September 25, 2011-Sunday Racing
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Racing in African Waters
I called for the genoa, the “red bag”, and as it came on deck I went forward to help Andy hook it up.
When I called back to Judy, in the cockpit, to relead the sheets she demurred, “That’s the wrong sail.” She said.
I looked up from my work on the bow and saw she was right. In the few moments since I’d gone forward the wind had built. It had been 10 knots, now it looked like 15.
“What’s it blowing?” I shouted.
Judy glanced at the instruments and said, “16 knots, it’ll be more outside!”
We’ve had these conversations before and Judy is usually right, more often than I am, about which sail to set.
“OK, get the blue bag up here.” I shouted to the forward hands, and in a second the #4 jib came up. Andy rigged it and I went aft to line up for the start.
We reached back and forth a couple of times to get a sense of the line and set our clocks to the radio call: “Five minutes…NOW!” I decided on a port start at the left end, not the bold move that it usually would have been because for this race, being a reaching start, port was the only way to go.
We tacked, with speed, to leeward of Galactica, and went for the pin end.
“Three, two, one, START”. We were first to cross and we headed out of Richards Bay towards the anchored ships offshore, which we were sailing around today, leading the fleet and pulling out fast.
So, a good start, a good head of steam, and we had the right sail, for which I am eternally thankful. We just shouldered down and charged out to sea ducking the spray and looking for the first mark, a ship named “Sanko” five miles out, should be bearing 126 degrees.
We could see the ship’s masts and we homed in on it. Nomad, the 56 foot catamaran, overtook us on the way, her crew cockily demonstrating to us how their beer bottles could sit calmly on their cockpit coamings while we were heeled at 25 degrees and there was nothing calm about our ride and no beer drinking either. But we got the last laugh on Nomad. They were a bit shorthanded being only two aboard, and no navigator; they headed off to the wrong next mark. On Wings we had the next mark already entered on our plotter and Judy gave me the course: 250 degrees. We turned to that heading and saw another ship anchored three miles away. That must be it. Nomad, by this time, was nearly hull down, heading off on a course of 150, towards oblivion we figured, or Durban.
But with only three miles to go we had too little time to get the kite up, and anyway in 24 knots of wind we were already doing 9 knots and didn’t need it, plus, with the additional boost from the Alguhas current that flows southward around here at 1.5 knots, Banzai, the next mark, was coming up fast.
We jibed, rounded, put in a reef, and headed towards home, with Nomad nowhere in sight and the rest of the fleet following us a long ways back.
The last leg, like the first, was a close reach. We would have preferred a beat, but you take what you can get, and we sailed fast back towards Richards Bay and finished first by about two miles over Silhouette, the next boat, at 2 hours and 18 minutes for the whole course. We celebrated with cold beers, just like the old days.
At the awards party we found that going fast on the first outing doesn’t pay; they gave us a brutal rating and we corrected out to third. Silhouette won, 39 seconds ahead of Galactica and 14 minutes ahead of us on corrected time. But it was OK. We had fun, sailed well, didn’t break anything, and we made those other guys happy for beating us. Plus, we got a lot of favorable comments on how well Wings looked and sailed. All in all, a great day.
Wednesday we depart Richards Bay for the next port and the next adventure.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Richards Bay, SA
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