Tales from the Bluewater Regatta 2017

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Wed 22 Nov 2017 13:32

Tales from the Bluewater Regatta 2017


We were very fortunate to be invited back on board Garretty for the 2017 Bluewater Regatta, this time without Dick on the helm. The crew for this regatta were to be John, Brenda, Paul, Susan, Nissa, Roger and Andrew. We had just about recovered from our adventures on Scarlet so were keen to go!!! John had had a new genoa commissioned and a new Code 0, so, with a great deal of weight removed from Garretty (anchors, chain, sails, and other live-aboard stuff) we hoped to have a good regatta.


We spent some time on the days leading up to the regatta getting the sails sorted and the lines organised, equipment off the boat, and working out our strategy for the big Code 0 in terms of getting it in and out. It is a tricky beast; it is on a “soft roller” so folks need to know what they are doing otherwise there-in lies disaster – it’s possible to get two wraps around the sail in opposite directions – which we experienced on Jetstream, so it’s very important to work out the best way to control its set and recovery. We rigged the lines and the pole, and, most importantly, worked out who would do what – mostly Paul and Nissa on the Code 0 control lines with the “after-guard” releasing sheets “under control” – it sounds easy, but it can go horribly wrong. Andrew was genoa/Code 0 trimmer, Roger was on the mainsheet, John was helm, and Susan and Brenda were tailers, and Paul and Nissa the foredeck crew. Paul and Nissa also doubled as genoa sheet haulers for the tacks to get the sail set as quickly as possible when required. We were organised. We were ready to rock and roll – and race of course. Go Garretty!!!


After the morning briefing and a breakfast at Quay, we set off for the first of two races on the 1st day. The winds were initially very, very light and after a good start at the pin end, the race was abandoned as the winds had died away to nothing at all. Off we went to the start once again and waited while the starting line and course was re-set. The wind changed to the north and with the race re-started we had a fair start and managed a reasonable top 5 finish in the freshening breeze on what was quite a short course for the larger yachts.



We fortunately checked whether there would be another race, as we thought it was getting pretty late in the day and the breeze continued to build – yup, another race was planned. Ok, off we went and made our way back to the start line and set up for the next race. By now the breeze was around the 20kt mark, increasing and gusting higher, so the choice of sail plan was important. Off we went and we had a good start and made our way towards the front of the fleet – then a bit of a disaster! Well a significant one anyway. The main sheet pulled all the way through its blocks on the bear away – which meant we lost control of the main sail and the boom – there was no stopper knot on the end of the sheet. Quickly luffing up we attempted to regain control of the boom, not easy in strong winds and choppy sea, but the time taken to retain control meant we were out of the race and so did not officially finish. The crew were naturally a little subdued on the way back into the marina – still we consoled ourselves with the thought of the free bar and nibbles!!! But we were still not very happy. However the beer and wine were good (and free) and the nibbles tasty.


The second day was designated the long race, so after breakfast at Quay, we set up Garretty for the day – we thought the wind would build through the day once again, so decided not to try the Code 0. John decided just before the start of the race that Andrew would helm – bit of a surprise to him!!! So now we spent 10minutes working out how he wanted to approach the start for this race. We managed a fair start at the committee boat end and quickly turned onto port tack, then back to starboard and were fourth at the windward mark. We managed to overtake the third positioned yacht on the beat to the wreck marks, and then started to chase down the race leader – he was an Australian designed proven racer. Winds were 20kts and rising! After a long course around the “wreck” marks and the “fishfarm” marks we finished 30 seconds behind the race leader, (and eventually the overall regatta winner), in second place after some 4 hours of racing. It’s fair to say we were exhausted but really pleased and the thought of free beer and nibbles sustained us to our return to the marina. All in all we had a good day’s racing in very breezy and challenging conditions which made up for the previous days disappointment with the main sheet.



The final day dawned with fair winds, so after another cooked breakfast, we headed out for the first of two races. We were told at the briefing that there would no penalty for taking out the Code 0, should it not be used – for most races the sail configuration had to be declared at the start. The winds were ok and John took the helm for the first race on a very short course for many of the yachts, so we managed a 5th place – Garretty and most of the yachts are much more suited for the longer races, but a decision not to fly the Code 0 meant we were off the pace in the then light winds. Garretty is not a light wind yacht – she likes the 15kts and above conditions when she really does sail well – but not above 30kts with the sail plan we had in place!!



The second race was in much higher winds (the Nortada, which kicks in during the summer around 12 -1 pm, daily, from the north and lasts until the early evening, when it dies away) and we clocked 28kts for a good part of the race – it may well have been higher but we were concentrating on sailing the boat, only occasionally glancing at the true and apparent wind speeds. For the second race, John nominated Andrew to take the helm (eek!); we had a good start and were 4th at the windward mark. As we approached the bear away mark a yacht hurtled towards us on port tack, refusing to keep clear and give us room meaning we were forced to luff up and lose speed to avoid a collision – much against racing and all international sailing rules! We were now back in fourth after having climbed to third!! There were a few choice words muttered over this antic!! We gave the yacht in question a good deal of room at the gybe mark and headed off to cross the line for the second lap.



Then we had another disaster – instead of leaving the sails set for a broad reach, inexplicably they were hardened up by the trimmers just before the turning mark meaning Andrew could not bear away a little for the rounding as he was sailing high to keep clear of the offending yacht. As a result we had to tack, and in doing so caused Brenda to lose her grip and career across the coach roof and down to the leeward guard rails! Almost a man (Brenda) overboard!! (Aaagh!) We sorted things out and made sure Brenda was ok and then completed the tack and headed off for the mark, now in 6th place! Aaagghh! (Again – well, in reality other words were used, but for this blog aaaggghh will do) We managed to overhaul the 4th and 5th placed yachts and complete the course, though all were shaken by the experience. Then the engine refused to start!!! However some 10 minutes later we were able to return to the marina in time to prepare for the evenings prize giving. Not one of our better days. Brenda was ok but had a few bruises.


The prize giving was held in the Dunas resort which seems to be favoured by the organisers – it’s about 15-20 minutes walk from the marina. The food was quite good and extensive, though the band was universally considered pretty terrible. Alas for Garretty, no prizes this year – if mistakes and disasters happen, then it’s difficult to get the prizes. Overall there were about 20 or so yachts participating and we enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of John and Brenda and the buzz of racing again. Handicap-wise, Garretty is suited to the longer races and Moderate to Strong winds where she excels, it’s the shorter races that tend to count against the cruiser/racers such as she.



Anyway, many thanks John and Brenda for allowing us to sail on Garretty.


Now we had other things to prepare for – a trip back to the UK for Andrews mother’s 90th birthday celebration with the family.


More in due course................


Andrew and Susan,

Still on the hard

Sopromar's Boat yard,