The second and final instalment of the winter series was characterised by perfect sailing conditions and close racing, with two boats joining the fray for the last hurrah before summer to make up a fleet of 5 in total.
Perhaps not the criritcal mass we are looking for, but with a shortish, squarish line, set close to the dock off Wynard Quarter, the first start of the afternoon was not short on drama, with several boats crowding the pin, hoping to stem the last of the floding tide on the making port tack.
All eyes were on newcomers Affinity, featuring a rock-star AC crew, a new rig and an eclectic wardrobe of sails. Bobby's Girl welcomed a new recruit, John Cobb, in the critical bowman berth and your correspondent was at the sharp end of Echelon, with Anatole Masfen having returned to his familar middle berth on Feng Shui. At the gun, Echelon had crossed early but gybed around the pin quickly and struck off to the right in clear air. Bobby's Girl suspected a general recall and seemed to slow down, never regained the pace and was ultimately ruled OCS.
The remaining four boats picked their way through shifts and gusts in a fairly steady 12 knot breeze and remained close throughout, although Feng Shui's lead was only seriously threatened on the second run to the finish. Valsheda managed a close 2nd and Affinity just pipped Echelon for third.
In race 2 Echelon made a excellent start, bursting past Bobby's Girl at the pin at pace, but failed to capitalise on the work, rounding third. However, the racing continued to be close and hectic at every mark, with Valsheda ultimately taking it out over Feng Shui and Affinity again snatching third from Echelon.
Race 3 was virtually a carbon copy of 2 - but closer still, with the places changing frequently in a shiftier breeze near the top-mark and drama on the downwind leg as boats josteld for position at close-quarters. Valsheda made it two in a row, but an incompetent spinnaker drop aboard Echelon allowed Bobby's Girl through to take 4th place.
Race 4 saw Feng Shui return to pole position after a well-timed start and hold the lead through some exceptionally tight racing. Bobby's Girl suffered gear failure and retired and a decision on Affinity to go left on the final run - while the breeze filled from the right - allowed Echelon to secure third place at last.
All in all an excellent day out and many thanks, as always, to Warwick Gair and the race committee - and to eveyone who turned up.
Please find final results here.
The first day of the winter series had something for everyone, laughter, tears, sunshine, rain, breeze and breezelessness. The day started unpromisingly with 3 cry-offs, but this herd-thinning did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the remaining crews who set off from Z Pier into a light but promising breeze and the first warmth of spring sunshine on their backs.
Those who had tuned for the lulls were rewarded in race 1 where the tide carried the entire drifting, windless, pre-start fleet prematurely over the line. Feng Shui was the first to re-cross and set off down-tide. Valsheda followed but Echelon struggled in the current and a match race ensued.
Your correspondent had his eyes glued to the kite on the downwind legs, but suffice it to say that what was initially identified by the bowman as a building breeze was actually driving rain, which persisted through the second work, where Feng Shui fought off a spirited fight-back from Valsheda.
Echelon gamely re-joined the action on the second beat, but faded on the run as sunshine and building breeze saw Feng Shui over the finish line first, while in an act of filial petulance, Valsheda's skipper berated the blameless race committee…
By the start of the second race, a steady breeze had settled, the tide was slack and the skies had cleared. User-error with the stop-watch aboard Feng Shui accounted for a late push to the pin, while Valsheda and Echelon both crossed on starboard and flopped to the right then back onto port with Valsheda taking the middle lane.
Echelon pushed to the seemingly-favoured left, but at the top mark was some distance behind Valsheda and a leading Feng Shui. The first run was close as Valsheda sought to reach past the leader on both gybes on the squarish course, but Feng Shui held on and edged over first.
In a freshening breeze, the third start saw Feng Shui push Valsheda over the start but fail, epically, by also crossing early at the boat end, leaving Echelon to take the left. Re-crossing the line, Feng Shui and Valsheda went to the right in breeze and at the top mark Feng Shui was just ahead, while Valsheda and Echelon rounded together. At the bottom, Valsheda had prevailed over Echelon for second and the same order was repeated.
In grlorious spring-time conditions, a bonus fourth race produced the closest racing of the series. Valsheda crossed the line early, just ahead of Echelon at the boat, while Feng Shui - also over - ducked back to the pin end. Echelon sprinted up the middle of the course as Feng Shui struck right and Valsheda plumbed for the left corner.
At the first mark, Echelon rounded and pulled away from Feng Shui, while Valshda also closed fast from third (blame the trimmer). On the second work (to an upwind finish) Echelon struggled to cover a split fleet, lee-bowed Valsheda, but let Feng Shui go in the last quarter of the beat, just losing out to secure second.
While Feng Shui managed four bullets, the racing was close and, notwithstanding an early soaking, the afternoon glorious. We can only hope that we see more starters for the next outing on 26th August.
Many thanks, as always, to the excellent race committee.
See results here.
Unconfirmed reports of boats heading north for the summer season are leant credence by this (unverified) image from the desert road...
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For those who can't wait until 30th October to get back out on the water, an ad hoc Winter Series commences this Sunday, 12th August and all are welcome to participate. First start at 1300
For those left on the beach, now is the time to start thinking about what should prove to be an excellent summer series, with the prospect of some new blood and some familiar faces returning to the fold.
There are some used sails available (watch this space over the next week) for those not yet ready to spring for a new wardrobe. But something tells me this will be the year to splash out on some decent rags...
Alex Webster is Auckland Fleet Captain and runs this website, so blame him.