OK – yes we were last over the start-line, last over the finish-line, last in PHRF and last in the short-handed division, but we do have great last-ing memories of a fun-filled race. Having spent the last 3-years restoring a tired aluminum 1978 Doug Peterson 2-ton IOR yacht, this race was the shakedown for the new rig, and a new crew member, Bryan. We had elected to go short-handed (probably because the skipper is a bit short in many departments) and decided to add to the mix a hard-of-hearing crew-member in his 80th year (actually my Dad – Lew).
A poorly timed start put us on the line just as Vodafone was approaching at pace, and when rounding Rangi light we watched in envy the sterns of our fellow colleagues as we set to work to put up our kite (first time with this crew). A perfect set after the second hoist, and I looked on with pride at a lovely spinnaker still bearing her original Argentina sail numbers and a 1978 year of manufacture label!
Holding the rhumb-line to Channel Island we kept many boats within sight (20/20 eyesight required) but half-way to Curvier we broached and managed to wrap the spinnaker around its sock control lines – a lot of fun for a 3-handed crew to drop and clear. Eventually we decked it, but were unable to sort it in time for a re-hoist, and at the cost of 2 knots of boat speed (however a school of dolphins arrived and the smiles on their faces suggested we were still in the hunt). Rounding Curvier we settled into genoa reach and the skipper tried to grab a few Z’s before the night-shift. Unfortunately 3Ž4 the way up the back of the Barrier someone forgot to turn on the wind-machines and we flopped around gasping for pressure, which never seemed to arrive. Several 360’s later (no rudder control because no forward motion) we eventually crawled out into some increasing pressure and set off for the Poor Knights. All was going well and the pressure continued to increase (we even had to change down to a jib at one stage), but unfortunately it kept moving more Northerly and so we had to tack the last 3 hours to the Knights in moderate seas. Rounding the Knights we set a reach on a steady breeze up to 20 knots and headed for home.
We decided it was a good time to have some food, but were shocked when the old-man (an old sea dog as well) pulled out bananas as part of his meal. Now I am not a superstitious man, but I do have a silver coin at the mast step of the new rig (you don’t mess with the sea gods). Dad will be full body-searched before next race!
Under good pressure, we were making a steady 8+ knots home-bound but a couple of hours or so later we were becalmed with sails flapping. A quick hoist of the original spinnaker revealed a couple of tears so it was replaced with another spinnaker (of the same 1978 vintage) – but it set OK, and although we slopped about for a long time eventually it was able to capture enough pressure to get us moving forward at a couple of knots
During this time dad made us dinner, and I was glad when dad listened to my advice that putting the freeze dried mashed potatoes directly into the rice risotto was not the best idea. Dinner was served, and we the ravenous crew looked upon our meal with the eyes of someone dining out at a top restaurant … that was until a small gust tipped my untouched dinner into the sole of the cockpit and onto my sea-boots – with no pride I scraped it back into my plate and ate it (at least I didn’t need to add salt). I wondered what they were eating on the other boats? Of course we had dessert – canned pears – which were put into the same bowls as the risotto.
Soon after a SW wind change collapsed the spinnaker and we set the genoa for an ever-tightening reach to the next mark. After clearing Kawau early in the morning we were just able to lay the Tiri channel but had to tack into the Rangi channel. Up until this point we had good pressure but it quickly died with the breaking of day to a miserly 2 knots – but surprisingly with tidal effect and a heavy boat we were able to maintain a SOG greater than the true wind speed (damn the speed sweet-spot for my boat is 2-3 knots!!!). After a long time we were finally able to reach the main channel where there was some real pressure and we finally tacked up to the yellow bouy to finish the race with an unrespectable time of 1 day 21 hours 9 minutes and 49 seconds. All-the-same we had an excellent trip, learned a lot (one of them being how tough short-handed sailing is) and appreciate very much the organization by the RAYC to create these events for us competitors.
Steve Henry (skipper Iemanja)