RNYC Memorial Weekend Pursuit Races – by Mike & Heidi Kavanagh

This weekend, (12 and 13 September) was the memorial regatta at RNYC. There was a pursuit race for dinghies and cats in the harbour on Saturday and for Keelers out in the bay on Sunday.

It was an emotional weekend as we all paused to remember those who have passed on. The wall of remembrance provided an opportunity for all passing by to reflect and remember friends and family who are no longer with us.

The two races were well supported, with 28 boats on Saturday and 18 on Sunday, a fitting celebration of sailing on this special weekend. The race organisers and committees did a fantastic job providing the playing field and rules of the game for the sailors.

The dinghy race took place in 5-8 knots of NE, immediately putting the catamarans at a disadvantage. To compound matters there were some nasty wind shifts, usually affecting one when approaching the marks. In a dying breeze the early starters had an advantage. The course comprised of a horse shoe, with the start / finish line near the Northern end of the centre sandbank, E2 and S1 were weather marks and M8 and S9 leeward marks. Starting at the committee boat allowed the competitors to lay E2, the first mark, on starboard tack, followed by a bear away set for the down wind leg. One had to take the flooding spring tide into consideration while looking for lanes of breeze and trying to sail the shortest distance to M8, without running aground on the sandbank. The beat back from M8 had similar challenges as we tried to stay in the shallow water to avoid the incoming tide, while trying to make the most of the sometimes substantial shifts in wind direction. Once around E2 and S1 at the top of the course, the run down to S9 was pretty much DDW (dead down wind), and the beat back a challenge to play the wind shifts, while working to the usually favoured left side of the course.

The oppies looked to have the fleet well beaten, but fell victim to the dying breeze getting caught and passed by the flying 15’s on the final beat up to S2. The agility and superior tacking ability of the flying 15’s in light air relative to the catamarans saw them make the most of the shifty conditions and they took the first 5 positions in the race. The two minute head start afforded to the classic Femme Fatale, proved sufficient in the dying breeze for her to hold off the latest generation Figjam and Foxxoff.

After the winter layoff, all were in agreement that it was great to be back on the water competing again. A wonderful day out.

On Sunday we awoke to a light to moderate southerly wind and rain. There was some speculation that these conditions would scare off the fair weather sailors. However before the 0900 briefing the club was jam packed with enthusiastic sailors, dusting off their foulies, looking forward to racing out in the bay. Starting times were set on the assumption of 10 knots or less breeze. The start line was laid near the Holiday Inn with a short port tack favoured beat to the weather mark near Vetchies followed by a long run down to a laid mark off Virginia Airport and a beat back to the start / finish line. The race was supported by two out of town entries from Richards Bay, Alacrity and Zeus. It was great to have them in the fleet.

Wind for the start was pretty much as expected, around 8 knots of Southerly. Once round the top mark the fleet hoisted their kites and started the long, slow run down to Virginia. It was challenging to keep the boats moving as the swell caused havoc with spinnaker setting. After dying to 5 knots or less, the breeze gradually started to fill in and shift to the South East as forecast. This favoured some of the late starters. With the fleet converging closer to the leeward mark than the finish as had been planned.

Two of the larger boats in the fleet, Skitzo and Ray of Light were locked in a tight battle for first, powering upwind on port tack. Initially it appeared as if the finish would be easily laid on port tack and the boats were able foot off a little below close hauled. This gave Skitzo an advantage as her large overlapping genoa came into play. However a nasty rain squall swept across the race course with the wind gusting in excess of 20 knots and heading 10-20 degrees. This forced the boats into high mode, and here Ray of Light had an advantage with the ability to in-haul her non-overlapping jib. After the rain squall the wind settled in more veered than before. Ray of light was just able to lay the committee boat at the finish, while Skitzo had fallen slightly to leeward needing one more tack. This was enough to see Ray of Light home by a few seconds. Looking back down the race course there was a tight battle for third with five boats converging on the finishing line. The Mount Gay, Flying Spaghetti Monster managed to hold off the challengers to take third.

The emotional prize-giving included bag pipes and moving addresses from the Commodore Graham Rose and Mauritius to Durban Race officer from 10 years ago Dave Claxton. Emotion was compounded as it was the eve of the 10th anniversary of the ping from the EBIRB that was to prove to be the last communication from the yacht Moquini. In all it was a wonderful weekend of sailing and remembrance at RNYC and a fitting tribute to our loved ones and friends that have passed on. Thank you to all involved in making the weekend the success it was.