The pre-race cruising dinner on Friday night was a great success, and it was wonderful to catch up with old friends, and to meet new people who will be doing some of the races this year. Our kind sponsors, Orakei Yacht Sales, hosted a drinks and “show and tell” session down at the marina and their offices, so we started the night well. The Orakei Yacht Sales folks also joined us at the dinner and it was great to have them with us and enjoy the evening.
The dinner itself was excellent. For appetisers, there were these delicious prawn thingies. They looked like carrots, but were actually peeled prawns in a skinny pastry case. There were also some very, very good sausage rolls. The meals were well over-subscribed, as about 30 people were expected and around 50 showed up. The chefs coped well as they had over-catered anyway, and delivered a choice of main dishes – my lamb shank pie was superb. My guess is that the dessert (pies and strawberries) was pretty tasty too, as they all went really fast, though I skipped these having eaten too many of the prawn thingies and the sausage rolls.
Race day was a windy one, and only 6 yachts turned out for the start, as many had other commitments or were not keen on the strong wind forecast. Fair enough too, this is a FAMILY CRUISING series.
It was wonderful to see Tomodachi out again, with Greg Russell who had friends John and Annette as crew for this race. I hope Greg was kind to them, as we hope to see them again.
New to our series was the catamaran P’Zazz, which added a different element to the fleet. P’Zazz is a big cat of unique Australian design, and looks to be the business. Very wide, quite low and sleek with a tall rig, and obviously very quick for a cruising cat. P’Zazz is owned in partnership by Paul Gillard (brother of one-time RAYC Club Captain Neil Gillard) and John Webster. John is the brother of Mike Webster who has sailed in our fleet some years ago on Northerner.
Also aboard were John’s wife Sue, and Tamara, a dinghy-racer originally from Canada, though she has been a Kiwi for the last 20 years or so. John and Sue have owned the Beale 12.8 yacht Dynamite for many years, but are complete converts to catamaran sailing with their spectacular P’Zazz.
The wind was almost from due West at the start, and gusting over 30 knots at times, so most boats had 1 reef, and some used smaller headsails. Only John Muir on Absolut Leisure were showing full mainsail. John’s crew included Sergey Vetrov from the Farr 9.2 Short Circuit.
As we had no starter on the day, the boats were supposed to start by GPS time at 10:30. Communique started right on the button, and was probably surprised to see Result about 30 seconds ahead of him – Jonathan had a minor mishap with synching his watch with their below-decks GPS, so got away a little ahead of the “virtual” gun.
The rest of the fleet were slower out of the blocks, so Ocean Rhythm was 90 seconds behind the start, followed by Absolute Leisure, then Tomodachi, and finally P’Zazz. I was on Ocean Rhythm with Mac for the day, so we had good opportunity to see the big boats at the beginning of the race as they sailed past us before we reached Bean Rock, and from then on continued to move away as one would expect.
The course took us out through the Motuihe Channel, so it was best to be goose-wing if possible, but some boats did not bother with this as there was quite a lot of wind and wave about. The sailing was quite pleasant, and completely un-dramatic for us on Ocean Rhythm. From what I could see of the race, Result was having a blinder, sailing very well in the strong breeze.
Absolut Leisure was sporting a white mainsail instead of the old and badly-shaped brown one. John and crew had the boat going well, and were able to run down Result and move ahead, but P’Zazz was quickest of all, and they were able to catch and pass Absolute well before the Haystack. Tomodachi was looking very elegant and refined, making good speed for the big cruising yacht that she is, and was able to overtake Communique on their way to the Haystack.
Around the Haystack it was a beat to the finish, as the breeze was now WSW. All the boats seemed to manage this quite well, but Absolute Leisure was able to wrest the lead back from P’Zazz down this leg to finish around 20 seconds ahead for the gun. Thanks to John and his crew for stopping to take times, it was really quite windy still, about 22-26 knots.
Result finished next, only 10 seconds ahead of Tomodachi, though we have adjusted Result’s time backwards by 30 seconds in the results to account for their early start. Communique was next, and we on Ocean Rhythm were last to finish, some distance behind the rest of the fleet.
We were surprised that we had to sail so far to get through the finish line. I think John has some charts that pre-date Captain Cook, or something got lost in the translation from Russian navigator to helmsman, as they had setup the finish off West Bay instead of Woody Bay. We therefore had to sail a bit further than we expected. It was no problem as Sergey was visible on-deck waving us onwards until we finished, and everyone else had finished at the same place. It was a HUGE help to have all the finish times available so we could do the results quickly, so job well done by the Absolut team.
We ended up anchoring in Station Bay, as the initial Waikalabubu Bay anchorage seemed too exposed. Absolut Leisure needed to get back to town quickly, so we decided to do the BBQ and prize-giving earlier than usual. Unfortunately Absolut had to leave before the BBQ anyway, and they would have had a busy time on the way home as the wind built considerably while we were on the beach.
It was a good session on the beach, as it was an opportunity to meet the good people from P’Zazz, and catch up on old times and common acquaintances. There were the usual excellent gourmet sausages (thank Fendall and Lyn), and lots of them too. Prize giving was handled by ex-Commodore Fendall Halliburton – he seemed to think that the handicapper had treated him outrageously, and mentioned evisceration or some other vengeance in store for said handicapper.
As can be seen from the results, the corrected times show Result was first, with P’Zazz a close second, and Absolut Leisure third. All these boats were recipients of Mt Gay rum. The other yachts were considered deserving enough to be awarded coffee on this occasion, but sadly for the Tomodachi crew, none of the rum-winners were interested when Greg offered to trade his coffee for rum.
The wind had really got up by the time we left the beach, and the P’Zazz people had invited us over to see their boat. We were anchored only 50m from P’Zazz, but only just made it to the cat under oar-power. The wind gusts were hitting the water like cannonballs, blowing clouds of spray into the air and whipping them away.
P’Zazz is as big as she looks, and being over 8m wide there was lots of space. It really is a lovely thing, and the gracious hosts were very kind to their visitors from Ocean Rhythm and Tomodachi, allowing us to drink a large part of their second-prize rum. Thanks folks, we will endeavour to return the hospitality some time.
John got out his iPad and showed us through his swimming with dolphins experience. One day they were sailing along in the Hauraki Gulf and a small pod of dolphins seemed to bond with their boat and the people on it. The extent of the connection between those dolphins and people on board is clear from the footage John made as they sailed along. The dolphins stayed with them till they anchored in their destination bay, and when John went into the water, they came along to play and swim close around him, and he had the right underwater camera to shoot the footage. It was fascinating to watch and hear the dolphins at really close quarters like that.
During this visit (and a couple of rums into it), Justin became interested in the subject of the P’Zazz aluminium anchor. Paul could not lay his hands on the spec sheet for it, so said…
“Well come on, we’ll go out and look at it and you can see for yourself”.
So we hop out the cabin, trek across the vast areas of deck to reach the trampoline. Paul strides athletically across the tramp to the chain lead and looks down, then looks back at me and says, “Bugger! It’s down there!”.
Yep, the anchor under discussion was what was stopping us from hitting the Coromandel at speed, so I guess we should be grateful that it was “down there”. We honestly had not had that much rum either.
Overnight the wind continued to blow a bit, but by morning it had moderated and we had an easy sail home, though it was a beat all the way for us.
An excellent weekend’s entertainment, and a nice sail. Most boats seemed to have managed the conditions easily enough and everyone seemed content with the amount of sail they had up for the day. Great people, great sailing, let’s hope for more of that. Next race is after the Coastal Classic, so good luck to those yachts who are doing the big race, and we will catch up next time whenever that might be.