Royal Akarana Yacht Club was the only New Zealand club represented at this year’s Airle Beach and Hamilton Island Race Weeks. Whilst there were other Kiwi sailors on various boat, it was RAYC that led the way an entire crew.
The boat in question is Menace, the MC38 One Design owned and “skippered” by Howard Spencer. The crew are renowned for enjoying themselves, and their adventures at Airlie and Hamo further embossed this tradition.
Like all decent Airlie and Hamo programs, you need a support boat, and Howard’s launch Erehwemos became known as Menace Island for both regattas and it was Team Menace that took charge on dance floors.
“We never saw clouds, waves, or any wind exceeding 14 knots (except on the laydays… typical) so not the best conditions for the heaviest crew in the fleet in both regattas. The few times we did get wind we showed our pace. We were famous (at times). Eventually we figured out how to get pace in the light which was a significant improvement for us,” said Team Menace captain, Howard Spencer.
From the horse’s mouth:
This regatta proved to be very relaxing an enjoyable and took the title as the most social of the two regattas.
On the sailing front was a mixed bag, we had some brilliant moments, destroyed by;
1) While leading by a long way race committee shortening the course off a mark not on the course. We had to learn that in Australia they listen to the VHF as appose to looking at flags.
2) Having taken the gun by a long way received a technical protest relating to the string rule and unwinding yourself when rounding the mark the wrong way, funny part being the protesting boat was also being dsq’d for hitting the mark while re-rounding.
3) While leading again we had some gear breakage (headsail halyard) and on the MC38 you only have one of those so it was day over.
Other results where ordinary, which may or may not be due to social activities.
Started well with a gun! Airlie experience did us proud as we were listening this time when they randomly shortened our course. Unlike the rest of the fleet, we were leading but there was some humor as many in the MC38 fleet did not realise.
Next two days were pretty average as we struggled with tactics and pace in the very light, tidal conditions, tricky to say the least with many crews stacked with lots of professionals and Hamo experts. With us just being a bunch of M Class sailors with very little Hamo experience, the rest of the fleet did have a bit over us.
Layday was appropriately celebrated at Whitehaven Beach on the Erehwemos. Enough said.
At this stage we were last by 5 points with a very compressed fleet in terms of scoring but anyone could still win it. We started the ‘big dig’ on the Thursday with a couple of very difficult races We got a third and fourth but that does not tell the story of our races. We were out the front and out the back door in both races at different marks and it again showed how close these boats are with a small error costing you places and large errors taking you from first to last, a puff can take you down the run 2-3 knots faster than the guys next to you. We had some great saves despite the results and all the leaders had a bad day, so we were still in the hunt.
Day 5 and we had our best day on the water with a first and a second and only losing that second to one of those localised puffs that slipped one boat ahead. Bit of a bugger but this day lifted us to a clear third on the ladder, we were back in the game and all boats could still win and four could still grab that wooden spoon we’d known so well all week…..
The final day was much like the first, a Harbour course (they call them coastal or Island races), light again with pot holes everywhere and being last start we had a huge fleet of cruisers to sail through, boats like Condor of Bermuda that cast a huge slow wind shadow. Everyone was fighting for the pin, but we saw something on the right we liked so tacked away for a port tack boat end start all alone. This move had the Aussies scratching their heads. It was a great call and we rounded Pentecost Island in a close second, having to do a ‘Buffalo Girls go round the outside’ we managed to work our way into first place as the rest of the MC’s tried to sail through the fleet. We led until dent passage in which we got beaten by some superior local knowledge on the tide to claim second. The last three boats finished within four seconds of each other, the result lifting us into a tie for second, but pushed back to third on the second count back.
One comment made was “jumped out of the bushes and took everyone by surprise in the second half of the regatta”. We do have a habit of scaring people from time to time!
A great rescue from being buried deep at the layday and shows one should never ever give up during a regatta and fight for every place, even if it is fourth verse fifth.
We had a great time, the boat is awesome fun, the fleet is so close making it really tight racing, our Doyle sails in my opinion where the best of the fleet, the issue with having boat speed is when you go in the wrong direction and go a long way in the wrong way quickly!!!
Stand by for the return of the Menace to Waitemata for this summer. Yes she is packed and in transit back home, before we return to Australia in 2014 for another series of one design regattas.
When we asked Howard if there were any fun stories he could share we were hit with the response, “they stay on tour.” We’re certain that these RAYC sailors had a fantastic time and represented us well.
Congratulations to the entire Menace crew. We look forward to seeing them back racing in Auckland soon![divider_line]