Great Bay Race
By Jim Fern (Hasta La Vista)
The Great Bay Race has to be the most interesting race on the MYCQ calendar. This year added to the woes of navigators’ choices with wind from 0 to 8 knots from the west to the north east and an increased effect of tidal runs in light air; as if it wasn’t already hard enough to pick which way to go around Peel Island and which triangle to do first and in which direction around the triangle.
The race started with the outgoing tide providing more pace than the breeze was capable of. The going was so slow that Renaissance (start boat) was mid fleet after half a mile. Airplay and FrequentFlyer led Renaissance off towards the eastern edge of Peel Island for a starboard rounding while Rushour led Hasta La Vista and Free Spirit under spinnaker for a port rounding. Hasta led to the SW rocks but was claimed by Free Spirit as soon as spinnakers were down. The port rounders were helped by the run-out tide up the eastern channel of Peel and then had a tight reaching angle all the way to the Coffee Pots. Free Spirit pulled out a big margin on Hasta on this leg and when the 2 fleets came together off St Helena the starboard rounder leader was Airplay and was just ahead of Hasta. Frequent Flyer was further back behind Rushour and Renaissance was not yet in sight. Once in the same patch of water, Airplay bolted away determined to run down the big lead enjoyed by Free Spirit. It must have been love because they stayed together for the rest of the very long night.
The 2 leaders went north towards the Pearl Channel buoy to do the eastern triangle with starboard roundings. By the time Hasta La Vista rounded the Brisbane Roads buoy it was sunset and sightings of other vessels became guesswork. Hasta had predetermined that port roundings would provide more suitable sailing angles so aimed at the Castlereagh Beacon at North Reef while the NNE breeze stayed in. It was expected to go NW later. The breeze had dropped by the time we got there and rounded between the beacon and an unlit fishing boat who was not enjoying the experience of us so close nor being given a ticket from the water police alongside him for not displaying an all-round white light. As they were being breath tested we thought, “Lyle, now is not the time to knock the top off that rum bottle.”
Our masthead spinnaker was up for the run down to Otter Rock at a scintillating 3 knots. Hasta La Vista arrived to round the mark just as the cuddly couple of Airplay and Free Spirit arrived to round in the opposite direction. They had completed one triangle and one leg of the next one so our winning chances didn’t look too good with still one leg of our first triangle to sail. The reaching angle back to the Brisbane Roads saw Hasta start the second triangle in good shape with the wind gradually increasing the further east we went. This was a beautiful sail with flat seas, a good breeze, a favourable tide and eased sheets doing over 9 knots. Seeing every mark around the bay on such a clear night made navigation very easy. On rounding the MB2 buoy, the tight reach back to Pearl Channel was a delight with the speed being maintained. However the closer we got to this mark a noticeable easing in the wind speed dented our hopes that we were taking enough distance out of the leaders. The 0015 radio sked showed just how close we all were. Hasta was broad reaching under masthead kite and the sails of Airplay and Free Spirit could be seen against the lights of the port. They were both in front but not by very much. The finish times were close so now to wait for the results and hope that we had paid the handicapper enough.