Report on 2015 KZN Provincials

Scheduled for the adopted long week-end from 13 to 15 June, the FF provincials were set to be sailed under the PYC burgee, together with the Hobie 16 KZN provincials, offshore Durban. Race Officer Hemraj Gokal was faced with a serious challenge from early on – Wind Guru was predicting very typical early winter conditions, with not much happening on the morning of day 1, but filling in with a light to moderate north-easter for the afternoon, and nothing for the following two days. As I type it is the afternoon of day 2, and that prediction has been 100% correct.

Disappointingly only 8 FFs entered, despite various promises from other skippers to sail the regatta. Adding to the issue of numbers was Craig Campbell having to abandon the idea of sailing on day 1, to care for one of his patients in ICU. So, on Saturday 7 FFs were towed to sea, to be greeted with dead flat water, and around 8 knots settling into the north-east. Once the racing got underway there were very few windshifts, and it wasn’t all that clear if a particular side of the course was paying or not.

Race 1 saw a fairly close start for all, with Steve Hegerstrom and Roger Hill on Focus Pocus tack early onto port, heading out to sea, while the rest of us went a little to the left of the course. Focus Pocus held a slender lead at the first mark over Jeremy Kriek and Patrick Harris on Ffigjam, now sporting her new set of North Sails and sail number 3999. Upwind, there was enough pressure to keep everyone hiking fully, but without spilling wind, while the runs meant that clean air allowed us to catch the small waves that were forming. Just 50 metres back were 4 boats engaged in a duel – Freyja with Gregg Hurter and Jeff Rose, Heidi and Mike Kavanagh on the beautiful Classic Femme Fatale, Anthony MacMillan filled in for Paul Changuion on Ffoxxoff’s helm but with Tim Duguid in his regular spot in the front of the cockpit, and then Charlotte Marshall on board Ffothermucker with myself. A little behind and in a big learning curve was Ed de Lange on Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum with Georgia Marshall providing the coaching.

By the bottom mark Ffigjam had got ahead, and with their noses in front they just kept on extending the lead. As the race progressed Freyja also managed to get past Focus Pocus to finish second, while Ffoxxoff took fourth. Heidi and Mike showed that a well sailed classic can certainly keep up with the newer boats if sailed properly, and were particularly fast downwind, although in the building chop the older hull shape didn’t cope as well upwind.

The second race saw Ffigjam lead from start to finish, and was never really challenged at any stage. Despite having no mast ram, Freyja still had good speed and again took second, while Ffoxxoff improved to finish third ahead of Focus Pocus. Hot on their heels were Ffothermucker and Femme Fatale, maintaining the same finishing order as the first race.

 

For race 3 I was anticipating having to extract myself from no-hope-triangle with 10 seconds before the starting gun when a gap opened up, and we ended up with a great start next to the committee boat. Ffigjam again led at mark 1, but we were just a few boat-lengths behind. On the downwind legs there was a lot of place changing, particularly as losing wind for even 10 seconds meant a wave missed, and several boat-lengths lost. We were victims of that and at times were in 5th or 6th position. Going around the bottom mark both Femme Fatale and Freyja got their spinnakers wrapped over their bows and left a gap at the mark which I exploited without needing a second invitation. I feel that I found my groove from then and maintained good speed both up and down wind. Ffigjam had opened up a lead of around 70 metres, while Ffoxxoff was defending second. On the final beat to the finish I had the difficult choice of staying on port to cover Freya, or tack along the beach to cover Focus Pocus. Ultimately I focussed more on Gregg, and although he did gain some ground I was able to keep him behind for fourth place.

Under pressure to get at least 4 races in for the Hobies, Hemraj sent them off on their final start of the day at around 3.45, but because of the distance the FFs had to travel we were sent home with three races completed.

Sunday morning saw water as smooth as glass. The committee boat went to sea to monitor the wind, with the expectation that the safety boats would tow us out if any wind emerged. By 10.50 the forecasts hadn’t changed, and neither had the weather,  so  an on-shore consensus by the Ffleet agreeing to abandon racing for the day, and the committee boat was advised accordingly.

Monday dawned as another perfect Winter’s morning – a replay of Sunday, and again the Committee Boat headed out to see to await any wind. The FF  sailors gathered at RNYC for a leisurely breakfast, and some boat tuning guidance with Patrick and Jeremy.  At 11.45, just as the first round of beers was about to be ordered, the instruction to launch came through and 5 boats hit the water. Campbell Alexander set a new standard for a late entry bringing Ffullerene in for the last day, with Debbie Cox as his stand in crew. We were towed out by Mike Kavanagh who had swopped Femme Fatale for his ski-boat for the day.

Anxious to use the wind while it was there, Hemraj sent the Hobies off on their way while we were still some distance away, and then initiated a new starting sequence once we were in the start area. The wind was from the East, at around 6 knots, and while 4 boats went to the left of the centre of the course, Ffoxxoff went to the right and found some advantage, arriving at the first mark a few boatlengths in front of Ffigjam. We rounded third around 10 boat lengths behind, followed by Freyja and then Ffullerene. Charlotte flew the spinnaker like a champion on the dead run allowing us to not only pull away from the boats behind, but also to gain on the two leaders. Ffigjam reached the bottom mark first, but places then remained unchanged for the whole of the beat. The second round was the Hobie triangle with a very tight first reach, and a very broad second reach – because of the breeze being so light we were able to fly the bag without any strain on the forestay.

On rounding the bottom mark a shortened course was signalled, and Ffoxxoff tacked onto starboard immediately to break cover with Ffigjam. Ffigjam went a further 100 metres before also tacking out to sea, which delighted us as we had every intention of getting to the right hand side of the course. Upon reaching a position which would have put us on the layline for the pin we tacked onto starboard, and at the same time a strong header came through. But, we were not the only boat to suffer – Ffoxxoff suffered headers from whichever tack they were on. But most importantly, our position out to the right had worked very well, and on approaching the finish line it was clear that we had gained significantly on both boats, and had in fact overtaken Ffoxxoff.  Ffigjam took the gun again for a clean sweep of first places – a thoroughly deserved victory for Patrick and Jeremy.

Overall Foxxoff and Freyja tied on points for second, but my having overtaken Ffoxxoff on the finish gave second overall to Freyja on count-back, while we climbed to fourth overall.

Our thanks go to the many people who volunteered and gave up their time to be on the water and behind the scenes so that we could have fun and race, and to the Hobie fleet for so willingly accepting us onto their race track. It is now officially the “off-season”,  and I have every intention of getting my boat home for a bit of a renovation and TLC, and I look forward to the new season kicking off in a few weeks’  time. With less dinghy sailing taking place, my missives will be a little scarce for a while, but thank you for taking the time to read these, and thanks to the number of folk for their positive feedback.

See you around the Club!

Results:

Boat Sail No Skipper Crew R 1 R 2 R 3 R 4 Overall
3999 Ffigjam Patrick Harris Jeremy Kriek 1 1 1 1 1
3870 Freyja Gregg Hurter Jeff Rose 2 2 4 4 2
3868 Ffoxxoff Anthony Macmillan Tim Duguid 4 3 2 3 3
3867 Ffothermucker Myles White Charlotte Marshall 5 5 3 2 4
3871 Focus Pocus Steve Hegerstrom Roger Hill 3 4 5 DNS 5
2766 Femme Fatale Heidi Kavanagh Mike Kavanagh 6 6 6 DNS 6
3207 Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum Ed de Lange Georgia Marshall 7 7 7 DNS 7
3993 Ffullerene Campbell Alexander Debbie Cox DNS DNS DNS 5 8
3871 Firefly Craig Campbell Ian Hogg DNS DNS DNS DNS 9