We love to feature the General because it is such an incredible fucking downwind machine. It is a great example of what happens when knowledgeable sailors put together a top shelf program to create something truly special. This thing is that. Here’s another stunning effort:
Some blistering footage shot from General Lee after the Fremantle Doctor (Fremantle’s fabled and ultra reliable sea breeze) kicked in early in the afternoon and built to close to 30 knots gives a feel for the adrenalin rush that the crew felt on the sleigh ride from Rockingham back to the Fremantle finish line in South of Perth Yacht Club’s Race Around Cockburn Sound over the weekend.
“The downwind part of the race was sailing right on the edge” said skipper Paul Eldrid. “Our average speed over the 21 minutes it took to run down the shipping channel was 18.7 knots.”
In a light easterly at the start, General Lee worked hard to control the favoured boat end of the line, keeping it clear on the right in order to stretch out to the left as far as possible on the way to the windward mark. When the time came to tack to the right, General Lee was able to cross ahead of the Marten 49 Charlotte, which led the 50 foot brigade on the march to the top mark.
The long windward leg to Rockingham, broken up by two tight reaches, allowed Charlotte to establish a comfortable lead over Knee Deep with Optimus Prime some distance back, being monstered by the all carbon Bakewell-White machines, General Lee and Frank Saraceni’s Al Fresco.
The smaller boats were finding the going pretty tough on the long windward leg into Rockingham at the southern end of Cockburn Sound and were looking at a deficit of around 8 minutes on the leaders. It was here that things began to get interesting. With an A3 up in a freshening breeze and a very tight angle, General Lee began the task of reeling in the leaders. It was hard work up to the southern end of the channel, testing the boat, the crew and the sails to keep it upright at speed, but in the shipping channel they were able to bear away five degrees or so and by the top mark, with just a short leg to the finish line, General Lee was barely a boat length behind Phil Childs’ Farr 47 Knee Deep (which overtook Charlotte to claim line honours) and was poised to run them down.
A rare crew error highlighted the absence of two key members of the General Lee team, with Ant Little away in Melbourne and forward hand Billy Leonard at home with a virus, the spinnaker halyard could not be released from the lock. With the boat held head to wind for three to four minutes while the mess was cleared away, the chance of another line honours win evaporated, and a jubilant Knee Deep crew celebrated their well earned victory.
General Lee finished just three minutes behind them, a performance that was still good enough to comfortably take the win on IRC – their third IRC victory from four races this season.
Eldrid might be reasonably proud of his recent offshore achievements in WA. The first five placegetters on IRC handicap were all optimized by Eldrid at some point.