Robe Continued

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 12 Jun 2012 08:40

We made it. I think I have spent too long alongside a marina, all these fronts and lows were making me nervous.

Looking back I really do not have much else to add to my previous entry, but here goes:

The evening started off very pleasantly, we were under full sail with relatively calm conditions, force 3 on the beam, and Sylph was gliding along at five to six knots. As night wore on the wind picked up as forecast and by 10 pm we were down to two reefs in the mainsail and only about 30% of the jib. Despite the heavily reduced sail area we were still romping along at a steady seven knots. This is something I have learned about Sylph over the years, when the wind picks up she really doesn't take much sail to keep her moving well. 'An easily driven hull form', her designer Alan Payne has said of her.

Around 2 am the wind had piped up to 25 knots or so and we were still forging ahead at a comfortable seven knots, Sylph's full bows and long fine exit just ploughed a straight steady furrow through the ocean with a churning sound ahead and a gurgling bubbly sound astern. As we ventured out further from the land the swell and seas picked up, but with the wind and seas on the quarter the windvane self-steering easily kept her straight and true and my anxieties of the previous day dissolved as the night wore on and I once more got used to being at sea with Sylph. Another thing I find interesting about Sylph's older design is, despite the very low freeboard by modern standards, how dry she is. As the seas sweep by, at the bow and stern there is only inches of freeboard, she just rises to the waves and gracefully allows them to pass by with a little curtsey. Now I am not saying that she is better then more modern designs, just different, with different strengths and weaknesses. I would love to go for a ride in an 'Open 60' for instance, what an adrenalin rush that would be, but they are hardly a machine to call home and sail leisurely around the world single-handed with about a tonne of books (I am not kidding) on board.

Here is an interesting picture of an Alan Payne design, the Monsoon, coincidentally the first glass fibre boat built in Australia.


Notice how she sits low in the water, she is travelling at maximum hull speed and cannot go any faster, put any more energy into the system and that wave along her waterline will just grow taller and taller, without getting any longer (which would equal more speed) until the boat drives herself under. This picture is from the 1976 Melbourne to Hobart race which Monsoon won on Handicap (16 years after Sylph was launched). The article says, “... the wind was gusting to over 30 knots. Monsoon was reaching along at a steady eight knots. She kept this up virtually all day and the next night. She steered dead straight with almost fingertip steering. This is common to all Alan Payne designed boats.” And that is my experience of Sylph. Mind you, sometimes it is a little frustrating when she surges ahead on a wave, the bow climbs up and up and up, but then … there is just no way she can break out of her own weight, she stalls, slows and slips back down the wave; then I am inclined to think maybe I should shed a few books, but it would of course take a lot more than that to coax Sylph onto a plane. No, I think I will leave that experience to sailing on OPBs (other people's boats). Still, all in all, last night was a very satisfying sail. So much so that we were approaching Guichen Bay by early morning and alongside just before 10 am, much better than I had anticipated.

Now we will sit here until the next serious low goes past, apparently it has been causing Western Australia all sorts of problems, and then look for another favourable breeze to take us the next little jump back east.

All is well.