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2010 Thunderbird Fleet 4 Championships Report

posted Jul 5, 2010, 5:07 PM by Ian G

The T’Bird fleet championships were held on June 26th on a brilliantly beautiful day.  Smiles were had all around because there was such a good turnout – 8 boats! Winds were ideal -generally in the 15-20 knot range from SW and then S – which meant full genoas, full hike and feathering the main to keep the ‘Bird on its feet.  It also meant extremely tired crews as Malcolm, Tim & Simon on race committee ran 7 excellent races back to back with a short break for lunch.  Whenever the last boat finished, the horn sounded for the start of the next race.  Whew!  By the sixth race, certain of the older skippers plaintively asked if this was the last race, while Bob Britten on “Hocus” was hoping for several more to make up a deficit with “Owl”.

The racing started off with 3 races that tended to follow the ‘standard’ understandable scenario – if it’s ebbing and a westerly, go left.  This paid significantly for Hocus and Owl, as it soon became evident that both had the same idea, and also wanted the same space.  In race 1, a close cross on the first beat by Hocus shuffled Owl out to the layline, where there was also more favourable current.  While this allowed Owl to work to windward, ‘royal’ we misjudged the amount of incipient flood at the mark. These adverse currents were only boatlengths apart. Fortunately, doing a 360 on a run with flood was not that punitive. A similar race unfolded in Race 2, but with the positions reversed between the two.  Then, as the ebb died down for race 3, the decision was how far could you go before you found any ebb at all.  The ‘left’ can look a long way from the ‘right’ in these circumstances.  The mantra of “we’re losing ground, we’re losing …” was thankfully replaced by “we’re neutral”and then by “man are we gaining now!”.  Sighs of relief were promptly followed by self appreciation of the brilliance of the call.  Late in the race, the wind shifted rapidly to the south.  Owl lead Hocus home, but it was the newcomers – Ian Gable on Seahawk– that came home third.  You should have seen their smiles!

 Over the course of the lunch break, the flood turned in earnest.  But it was the unusual strong southerly that made one rethink the basic strategy of where to go in a flood.  Cattle Point, the favourite spot for many sailors issued its siren call of flood relief…but at a great price.  With the weather mark near Fiddle Reef, the trick(s) would be to find the current relief downstream of the rockpiles, Tod&Fiddle, yet minimize the time spent in the various jets of flood.  The fourth race would also provide some rapid reassessment of whether you were overstanding the mark or not even being close to making it.  With these wonderful concepts bubbling through the brain, royal we forgot that you also have to get a reasonable start off to make this happen.  Owl crossed some 25 seconds late of a brilliant port tack start by John Edwards.  Sigh!  John fought off “Scooter” for the lead on the next two legs, with both boats slowly being drawn in by the siren call of Cattle Point.  Owl, greatful for the reprieve, gradually worked the rockpile, and was not threatened thereafter.

 It’s rare that ones competitors makes such good suggestions as where to go in the upcoming race.  Hocus was getting tired of placing second, and suggested that Owl go left again.  Really hard left!  Well, that sort of worked for the next races.  Again, John port tacked the fleet.  And, Hocus finally broke Owl’s string of firsts in Race 6 with clever and determined weather work.  They now asked the RC for 7 more races…which the RC fortunately did not grant.  The final race was another workout on the rockpile, with boats splitting away trying to find the right layline in this peculiar zone of flood lanes and backeddies.  Owl did lay the final mark, but just, and slid away yet again.

 The Fleets was one of the best regattas in recent memory owing to such stunning conditions.  Madding’s photos attest to this beauty.  We must be heathens because we only noticed afterwards!

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