The wind was gusty SSW, gusting well over 20 knots in the puffs, and there were some other yachts racing in the area, so everyone was cruising about and paying attention before the start.
The race was set for an earlier start than usual this year, and Fred Price from Incentive kindly did the honours on the day, as he was staying back to do race officer duties on the weekend.
Tomodachi, Mr Roosevelt, Outlaw, Ocean Rhythm, Romany, Communique and Crocus were all at or around the start area in good time for the start. On Romany, I had my good friend Cheryl Cliffe aboard as helmsperson, as Lindsay was doing hostess duty entertaining land-lubber type relatives who were staying with us for the week.
Mac Nell had turned out on Ocean Rhythm with his son, daughter-in-law, grandson and his daughter Debbie. They had been at and around the start line shortly before the start, but Mac’s young grandson suddenly became seasick while the yacht was bouncing around in the choppy conditions. Mac had to return that part of his family to Westhaven, but we did not notice that Ocean Rhythm had gone back to the marina until after the start, when that I looked back and could not see the boat.
From the start line, the boats set off on a run towards Bean Rock light. Communique started closest to the Orakei wharf, next was Romany, then Mr Roosevelt and Outlaw, with Tomodachi just a little further back. Crocus was fairly late across the start, Craig and Erica must have been fairly busy on the big yacht in the strong breeze. In these conditions, all the boats were going quite fast.
Romany was possibly the only boat that poled out for the leg to Bean Rock, but this did not seem to make a huge amount of difference on that short leg. Outlaw was showing good speed early on, and was first to pass Bean Rock, followed by Romany and Mr Roosevelt side by side, then Communique, Tomodachi and Crocus.
Once past Bean Rock, the boats were reaching with apparent wind just abaft the beam, and as most had full sail deployed, everyone was going really fast with strong breeze from SSW. Now the yachts were settled into their work, and all were charging towards the beacon on Browns Island. Outlaw was extending slightly here, and Mr Roosevelt was in pursuit and going away from Romany, but not quite matching the pace of the much lighter Outlaw. Boyd and Sonya had their boat on song, and with her big sails slightly de-powered at times, Outlaw was sailing faster than the rest of the yachts in the fleet at that time.
Tomodachi was by now fully wound up, and was steadily moving past Communique, then Romany, and by the time these 3 yachts had passed the Browns Island Beacon, Tomodachi was clear ahead of Romany and going away, but not catching the leaner Mr Roosevelt. Tomodachi always looks as though it is on a different planet from the rest of the boats in the fleet. At something like 29 tons displacement, she is steady on the water, and does not often develop a heavy heel angle, so one imagines that everyone aboard is sitting in an armchair elegantly sipping on a gin sling or some such.
Everyone else was also travelling well, Romany was ever so slightly increasing her lead over the shortest boat in this race, Communique. By now, Crocus was also sailing at full speed and seemed to be making slight gains on Communique in the strongest puffs of wind. Waterline length was evidently the major factor in this race for our cruising fleet.
From Browns Island to Passage Rock was one long reach, very fast for all the yachts. When we had passed Putiki Bay, we saw some tall sails looming up very quickly from astern, and guessed it must be Starlight Express. Sure enough, the big boat was very quickly alongside, with Cassie doing helm duty and Alexis (next door neighbour) raising a glass to us as they flew past. We wondered whether Starlight would be able to catch Outlaw or Mr Roosevelt, but we were fairly sure that the 2 leading boats were too far ahead.
At Passage Rock, the wind appeared lighter as we had to turn left and more onto a run to make the line to the finish. Speed dropped a little, but all the yachts were able to make it through the finish in fine style, with everyone who started on time finishing in daylight. Outlaw had finished ahead of Starlight Express. Mr Roosevelt was next across the line, followed at some distance by Tomodachi, then Romany, Communique and Crocus.
Outlaw had turned back to take finish times for the last few yachts still racing. They waited a while for Ocean Rhythm, and tried to call them on 77 to see what was happening, but no answer. In fact Mac had dropped off most of the seasick crew at Westhaven, and set off to re-start the race with only his daughter Debbie for crew. They were 45-50 minutes late for the start, and as per the Sailing Instructions, had to be classified as a Did Not Start in the results.
Starlight Express also count as a DNS. They were late getting away as they had to wait for their neighbours (crew) to finish work before they could leave, and in fact Starlight Express did not start properly. I have included the finish times for both Ocean Rhythm and Starlight Express in the results spreadsheet so you can see their times, but in the race results, they count as DNS. It was nonetheless an excellent effort on the part of these two boats to start and sail to the destination, as both had plenty of difficulties to overcome to try and sail the course and come to the event.
We all sailed to Chamberlain’s Bay on Ponui, except for Mac and Debbie on Ocean Rhythm who stayed in Omaru Bay overnight, and came up to Chamberlain’s next morning. James and Jane Grant also turned up in the morning to join us for breakfast on the beach. Our morning BBQ breakfast was very successful – Fendall and Lynne had brought along most of the ingredients, and apart from a small “no matches” issue early on, the manufacture of many pieces of French toast was handled very professionally by Boyd Wason – great job that man.
Prize-giving was a particularly interesting event on this day, as because Fendall had to carry so much weight of eggs and bread, he felt that the handicap of additional weight for bottles of rum would be simply too onerous, so he presented the rum winners with photocopied pictures of Mt Gay rum!! Fendall’s version of the story is that in fact he did not manage to find the rum at the club, and could do no more than photocopy the one bottle behind the bar. Yeah right.
Fortunately we were not in the rum winning list, so did not receive one of these “virtual” bottles of rum, but I understand that all the winners will eventually receive real solid (or liquid) bottles of rum instead of just pictures of it.
Outlaw won the “gun” prize for being first across the finish, and was also second on handicap. Boyd and Sonya had a very good race in breezy conditions, and kept their boat fast the whole way – well done. Tomodachi was the winner on handicap, the big Moody yacht was well sailed, Greg and Karen had their usual skilled crew of John and Annette with them, and they had a quick race in wind that was very good for their heavy displacement. Crocus was third, also going very nicely in the strong reaching conditions, so well done to Craig and Erica. Coffee prizes were awarded to the boats that were 4th, 5th and 6th on handicap, and I am pleased to say that this was real coffee, not pictures. Thanks as always to our wonderful sponsors, Orakei Yacht Sales and Columbus Coffee.
After the prizes had been awarded, we had a moment to reflect on the passing of Norma Nell, for whom this memorial race was named. A little quiet time to remember fondly someone who was so very precious to all of us who knew her.
This was a very fast race, and mostly quite manageable despite the strength of the wind, so altogether an easy and pleasant sail for most of us. The weekend was a beauty as seems to be the norm for our cruise racing these days, this Summer is turning out very nicely for yachting, but perhaps not so good for farmers.
Please check the results of this race, and also the Series results. I have added Outlaw to the list of yachts who have in fact entered the whole post-Christmas series, and hopefully we now have all yachts showing in there, if not, please let me know.
I have made some temporary adjustments for Communique and Incentive for those races which they missed due to club duties, but these may need slight adjustment later. Also check your handicaps, and if you think your handicap is too hard or not correct, please tell me.