Race 4 was scheduled 1 week after Race 3, and the forecast was not very family-friendly, with rain and gusty breeze on the menu for those who attended. As a result, we had a small fleet at the start.
Wind was up and down a bit, hovering between 14 and 20 knots for the start, but from the North, so it was going to be an on-the-nose beat up to Rangi Lighthouse where Mackenzie Racing Buoy is situated.
Absolut Leisure, Communique, Romany and Ocean Rhythm were all at in position for a 10:30 start, and it looked like Mac Nell had been practising his starts for some time when we arrived. Incentive was still coming down the harbour, as Fred and Wendy had decided on a reef for the day, and Fred had forgotten how to set the reef, so took a long time getting the mainsail ready for action. There being no starter for the race, it was away on GPS time at 10:30.
Absolut Leisure, Communique and Romany all opted for full mainsail and small headsail for the race, while the 2 Townson yachts had decided on a reef in the main, and their normal furling headsails, though Fred took in a couple of rolls on the headsail to make it a bit smaller.
Once again, Communique clearly made the best start at the pin, with Romany to leeward, and Absolut Leisure safely to leeward of Romany. Absolute could probably have started much better, but they were polite to us short-handed on Romany and did not push hard, thanks John. Ocean Rhythm, despite all his practice ruins, was a long way behind at 10:30. Apparently Mac Nell had suffered from a lack of attention and a failure of sailing instruction reading, because he later claimed that the starts were always at 10:35, so how come they had suddenly changed? Incentive started probably nearly 3 minutes late, Ocean Rhythm about a minut1.5 minutes late.
Up the beat, all the yachts were quite comfortable with their sail settings. It was a long way to Mackenzie Buoy, but the tide was helping and the water not too rough. On Romany, I had Cheryl Cliffe helming the boat, as Linz was engaged elsewhere, and Cheryl was doing a good job, but Communique was slowly lifting away to windward and making the same speed. Absolut Leisure was away and making good speed and height as all the yachts beat on port tack across the channel towards the Rangi shore. I had a quick feel of the boat, pulled the traveller up an inch, and suddenly we were faster and higher, and were able to sail into second place just ahead of Communique. Cheryl took over the helming, and sailed a great race on a strange yacht – very good work by her. Incentive had started late, but was going very well to windward and passed Ocean Rhythm on this first board across to the Rangi shore.
This is how the beat continued, with Absolut Leisure moving steadily away, and Romany, Communique, Incentive and Ocean Rhythm following closer together. Around Mackenzie Buoy, Romany made a poor approach and rounding, allowing the other yachts to close up a little, but basically had slightly more pace than Communique and Incentive for the long reaching legs across to Cable marker, and then to Issy Bay Red.
The boats were travelling more or less as expected, so Absolut Leisure was a long way ahead at Issy Bay Red, and Romany approached with a reasonable lead over Communique, but had problems with clearing another yacht in a different race that was finishing through Issy Bay Red and a parked yacht – we had to round the mark and then avoid them for some time before we could turn down towards Browns Island Navy Buoy.
Absolut Leisure was now invisible as the rain had increased a bit, and visibility was poor. We could not even see John’ boat in the murk, so he must have been about 800m or more in front of Romany at that point. Communique rounded 3rd, only about 300m behind Romany, then another 250m further back to Incentive, and Ocean Rhythm behind that by some distance, but travelling well.
We did not pole out for the run to Navy Buoy – and nobody else did either. We just got the small sail working goose-wing as best we could, and sailed down the line of the chart-plotter to where the buoy should have been. But it wasn’t there. Called Fendall on VHF, and we agreed to just turn at approximate GPS position of the mark and that was the best we could do. So, Romany turned, and after sailing a few boat-lengths towards Motuihe Channel we saw this mostly submerged little yellow buoy in the position of Navy Buoy, so called Fendall and advised him that ti was there and what it looked like, and carried on beating towards the finish.
At this point, Absolut Leisure appeared out of the murk from the right side of the course, he was only about 250m in front of us. John had not been able to find the almost invisible mark for Navy Buoy, and had sailed well past its position trying to find it – he must have lost at least 600m of ground, and maybe more.
Beat to the finish was more or less uneventful, and as can be seen from the results, all the yachts finished within 4 minutes from 1st to last on corrected time. So this was a race of “if-only” sailing.
If-only John Muir had been able to see that Navy buoy substitute, or if his chart-plotter had been working, then he would have been a few minutes faster, and probably would have won.
If-only Incentive and Ocean Rhythm had started on time, they would have been closer to the front as well.
But that’s sailing.
Wind was still strong from the North, so we all went into Issy Bay as Station Bay would not have been any good at all. We had prize-giving and sausages aboard Absolut Leisure before they had to get back to Auckland for a family function. As usual the sausages were first class, and we swapped a few tales of the race and found out what was the reason behind the slow starts of the 2 Townson boats. The race had been much easier than expected, and the wind never gusted over 25 knots for the day, and the rain had been enough to wet us, but we were not soaked. Altogther a very enjoyable day’s sailing.