Welcome to Yachting Girls

Welcome to a blog where the adventures of a team of crazy women who are mad about sailing can be shared.
We are living in the beautiful Huon Valley in Tasmania, surrounded by outstanding sailing waters.  In June 2007 my husband and I purchased a Columbia 27 cruising yacht.  My husband crews in a Top Hat 24 in the races held by the Port Cygnet Sailing Club so our yacht was going to sit idle for most of the sailing season.  A great idea came to us - lets have an all women crew and take on the men!

Follow our adventures...share our laughs...cheer us on...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Summer sailing

I digress this week somewhat from race sailing to reflect on the number of wonderful women who love to sail.  I keep coming across them as I surf the net while I am keeping track of some other favourite people who do crazy things in boats. Visit the link Sailing Simplicity and follow the adventure and reflections of Teresa who has given up a great deal to follow her dream of living aboard a yacht with her cat Dory.  As a person who has recently sold up everything in South Australia and moved to Tasmania with nothing but what would fit in an 8x5 trailer and the back of a Landrover Discovery, I can really relate to the wonderful cathartic effect of leaving all the junk from ones past behind. Unfortunately we have really started to acquire the junk of a middle class lifestyle again and I wonder why. It is nice to have good things but do we really need them?
I left behind a good job, a not so good house and a heap of stress to move to a not so good job, a lovely house and a heap of stress!  Now who's crazy?

The compensations here are the wonderful waters for sailing or just watching.  What a stress release to get out on the water every week - wind in the hair etc - all that romantic but real living!  
Yesterday's race was another fine example of the exhilaration that a fast moving yacht can provide, the freshest of cold air, the challenge of trying to beat a friendly foe and camaraderie of the after race reflections over a barbecue and a drink or two.  I worked hard enough to have a few sore muscles and a sense of being of value aboard. With Christmas fast upon us I look forward to the New Year - watching the yachts arriving from the Sydney to Hobart Ocean Yacht Race, Fireworks at midnight on the docks on New Years Eve and the Twilight racing season when the girls will get together and take on the men for our second season.  What a joy of anticipation.  Must make sure that we have enough people to do it properly and that the yacht is in as good a condition as she can be. Til next time... Seasons greetings and good sailing if you can.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Summer Race 2

It is wonderful to have such great friends who will take me aboard and let me sail even though there is little work for me to do. Wyvern was again my sailing berth with the Cap'n and my "Significant Other". Sunday's race was sailed in very gusty but also fickle winds that continually changed direction.  We sailed well, flying along in great gusts of wind - water creaming over the side.  Not much fun when your feet end up in 4 inches of water but very exhilarating none the less. It was a long race and the 11 yachts were well spread across the course.  Two yachts ended up withdrawing with gear problems and the rest were very competitive with small tussles between groups of yachts ongoing throughout the event. The Etchells were not out in force so Bushido had pretty much the lead to herself. The two Solings were vying for the lead very competitively until one had to pull out with a snapped halliard. For once the wooden, older yachts outnumbered the more modern GRP hulled racers and there was some strong competition for handicap results.  Of the 11 yachts that started we came 3rd with Bianco and Pelican placing 1st and 2nd. Still we are well in contention for a series win.
My confidence is still building and although little hands-on activity is available - at least I am good ballast in strong winds.
'Til next time... 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Summer Race 1

Beautiful weather with a stiff breeze was the order of the day for Sunday's race - the first of the summer series.  This would have to be one of the most competitive races that I have been able to race in.  Again I was aboard Wyvern with the Cap'n and my "significant other" male.  The wind was blowing up the bay from the south west and so there was a significant amount of tacking requires to get to the first mark which was way down the bay.  The Cap'n showed his depth of knowledge of the sailing conditions in the bay and so we were well placed at the first mark. Throughout the race we were dicing with three other yachts - a Couta boat, Bianco, an Endeavour and One More Time, an Etchell. Some strategic tacking meant that by the second mark we were in front of all of these. On the fourth leg of the race they overtook us and over the remaining legs we were dicing backwards and forwards but were able to successfully hold the thre yachts off to cross the finish line ahead.  When the handicap results came out we had won the day.   There were 13 yachts in the race so we did well.  It was great fun and the competition was excellent. Hopefully we will get to repeat the exercise next Sunday. 'Til then.. good sailing

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lightning series 1

What a fantastic event! Three short races in quick succession and on a great day. Again I was fortunate to sail on Wyvern with the boys. There was a 25-30 knot wind and quite a strong swell in the bay. The wind was ideal for Wyvern that performs best in strong wind conditions. We had two really great starts and one that was a little disappointing.  But each race was exhilarating and very competitive.  
There were nine yachts in each race with 4 of the Junior Pacer Dinghy fleet also joining in for Race 1. All yachts were closely packed at all of  the starts and there was some very tight tacks around the marks.  The two Etchell class yachts that competed had some good duals with some solid spinnaker work downwind.  The two Solings were a little less competitive but considering the crews were both getting to know new yachts it was not surprising. Wyvern was well placed at every mark with excellent strategic tacking.  When all yachts had crossed the finish line the tacking and angling for a good place on the starting line began.  All of the cruising yachts were close on all legs and with many close shaves when tacking.  At the end of the races the results were compiled with Wyvern winning Race 1 & 2 and coming second in Race 3 and thus winning the series. 
I had a ball - but unfortunately did not get to do a great deal.  I did manage the jib sheets when we had the sails "goose-winged", but was also valuable ballast on the reaching legs.
It was a fun sail and the great competition between yachts was enjoyed by all.  
We will see what next week brings. 'Til then...good winds and gentle seas.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday sailing - the highs and lows!

It was disappointing that we missed the last of the Spring Series. through a lack of a competent helmsman being available. My number one helmsman was not down at Cygnet for the day and number two had eye surgery so it was a landlubber I be. Sad. Still this week I was able to crew for on Wyvern with the significant male and the Cap'n. This was one of those days when one wonders why we actually love sailing. The Cap'n loved it but for the first time I was feeling decidedly queezy.  Seasickness ! what me ? Never! Ha Ha. 
The weekend started poorly weather wise with strong winds, rain and snow on the mountains - lots of snow. For the non-Australian followers of this blog - if there are any - this is supposed to be early summer! It was bitterly cold and damp on Sunday and I thought it was an ideal opportunity to test out the new wet weather gear I had given myself for my birthday last month.  Rugged up with the full sailing suit and life jacket I was a good imitation of the Michelin man but for all that I was warm and dry. The race started at Cygnet and was to travel down the bay, into the Huon River estuary and out into the D'entrecasteaux Channel and into Esperance Bay. (See map) The three islands in the bay (Faith, Hope and Charity) had to be circumnavigated and left to starboard. The winds started light and thinking I would distribute my weight more evenly on board and keep out of the biting wind I would stand in the hatch way amidships. This worked a treat until we got blasted by a 30-35 knot wind straight of the mountains! Brrrr. Into the cabin this chicken hearted sailer disappeared. Hitting the 4-6 metre swell as we entered the Channel was not a pleasant experience. The yacht pounding through these waves threw me around a lot. Why did I ever shelter below? It was too difficult to return topside until we actually got into the shelter of the bay. Tossing around in high winds and a strong swell makes one certainly wonder why we were out there.  

Once around the islands and out of the bay were pounded our way back to the estuary and home but with a following sea the motion changes to more of a corkscrewing one. Still not fun but up on deck in my usual spot at the back of the yacht it was more tolerable.  It was a five hour sail and we were pleased to find many of the other competitors were still at the club house when we got back. We were starving.  The roughness of the journey making eating difficult and probably unwise. Fortunately I was by that stage feeling much better so a quick snack and the results were ready. We made it in fourth place with four yachts retiring before the race was half over and five finishing. There was only 6 minutes between first and second and barely a minute between each of the subsequent yachts so over such a distance it was great racing.  If we had not finally got nearly becalmed as the afternoon saw a great decrease in the wind, we may have done much better. Still a good effort considering the conditions.  I was pleased to find that I was not the only one to have seasickness problems with one of the guys on Soubrette really having a hard time of it.  He had to go below to patch a window that had got smashed by the waves and to bail the water out.  Being below played havoc with his stomach and unfortunately he lost his breakfast - which I fortunately did not. One of the women aboard the J26 Cio Cio San was also in a pretty bad way. We could all have a laugh about it afterwards thank goodness and as my significant other said - we finished! We did not give up and we made it safely to the end.  
Next week is a lightening series with three short races in quick succession. I hope to get a helmsman who will be willing to take me out on Pathfinder for some fun.  'Til the... good sailing

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spring Race 3

An opportunity to sail again today was much appreciated.  Keith agreed to helm as Jim was unavailable and a new sailor Gerain, who has barely ever handled a sail sheet, was promised a ride by my significant other!  Keen, enthusiastic and willing he was given an opportunity to tackle some quite blustery conditions.  Keith has never helmed Pathfinder or in a race,  however we gave it our best.  A stiff sea breeze saw us tacking furiously to windward to the furthest mark on the bay.  It gave us plenty of practice at tacking and really showed how poorly the yacht sails to windward. She certainly does not point well. Keith found it a challenge to get the best from her.  Reaching and running before the wind was far better but we were not able to make up much of the ground lost through poor sail handling and the problems sailing to windward.  There were 16 yachts again in the race and we were 9th on Handicap so we are consistent. More practice is really needed and Gerain is keen to have another go. Keith and I hope Jim will be available and willing again next week.   I will try to get Gerain a sail with one of the more experienced crews so he gets a feel for racing in a range of boats. 'Till the next time - happy sailing...

Spring Race 2

It was fortunate that I was able to convince Jim, a 60 year sailing veteran to helm for me in this race.  With Keith - also a veteran sailor - we made a valiant effort in very light winds.  Jim had many new ideas and is  an enthusiastic sail tweeker! So many changes and modifications were undertaken but few made much difference.  We were able to keep up with the slower boats in the field but had little hope of overtaking anyone.  I am convinced that Pathfinder does not like light winds. Considering the yacht has a beautifully clean hull one would have thought she would have been so much faster!  Handicap results saw us placed 8th out of 16 yachts so that was not too bad.
The day was beautiful, the sail was fun and the companionship and knowledge sharing was irreplaceable.  'Til next time...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Spring Series Race 1

It was a great day for a race. The sun was shining and a stiff 25-30 knot "breeze" was blowing.  No one was available to be crew on Pathfinder so it was pleasing that I was offered a sail on Wyvern. Racing was very competitive with a few really good groups of yachts challenging each other. This is the weather that Wyvern relishes and there were some really good opportunities to tussle with others.  It is not often that the boys get to pass other yachts but the conditions were just right.  

I was really only of any assistance in the setting up and packing up at each end of the day as Wyvern is usually managed very effectively by two crew.  However I learned a lot.  We were 5th on the day.  A poor start probably robbing the boys of a higher place.  A new person in the start box meant that the hooter went off  a few seconds early as against our timer and so we were not in the ideal position. As most race sailers would say - the handicappng - undertaken by a new person - was against us!  

I have asked an elderly gentleman who has been racing all his life if he would like to captain the Pathfinder for the racing and teach me to sail.  He does usually race with one of the other crews so I am not sure that this will be a possibility but fingers crossed!
'Till next time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Season has begun!

It is with great anticipation that we face the new sailing season.  With much agitating on my behalf I convinced the significant other in my life to pull out the Pathfinder for a bottom scrub. Before we progress too far on the explanation, remember that the last pull out was in March 2008.  
We had the sailing club open day on Sunday 12 October and we decided to take out Pathfinder as the Wyvern was on the slip for a clean and the boys still wanted to get on the water. The boat sailed like a lump of concrete was being pulled along! What an embarrassment.  I knew she would be a bit slimy but that could not have made such a difference. After the opening short course race, which was just a fun event, the club holds a social get together over a lovely meal. We had a pleasant afternoon but then as the Bosun was about to leave he suggested he could pull her out then and there! Well how embarrassing - the mussels, weed, baby barnacles etc. All the remaining members were amazed.  See the pictures here:- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/columbiasailigyachts/photos/album/746710938/pic/list

The saga of the antifouling purchase is just too much to put on this blog.  Suffice to say that we had lots of different and conflicting advice from experts and  non-experts alike. Two trips to the chandlery and three days of hard work and she looks like a new boat.  Now all we have to do is the brightwork and deck and she will be a beauty. 
I am hoping to race this season on Sundays and have a couple of people who have expressed an interest in crewing for me.  I need to ring a few before the weekend as the first serious race is next Sunday. 
'Til then ....good sailing

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alas the season is over...

Now that April is over so ends the racing season for the Port Cygnet Sailing Club.  The past two Sundays have had regular races  with 12-15 yachts taking part.  I was fortunate to sail with Coach Harry for both races and had a great time.  I learnt a great deal as per usual and found the Clansman to be a very stable and easy yacht to sail.  Harry has two speed winches on his yacht which are considerably different to ours and are probably something that we should seriously consider buying if we can spare the cash.  Jib sheet handling was much easier with such winches. I am hoping that, before the winter really settles in, we will get in some social sailing.  We still need to have a few drinks and a meal to celebrate the "Girls" taking to the water and completing the season. Life just seems too busy at the moment. I am really going to miss the Sunday afternoon sailing though.  

This week Peter will be installing the Navman Fishfinder that we are installing to use as a depth finder and also the new Navman Chart plotter so we will be  prepared for the next season.  The jib will need some repair before the winter, as will the deck sealing.  We have serious issues with water getting into the space between the fibreglass shells so we need to do some work on this before the rain really sets in.  

One notable success was the satisfactory completion of a Marine Radio Operators Certificate course!  Now I can legally use the VHF radio on board Pathfinder which we have yet to test. A two day course and an exam were required which proved challenging. I was delighted to learn that I passed with flying colours.  The next task is to get a motor boat license which one must have if in charge of a boat with a motor over 5hp.  Again this requires a practical and written test so I will endeavor to do this over the winter.  

Great sailing to all... 'til next time...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Racing again- Yippee!

Sunday racing is not a normal activity for me as I usually sit and enviously watch from the clubhouse whilst Peter and Stan do their thing. Peter had tentatively arranged with another guy to take Pathfinder out racing for the final three races of this season but I must admit to having felt unsure of sailing with someone who had never handled our yacht so did not pursue the option. I was dressed in my Sunday 'going to church' clothes so was a little nonplussed when asked by coach Harry if I would like to crew for him on his Clansman. After searching the back of the car I came up with an old pair of track pants and a wind-cheater  so was able to dress a little more appropriately. With the loan of a spray jacket and with my life vest (which I always keep in the car) I was ready to go - not elegant but definitely comfortable!  

The Clansman is a sleek and graceful yacht to watch and proved to be a very comfortable and yet exhilarating sail. We made an excellent start - perfectly timed and at the best end of the line for the weather. The race started in a stiff 15-20 knot breeze from the North East. The course was interesting. The first leg was sailed on a broad reach downwind and to the east. As we approached the first mark the wind dropped considerably and we were really struggling to make the buoy. Around the mark and across the base of the triangle close-hauled we were maintaining a healthy place in the field- well ahead of the other cruisers and not too far behind the racing class yachts. The third leg of the triangle proved to be affected much by the fickle breezes that are so frequently experienced in Cygnet Bay. Brisk breezes alternated with a whisper. Unfortunately we were passed by a Derwent class yacht and although we were able to keep up on the next leg we were never able to overtake. Throughout the rest of the race we had periods of pure exhilaration and other periods of frustration but it was just great fun. Harry and I worked well as a team and I really learnt a lot. I must say I also was delighted to realize that I was feeling so much more confident and competent. I felt a part of the yacht - in tune with the whole process. On the last leg we had a great tussle with another yacht called Snafu and it looked like she would cross the line ahead of us but we made the finish line just seconds ahead. I was able to manage all aspects of the sailing and mooring with few hassles and feel that I am now far less of a liability as a crew member. In the scheme of things we did quite well considering the weather. We came 8th out of 15 yachts. The slow pace in the middle of the race certainly did not suit the Clansman - she revels in strong breezes. I have been invited to sail again next week although Coach Harry's normal crew will be back aboard and there will be way less work for three crew! Still the temptation to relive the experience is strong...... 'Til next time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sailing reflections

Although the Twilight racing is over for the season, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to sail on both weekends since. The first weekend of March is the major Port Cygnet Regatta weekend. There are three races. Race one is from Hobart, the state capital, to Kettering - a quaint village about 20km south by road or a good 5 hour sail. This race starts in the evening and concludes in the dark. The next day the race leaves Kettering at 12 noon and the yachts race to Cygnet. Many Cygnet sailors go from home up to Kettering and then race back. 

We, my husband and I, left home at 5.15am and boarded Stan's Top Hat called Wyvern at the Port Cygnet Yacht Club. We motored up to Kettering - a trip of 5 hours. It was just before dawn when we left and it was just a magic experience watching the sun come up over the water. The air was cold and damp but very invigorating. Bacon sandwiches and hot coffee for breakfast were most welcome. The light breeze was not sufficient to mean that we could sail the distance but it did give us a little extra power to augment the motor. The journey was uneventful and we made very good time. In fact we were able to stop for morning tea and still have time to get the yacht prepared for the race. Wyvern is an heavy wooden yacht built in the early 1960s. She has few modern improvements but is maintained to a very high standard. There were 65 yachts entered for the race and they made a spectacular sight at the start with most flying a multicoloured kaleidoscope of spinnakers. Unfortunately the wind was very light at the start of the race and it took over three hours to sail less than 7 nautical miles even with the spinnaker up. My roll was to handle the spinnaker sheets, Peter handles the jib and Stan was on the tiller and main sheet.  A gentle breeze got up and that enabled us to get underway and we were able to move up through the fleet. I had my first opportunity to put my spinnaker folding and stowing into practice whilst underway and found that it was easier than I thought.  When we hoisted the spinnaker again it went up beautifully I am pleased to say, so all the reading paid off.  
As we turned into the Huon River a strong sea breeze blew up and made sailing under spinnaker a little tricky so we dropped the spinnaker again but did not detach it.  We moved into the river proper and were able to raise the spinnaker again. The run home was fantastic - just so exhilarating  with the yacht surrounded by half the fleet flying spinnakers.  The slow start made the possibilities of winning the event unlikely however we were, on handicap, 9th out of 65 yachts - an excellent result.  I loved every minute of it.  Peter even said how happy I looked!

Last Sunday I was able to join Stan and Peter on Wyvern in the Challenge race. This race went down the bay and into the main river. We then sailed north to Port Huon and then back to Cygnet.  The race again started in light air and we were lucky to actually catch a zephyr of a breeze that gave us a little bit of a lead on the other cruising yachts.  Once around the point and into the river the wind died to nothing and the water became a mirror.  There was not even enough breeze to keep the spinnaker aloft.  After almost an hour of drifting the sea breeze suddenly came in and we were flying. Some control of the spinnaker was needed by all with two of the other yachts broaching.  We were able to lower the spinnaker and raise the jib effectively and had another exciting beat to windward back to the Cygnet Bay.  We were well in front of our main opposition as we entered the bay but again the wind proved fickle and as it died away the other, lighter yachts were able to catch up a little.  Within 100 metres of the finish line there was almost no wind at all.  We were able to just drift over the line ahead of the competition. With only 7 yachts finishing we were placed 5th on handicap. A disappointing result but a great day's sailing.

These races gave plenty of opportunity for learning with spinnaker handling a particular challenge. Making the best of the light breezes was the main focus for much of both events.   There were some really exhilarating  and some frustrating times but the opportunity to be there on the water was just great! I am looking forward to sailing over the Easter break and  I hope to race again on the following weekend.  It is a Lightening pennant event with three short races in quick succession. I would just love to take Pathfinder but just finding a crew is the issue.  
The joy of sailing! Yeah. ' Til next time...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Final Twilight results

The Twilight Series for the Port Cygnet Sailing Club is a series of 8 races on every Tuesday evening for 8 weeks.  All competing yachts are given points that match their place on handicap at the end of the race.  The two biggest scores are dropped and the places are then totaled.  The yacht and crew with the lowest number of points wins the series.   This years series was won by Bianco.  Pathfinder and us girls placed 9th overall. It is impossible to be disappointed with a top 10 finish in our first season and is only more amazing when one considers that there were 30 yachts that scored points (ie. competed over the period of  8 weeks). So 9th out of 30 - what an achievement! Well done and thank you must go to the girls for their dedication, enthusiasm and for just having a great time!  The skills improved dramatically, the jokes were at times side splitting and the general camaraderie was just the best.  We achieved far more than just the places on the water.  Simply awesome......

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Twilight Race 8

The end of the twilight racing season saw the most exciting and best race yet.  Nineteen boats started the race in a brisk southerly breeze. We did not have the best of starts - we just seemed to loose the wind.  Being in the middle of the fleet did not help with lots of disturbed air.  We made up ground however and were in the middle of the fleet at the first mark. No coach on board tonight which made our ability to move about the cockpit far easier. The reach across to the second mark was true exhilaration with yachts like Shiraz and Bianco left behind us! How exciting to actually be ahead of some of the more noted yachts in the fleet.  Gibing around the second mark saw a slowing of the fleet as again the eastern side of the course had much flukier breezes.  The run back to the apex of the triangle was fair and we were able to maintain a lead on about half the fleet.  With the headsail and mainsail "goose winged" we made steady progress. Having tacked around the third mark we had a fairly stiff beat to windward. A decision to put in an extra tack was prudent but put us on the back foot a little and Shiraz managed to get past us.  The  final mark was rounded brilliantly and we set ourselves up well for a fast run back to the finish line.   We were ahead of about 6 yachts at the last mark including Bianco and the run home went brilliantly.  We pulled away from the yachts behind us and were closing quickly on Shiraz.  Had the run been just a little longer we would have comfortably passed her.   

The improvement this week was outstanding and probably due to the great job of hull cleaning that my husband and Stan did on Sunday morning!  Pathfinder was a different boat this week. She was just so well balanced, responsive and was moving at least 1 knot faster than last week. We all really enjoyed the race and were able to do what we thought was the best yet and the results proved it. We were 3rd out of 19 yachts! The excitement exhibited by both coaches Harry and Phil and the congratulations from so many of the male competitors really made us glow with pride. Not bad from a group of middle aged women with an average age of 54! Girl Power - yah!  The only down side is that there will not be anymore twilight races until January 2009.  I hope that we will get together and do a few of the Sunday races and I am still looking for a crew to do the long distance Regatta race in two weeks time. I will get a few more races in before the season is over,  sailing with Stan and my husband. Anne now goes on to focus on the Tasmanian Laser Dinghy  Championships in two weeks time and Janet will no doubt spend time on her motor cruiser before the winter sees us all keeping warm and comfortable at home. So till next time ... Good sailing!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Twilight Race 7

Frustration was the name of the game last night. As a crew things went smoothly with good sail changes and generally good tactics. The weather was very warm and the wind was light to gusty. A good start saw us well in with the fleet. The usual traffic jam at the first mark saw us close on the heals of the top guns and aiming to overtake Shiraz and others.  A decision by coach Phil to tack up to the north of the bay on the way to the next mark did not pay off however.  Almost all of the fleet went south and made far better use of what wind there was.  It was all down hill from there!  At every turn we seemed to get further behind.  Pathfinder was definitely more sluggish this week and when there were some strong gusts she was heavy on the helm. There was little we could do but watch the rest as they drew away from us.  We were able to still come in 12th out of 18 yachts on handicap but the frustration of making such slow progress was palpable.  A decision was made to take the boat out of the water on Monday of next week and give her bottom a clean.  She has definitely got some growth there and we should have been more rigorous in cleaning her on a regular basis.  We enjoyed the evening sail and the camaraderie was great but we are now getting a more competitive urge - at the end of the season of course - so with only one more race to go we will be going all out to give our best performance yet.  

I am hoping to sail Pathfinder in the big Regatta coming up if I can find women keen enough to come along as crew.  Anne and Janet have other commitments so it means other willing volunteers will be needed.  I can always find a berth on another yacht but the urge to sail my fat lady is strong. Will keep you posted.  'Til next time ....good sailing

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Twilight Race 6

Yacht racing is truly an addictive sport. The predicted weather for last night's race was for rain and winds of 25-30 knots. It started to rain mid afternoon although the fresh winds were not to eventuate.  A text message on the mobile phone, from helmswoman Anne, wondering whether we were still going to race came as a result of Phil of Shiraz deciding it was too cold and wet and canceling Anne's husband's sail. (Stephen crews for Phil). My theory was that cold and wet were not as big an issue as strong winds so suggested that we still went along.  All the crew decided that was the go. What an evening! Coach Phil came along for the ride and we had a great time. It may have been pouring with rain and the wind may have only been a whisper for the bulk of the race but we really enjoyed the experience. We found the delicate winds really trying but for once we really sailed well in such conditions. With Phil giving hints on sail trimming and angles to the wind we made an excellent start and were close to the lead for most of the first leg. This was a down wind leg and with a slight increase in wind from behind, the fleet bunched up at the first mark. It was touch and go there for a while with a yacht trying to cut across our bows however we made it around the mark safely and had a nice reach across the bay, continually jousting with other yachts for position. The lighter yachts made better headway on the run back to the line and we had some good competitive sailing. The race was shortened because of the light winds so the race finished at the end of the final leg of the triangle. It was a pleasant low key race with few high speed sail changes. A more tactical race needing a good understanding of the wind conditions and tides.  

This race saw our best result yet in the Twilight races. We were in 4th place on handicap out of a fleet of  fifteen yachts. We were loudly cheered in the club house at the announcement and people were complementing us on our good performance. The general support by the club members is great!  So who was cold and wet? The adrenaline rush meant we barely felt the weather. This is addiction.
'Til next time...good saiing

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Twilight Race 5

Chaos and mayhem on the water - not a new experience but tonight a different one. Nineteen boats started the race in a stiff 10-15 knot breeze.  We girls had taken Pathfinder out and around the first mark, before the start of the race, and were congratulating ourselves on the thought that we could make the buoy without having to tack once. We should have known life could not always be so easy. Either the wind had change or our angle of approach to the buoy was different but tack we had to do.  It was chaotic on the water with yachts flying everywhere. We had a good competitive start but slipped back in the field as we finally achieved the first mark. On the reach to the second mark we were hemmed in by a couple of other yachts and as the mark was reached we had to give way to a pushy guy in a concrete hulled yacht who came up from behind and pushed us out. On turning at the buoy we almost ran into the same culprit when we decided to jibe and he didn't. Scary stuff! Unfortunately we lost ground - never to make it up. The run down to the third mark was disappointing as we just could not get the jib to "goose wing" properly. We struggled to get the wind into the foresail and thus again lost ground. We could only watch as the guy in the concrete boat barged through the fleet cutting other yachts off, tacking across their bows and generally generating mayhem. We were a bit stressed  having to cope with such inconsiderate traffic. What was happening was in the rules but certainly showed no gentlemanly manners on behalf of the solo yachtsman! The other culprit was a dilapidated yacht sailed by a group of hippy clones. (You could almost smell the "grass" from our deck!) They were busy having a great time cutting across our bows and we were having to constantly be alert to their whereabouts. Although the run own to the third mark was disappointing we made quite an improvement on the tacking course straight down river to the next mark.  Weaving between the boats on the second to last leg of the race was hair-raising at times and we can only be thankful that Anne really knows the rules. 
We had a good run back to the finishing line gaining on some of the rest of the rest of the fleet. We were not last across the line but were disappointed that we did not perform as well as last week.  
When the results were read out we found ourselves 13th out of 19 - again. What a coincidence - we have now been 13th in three of the five races to date.  The results of Sunday's race were also read out and we got a good cheer from the members for placing 3rd. 

We were pleased with our performance overall - few of our tacks were sloppy and sail handling in general is improving.  "Pathfinder" was probably not pointing as high into the wind as she did  last week and dodging traffic certainly kept us on our toes.   We all enjoyed the race and look forward to next time. 'Til then  good sailing!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Long Distance Racing

It is rare to get the opportunity to race in the regular Sunday races however I had the opportunity to take part in a long race yesterday. My husband usually races with Stan, an elderly gentleman who races a Top Hat class yacht. Stan was unable to race and we were therefore at a loose end. The Club race was a long race from Cygnet, down the bay and into the Huon river and was also an inter-club race - the final race of the McLaren Series. Once in the river the race turns upstream and heads to the rival Port Huon Yacht Club's finishing line. The race is about 12 kilometres long and was expected to take 3-4 hours. I suggested that we make an effort to race however my husband decided that he was  not competent enough to do it with just the two of us. I  contacted the girls but they were both unable to race so coach Harry agreed to come along with his lovely wife Anna. It was overcast and with a steady breeze of about 10 knots blowing predominantly from the east. Although it was fairly varied in direction, the wind maintained its strength for most of the race. After a rather rocky and slow start with the husband on the helm we were  again chasing Shiraz. The goal was to at least overtake Phil and maybe catch up with some of the others. With Harry at the helm we soon made up the difference and were able to almost make it into the river ahead of Shiraz.  

With the change of tack we were on a run before the wind.  Alas Shiraz raised a spinnaker and powered past us. We had never even taken the spinnaker out of the bag let alone raised it but with Harry's enthusiastic efforts we were able to raise it in a fashion after dragging out ropes from the locker and finding that the halliard was wrapped around the Genoa. The spinnaker flew beautifully even if a little lower than it should, and we were able to really make a move on Shiraz. Although we managed to make up much of the gap she had opened up on us unfortunately we were unable to pass her. However over the distance travelled we were very competitive.

After a great sail home back to Cygnet we arrived home to great camaraderie and the news that we did very well. Twelve yachts started the race - six from the Port Huon club and six from the Cygnet club. We were third in the McLaren race on handicap and also in the Club race - our Pathfinders best result as yet and with thanks to coach Harry. Not quite an all girls team but it was a great learning experience, even with the spinnaker issues we were competitive even in light air so confidence is again lifted. I am looking forward to the Twilight race tomorrow night - here's hoping the wind will be kind to us. Till next time...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Twilight Race 4

At last - a real break through.  A member of our club - the Secretary, came out to Pathfinder on her mooring and checked out the tension on the rigging. With some fairly pointed differences found and rectified, Phil came along for the race to see if the issues were corrected.   

We had a great start - but crossed the line just ahead of the starting horn. After taking a penalty we were still up with the leading boats.  The wind was good with a brisk sea breeze of close on 15-20 knots and Pathfinder was flying. The first leg was on the Port Tack and she was going so well! What a great improvement. Despite the wind Pathfinder almost sailed herself. After a few short tacks we were still well in the mix on the first tack around the mark.  We had a good brisk reach across the bay but ominous signs were ahead with the Etchells  - the Formula 1 Racing yachts of the fleet,  becalmed under the lee shore.  Hoping to stick with the breeze we headed further down the bay but ultimately had to almost drift around the second mark. As with our first twilight race we really struggled in light air and were being overtaken by a number of yachts that were lighter or sailed by guys more knowledgeable in the wind conditions.  The wind was very fickle - as per usual, however we were still able to keep ahead of half the fleet of 16. We were gaining a little on the fleet at the next mark but with only two legs of a rectangle to go we were anxious to make up more ground.  A good breeze from the east saw us gaining rapidly on the rest but again at the final turn the wind became very erratic and we really struggled to overtake anyone ahead of us.  

We had a really good sail and learnt a great deal from Phil regarding tactics around the bay, places to avoid and hints on sail trim.  The adjustment to the rigging made a huge difference to the performance of the yacht with her speed on Port tack being greatly improved.  As Phil says "All we need to do is make her sail better in light air! "  

It was great and our handicap placed us 7th out of 16 finishers - a great effort.  By the way - our surrogate female (Phil) was even wore a puce and blue stripped top to match our Fushia pink and navy theme! One has to smile and appreciate the willingness of the guys to recognise we are really making the effort although we got a bit of a ribbing because we crossed the start line early. It was all in fun and we took it with good grace. Its recognition that we are in the mix with the boys. 'Til next time

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Twilight Race 3

Smooth teamwork was the order of the day in our twilight race last night. The wind was as fickle as it could possibly be and this seriously had us going from a spanking pace, well heeled to almost wallowing in a dead calm. Pathfinder again performed really well on the starboard tack and in a run down wind.  Port tack continues to provide challenges to us and the boat. One of the knowledgeable club members who has a rigging tension gauge is going to come out and have a look at her on Tuesday evening next week before the race. There were 19 boats out in the fleet which was a great sight.  We started well and kept up with them all to the first mark. Being just slightly behind was a reward as the traffic trying to get around the mark was chaotic. Sailing further down the bay on a broad reach enabled us to get in a good position to make the second mark without having to tack again- so we thought.  As we reached the second mark the wind died to a whisper and changed direction.  That left 5 or 6 boats wallowing and constantly tacking to try to catch what little wind there was.  The run to the end of the first leg of the race was again influenced by the fickle and flukey winds.  We had dropped behind on that jibe around the mark and were struggling to catch up.  On the turn around the next buoy we were not too far behind the bulk of the cruising fleet and with strengthening sea breeze we had a great run up to the last buoy. On the run back to the finishing line we were gaining on Steve's Bianco which became our challenge, but unfortunately the wind did not hold in our favour and we crossed the line about a minute behind.  

Our tacking was vastly improved and apart from a couple of slow tacks where our reaction times were not quick enough, the team work was excellent.  We have made great progress in the time we have been sailing together and the team morale is great.  We have a few good laughs and fortunately do not take it all too seriously.  Yes we would like to win - we would be stupid to say we didn't but as yet we know we have some issues to resolve with the boat and with our crewing but they are minor and we are far from being embarrassed.  Out of 18 finishers we were 13th. This is an 11% improvement over the first twilight race and a 20% improvement over last week. A fantastic effort which holds the promise of better things to come. 'Til next time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Twilight Race 2

A beautiful sunny, mild evening with a strong southerly sea breeze awaited us for the second of our adventures into Twilight racing as an all girls team. There were 15 yachts in the event. We had a good start with Anne managing to get us over the line well in contention.  It all went down hill from there. We had spent quite a bit of time out on the water just before the race and had furled the jib because of the gusty wind condition, however we raced on a full jib and managed the yacht quite well. The first leg, tacking into the wind was not a good leg and we were slipping behind.  The main issue seems that when the yacht is on the Port tack she cannot point into the wind well at all. We were not too far behind the Couta boat Pelican at the first mark and were surprised to see that she hit the buoy and just kept on racing. She should have taken a penalty 360 degree sail around the buoy but didn't. After a chat about the issue we decided there was little point in protesting. We decided to save it for later! The reach across to the second mark was less eventful than in the first race.  The wind however was much stronger and more consistent.  The run back to the starting buoy was great with the yacht reaching 6 knots at times and we were gaining on the guys, but were still second last!  Unfortunately we had to tack up again to the last turn before the run home and we again lost ground.  Port tack is very difficult in Pathfinder and most disappointing.  We had a good run home and were gaining on the Pelican. After crossing the finish line we went to deeply into the bay in which the boats were moored and became stuck on the mud! Seeking help from other finished yachts proved unproductive as no one really was watching. What could we do? I knew that it was possible to refloat a yacht by making it heel over and with Anne's encouragement,  we did just that!  The three of us shifted our weight to one side of the yacht and she came free! The decision was made to say nothing unless we were asked!  Only one person thought we might have been stuck and that was Janet's partner and we admitted to nothing.  
Racing is an adventure and we must all admit to learning a lot. Some of our tacks were poor, some were great!  As a team we work well and we will improve. We need to get coach Harry to have another think about the Port tack when he gets back to Tasmania from his trip to Sydney.

I just hope I am pulling my weight.  Bruises galore again this week.  How to prevent them is an issue. We had a good laugh and fortunately no one is too precious about the whole thing.  The girls are great to sail with and even now the nerves are diminishing.  We did feel that the wind was as fresh as we were prepared to sail in - about 20 knots - and we were really stretching our competence to the limit. Tacking and what each crew member does what is an area we still need t work on. By the way we were 14th out of 15.  But for fun and pleasure - 10 out of 10. 'Til next time...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Twilight Race 1

We had our first twilight race yesterday and it was quite an adventure.  Racing starts at 6pm so we were out on the water and ready to sail at 5.20pm.  This was the first real race with the all girl crew so we were all a little nervous.  Anne was on the tiller, my job was the main sheet and also to assist with tacking - mainly working the winch handle, and Janet was handling the jib sheets. Coach Harry would have been proud of us.  We had some issues with timing the start.  The wind was consistent and quite strong for the time of day and the lovely Cygnet Bay and we were finding it difficult to keep the speed down so we did not cross the line before the starting horn.  Reefing in the self-furling jib helped considerably and we made a fantastic start. Heading towards the first mark and we were well in the mix with 5 yachts in front and 9 behind us as we crossed the start.  at the first buoy there was quite a traffic jam and we had some difficulty getting around the mark without a collision with other boats but we went well and were still well in the mix. We decided to stay well out and head down river somewhat so that we could make the next mark in the triangular course with only one tack. A few of the guys decided this was appropriate also and we unfortunately were forced to tack when one ahead of us tacked across our bows. This meant that we needed to do more tacks at the next buoy and in some pretty heavy traffic.  We were able to keep up with most of the fleet but had lost quite a bit of ground.  A good run back to the start finish line was marred when we ran into a hole in the wind but we were able to pass a couple of yachts and maintain this lead over the last loop. A good run down to the last turn and we were neck and neck with three other vessels.  Again the flukey wind made us loose ground and we ended in a tussle with a 32 footer to make the line. We finished ahead of three yachts and in particular ahead of Phil who can be quite obnoxious and pushy on the water.  On handicap we were 13th out of 16 yachts with Phil coming in 7th. How that works out when his yacht is bigger and he has been doing well all season amazes me. We did not get to see what our handicap time was so will be checking this out when we get the results posted next Sunday.  I cannot see how a bigger yacht than us can possibly be 7 places ahead in the results when we crossed the line a few minutes ahead of him?  
Regardless of placing and handicaps - we had a great time and we as girls pulled together well.  We need to work on the smoothness of our tacking and we are getting a bit muddled in doing our jobs but things will improve as we meld together. It was a happy and satisfied crew that finished the race. Yes we still have problems of getting in each others way but we will improve I am sure.  Perhaps our coach can help us smooth out some of the problems when he gets back.  (Harry does a lot of interstate yacht transfers and is currently in Sydney New South Wales preparing to bring Lorna and Trevor's new yacht down to Tasmania) 'Til next time...