Just a quick trip south

Last week I spent a few days south. First up on Saturday morning, was a quick stop in Canberra then across to the coast where I stopped by Wallagoot Lake Boat Club. They were just finishing their days racing and a few of them were pleasantly surprised to see me. One thought I was an apparition! It was good to see them again as many have become good friends in my time officiating their annual regatta. They were quite pleased to show me their new start/rescue/mark laying boat, a new alloy runabout with more room in the bow for buoys. They were yet to set it up fully and were keen on my input. I’ll be back again for their annual regatta later in the season which again incorporates the NSW State Sabre titles.

Wallagoot Lake

Heading further south down the coast, the next stop was Paynesville, where again I surprised a few at the club by turning up. It was the first race of the season for them and I enjoyed wandering around chatting with those who remembered my DeckHardware product talk last season. After a couple of hours break, it was back on the road and heading to Port Phillip Bay.

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I spent the next couple of days driving anti-clockwise around Port Phillip, starting at Sorrento and finishing off at Geelong and Queenscliff before heading home. It’s always good to catch up and have dinner with friends and in this case it was Marty and Sue Sly, legends for their boatwork in Melbourne. It’s nice to catch up on all the gossip around the traps after hours when you have a bit more time on your hands. Whilst I didn’t have the time to see every one this time around, hopefully I’ll make it up on the next trip.

Again it was nice to see Vicroads updating the rest areas and the facilities on the Hume, however like NSW Roads and Maritime, there’s a great expanse of new tar and concrete but no shelter from the Sun or rain. Like the Pacific Highway in northern NSW, all the trees that provided some sort of relief in the past have been removed. I guess those that those who design these rest areas don’t use them.

Clear start

This weekend past, I spent another couple of days officiating the local Farr40 fleet for their monthly regatta, only six boats this time but again the racing was close. Tom Quick’s Outlaw was the eventual winner with tactician David Chapman bringing his father Richard and uncle Bob Wilmot out of hiding to assist. It’s always enjoyable working with the Farr40s, they are a great bunch of very keen and experienced sailors and those who volunteer to assist me on the start boat always go away having learnt something.  We had a great day offshore on Saturday with a 10-12knot NorEaster and a reasonably flat sea and on Sunday in the harbour despite the forecasts, we had another great 12-14knots from the South East. Sunday was the shiftiest breeze inshore I’ve seen for a while, there was no pattern to it, but the shifts were all over the place from 150* to 200*, those that worked them made the most. Very testing.

 

Delivery South

Last week was the first time in over a decade that I’ve spent some time at sea, ironically with the same skipper but different yacht. This time it was assisting to bring back a 49’er that had won it’s division at Magnetic Island Race Week recently. I flew to the Gold Coast on Monday expecting to leave that afternoon, however due to the southerlies we didn’t get away till the following afternoon. Apparently they’d had southerlies the whole way heading south from Townsville and were not keen on bashing into more of the same.

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Heading south the following day we had the leftovers of the southerly for the first couple of hours, then the breeze went left and it became a little easier to motor sail with just the mainsail up. Into Wednesday the breeze was forecast to build from the north and build it did to around 20knots.

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Around 1600 whilst below, Bruce did a sudden gybe and as a result the strop holding the mainsheet block on the end of the boom broke. Mainsail down and off and the jib top was set instead. Still without a motor we carried this all the way to Broughton Island off Port Stephens. The forecast was for a short sharp southerly change so it was in to Nelson Bay for the night. Timing was pretty good as it hit as we were motoring into the marina in the wee hours of the morning.

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Just like leaving Southport we saw the first whales just as we headed south, inside a mile of leaving the heads. Thursday was to be a day of motoring as the breeze struggled to get over 5 knots all day, at least the seaway was reasonable with little pounding in the leftover seas.

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I finally went below whilst off Broken Bay and only a few hours short of Sydney Harbour and woke to the sound of the motor being throttled back, we were off Sow and Pigs. It was absolutely calm with not even a ripple or a wave movement other than those we made. Brought back memories of offshore racing and finishing at night in similar conditions.  Thanks to James, Bruce and Jason for an enjoyable delivery passage and the usual yarns whilst at sea.

Newcastle

Some time ago I was contacted by Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club to be the Race Officer for the NSW Country Offshore Championships held out of their home base at Newcastle. Whilst I’d sailed past quite a few times, I’d only ever entered the harbour once under sail and that was at night, so I was up for the challenge. Something new and different.

Despite the forecast, it was a lovely northerly seabreeze that greeted us as we went outside and turned left up Stockton Beach for a mile or so. Clear skies and a relatively flat sea also made it pretty easy for race management and the mark layers in their RIBs. The breeze however shifted throughout the day over the course of the three races, especially for the last race  when I decided against another course change.

Nine Dragons leading Kahleesi

Gate rounding at Newcastle

With a fleet of over 25 boats competing in three divisions, many had their opposition panned out. In Division One Middle Harbour Yacht Clubs Bob Cox’s DK46 Nine Dragons took overall honours from club sistership Kahleesi with another MHYC club entrant Cookson12 Philosopher third in PHS whilst NCYC’s Farr40 Good Form was third on IRC. It was a good mixed bag of boats including a TP52, Sydney46,  J122 and  Farr400, gate roundings were always close. In Division Two it was all about the little Farr31, SoFarr skippered by Lake Macquarie’s Mark Long who lead from the start and around every mark of the course, leaving her larger competition struggling in her wake. Division Three was all about the mixed local cruisers who were surprisingly competitive on the startline.

Division One Race One start

Nine Dragons mid line leader

So after getting in the three races, it was back to the club and only just in time for some as the afternoon forecast rain arrived. We missed the hail of Wangi Wangi a little south of Newcastle but the precipitation was well received by all due to the current drought.

Sunday dawned with calm overcast skies. Heading back offshore it was more of the same. There was a nice little land breeze and we set up a course heading in to the beach. However just as we went in to sequence it dropped out and shifted all over the place. Only one thing to do – AP up. Unfortunately that’s the way it stayed for the next two hours! Hurry up and wait as we say. With little sign of any change and many Lake Macquarie and Sydney boats looking to get home, that was it for the day and the results of Saturdays racing stood for the overall. Disappointing for those who came up from Sydney, a big effort and thanks for your patience on Sunday. The highlight on Sunday was the arrival of a coffee run to Joe De Kocks Farr40, everyone else was impressed but wondering on the cost of the delivery boats fuel bill.

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Hopefully I’ll be back next year as it’s a great event for those who don’t venture north to Queensland. A huge thanks to all the rest of the NCYC team on and off the water who made for a well-run regatta.

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Northern NSW this time

Last week I took the time to attend the Mid Coast Caravan and Camping show at Wauchope. The last time I went to Wauchope was with the family last century having a look around Timbertown, a modern look at life in colonial times. This time however it was wandering around looking at what may be new in the self-contained life on the road market. Certainly something a little different to boat shows.

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Farr40 Indian Pacific, John Eylses Sydney Hobart winner. I sailed on her some 30+ years ago.

 

I then headed north, beginning at Ballina and working my way south through Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Taree seeing a few customers and catching up on a few happenings. It was good to see work progressing at the re build of the Big River Sailing Club at Harwood following the destruction of the old clubhouse in a wild storm. Commodore Harriet has her team on to it and they will continue to run sailing events whilst work continues. The new building will be an extension of the old with a larger outside deck and a bigger start box upstairs. I’ve certainly enjoyed the regattas there and look forward to more. If you haven’t been, put it in the calendar.

Manning River Taree

Once a busy highway bridge, now just used by the locals after the opening of the Taree bypass.

 

The one thing that has changed and is being steadily updated is the Pacific Highway. With the new bypasses and dual lanes the time on the road has dropped considerably from Sydney to Grafton. The remaining section north to the border won’t be finished for another couple of years and is eagerly awaited certainly by the transport companies. What does disappoint is the new ‘rest stops’. Whilst the facilities are nice and there’s tables and BBQs, there’s absolutely no shade to park under.  At least the trees of the older smaller stops provided some respite from the Sun whilst having a ‘short catnap’. In northern Victoria, there’s some excellent stops that are covering 6-8 parking spots. That’s my thoughts anyway.

 

I’m out on the water this weekend as the 2018-2019 sailing season starts and I’m looking forward to it, especially as it gets warmer. This time I’ll be at Newcastle for their second running of the NSW Country Offshore Regatta, out on yet another start boat as PRO. I’ve sailed past more often than sailed in to Newcastle Harbour, hopefully I can take in some of the sights as well. It’ll certainly be something different and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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NCYC start boat on the marina behind the clubs match racing fleet

Back on the horse

Last weekend was the annual Sydney Harbour Regatta hosted by Middle Harbour Yacht Club and supported by the other major yacht clubs east of the bridge and RPAYC from Pittwater. As an example, the CYCA ran the Offshore boats, RSYS had Ynglings and Etchells, Manly Yacht Club ran the PHF handicap divisions and RPAYC had a mixture of sportsboat types.

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After being offshore last year with the Sydney 38s and Farr40s, it was back inshore on Hugh George [MHYC start boat]with the Adams10s again, this time alongside the Cavalier28s who were sailing their State titles as a part of this event.

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On Saturday we couldn’t have been given a better day, the sun was out and a NorEaster around 10knots. Just perfect, flat seas made it even better. The only downside for the competitors was the huge runout tide forcing a couple of individual recalls in both fleets. I did however advise them over the radio in the count down, that the start boat was hanging to tide not the wind and to note that it would push them over. All good as they recognised the fact and returned quickly and in one case even to win that race. I gave the Adams10s three laps and the Cavs two and the 10s with masthead spinnakers managed to catch the tail of the Cavs to ensure no hold up in a turnaround. It was a great day and no better had this summer. Three races ran without incident.

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Sunday however was a turnaround, miserable would be the word. A southerly change had come through forcing the Offshore boats inshore and many courses and divisions cancelled for the day. The Cavalier28s made the decision to not sail, so I only had a small but competitive fleet of Adams10s sailing. They of course loved the 20knot Southerly, hounds spinnakers and #3 jibs ruled the day however. In one race the third placegetter didn’t set a spinnaker, just poled out the jib and ran straight downhill faster than those trying to gybe spinnakers. There were a few broaches, the best was from No Friends who photographer Andrea Francolini managed to capture. We set them three short races, two lappers and 15 minutes in between to make it easy for all. Anchoring on the western ferry channel in the Sound is pretty uncomfortable in those conditions so the least time spent out there, the better.

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Having the Offshore boats inshore, including Marcus Blackmores new Hooligan and Paul Clitheroe Hobart winner Balance made for some exciting viewing as they came back to Manly from Shark Island. Hooligan on one run out ran the Manly Ferry, such was her speed, well in to the 20s. Balance gybed right beside us at speed, giving us great insight to the communication on board, no yelling just to the point. Neither boat would have been very dry given the amount of spray!

 

That was pretty much the last weekend at MHYC for the season. This weekend I’ll be down at Wallagoot Lake for their annual regatta including the Sabre States and NS14 traveller series. After that, also coming up is the NS14 States at BYRA on Pittwater at Easter and the Annual Batemans Bay Regatta following that. Then the Sydney Summer sailing season will be over. Time to hit the road again.

It’s been a busy start to 2018

Three weeks ago, I ran a weekend of racing for the Farr40 fleet at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This was a prelude for the boats to tune up for the NSW States held over the last weekend. In the middle was the Adams10m Nationals over the Australia day holiday weekend. Over the three consecutive weekends we ran about 28 race starts.

For the first weekend of the Farr40s, I asked for and received two days of lovely NorEasters and with just the five boats it was some great racing with Jeff Carters Team Edake on top. This was the second event that Edake has finished on top, following his success at the Newcastle regatta in late 2017. The eight races gave the crews a chance to blow out a few cobwebs and train any new crew prior to the States.

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Having been blessed with NorEasters the previous weekend, again we had hoped for more of the same and more were given for the small but competitive fleet of Adams10s. Clear skies and a great breeze gave the fleet some good racing and the overall leader board changed after each race. Leading in to the last day was new Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany’s Powderhulk, however a couple of inconsistent races on the last day cost them the series win. Fellow MHYC sailor and former Rugby boss Rob Clarkes, Kick and Chase once again pulled a couple of last day keepers, however overall it was 2001 winner Backchat now skippered by Tom Braidwood from Lake Macquarie Yacht Club who won overall in 2018. In a sign of the times, Toms crew included North Sails Australia boss Michael Coxon, one of several sailmakers represented in the fleet.

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Last weekend, whilst we had hoped for more NorEasters, on Saturday we ended up offshore on the Manly Circle with a strong 15-20knot Southerly with a 2m swell. Once again the volunteer start team worked wonders to give the Farr40s some good racing and with plenty of well-known tacticians including Tom Slingsby, Steve McConaghy, David Chapman, Will Ryan and Gary Gietz. As expected, it was pretty tight racing especially downwind with plenty of waves to surf. After three races and in consultation with the class president, it was decided that was enough and racing was adjourned for the day. Sunday’s wind was forecasted to be again out of the south with the course inshore on The Sound. With a few showers around, we went in to sequence for the first race of the day. It was not to be however, the rain killed the breeze and a postponement of ninety minutes was the outcome. We moved the fleet down the harbour and finally a Southeaster of around 8 knots settled in. With a course across the runout tide from Obelisk Bay to Watsons Bay, it was a challenge for all, both upwind and down. Do you go right or left, do you gybe early or late? Many decided that up and down the middle was the way to go, tacking and gybing on the shifts. In the end it was the Martin Hill and Tom Slingsby combination on top. On behalf of the MHYC volunteer start team, it’s a joy to be able to work with the Farr40s. The class administration, especially Jen Hughes looks after the sailors with great dock parties after racing. The competitors give us the opportunity to watch some of the world’s best at work.

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For something a little different I’m off to BYRA this Sunday and my old stomping ground on Pittwater. A lot has changed  over the last 45 years since I sailed there in Fireballs and 505s.

And with all of the race management over the last few weeks, something I’ve been thinking about for a while. This week I’ve stepped down as Middle Harbour Principal Race Officer.  I’ll still be available for important regattas at the club, like the Farr40s, Sydney Harbour Regatta and the Rolex Sydney Hobart start. However after thirteen seasons of running Saturday and Winter sailing, it’s time out and time to go back to sailing itself and enjoying the sport I’ve grown up in. A huge thanks go to the other volunteer members of the start team over the years, hard work at times, frustrating too but they are an enjoyable bunch to spend a day or two on the water with and there’s been plenty of laughs along the way.

 

 

Farr40s round two

This weekend saw round two for the Farr40 calendar for season 2017-2018 at Middle Harbour Yacht Club. The weather forecast didn’t look good, both ways, too windy and not enough.

Saturday we went offshore to what is referred to as the Manly Circle. We have two known offshore course areas off Sydney, one is off the southern part of the northern beaches known as the Manly Circle.  The other area is south of Sydney Heads and known as the Macquarie Circle due to the proximity of Macquarie Lighthouse. The Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron had their turn in running the offshore IRC boats and as it was a southerly breeze they went south. To avoid any confusion in marks, we went north to Manly an area I much prefer, as the water is shallower making it easier to lay and move marks and it’s usually a better seaway. So with a small but keen fleet we were off the northern beaches for the day.

We set up a course in a nice southerly of 15-18knots and this pretty much held for the majority of the time we were out there.  What we did have however was plenty of spectacular broaches, unfortunately a little too far away for any photos. These created all sorts of issues and after several withdrawals in the two races and a few chats via VHF to the remaining competitors, we adjourned to have another race inshore. That was the first AP for the weekend. Whilst not quite the space in a crowded Sydney Harbour, it was good close racing to watch and at least I could go stand on the bow and watch.

Sunday however was a different story and was always going to be looking at the weather models. We got one race away going from the western side of the harbour heading east into Watsons Bay. Then came a range of postponements due to the shifting conditions for the next two. One of the hardest days as an RO and as PhilC my timekeeper said ‘you are out of AP cards!’. We’d go into sequence and Mark one of the other volunteers was monitoring the wind he once again would call a 30-40° shift, AP up – again, with GiffC on the Halyards trying to keep up. The graph showing the shifts was something else, I don’t think I’ve seen it that bad. We got in two more races, certainly not the best but did our best given the options. It was made worse by the afternoon rains arriving during the last leg of race three killing the breeze and adding yet another shift.

Not one of the better weekends on the water, but certainly made easier by having a great team to assist, both on the start boat with me and in the mark laying. I’m looking forward to a breather next weekend in the garden.