, he also took it by the horns and entered the regatta with his beautiful ketch Minerva, a Cheoy Lee 47. She’s definitely not the fastest boat in her class but a very nice sight on the water.

A massive amount of finger snacks made the rounds to all competitors. The young sailors of all classes did not leave hungry, that’s for sure.

Day onewas sailed in SE 8-12kn and didn’t start well for us. A boat from the cruiser class was in our way on port tack close to the start line and we were forced to do a crash tack to avoid a collision only 20 seconds before our start. That was a nice wake up call for all of us but unfortunately we were the last boat to cross the start line. We pulled our heads together and managed to catch the fleet after the first round. The race committee decided to shorten the race after the second round only after we had dropped our kite at the leeward mark and we had to sail the remaining 100m to the finish under two sails only. We decided not to protest the race committee for their wrong doing as the redress would have not been enough for us to win the race. Eventually we settled on a second place after corrected time behind Bellatrix, third was Flying Spaghetti Monster. That was also an indication of the top three boats throughout the regatta.

In the second race of day one we got off the start line cleanly and were able to get into an early lead, to win our first race, luckily without any drama. In second place was Flying Spaghetti Monster.

After racing we discussed the expected teething problems on all positions but we were quite positive to get our crew work to the next level during the coming days.

Racing on Day  two started in rather light southerly wind of 4-8kn. Our game plan was to concentrate on our boat speed and crew work rather than to get into dog fights with other boats. We managed to get clear of all boats quite quickly in both races. With a very slick crew work we were able to finish both races in first place. In one race we managed to win with a comfortable lead of over 4min after corrected time. It was amazing to see how fast our junior sailors settled down in their positions and how well they were able to keep the concentration up throughout the races.  I have never experienced a quieter boat in all my years of racing. As we all know, a quiet boat usually is a fast boat. A big praise went to our Academy guys that day. We all went back to the club house with big smiles.

When I had a look at the weather forecast on Day 3, it was clear that this day would not go down as easy as the previous day. Onshore breeze of 8 – 12kn and the usual chop was to be expected. On a beamy boat like the Pacer 376, chop is a killer in light breeze.

When we got closer to the start line the wind was already up to 15kn and was still building. We used the remaining time before the first race to address the Academy guys in the safe use of the winches under heavy load. Three out of the four youngsters weigh in around the 50kg mark, including our main trimmer Duane. Our goal for the day was to avoid any injuries. I would rather blow a sail than having one of my crew injured.

Our crew settled nicely into the first beat under jib No2. We were trying to avoid too many manoeuvres throughout the race as our light cockpit crew was clearly struggling with the heavy load on the sheets.   Southern Storm is about to roll Bellatrix soon after the start.

To make matters worse someone left our S2 kite on the mooring and packed the AP kite instead. The AP kite is a Nylon kite used for deliveries rather than to race with and is not a very stable kite at all. The wind was building steadily and hit the 20kn mark in the second round. This was the time when the heavily loaded guy snapped out of the beak without any warning.  The foredeck was able to recover the guy quite fast and I thought we would have the boat under control again but only a second later the guy came loose again. This time the boat got out of shape and we ended up in a nice broach.

Not knowing what the cause of the problem was, we continued our race with reduced confidence in our spin pole. I was surprised to find out that we had enough lead on the next boat to win that race. The other boats also struggled in the building breeze with increasing swell and a nasty wind chop.

With our very  light crew of only 9, being at least 240kg under the ideal IRC weight, we struggled to keep the boat fast on the beats and lost some time against Bellatrix which was sailing 11 up. We avoided any hot angles to the leeward mark in the second race and managed to keep the boat upright that way. We clearly looked out of shape on the last round with our No 2 with the wind gusting up to 24kn. Unfortunately  only having one jib halyard does not allow for any sail change upwind and we had to sit it out as best as possible. My little main sail trimmer was taking strain and looked quite tired after the final beat. The boat was not balanced at all and he tried to compensate as well as he possibly could throughout the race.

In the end we still managed a second place with Bellatrix in first.

It was time to head back to the harbour for a warm shower and a good rest for the sore bodies. All in all it was a good day on the water and we tried our best to keep the boat upright.

Day 4would bring us even more wind from a southerly direction. That would be the perfect conditions for the scheduled medium distance race. We had only done windward leeward courses so far and I was hoping for hotter downwind angles which would suit our boat better.

After rounding the weather mark, which was rather strangely positioned, only 100m from the start line and at an angle that only allowed 2 boats to lay the mark without tacking, it was off to a 2 mile reach to an offset mark and then a further 10 mile downwind run to Umhlanga. We hoisted our A3 kite and it was a nail biting reach to the offset mark in over 25kn of breeze. The boat was really powered up and right on the edge of a broach all the way. We were the only boat flying a kite on the first leg and pulled away nicely from the rest of the fleet with an average boat speed of +14kn.Southern Storm powering along on the first reach towards the offset mark of the medium distance race.

After rounding the offset mark we decided to keep the A3 up to avoid a peel to our S2 kite. That meant we had to sail hotter angles for the best VMG. We had enough pressure to get the boat surfing and we saw speeds of over 19kn. Once we settled in for a wild downwind ride the crew was stacked on the high side on the back of the boat and the youngsters clearly enjoyed themselves. This was downwind sailing at its best. I can???t remember that we had the boat surfing so nicely ever before.

The first jibe came up quite fast and we gave clear instructions to our crew in “what not to do”. It was clear to me that Duane would physically not be able to get the main in far enough in during the jibe. The plan was to surf down a bigger wave to get some load off the sheets for the jibe and through we went. The jibe was not half as bad as I would have thought and quickly we were on our way on the new tack screaming towards the beach. It was also clear that we had to pole out the assym kite in order to get our VMG up. Speed means nothing if you can???t steer deep enough. It worked very well with the poled out kite but only for about 5 minutes. Then the beak broke with a loud bang. We could do nothing else than to fly the kite centered off the bowsprit again. At this time we did not care too much about the best VMG anymore and just enjoyed our ride. Our competition sailed much deeper angles and we crossed their pass in sports boat style, a lot faster but obviously going the longer distance.

Being the leading boat we had to be on the lookout for the boat which would be our leeward mark. It was not easy to find a small boat in the rolling sea and we almost missed it.

After rounding the boat it was a long beat up to the finish with our No3. The boat felt fine and we were able to carry good height and speed through the ever increasing swell. We clearly did not have enough distance to the other boats in our class and had to work it hard to win that race.

30min into the beat we saw the Fast 42 Wynleigh with a broken mast. They must have broken the mast halfway down the run to Umhlanga. Luckily the NSRI was already close to assist and we could continue racing.

Wynleigh’s  top section gave in. This shot was taken after she returned safely to the marina.


In the 2hr beat we could increase our lead to the other boats and we scored another bullet. Ballatrix managed another 2nd place with Flying Spaghetti Monster in 3rd.

The whole crew and especially the youngsters had a stupid grin in their faces from the wild downwind ride to Umhlanga and nobody really cared that it started raining on the way to the mooring. It was another great day of racing and with 6 wins after 8 races it was very clear that we would win the regatta.

The night at the club was celebrated in style with a foam party.

The final day of the regatta was only a formality for us but we all agreed to give it our best to realize the best possible score of 8 wins. The light SW wind increased steadily and the first race was sailed in 8- 12kn. On our first hoist the halyard was caught under the forestay and the kite got hooked on the bowsprit and tore a big hole in the S2 kite. Another lesson learnt for our young foredeck.

Despite the mishap we were able to increase our lead and won the race.

The final race of the day was a close battle with Bellatrix and under corrected time we shared exactly the same finishing time, something that I have never seen before under IRC. That brought the regatta to a very respectable end for us.  The whole crew was in such a good spirit that nobody cared that it was starting to rain again.

The very festive price giving with many sailors and VIP???s gave this regatta the perfect ending. During the prize-giving, Captain Sarno announced the next MSC week for 2014 already. Our team would be back in a heartbeat, given half the chance.

The regatta was a lot more challenging than I would have thought, mainly because of the unexpected strong breeze. The fact that the youngsters could be integrated as full crew members during a very short time made us all very proud. In the end we archived a lot more than we bargained for.

On the flight home the young guys agreed, this was the trip of their lifetime and their sailing career so far. I wish them many more to come.

On behalf of the whole crew I would like to thank Tim Dykins for the opportunity to race on Southern Storm during the MSC week and for generously sponsoring the flights to Durban.


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