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!

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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...