Superstition and triskaidekaphobia did not deter sailors from participating in Match 13 of the Team Racing Series held on Saturday afternoon. A large number of new faces turned up to enjoy the popular Team Racing and we enjoyed a wonderful mix of youth and experience although the younger members certainly dominated the crews with the average age of competitors well below 30. With the gentle winter sunshine the Clubhouse was a hive of activity with a large crowd on the Ndongeni Lawns soaking up the warm sun and gathered for the Saturday afternoon live music which is becoming a regular feature of the Club week. A group of hardened Halcat sailors took advantage of the afternoon high tide to join the racing with their colourful sails adding to the atmosphere of a vibrant yacht club.
Once the random selection of the teams and boats was settled a short briefing followed which also seemed to attract the interest of the many non sailors keen to learn the intricacies of yacht racing. The sailors quickly set out to rig their allocated boats and shortly before 14h00 the fleet left their moorings for the race course. Once out on the bay and away from the shelter of the CBD it was soon clear that the north easterly had firmly established itself for the afternoon. At 18 – 20 knots it was a borderline decision to reef the mainsail or not, especially with the limited number of heavyweights and ballast on board boat. The younger members onboard Pacer Three quickly opted for a reef which was a sensible choice as the wind continued to build. With no shipping movements scheduled for the afternoon the Port Captain very kindly agreed to the fleet using the Esplanade Channel and the now familiar windward leeward course was set with the weather mark on the starboard edge of the channel immediately in front of the Clubhouse and the leeward mark laid on the port edge of the channel in front of Wilson’s Wharf and the start line almost midway along the course but close enough to the Clubhouse for the spectators ashore to enjoy grandstand seats. The start mark was laid on the edge of the channel and Committee Board on the other side providing a long start line which does not interfere with the busy pleasure boats from Wilson’s Wharf traversing the channel laden with eager spectators keen to witness the yachting spectacle. The brisk breeze made laying the anchor on the Committee Boat tricky and she drifted back a number of times before finally holding in the position selected by the Bridge Crew. The leeward mark however must have drifted closer to the sandbank than intended as all the crews found it challenging performing the port rounding back onto the beat.
The original 14h00 start sequence was delayed a few moments to allow the Sarie Marie to clear the channel. With the AP down and the usual Team Racing 3 minute start sequence underway the Bridge Crew abandoned the start with only a few seconds before the start signal in order to provide the younger members, who were still struggling with their reef, an opportunity to reach the start line otherwise the race would have been an unfair 3 horse race with one team short of a boat. Once the fleet regrouped the start sequence recommenced only to be abandoned again in order to allow a service vessel to clear the channel as the Bridge Crew nervously calculated that she would likely reach the vicinity of the start line within the final minute which would not be sensible in the building breeze. Within moments of recommencing the start sequence again the younger members on Pacer Three managed to lodge themselves on the sandbank a few boat lengths immediately astern of the Committee Boat. Despite their desperate pleas for assistance the Bridge Crew continued with the start proceedings knowing full well that they were safely not going anywhere. The remaining 3 Pacers got off to a cracking start and the start sequence commenced for the hardy Halcat sailors who had come out for some afternoon racing. It was not long however before the Halcats rounded the weather mark and with the breeze up their tail the sailors took fright and promptly retired to the Ndongeni Lawns. With the breeze approaching 23 knots the music from the lawns could be heard wafting over the bay almost drowning out the pleas for assistance from the younger members. The Committee Boat finally upped anchor and went to their assistance providing a gentle tow to free them from the indignity of their entrapment on the bank as the little 5 horsepower outboard was no match for the windage in the strong breeze.
As soon as Pacer Three was dislodged the crew opted to retire and the Committee Boat decided to hold station for the finish line as the fleet had already completed their allotted 3 laps leaving no time to set an anchor. While the Bridge Crew were busy with Pacer Three the opportunity to photograph the screaming downwind two sail reaches were missed but those ashore can attest to some exhilarating sailing. Unfortunately on the final leeward rounding Pacer Four also found the sandbank allowing Pacer One to storm home in a convincing first place. After a wild downwind ride Pacer Two decided not to tackle the third lap and retired at the weather mark leaving one boat from the Blue Team and one boat from the Yellow Team out on the water. Pacer One decided that a second race would be more than they would like and opted to retire much to the displeasure of the crew on Pacer Four who were looking forward to an opportunity to level the playing field. The Bridge Crew decided that they too had enough excitement for the afternoon and before anyone could change their mind with three sharp hoots on the horn the N over A flags were swiftly hoisted signalling an unfortunate premature end to the afternoon’s racing.
While the fleet returned home the Bridge Crew were left to uplift the marks which proved challenging in the now big breeze especially when the handle on the boat hook parted company. With none of the crew wishing to explain to Mrs Coxen how the boat hook was lost a hasty plan was made to retrieve the partially submerged aluminium pole. Once all the marks were recovered and secured on board the only challenge that remained was mooring the Committee Boat, normally a fairly mundane task except on the 13th match where the Gods decided the manoeuvre should be performed on only one engine and with a big north east blowing up the stern. Notwithstanding a tense few moments the manoeuvre was executed without incident and the Bridge Crew finally had the opportunity to enjoy their, by now cold, toasted curry sandwiches!
With the final score 1 – 0 to the yellow team the crews retired to the Clubhouse for the customary post racing camaraderie and everyone declared that they had enjoyed the afternoon and vowed to return next week, including a number of brave novices who had joined the younger members crew and did not even have the chance to start a race. Match 13 certainly stirred the leader board up and Rowan Price came close to losing his long-held dominance to Brad Rayson, but with Greg Donkin’s fine victory, Brad’s position is no longer looking so secure and next week could provide as much of an upset as the recent UK General Election result. If you have not yet joined the fun you should contact Margie Harris in the Sailing Office without delay to secure your place onboard. In addition there is space aboard the Bridge Boat for any budding photographer looking for an opportunity to capture the perfect action yacht racing shot.
Match 13 crew included:
|Pacer One||Pacer Two||Pacer Three||Pacer Four|
|Blue Team||Yellow Team||Yellow Team||Blue Team|
|Anthony Macmillan||Greg Donkin||Chris Kloppenborg||Brad Rayson|
|Lorna Daniels||Cindy Tatham||Nicholas Rose||Rob Le Roux|
|Mark Futcher||Hannah Donkin||Thamy Vencatasamy||Alex Andreone|
|Gareth Donkin||Coenraad Nel||Giulia Andreone|
|Tanzin Ferrar||Garreth Steyn||Gabriel Pennels|