Our Surf to City multihull Race on the Inside Course
By Chris Wren (Frequent Flyer)
This could be a very short report, as my view of the race was primarily our sails and lee hull, with a few glimpses of boats careering about at times and Turning Point almost all the time, in the corner of my eye or partially hidden under the main.
This is a testament to sailing being a team sport and that was certainly essential for us. While I held onto the tiller, my job was just to keep the boat moving. Bruce Dixon was the navigator, as he knows the waterways well and he called the shots to ensure that we used the narrow channels as effectively as possible, while keeping Turning Point in close proximity. Andrew Turner and Greg Black sat each side taking turns to trim the main and jib or alternatively the spinnaker, constantly winching and letting the sheet off through the jibes. This developed into a bit of a competition between them as to who could effect the best jibe. Overall having four skippers aboard meant that when we made it to Peel Island when we had a little more time to take stock, we were able to discuss the options and more or less, agree on our strategy, but with Bruce keeping control.
It was my first Surf to City race and while my intention was to learn something about the course on the trip down, I could not see much in the 150 mm of rain that day. Navigation marks, boats and buildings just appeared out of the mist. Therefore I was totally dependent on my crew in the race but that was always the plan, everyone with a task. We sailed down with the mainsail reefed and motor sailed at times. Bruce Dixon and I felt like we had achieved something, just successfully navigating the route in the conditions and mooring at SYC in a fierce tide. We were very thankful to SYC making room for all the boats and having people on hand to help.
On the morning of the race we could not believe our luck to see a clear sky and a moderate wind, after the blustery and wet conditions the day before.
We thought we had the start nailed but despite what we thought was over compensating for the strong tide, we almost got swept the wrong side of the mark. We started just to leeward and in front of Redshift, a F82R which we thought might give us a fight for the first few tacks but our sights were mostly on Turning Point with Zebb Peters getting his usual flying start and clearing out from the multihulls. We were virtually on the same line as Turning Point and so headed off at around 10 knots in pursuit, being reasonably happy to stay in touch and have Zebb, Ben Kelly and crew show us the way. Using our large (but still relatively small) spinnaker, we were able to keep pace with Turning Point and in the variable conditions make small gains until we were fighting it out with many close calls for water and starboard. Both of us gave no quarter but made sure we were aware of each other at all times so we could respond to who ever had right of way.
Past Crab Island, we began our multitude of jibes, using every bit of available water and plotting a course between the navigation marks and numerous monohulls, some of which clearly demonstrated where the shallows were. Approaching Ephraim Island at about 14.5 knots, we had good breeze and wanted to hang onto it for as long as possible. There was enough depth of water for us to almost sail up onto the island to give some of the spectators a clear view of the cockpit.
Around Jewel Creek while travelling at 15 to 17 knots we had a few monohulls to negotiate including one that broached right in front of us. No available water to windward and a gust meant we had to bear away to reduce power and we just made it behind his stern. The disparity in speed between the boats probably caused them as much angst as it did us. In a lull, we had to take a wide route around the navigation mark off Tulleen Island to avoid the last of the monohull fleet and we were off again, varying in speed from 8 knots to 14 knots in short bursts depending on what the land did to the breeze. Just before Rudy Maas we hit 16 plus knots (but of course slowed down as I am sure everyone did to the required 6 knots in this reach).
After the public boat ramp, we were back into a series of jibes and we were travelling at 15 to 16 knots and then once on a reasonably long leg with good wind hit 17 and 18 knots but then back to 9 knots again. Around Long Island we traded the lead with Turning Point numerous times through the numerous jibes with speeds varying from 9 to 17 knots. The wind was all over the place and both Turning Point and frequentflyer were constantly shifting gears to make the most of it. At the western end of Karragarra Island, Turning Point opened up a reasonable lead and we thought that would be the last we saw of it. However, the wind was shifting constantly and we caught and passed them again just before we had to tack to the east.
Around Karragarra Island when we headed almost due east, we both had to drop our spinnakers and our large kite was torn to shreds as we tried to furl it. The prospect of holding Turning Point later with our three quarter kite seemed unlikely in the moderate conditions. As the wind dropped, Turning Point with its longer waterline looked beautiful as it sailed through our lee, BUT it sailed through our lee. Fortunately, the short length of windward work and speeds around 4 to 6 knots did not last for long and as we rounded Lamb Island the wind improved and we picked up speed again.
A quick look back at times during our passage through the drains gave us hope as AYS Raider was being held up by some of the multihulls, including Boom sailed by Peter Hackett. Once we left Karragarra Island behind the waterway opened up and the angles meant that we were able to sail with our small kite at 12 to 16 knots. During this series of jibes we were again able to engage Turning Point and as we emerged into the bay, we finally had an opportunity to split with them and chase some wind near Goat Island while he went west towards Peel. We seemed to be sailing at about the same speed as Turning Point but a little lower. Every time I looked across he seemed to be flying at twice our speed. It is just a great boat to watch. After travelling at speeds between 12 and 14 knots, we met Turning Point on the same tack heading towards the yellow marker off Horseshoe Bay but he was some distance behind us. We had a terrible moment of light breezes and a poor angle to take the yellow which saw our speed drop to about 8 to 10 knots and Turning Point made some gains.
Once around Peel we wanted to keep well out in the tide and where we thought there was more breeze and Turning Point generally obliged by sailing a similar course, so we could keep a loose cover on him. We continued around Hope Banks and jibed in towards Green to again cover Turning Point, as with the variable wind anything could happen and did with speeds varying from 9 to 15 knots but generally around 12 knots. As we approached Mud Island, the breeze dropped a little but all we could do is hang on relying on our small kite and play every shift we could while keeping Turning Point in view.
In the series of jibes from Mud Island, around the Coffee Pots and into Shorncliffe, the wind stayed light and our speeds were in the 10 to 12 knot range with a few momentary faster bursts but all we had to do was keep between Turning Point and the finish line to cross first by around 4 minutes. However, we were very aware of AYS Raider powering up behind and almost pass Turning Point at the end, to finish about 5 minutes behind us. In about a five and a half hour race that is as close as it needs to be, as one wrong tack in the fickle winds or a loss of concentration could have seen a very different result.
We were thrilled but I had had enough of running from side to side through 89 jibes. It was past my lunch time and about all I could do was lay on the trampoline and let the rest of the crew sail it back to RQYS. It was then that we could see the rest of the race unfold. The fourth boat was Purple Haze from SYC which is a Grainger, next Boom which is Peter Hackett’s lovely F22 (with mast still standing), then CocoLoco that Garry Scott always sails well, closely followed by Redshift, then we understand Intrigue from Port Curtis Sailing Club, Gumphy, New Horizons just ahead of Skedaddle and followed up by Outrage, Good Times 2, Jacana and Aquilo One .
On OMR it was frequentfllyer, Skedaddle, AYS Raider, CocoLoco, followed by Boom, New Horizons, Intrigue, Turning Point, Purple Haze, Redshift and Outrage. The race demonstrates that OMR enables a diversity of boats to compete, including older small trimarans such as CocoLoco.
On performance handicap the positions were dramatically different with Aquilo One first, Purple Haze second and New Horizons third, followed by Skeddaddle, Boom, Outrage, Gumphy, Redshift, Jacana, frequentflyer, Turning Point and Good Times 2. It was good that the positions were shared around between actual position over the line, OMR and performance handicap, as it spread the joy.
We were lucky, as we had good conditions that resulted in mainly downhill work. Any wind from the northern quadrant could have seen a very different result and there would have been a few more tussles with the monohull fleet. The disparity in size and speed between the multihulls and monohulls makes me wonder about the wisdom of starting the slower boats first, as in a breeze this could be potentially dangerous and it is not as if the monohulls will finish anywhere near the same time as the multihulls.
It almost seems a pity to sail again next year as we now have a perfect record but with the right crew, it will be hard not to give it another shot.
This is just our race but I am sure that with a tight course, shallow water and variable gusty winds at times everyone has a story or two to tell.