After having run very successful “Christmas Regattas” between Christmas and New Year for the past 15 years or so, HMYC sadly did not put an event together for the end of 2014, but a big effort was put in to revive this wonderful event in 2015. The Sprog Nationals were very much a part of this event in the past, but the Sprog class has sadly also suffered from poor participation in recent years, and this quite possibly had a knock on effect for HMYC. John Wright is bouncing back from ill-health and it would appear that in 2016 the Sprogs might just be back at Midmar for their Nationals.
Headlining the 2015 event was the Halcat Nationals which attracted 13 entries – 11 from RNYC, 1 from Witbank, and Bill Ellens represented PYC, showing steady improvement throughout the regatta. Provision was also made for open catamaran and dinghy fleets, and included amongst these were a Hobie 14 and a Dart; 3 Hobie 16s and 2 Hobie Tigers; 2 29ers, 2 Sprogs, 2 420s, a Dabchick, a Laser and 5 Flying Fifteens which were trailed up from Durban.
For obvious reasons priority was given to the Halcats in terms of course setting, and for the first 2 days of racing we had a windward/leeward course (incorporating an offset mark near the weather mark, and a gate offering a choice of 2 leeward marks), while on the 3rd day we used the old Olympic course of a triangle/sausage/triangle. Because the maximum scheduled 12 races were completed on day 3, day 4 was available for packing up, prize giving, and getting home in time for New Year Festivities.
Midmar is very low at the moment – somewhere in the region of 50%. All of the old dinghy parking areas below the HMYC clubhouse are well clear of the water, with all slipways ending before the water started. Fortunately the ground still under water was fairly firm, enabling us to launch and retrieve our FFs onto the beach without much difficulty. Once launched though the water level did not affect us at all, and the winds were extremely kind throughout. We had 3 days of North-Easters ranging between 8 to 17 knots, with shifts and swings that were not too difficult to read. There was perhaps only one race in which typical Midmar misfortune played any part, with boats nearby to each other finding themselves in very different conditions.
With many folk away the 5 FF team line-ups were different from the norm: Jeremy Kriek was away in Perth, so young Liam Harris stepped up to learn from his very competent Dad, Patrick; Campbell Alexander press-ganged Andrew Walford and Debbie Cox to partner him on different days; I was fortunate in securing Charlotte Marshall to handle the sharp end of my boat; Gregg Hurter teamed up Nik Albert on Freyja; while Vince Tiedt made a welcome appearance in the only Classic boat, picking up an HMYC youngster to serve as crew.
From the first race it was clear that close racing, particularly between the 4 new boats, would be the order of the day. The first lap and a bit saw the lead swopping between us until I was fortunate enough to discover better wind toward the dam wall, which gave me a small but clear lead. On the third lap as well as the beat to the finish the wind shifts presented themselves at the most opportune moments and we finished as clear winners, still pulling away from the fleet. It was a great way to start. Races 2 and 3 were closer affairs with Patrick and Campbell each taking a first, ending the day with very close points for all.
Day 2 saw 3 races in the morning and two in the afternoon, with racing being even closer than the previous day. There were a number of occasions where 4 FFs were seen all rounding the same mark simultaneously – absolutely brilliant. Despite the closeness and intensity of the racing, a fantastic spirit prevailed with apologies flying readily for even the mildest transgressions, and penalties being willingly taken in the best traditions of sportsmanship. With the winds being a little lighter, Patrick and Liam dominated on the day. My biggest disappointment was when guarding my second position on the right on the run to the leeward gate, a shortened course was signalled, causing me to suddenly be the furtherest boat from the finish line (on the port side of the gate), and accordingly I dropped to 4th in an instant.
The third day saw us needing just 4 races to be completed to reach the regatta limit. The wind was the strongest it had been all week, and with the tighter reaches of the triangle requiring a little more gorilla tactics and experience with the spinnaker, Gregg, Campbell and I all knew that we had a bit of an advantage over the Harrises. Despite this I still managed to clock another 4th in the morning, before finding my groove, particularly in the afternoon session. For the last race I was able to make a start in clear air next to the committee boat while the others went for the pin. My option paid off and I rounded the weather mark with a slender lead over Campbell, while Patrick and Gregg duked it out a few boatlengths further back. On the reaches and runs there was nothing in it as we continued to trade places, although I managed to keep my nose in front on the beats. We finally managed to establish a gap of around 20 metres by the final mark, with the next two boats around 50 metres further back. I made the decision to cover-tack on Campbell and trust that we had enough of a gap on the next two, while Campbell decided to throw in as many tacks as possible to force me into making a mistake. Not only was I able to win the battle of wits, but we were actually making ground with every tack, and once on the lay-line for the finish line it was all over and done with. So we finished the regatta just as we started, with a first, but due to the collection of second, thirds and fourths in between we ended up third overall behind Campbell, with Patrick and Liam taking home the spoils. Despite this report being based on “scratch” results amongst the Flying Fifteens only, we were paced against the 29ers in the official results, and on both scratch and handicap they slaughtered us.
Sean and Jessica Fennesy won the open Cat class on their Hobie 16, while Euan Hurter and Jessica Albert won the “B” dinghy fleet on their Sprog, and in doing so earned the Inter-Club Challenge trophy for PYC – well done guys! Thanks so much to Derek Wilkes and the HMYC gang for a truly memorable regatta, and to my Flying Fifteen mates for the most awesome racing.
Sailing returns to the harbour for the next few weeks with the RNYC Mid-Summer Series. Thereafter PYC resumes racing with the Commodore’s Series, although some of these dates are concurrent with the SAS KZN Grand Slam at Midmar, while 2 weeks later we are back at Midmar for the 9-hour. Keep a close eye on the notifications that Lucy will be publishing, but remember too that the updated sailing calendar can be viewed on the PYC website.
I have a really good feeling for 2016 – see you on the water!!