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Sailing is always magic for me, there is some mystique. On some days, sometimes, some nights it’s extra special, for instance, when you‘ve got a nice light head breeze, with slightly cracked sheets on a darkened sea under a black velvet sky, highlighted by a thousand stars. So it was in this year’s Sydney to Southport. It was a beautiful race, beautiful conditions and Wot Eva performed very well.
We had a great start, came off the line well, fifth out of the heads. Straight line to Seal Rocks seemed to be the order of the day and we had no trouble laying that. Seal Rocks would be our first decision making point. There’s little to no current across Stockton Byte normally, so Seal Rocks for a TP is probably your first Way Point. And then the question, stay in or go out? With today’s technology and yacht trackers, every boat is watching their competitors. Where’s Ragamuffin, Shogun, Pretty Fly, etc? Are they in or out? Where are the big boats? What do we think we should do and what does our weather man tell us we should do? Our course north is about 010, currently laying 030 so it seems very obvious it’s the making leg – so we head north.
There are several boats out further than us and Shogun, one of our competitors, is five miles wide. Rags and Hooligan appear to be in shore. Currents not too bad and we’ve got good wind so we stand on. About lunch time we were waiting for the nor’easter to come in and capitalise on this decision. We’re about 30 miles off the coast by now and praying for that nor’easter. We’re now sailing alongside Shogun, matching her boat speed which is very encouraging. Shogun tacks off and heads west steering about 280-285. This is a big price to pay and she’ll give up a lot of ground if the nor’easter reaches out to us. We decide to stand on a bit longer. Unfortunately, this was a mistake and by the time we reached back to the coast the other TPs are now 15 miles in front of us. As is so often the case in yacht racing opportunities opened to the leaders and closed for the back runners. We had to settle to come in several hours behind the position we would have chosen.
That’s the bad news, the good news – we had a fantastic crew. The work we’ve done on the rig has given us good boat speed and I can see the forming of a very strong race crew. My personal congratulations to all those that took part, especially those that helped in pre-race organisation. It was a fun sail and personally I enjoyed it very much. The beer was cold and the hospitality was warm at Southport Yacht Club.
Brisbane – Keppel
It started with a delivery from Southport to the Marina in Brisbane River. Buzz and Brad sailed the boat up with help from crew members and yours truly, eating and sleeping and eating and sleeping. They did a top job. We arrived at 4am to a full running tide in the Brisbane river. To anyone who saw those photos of the floods I can well imagine what would have happened with flood water running down there on a run out tide. We parked the boat and got ready for the next race. Doyles Sailmakers helped us repair some headsails.
We dropped the lines at 9am, race day - down the river and across Moreton Bay to the start. Storm jib and try sail up, reporting 14POB, storm gear down and headsail and main up, asymmetric on deck. With three minutes to go for the start. Rolled in on the start line - Good Start. The big boats are clear of us and we’re away!
Heading across the bay for North Stradbroke, I don’t know if John Hearne had something for breakfast that day but as we arrived at Stradbroke the weather shifted to the north and allowed us to retain the asymmetric and head down the harbour for Mooloolaba. A couple of headsail changes later saw us clear Moreton Bay with a way point set on Indian Head at Fraser Island. Again, it was a beautiful night - we have a half moon on a starry sky with the lights of the Sunshine Coast and Glasshouse Mountain abeam as Wot Eva slides north.
Breaksea Spit held its normal challenges. Finally, around Breaksea and set course at 280. Lady Elliot to port, Lady Musgrave to starboard, we’re now on our own and haven’t seen another boat for about 12 hours. We’ve lost internet range so it’s guessing now. The wind’s holding steady at around 090 at about 10 knots. We’re trying to move ourselves to the left hand side of the field so we can get a better angle for the Keppel approach. A threatening black squall is developing in the east which could be just the ticket to move us south a little. It does the job well, although with the introduction of the tropical rain, crew numbers seem to thin on deck. We got our south in, jibed over and made a course of 295, bang on. So we finished the race at about 3am on Sunday. Third over the line, first PHS Division A, first PHS overall, fourth IRC.
Best boat speed on the trip went to John Hearne with 20. Tom Murphy was awarded Man of the Match. All in all, a good result. A good crew and lots of fun!
By David Pescud