By James Bennett
Bay Raider 20 “Kailani”
I had a very rushed morning due to various minor family emergencies. Constantin Lindner (a young German shipwright visiting Australia on a work visa) my crew was getting a bit concerned and texted me as I ran in to the Royal Fresh Water Bay Yacht Club grounds . After registering, it became clear that the race was going to be run as a pursuit race with the slowest boat starting first. Each boat within its own class was assigned a start time which had been worked out using our handicap. The clubs start box was fitted with a large illuminated board on which numbers and the count-down could be displayed. The first boat assigned a start was a Mirror dinghy! The numbers reduced at one minute intervals. As we had been assigned the number 29 that meant we had 31 minutes to wait until our start. So after the initial rush and late arrival we had plenty of time!
After launching at the Johnson Street ramp we sailed in the light winds around to the start line which was set for an easterly wind course. The postponed flag was hoisted shortly after as the easterly died out completely. 34 boats gaff rigged boats of various shapes, sizes and vintage ghosted around in front of the RFBYC providing an excellent photo opportunity for everyone. Paul Rickets told me later that he took over 600 photo’s! After waiting for around 50 minutes the wind filled from the south west at about 8 knots and the start box crew altered the course and shortened it and re-started the count down.
As there were 4 fleets racing on Sunday, each with their own course and start number it was a bit disconcerting seeing much faster boats starting before us, and heading off to upwind. As we had plenty of time before our own start we used this to practise several starts and establish the best position to be on the line. We captured the number 34 going up on the start box and started the 5 minute count down on my watch.
We tacked exactly one minute down-wind of the line as the number 29 appeared and sailed towards the line with our start being when number the number 29 was replaced by 28 on the illuminated number box. You can imagine our astonishment when we hit the line and crossed with 29 still showing, well after it should have been replaced by the number 28. We gybed around and went back over the line and tried again only to see 29 still displayed. It took Constantin and I about 15 seconds to realise that the critical part of the illuminated number box had bulbs that were not working and in fact the sign was showing 28! This was confirmed a few moments later when number 27 appeared! Arrrh we had lost over a 1 minute in a pursuit race. If anything this made us more determined and we really concentrated on boat trim and pointing as high as we could. I sat to leeward and sailed the boat on the jib tell-tales while Constantin sat well out to windward. For light winds on my boat this worked really well.
The “C” Fleet course was really too short, being up to Mosman’s and Suicides and then back down to Claremont, around the bank and then back to RFWBYC and the finish. Paul Rickets and Tony O’Connor started 5-6 minutes ahead of us and Chris Robinson (in a similar boat) for some reason started 4 minutes behind us. We caught up with Paul before the finish and Tony beat us by about 60 seconds. Chris was always about the same distance behind but we managed to find a lifting tack in the last minutes of the race..
On finishing I told everyone that I was going to ask for a re-dress on our result due to the faulty bulbs on the start box sign, (said half teasing and half serious) But when I walked into the club house and ran into the Club’s Commodore who turned out to be an ex-work colleague, I took advantage of the situation and described to him in great detail the massive confusion the broken bulbs caused. He was very concerned, and we actually sat down and drew out the bulb pattern on a piece of paper on the bar so he could fully understand the problem. Other racers overhearing our conversation and also came out with similar stories of confusion caused by the broken bulbs! I never asked for the redress as I had had my fun telling my story and gently teasing him about his wealthy yacht club and a couple of broken bulbs.
The results were Peter Edmunds in the Mirror (built/refurbished in the new Men’s shed at Mosman Park) second was Jeremy Stockley and third was Tony O’Connor. Despite the start we won the C Fleet fastest boat prize by the official narrow margin of 16 seconds from Chris Robinson. The superb trophy that Chris had had a hand in organising is a section of a wooden steering wheel made from Sheoak, Silky Oak and Huon Pine. I have been warned that I will not win again next year!