HMYC 2015 Year End Regatta

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!!

2015 SAFFA National Championships

S A Flying Fifteen Association National Championships

Hosted by Royal Natal Yacht Club, Durban

I know that I am not alone in having a tender and weary body this stunning Monday morning – a crowd of us spent the last 2 days offshore in the Flying Fifteen National Championships, and it was a proper workout.

Before touching on those details, I have to mention the excitement I am greeted with every time I walk into the boat-park – there are more and more Finns appearing and it is expected that January will see 6 or 7 of these classic dinghies competing in Club racing. All the boats are old, and are changing hands dirt-cheap – between R1,500 to R3,000 – so, for anyone who feels it is too difficult to secure a regular crew and is looking for a very affordable way to enjoy yacht racing against like-minded fun loving folk, get hold of a Finn, and chat to either Cyril Foley or Keith Gregory.  Don’t be surprised if local class rules dictate that an on-board cooler box of beer becomes mandatory equipment!

Another very positive vibe is that we anticipate having 5 Flying Fifteens being towed to Midmar for the Open Dinghy Regatta being run from 27 to 30 December (being an FF sailor I am obviously biased, but there will be other dinghies going up from Durban too).

Despite being one of the most professionally and timeously prepared regattas in quite some time, the FF Nationals faced numerous challenges, and sadly just failed to qualify for S A Sailing official recognition. The event was originally scheduled to include the Dart KZN Provincials, and as time passed by a number of Hobie sailors indicated interest in including an “Open Cat” fleet. The Darts suffered hugely with the SAS Youth Nationals declaring the Dart as the nominated catamaran class, and accordingly a number of boats were redirected from Durban to Wriggleswade in the Eastern Cape. The only two entries accordingly chose to withdraw from the regatta, and with the Hobies focussing on their beach-to-beach race, the Flying Fifteens had the entire Indian Ocean to themselves.

The regatta was scheduled to run over 3 days – Wednesday 16 December (a public holiday), Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th December. Due to a number of reasons several of the regular sailors had commitments on some of the days that they could not avoid, and entries were slow coming in. Adding to the consternation, Windguru was predicting very challenging conditions for the Wednesday, but with the weekend looking promising.

Wednesday morning was witness to several FF sailors discovering the dangers of non-maintenance on launching cradle wheel bearings, but fortunately for them race officer Rob Bell took the wise decision to abandon racing for the day while the wind was wavering between 22 to 27 knots – it steadied later on at 30 knots! Nonetheless, 2 boats still launched from PYC – Vince Tiedt and Jim Rushton took Faithful out for a burn and to test out all the recent upgrades, while CJ Milln and Iggy Terblanche took out Freyja, which been very kindly been lent to them by Gregg Hurter. An hour or two later there were 4 very wet and exhilarated sailors back on shore, and only minor damage for Vince to attend to.

We needed to get 10 boats finishing in at least 2 races in order to qualify for SAS recognition – we had 10 entries, but sadly only 8 boats sailed on Saturday, and 9 sailed on Sunday – with the defending champions on Ffoxxoff not being able to sail on the last day. Consistent with the wind prediction, we launched into a light to moderate south-easter, but which steadily clocked around toward the south-west, and as is usual with such a breeze, picked up in strength as the day progressed.

From the outset the pattern was established – in race 1 perennial champions Patrick Harris and Jeremy Kriek on Ffigjam led around the first mark, and held their lead to the finish line. Only Ffoxxoff was close enough to pose a threat, while the wiley old fox and multiple-past-National Champ Mike Wright took third place on Bad Influence. Mike comes out of sailing retirement for this event every year and proves that he still has what it takes – as usual, he had Mike Surgesson handling the sharp end.

Race 2 was pretty much a repeat of the first, with all boats achieving the same finishing positions – Estelle Buys and myself 4th; Freyja in 5th; 6th was Chris Kloppenborg using the opportunity to issue instructions to his potential father-in-law Chris Sutton, on Ffenominal (leading Classic boat); Deejay Latha and Lucky Phakathi on Financial Fling took 7th; while Vince and Jim retired from the second race and went home to repair their broken main halyard.

The start of the 3rd race saw Ffigjam cut very close to the committee boat transom on the start, so close in fact that Jeremy caught the corner of the transom with his ribs – adding insult to injury, before the pain could subside they had to do their 360 penalty. With this opening Ffoxxoff got out in front and was first at the top mark. The course was the old triangle-sausage-triangle, and with the freshening breeze it was quite a handful flying the spinnaker on the reaches, and at times it proved quicker to sail under main and jib only. Before the race was half done Ffigjam had got into the lead and started pulling away. We had a good race and were delighted with a third – it made a welcome change from watching Bad Influence’s transom. I was further grateful that there was no “L” flag flying – with the wind steadily between 18 to 25 knots we were all experiencing aches and pains in places that we had forgotten that we still had.

Sunday saw the wind doing the opposite of the previous day – starting as a fresh south-wester, but moderating as it swung to the east. Campbell Alexander and Richard Bate joined us on Ffullerene, while Craig Campbell and Dave came out on Firefly. Races 4 and 5 followed pretty much the same recipe as the previous day, with Ffullerene doing the chasing as Ffoxxoff had done. I was in a very comfortable third place until I missed a few windshifts on the third beat, and suddenly found myself behind both Bad Influence, and Freyja – CJ and Iggy had found the trick in getting the boat to go, and caught the right shifts on the final beat to take third ahead of the two Mikes.

Race 5 was not great for us – we found ourselves battling mid-fleet from the start, but slowly emerged from the pack with Freyja and Bad Influence chasing each other up ahead. If my memory serves me correctly, it was on the first tight reach that CJ managed to fall overboard and earn himself the Clots Cap for the day. On the last beat we made up considerable ground, but it was just not enough – the Mikes took third behind Ffigjam and Ffullerene, while Freyja and ourselves crossed the finish line pretty much alongside each other – the results sheet showed that CJ hung in to beat us by 2 seconds.

The final race saw a windshift come through enabling Chris on Ffenominal to make a clear start on port at the pin, and cross the fleet. It was Bad Influence however who were leading at the weather mark, with Ffigjam not far behind, while Estelle and I had a solid third place, which we managed to hold on to all the way to the finish. Up front though, it was Ffigjam doing the usual routine of passing all-comers, and then stretching the lead. Just as they did in the Provincials earlier this year, Patrick and Jeremy finished the nationals with a perfect score of firsts, proving that they are very deserving champions. Mike and Mike saw Bad Influence into second overall, while Estelle and I were delighted with our third overall on Ffothermucker.

CJ and Iggy thoroughly enjoyed their time in the Ffleet, and the hope is that we might see the Milln family becoming owners and regular competitors in the Flying Fifteen fleet. Chris and Chris were deserving winners in the Classic fleet.

Many thanks to Race Officer Rob Bell, and the many people who helped on bridge, safety boats, and the behind the scenes admin – it was a thoroughly enjoyable regatta. See you on the water!

Fleet news, and boat changes

The 2015/2016 sailing season is about to kick off, but there have been some exciting developments in recent months. In no particular order:

  1. Mike and Heidi Kavanagh have accepted the role of “Fleet Motivator” for the RNYC Ffleet, so please pay attention to their communications, and comply with their appeals.
  2. Mike and Heidi have also placed an order with Jeremy Kriek to build them a brand new boat – but the specification is for wooden decking, as is the case with their current boat, Femme Fatale. That in turn means that we will have another Classic boat looking for a new owner in the not too distant future.

  3. Welcome back to the Ffleet Clinton Hendrie and Mike Prior. They have managed to acquire 3007 “Ffury”, which has not touched the water for the past 5 years at least. She has been renamed “Flirty Fifteen”, and will be swelling the numbers of Classics on the water.

  4. With Steve Hegerstrom now living and working in Central Africa, Anthony Macmillan has acquired “Focus Pocus” and sailing with his girlfriend Lorna Daniel has already proven that he will be contesting toward the front end of the Ffleet this season.

With all these positive developments it will surely be a terrific sailing season.

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.