Commodore Matt Woodley looking relaxed during the cruising race
The forecast for the weekend was the best we have had for a while – SW 10-15 knots for Saturday, going NW on Sunday, and no rain in the forecast. The race committee decided on a course that would finish us at Onetangi (instead of Owhanake as per Course 26) and this was a good pick for the day. I want to thank our race committee, they do an excellent job of picking a course that will work, and so far this season their work has been faultless, so well done those men.
This race was run with a Mark Foy start, so everyone had to start based on GPS time at the start time they were given. This means that the slower yachts get away first, and the faster yachts last. This makes the race quite different, as the yachts in front are racing in the lead for once, and the yachts behind can see that they have targets to try and overtake. The best thing about this format is that it all the yachts finish at around the same time, so all get to the anchorage together – there is no long wait for the slower yachts to finish.
The way we run these races is that we DO take account of the elapsed times, and we correct these times based on handicap as if the yachts had started together. This may seem like an oddity, as a pure Mark Foy race is decided simply on finish position across the line, but we have decided on this way of doing things as it is fairer if the race duration is significantly shorter or longer than the expected time.
Because of the good forecast, we had a lot of boats turn up. 15 yachts started, though a couple decided that they would take a short cut to the destination when they saw that the wind was quite light away from the start, and they had family wanting to get to the anchorage and the beach.
The course took us up past Rangitoto Lighthouse and around the Haystack (just north of Rakino). The wind in the early part of the race tended to be a bit light and it was a goose-wing sail for much of this leg for most yachts. Some boats decided to sail angles rather than pole out, and some yachts carry their headsails better when broad reaching than others, so did not have to pole out so much.
We started about mid-fleet, and we could see the early starters away in the distance, and we could also see the faster yachts as they loomed ever larger in the binoculars from astern.
Up to Rangitoto Light, a number of yachts were sailing quite close together, Tomodachi, Short Circuit, Romany, Incentive, Communique and Quicksilver had all started fairly close together on time, and raced near to each other for most of the way up the channel. Result was holding on ahead of these yachts, and Ocean Rhythm was visible in the distance, as was Crocus. Craig’s yacht Crocus is renowned for being a bit slow to windward, but he showed yesterday that there is nothing wrong with her speed once the boat is reaching or running. Crocus could hardly be seen in the distance, and Mac Nell from Ocean Rhythm said that Crocus had passed him “going like a train”.
The bigger yachts were going very well, and seemed to be catching really fast. We think that perhaps the wind improved slightly as the morning wore on, and this would have helped, but we were still surprised at how quickly Aeolian was catching up, then even more so as the 42 footers, Outlaw, Absolut Leisure and Mr Roosevelt came up fast. These last 3 starters had different ideas about what course to take. Outlaw thought that a trip out to Bean Rock might be beneficial, until Boyd realised that the course was NOT in fact through the Motuihe channel. Absolut Leisure tended to hold close to the right, near the shores of Rangi and Motutapu, while Mr Roosevelt was sailing a more traditional straight-line course.
As MOST of the yachts approached the Haystack, there was a lot of compression in the fleet. Crocus had rounded the haystack much earlier than the rest, and was forging away towards the finish at Onetangi, but the remainder of the fleet was in touch as they approached the rock. Ocean Rhythm was second around, just ahead of Romany, Outlaw, and Result. The other yachts were in a tight group very close behind Result, but we were busy keeping a watch on Outlaw who had a jammed mainsheet block and was concerned that they might round up into us. I will take a guess that Absolut Leisure was next, then Mr Roosevelt, Incentive, Communique, with Aeolian and Tomodachi close behind, I really do not know in what order. Short Circuit and Quicksilver rounded a little after this main bunch.
While the sail up the channel had felt a bit light, we were now power reaching with the apparent wind just forward of the beam. Many yachts were slightly over-powered in this condition as the breeze was probably just over 15 knots or so at this time. We could make out the sails of Crocus in the distance – she was long gone and never in danger of being overtaken. All the other yachts looked fantastic as they knifed through the water at speeds between 7 and 10 knots, and it was a good opportunity for us to see how fast the big boats sail as they passed us one by one. Outlaw had got away to leeward, Absolute Leisure and Mr Roosevelt were working their way past us to windward. Result was going well in this condition, as was Ocean Rhythm – both of these yachts like plenty of breeze. Incentive and Communique were sailing as one would expect from these experienced sailors, with Aeolian showing waterline advantage to pass the shorter boats. Tomodachi was now also showing some real pace, and was able to overtake Communique and Incentive, and was steadily gaining on Result.
At the finish, Crocus already had her sails stowed away by the time the rest of the boats arrived. Outlaw, Absolut Leisure and Mr Roosevelt finished very close together, followed by Romany, then Aeolian. Result and Tomodachi had a very close tussle to the finish, with Result just holding out the big boat. Incentive was close, as was Communique, then Ocean Rhythm, Short Circuit, and Quicksilver. There was a launch anchored on the finish line, and it belonged to Mike and Eileen Smith who kindly took all the race finish times for us, so it was easy to get the results done.
As can be seen, the race finished slightly faster than we had expected, so it was surprising that the late-starting yachts were able to overtake most of the fleet (except Crocus). Because the race results are calculated on handicap and elapsed time, there were a couple of differences between line finish position and handicap corrected time. Crocus was the obvious winner having finished more than 13 minutes ahead of the second yacht. Outlaw finished second, just ahead of Absolut Leisure, but on corrected time, Absolut Leisure takes second place, with Outlaw third.
We had 13 RAYC yachts finish the race, of which 3 went home almost straight after the race. The Hustler and Alberta Rose had started the race, then come straight over to the bay, and it was good to meet up with them in the bay. It was therefore a very convivial meeting on the stony beach for the BBQ, with lots of kids (about 9 or 10 of them) trotting about and playing on the beach. Mike and Eileen Smith from the Launch “Runaway” also joined us for the evening, so we were able to thank them in person for taking the race finish times for us.
Of course there were excellent sausages as always. I now find myself addicted to the pre-sauced sausage after Rosa’s innovation the previous race. I have also discovered that my hearing is defective, as I thought that Paul and Rosa’s son was named “Alex”, but it turns out that he is in fact “Felix” – sorry about that. Prize-giving was handled by ex-commodore Fendall, who was able to thank one of our sponsors in person. Nathan Bonney of Columbus Coffee (and other half Meredith) had been sailing with Matt Woodley on Mr Roosevelt, with Meredith supplying fine food all through the race apparently. Meredith was called upon to administer kisses to the prize-winners – I have no idea what the poor girl had done to deserve this dubious honour, but she bore it bravely.
As the evening wore on, there was a fair bit of chill in the air, so somebody made a small bonfire out of leaves and driftwood, and the night extended a little as we chattered away and were alternately smoked and warmed by the fire.
Altogether a fun race day, though 3 yachts had to get back to town early. We were sorry to miss the company of Crocus, Tomodachi, and Short Circuit, all of whom showed considerable commitment to turn out for the race, then sail straight back to Auckland after the finish – a very good effort and we were glad to see you out there.
This race gave us a first chance to have a proper look at the performance of some of the yachts in terms of relative speed over the ground in stable conditions. As a result of this, we have decided to adjust a couple of handicaps.
We move Quicksilver to 0.68, and Tomodachi to 0.71, more in keeping with the harbour-racing performance of these strongly-built ocean cruising yachts.
Romany moves up to 0.77. I would love to say that this is because of Greg Russell’s hurtful words when talking to us by cell-phone after the race, describing us as “the greatest burglars of all time”. But no, it was not this. We do seem to be going slightly faster since we had the rudder profile improved, and decided that we should be handicapped higher than Communique and Incentive. They are still more experienced sailors than us, and will continue to beat us as often as we beat them, but this seems fairer in light of the last two race results.
The spreadsheet seems to take care of the rest of the fleet, more or less, so we tend to just leave this to its job. The change to Romany’s handicap is a very unusual event, and arises because of a physical change which seems to have resulted in an improvement in the yacht’s performance.
The results spreadsheet is attached. As always, please CHECK the results and let me know if you see any errors, either in the results, or your handicap. Also let me know if you think your handicap is unduly harsh.
I am looking forward to next weekend (yes, that’s right, next race is 17th November). See you out there.