The 2014 SAFFA National Championships took place offshore Durban as scheduled over the past long weekend, with Monday on standby as a lay-day in the event that insufficient races had been completed on the first two days. Thanks to RNYC for running the regatta for us, and specifically to race officer Rob Samways, assisted by Graham “Speedy” Rose.
Day 1 – Saturday dawned with overcast skies and a brisk south-westerly blowing. Jeremey Kriek and Patrick Harris were frantically putting Ffigjam together after several veeery late nights had left them still behind schedule. While the control lines and fittings were all well sorted, they had to make do with a “Frankenstein” mast spliced from two broken spars (their new mast had not yet arrived from the UK) and shrouds from a 505; a used set of sails from Ffoxxoff, and no self-bailers, which appear to be rarer than hens’ teeth!! This final assembly caused them a delayed launch, and missing race 1.
Very disappointingly, only 2 Classic FFs launched – leaving quite a number of boats unused and gathering cobwebs. Come on guys – if you are not going to sail your boats, how about making them available either for charter or for sale?
The first race saw Paul and Tim, the new owners of Ffoxxoff, get into an early lead which they held to the finish. There was a considerable amount of place changing going on behind them with Campbell and Chris on Ffullerene, and Gregg and Jeff on Freyja snapping at their heels. After falling behind while recovering an overboard crew, Dave and myself on Ffothermucker were delighted to pick up a few places to end the race in 4th, having managed to get past Craig and Ian on Firefly, as well as the evergreen Mike Wright who had press-ganged Jon Marshall into crewing for him on Bad Influence.
Race 2 saw Ffigjam on the startline, and as is their habit, PH and JK got themselves up to the sharp end of the fleet. On the second beat, with most of the fleet going to the left, we found ourselves in an awesome channel of wind straight from the leeward mark which lifted us over the boats ahead, and with 210 kg on the rail we were able to tap maximum power from the fresh breeze. Having sailed most of the course directly in to the shore, we tacked across on the lay line, and surprisingly found ourselves first around the can! Our downwind performance unfortunately did not match what we were achieving upwind, and we lost places progressively to finish 5th. Ffigjam went on to regain the lead which they held to the finish – not a bad result for a first race!
The wind lightened a little as the afternoon went on, and Freyja took a convincing win in race 3, while Ffigjam took another victory in the 4th race. One of the memorable moments for me was chasing Bad Influence around the leeward mark, and then having to take avoiding action and overtake them on the outside while Mike Wright climbed back on board after an unscheduled swim.
Day 2 – Sunday unlike day 1 which pretty much stuck to the forecasts, Sunday presented us with a fresh to strong north-easter. Whilst waiting at A shed for permission to exit, waves were seen entering the harbour pushed in by the breeze, making it a no-brainer for the 3 classic boats to turn around and head for shore. I had mixed emotions of delight in our rail-weight advantage, and trepidation at what the sea conditions would be, and once out there the general levels of concern were entrenched. The north-easter had built up some huge chop, with many waves breaking into our cockpits and keeping the twin self-bailers busy. Ffigjam quickly became “Ffigjacuzzi”, leaving Patrick and Jeremy with no option but to return to base as well. The wind strength was around 21 knots on average, but with gusts in the high 20s – far too much to have your crew in the cockpit bailing manually. When from 50 metres we lost site of the committee boat on the other side of a wave, I made the decision to also go back home. The electronic records on Race QS (which is an app that Dave has on his phone – pretty much a GPS tracker which includes course direction and speed) show us surfing inside the harbour mouth at 14.1 knots – and that was under mainsail alone!!
Five of the new boats stayed out to race – Ffoxxoff won races 5 and 6 despite Tim Duguid being violently seasick – they then opted to leave the race course for the comfort of flat water, and didn’t start race 7. Freyja finished race 5, and after starting race 6 lost a huge amount of ground after being unable to find the mark in the washing machine conditions, before baling out as well. Race 7 had just 3 starters, with Ffullerene taking line honours. I have it on first-hand authority that there were some very sore and broken bodies that afternoon. But, the exhilaration of surfing “almost breaking” waves with the spinnaker up is something that the guys will not forget for a long time.
For a look at Sophie Thompson’s stunning photos taken on the day, click on this link: https://plus.google.com/photos/107043250900195445911/albums/6092726763111830241
My personal take is that we are blessed with 2 brilliant sailing venues, separated only by a sandbar with a whole lot of buildings on it, and our sailing instructions should therefore include a proviso that whilst offshore is the preferred venue for championship regattas, extreme conditions should see the race-officer having the latitude to move the course inshore, and the day’s racing to then be held in the harbour. I am confident that this would see more classic boats on the water.
Day 3 – Tuesday As no sailing was necessary on Monday (which by coincidence saw a strong south-wester howling all day), it was back to business on Tuesday morning. Both Ffigjam and Ffothermucker had had the benefit of some repairs completed on the lay-day, and we set off to sea with a moderate to fresh west-south-west behind us. The only Classic boat going out was Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum with new owner Ed de Lange benefiting from Florence Marshall’s helming skills. Unfortunately Firefly incurred nasty rigging damage before getting to sea, forcing them to return home immediately.
Race 8 saw Ffoxxoff again taking the win with Ffigjam and Ffullerene duking it out just behind. After the start of race 9 most boats chose to head toward the shore on port tack, while I allowed Ffigjam to dictate that we stayed on starboard, heading toward the Bluff. After tacking onto port more or less on the lay-line it was obvious that the left hand side of the course had paid well, and again Ffothermucker was the leading boat at the weather can. As usual my elation evaporated as firstly Ffigjam, and then Ffullerene sailed past us on the downwind leg – but importantly, we were not losing as badly downwind as we had on day 1. Later in the race Ffoxxoff also snuck through pushing us down to 4th, which we held to the finish. Ffigjam again took the win, with Ffulerene a very close second.
With the time reaching 1pm, the rules dictated that no further races could be started, so we all went home. Prize-giving took place in the RNYC pub, with Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum winning the Classic trophy, and deserving National Championship winners being Ffoxxoff with new owners Paul Changuoin and Tim Duguid. I don’t yet have the race-by-race results, but I can confirm final positions as:
- Ffoxxoff Paul Changuoin & Tim Duguid
- Ffullerene Campbell Alexander and Chris Clark
- Bad Influence Mike Wright & Jon Marshall
- Ffigjam Patrick Harris and Jeremy Kriek
- Freyja Gregg Hurter and Jeff Rose
- Ffothermucker Myles White and Dave Curtiss
- Firefly Craig Campbell and Ian Hogg
- Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum Florence Marshall & Ed de Lange
- Financial Fling Deejay Latha and Nqoba Mswazi
- F3 Mike Surgeson & Neil Yelland
We now head into the Festive Season and family time, with no scheduled dinghy racing until the RNYC Summer Series kicks off on 10 January and running for 2 further weekends, before the PYC class championships resume on Saturday 31 January. For those boats needing a little TLC and repair work, now is a good time. I hear of people showing interest in acquiring an FF and joining our fleet of regulars, so anyone keen to buy, or owners willing to sell, please talk to me so that we can put people in touch. Our objective is to enjoy sailing, have fun on the water, and at the same time enjoy some competition, and from experience we know that the more boats there are on the water, the greater the levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. Have an excellent Festive Season, and we’ll see you in January.