Too many reds!

Post date: Feb 29, 2016 12:10:2 PM

In a winter where we have lost races to howling gales, yesterday offered the Frostbite Fireballs an easier day on the water with a modest 4 – 7 knots of breeze on according to the weather station inside the harbour. Air temperature was recorded at 6.7˚ with a wind direction of 88˚. However, for all the brightness of the early part of the afternoon, there was a chill in the air and as the afternoon wore on, a grey sky came in from the south to confirm the time of year. Four laps of a trapezoid course were set by the Race Committee for the first race with the weather mark close to the harbour mouth and towards the end of the East Pier. No.2 was just off the block house on the West Pier, No.3 just off the end of the inner pier to windward of the marina and No.4 close to the entrance to the marina itself.

As the start gun for the first race approached, Noel Butler & Stephen Oram (15061) were closest to the pin but it seemed they were slightly early as they gybed out, sailed underneath the fleet in bow to transom formation on the line and went right. This left Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly (14713) on the pin and they led the fleet off to the left hand side of the beat. Mary Chambers & Brenda McGuire (14865) were the first to peel off to follow Butler/Oram and they were then followed by the Keegans (14656), Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe (14691), Cariosa Power & Marie Barry (14854) and Alistair Court & Gordon Syme (14706). Miller/Donnelly hogged the left hand side until they were about two-thirds of the way up the beat and then tacked to go across the course. Butler did the reverse and having crossed ahead of Miller tacked onto a parallel course to Miller but to windward. The boats that had gone left initially seemed to be in better shape but as the leaders approached the weather mark, the boats that were now on the starboard lay-line seemed to be enjoying marginally better breeze.

Within this eight-boat fleet, only three were not flying red spinnakers, the aforementioned Court and Syme, all blue, Louis Smyth (15007), white with a blue band and the Keegans, all white. Thus, with the weather mark furthest away from my location, my sense of “Who’s Who” at the weather mark and subsequent reach is subject to correction as it was based on colours of crews’ clothes and hat colours, confirmed only when the boats were halfway down the leg between Marks 2 & 3. Thus, my assessment of the rounding sequence at the first mark was Butler & Oram (all black Gill gear), McKenna & O’Keeffe (distinctive pink hats), Chambers & McGuire (red & black tops), Power & Barry (blue sleeves, white trapeze belt & white hat), Court & Syme, Smyth, Miller & Donnelly (red hat, red top, grey top) and Keegans.

Places didn’t change on the next three legs, a three sail reach from 1 to 2, a broader three-sailer from 2 to 3 and another tight but manageable reach from 3 to 4.

On the second beat the leading boats took a short hitch to the right of the course and then went left. Power, Court and Smyth went significant distances to the right hand side before they worked that side of the beat to get to the weather mark. At the second rounding of this mark Butler & Oram had increased their lead by a significant margin and second placed McKenna & O’Keeffe had done the same to the rest of the fleet. Power rounded third but seemed to have a problem, allowing Court to close up on her. At Mark 2, Court gybed immediately and got ahead of the girls and behind him Miller & Donnelly did the same thing to pass out Smyth and Chambers. A lap later both Court and Miller would execute the same gybe, but would lose out to Power & Barry. Miller & Donnelly then lost another place to Smyth. Up the last beat, Butler and McKenna were very comfortably ahead and could effectively sail their own race. Butler wasn’t under threat from McKenna who was well ahead of the chasing pack. Power & Barry, now in third place went hard right on the final beat and it seemed to do them no harm as they rounded in this position at the last weather mark. However, Court and Smyth were not that far behind them. At Mark 2 Court got inside Power and eked out a short lead over the two ladies. At the rounding of the third and fourth marks the boats were bow to transom with Court just ahead. At Mark 4 Court tacked immediately while Power sailed a short distance on. Problem was, from my vantage point, the committee boat was a lot closer to Mark 4 than the pin was and by virtue of finishing at the committee boat, I think that Power sneaked 3rd place. A stopwatch on the finish showed that Butler/Oram won by 2:05 to McKenna/O’Keefe who had 2:25 on Power/Barry who had seconds on Court/Syme. Smyth took 5th, Chambers 6th, Miller 7th and Keegans 8th.

For the second race of the day, the weather mark was moved eastwards so that it was now inside the end of the east pier. Mark 2 was also moved, but 3 and 4 stayed as was.

For the start the fleet was congregated from the pin back towards the committee boat. With seconds to go Smyth, slightly to leeward of the rest of the fleet, approached the pin on port tack. With a hail from Court who was leading the on-line procession to the pin on starboard, Smyth was able to tack and squeeze past the pin to go left. Shortly after the start, Butler, McKenna, and Power went right while the balance went left with Smyth to leeward of this group.

At the first weather mark, Court led followed (after closer confirmation of sail numbers) by Miller, McKenna, Butler, Power, Smyth and Chambers. The first three boats were very close and Court was initially caught by the two boats behind him. As the fleet approached Mark 4, the running order was Miller, McKenna, Court, Butler, Chambers, Smyth and Power.

Butler and McKenna worked the left hand side of the course on the second beat but Court went right and when they crossed, Court was ahead. McKenna was ahead of Miller and Butler had yet to engage in a crossing to allow me to see where he was. At the second weather mark, the lead had changed hands and the blue spinnaker told me that Court was “Numero Uno”. Butler rounded second followed by McKenna, Miller and Chambers.

On the third beat Butler went right, Court went left and Butler led at the first crossing, but at the weather mark it was again a blue spinnaker that broke out first. Butler was in second ahead of McKenna, Miller and Chambers and these places were held until the finish.