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Feast or Famine

race report

Feast or Famine

The final day of the China Cup report…

Day 4 dawned with something entirely different from AP over N of day 2; looking out over the water, easily 20kts plus. On the water it was to prove 25 knots with peak upwind apparent of 31-32 kts. How would my crew of newbies and beginners cope with that I thought? The result was to make me proud!

It was noticeable that instead of half of the fleet being on the water before the committee boat as in earlier days, people seemed reluctant to leave the marina but as ‘Kellet’ the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Committee Boat trundled down the fairway, engines were started, lines cast off and the fleet followed in her wake.

Motoring towards the start area the boats were sometimes half out of the water in the steep 1.5 to 2m swell. What to hoist? It looked like the fleet were waiting to see what everyone else would do. In the end it seemed half/half full main and 1 reef although 1 boat which we would become more acquainted with later had two reefs in the main plus universally a No 3 up front.

Race 1 was a hard work thrash to windward followed by a 10kt plus zoom back to the bottom, enough wavy stuff to start to break out and surge but not really a full on surf, lots of wheel activity at times and great fun. Two times that, some tired and wet crew around me and a 14/30 finish, our best so far.

As we finished mid fleet we had some time on our hands so we dropped the No 3 and took on board some calories but gently sailed quite far from the committee boat. A glance at the watch showed how little time we had to the next start so a quick hoist and we charged ‘line-ward’. As we got into the area it transpired our timing was perfect and a huge barn-door sized hole had opened up at the committee boat so we crossed in clear air going at a pace only 1 or 2 seconds behind the gun.

I could have said we approached the line, luffed a bit, powered up, stalled a bit and hit the line perfectly but honestly must prevail – but hey-ho, a good start is a good start! We banged right, sailing through gusts in the mid-20’s peaking at over 30 then flicked onto starboard a little high of the lay line as a number of boats seems to have gone early and were struggling to lay.

The plan was to round wide, keep out of trouble and have a clear outside line downwind. We were about, no let’s call that almost exactly a boat length high of the mark when the starboard tacker below us (remember the guy with 2 reefs?) suddenly tacked right in front of us, well he was a little bow forward of us, and seemingly aiming at our shrouds.

I threw the wheel over to try and avoid a collision and reduce our boat speed if there was going to be a hit and nearly made it, his backed and trapped genoa spinning his bow round but the inevitable happened and he ‘landed’ about 8 inches forward of our transom and his bow roller did some fairly extensive modifications to our port pushpit. Well any contact in those conditions was unlikely to be minor.

No one was hurt but the incident cost us time and the ability for the crew to effectively hike on the last windward leg allowing at least 3 boats we had been holding on the previous leg to come through.

Apparently a port tacker had come in, tacked close, and there was minor beam to beam contact. The guy who tacked claimed this threw him into a tack, personally I think there was an element of panic – he was already unsure enough to have in 2 reefs – and he over corrected and spun up and this carried him through a tack. – Having said that, if the port tacker hadn’t come in and broken Rule 15 the whole thing wouldn’t have happened.

The jury exonerated and as is right in our sport, their decision is final.

SO – in the room AGAIN! Twice AGAIN. I say twice as the race committee had protested the actions of the second boat that had barged in to the line as their actions had been considered dangerous and I had been called as a witness.

Of course it was dangerous as the thought of 8 pairs of crew legs being used as fenders between 2 x 3.5 tonnes boats was not pleasant and as I had seen a friend’s legs being trapped between just two jet-skis I had personal experience of such a possibility. So he too was ‘flicked’.

I have spent more times in front of a protest committee in the past 4 days than I have in the last 10 years – well I suppose it evens up the averages a bit. The crew performed well and I think they learned something about themselves. Apart from myself, Li Li, who has been sailing for about 4-5 years but racing for much less, ran the cockpit and the rest – well I don’t think any of them have been sailing for more than 2 years, 2 had 4 days on the 40.7 last year, 4 of them had about 10 days on a FT10, the rest just dinghies and most of them had only seen a spinnaker that big in pictures and when you consider the overall winner was skippered by a former Shosholoza helm you can see the quality of some of the fleet.

A great 4 days, 4 days were we had targets of 1-don’t break any people, 2-don’t break the boat, 3- have fun and 4 – don’t come last. Apart from someone else breaking the boat – Mission Accomplished. The on the water was run excellently by the team from RYHYC led by PRO Russ Parker, the International Jury of 2 Chinese, 1 Thai, 1 UK from Hong Kong presided over by a Frenchman was fair, polite and professional (well I would say that with a 3 and 0 scoreline) and the whole event ticked much better than before. Next year? Certainly! – Shanghai Sailor