Last race of 2014

26 Oct 2014

The last race today. Four cruisers turned out for the final race of the Len Nolan Handicap series. I’ve been leading the series up till now - we’ve had lots of races cancelled due to weather and lack of turnout, only 2 races have been run up to today, and with my two 3rd place results I was in the lead. I knew the other guys weren’t going to let me get away with that though and sure enough they were there today!

An 1100 start and wind forecast F4-5, Stuart and I debated putting a reef in to the mainsail but Stuart’s a laser sailor and  is always tweaking the mainsheet and we decided we’d go with full main and just let it go if we were over-pressed. Once outside the river we nearly changed our minds but settled on unrolling about 2/3rds of the genoa and leaving the main full.

The swell was a little high and the wind was at the top end of F4. The gate start procedure has the lead boat drawing a line behind himself to a fixed mark for 2 minutes as we cross behind him - we made a good start and passed within a mackerel’s length of his transom about one minute in and we were off to the Omar mark to the south.

One or two of our club marks have disappeared recently, we suspect the pair trawlers have gone past in the dark and scooped them up and not bothered to give them back - but today the marks we were using were all actually there. The two faster boats Port Kerne and Dedicated Dancer were soon well ahead and pointing  better than us, Tramuntana is a similar length to us but seems a bit slower and fell behind. There was a bit of spray coming over into our faces and we were taking the waves head on but the air temperature was mild so we didn’t get cold.

We tacked a couple of times and made our way to Omar in 3rd place, the sea got bigger as we got further offshore but we were in control and soon round the first mark. Bearing away to a broad reach towards the east, the sea was now coming up behind us on the quarter. Mostly this was fine but a few times a big bit of swell came at us un-noticed and picked us up and tried to turn us sideways, needing a big heave on the tiller to pull Elsa back on course. The two boats ahead of us set their spinnakers and got even further ahead. Gybing carefully around the second mark, about 1 hour elapsed, the sea was now almost directly behind us as we headed inshore to the mark known as Steel Can (actually a white round ball, hard to see with the shoreline behind it, but marked in my GPS so we found it ok).

Having done two legs with the wind behind us, we’d started to think perhaps the wind had dropped but once we passed Steel Can and hardened up to beat back to the finish line it was obviously just as strong or perhaps more so. So the final leg was a fairly hard beat back to the line, a couple more tacks to be done, then across the line at 1 hour 37 minutes. 3rd place, Tramuntana was about 25 mins behind us - we await the final results after the handicap calculations.

As it was the last sail of the year we left Elsa with full sail up and shot back up the river with that strong F4-5 pushing us along to some cheers and waves from spectators at the river entrance which was great fun. Back in the berth at 1pm and to the clubhouse for the usual beers and chips and post race banter.  

After lunch Stuart stayed to help me get the sails off and into bags ready to go off for cleaning and storage over winter . I’ve already got the cushions out and home in the loft, and all my pots and pans and other clobber. In two weeks time it’s the crane out….

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