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...

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...