First race of 2014

13 April 2014

The first cruiser race of the year today. Stuart, who crewed for me on my first race last year, came with me, the first real trip out to sea since the winter so we were a bit cautious in case of equipment failures. The forecast was for light and variable winds. We got off the berth about 0945 without problems, raised the main inside the harbour and motored out into the flat calm and sunny sea.

The race officer today elected for a committee boat start, and because of the light winds he'd set out some dinghy marks for us to race around instead of the fixed cruiser marks we normally use further out to sea. The first leg was due west into the tide and the wind was so light and variable that it was hard to make progress towards the start line. Lots of us started engines (you can do that up to 4 mins before the start) to get within reach. Two of the faster boats took the idea even further by motoring right across the start line, stopping engine a few dozen metres beyond, and then drifting backwards across the line in the tidal current then throwing anchors out to stop themselves right at the line! One boat decided not to race and motored away to spend time on her own somewhere.

We stopped the engine 5 mins pre start and listened out for the dinghy-style countdown for the 1030 start - five minutes, four, one, START. Sadly we were still nowhere hear the line and it took us 17 minutes to get up to it. Others were in the same situation and we all flapped about in the sunshine trying to make progress. Even those guys who'd anchored at the line had trouble getting over.

Gradually though the wind picked up and we got some motion going, and after an hour or so it was probably about force 2. We folded down the sprayhood and Stuart went forward on the leeward side to use his own arm as a genoa pole to try and get some sort of sail shape as we went downwind.

Round the first mark and turning east into the wind it all felt very different, a bit cooler, but Elsa was really happy and well balanced. We were able to use body weight to keep her fairly flat, keel vertical, to reduce leeway and she bubbled along very well indeed. We misjudged a couple of tacks and lost a few seconds, and Free-n-Easy although a slower boat on handicap had her spinnaker going and was close behind us much of the way. One of the lead boats misunderstood the course instructions and wasted a bit of time going round a mark he didn't need to, and lost a few places. We completed our lap in 1 hour 12 mins and felt like we were roughly in the middle of the fleet, 6 boats racing out of 7 who'd orginally gone out. The committee boat had remained on station the whole time and so we got a toot as we crossed the line.

Very sunny and great light-air sailing, there were lots of other sail and motor boats within sight, including all of our own Club safety boats doing a training weekend.

Keen to get lunch we motored back in and were safely back on the berth by 1215. Deciding to pack the boat up later we went straight to the clubhouse along with most of the other crews as they returned. The committee boat motored in and we were soon perusing the results sheet to see the corrected time post handicap. We were 3rd out of 6 which we were very pleased with - I had a 3rd place finish last year but there'd only been 3 boats that day. 3rd out of 6 is much more satisfying than 3rd out of 3!

A great day, the boat was fine, no gear failures or problems. We did note that the outboard seems different since the service - at full power the revs span right up with a roar and we lost drive. We thought the prop had come off but it seems to be cavitation - the prop is sucking air down around itself, from the surface or from the exhaust, and losing grip. Fine at lower speeds though. I will ask the man who serviced it if he can explain what that means.


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