Single Hander’s Sail-in-Company

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 16 Aug 2021 09:57

Position: Alongside RSAYS, Adelaide
W F3 Sea: calm
Swell: nil
mostly sunny, mild

The new storm boards are almost finished and other minor jobs continue. In addition to the regular maintenance chores, yesterday we managed to fit in some sailing with a social race for single-handers starting from the Outer Harbour, rounding the Orontes Beacon some 21 nm to the west of Adelaide, and then returning. There were four boats sailing: Sylph, Coconut skippered by Mark Sinclair of GGR 2018 fame, Inukshuk skippered by Rob, and Take 5 skippered by Steve. It was a handicapped start with Coconut and Sylph scheduled to cross the Breakwater start line at 0800 and 0805 respectfully, and Inukshuk and Take 5 leaving a couple of hours later in their much faster boats.

It turned out to be a beautiful day though the winds were a little on the light side. Coconut and Sylph got under way on time and Sylph gradually overhauled the smaller Coconut in the cool morning northerly breeze. By mid-morning the wind had veered into the west making it a headwind. Both vessels now had to work their way to windward. I tacked early with the headwind with the idea of staying to windward of the layline to the mark, but on tacking found a small short sea all but stopped Sylph, the light wind not giving her spoon bow enough power to punch through it. It took some time to be able to get enough way on to tack back and build up some speed again. Coconut had gained on us significantly during this little discursion but once Sylph had settled back on a south westerly heading she gradually opened the gap again, despite the fact that Coconut appeared to be pointing some fifteen degrees higher than Sylph.

Sylph rounded Orontes Beacon at 1437 and now, with the wind directly astern, we gybed and poled the headsail out to starboard. By this stage Inukshuk and Take 5’s charcoal grey racing sails could be made out in the distance tacking towards us and closing. I hoisted Sylph’s drifter opposite the poled out headsail to give Sylph the best chance of preventing the sleeker racing boats from overtaking us before we could cross the finish line.

Sylph’s Hydrovane self-steering was doing a great job keeping her steady on course so, as it was pretty much a straight downhill run and there wasn’t really much for me to do, I went below, cooked up some dinner, and watched a movie, popping my head up out of the companionway regularly to make sure all was clear and safe. At 1755 the sun had set. We still had some 10 miles to go, the wind was fading and we were down to three knots. I peered into the gloom astern, looking for my competitors. It was time to gybe, putting the wind on the opposite quarter to hopefully increase our apparent wind a notch. Once done I returned below to continue watching my movie.

At 2000 we still had a couple of miles to go to the breakwaters. I could now see the lights of my three rivals, still astern, against the dark western horizon but ahead the city lights were bright and confusing. I was not comfortable sailing across the finish line under sail into the confines of the Outer Harbour, especially as there was a merchant ship scheduled to enter the harbour at about the same time as Sylph. I dropped the drifter and spoke with Rob on Inukshuk on the radio.. Rob was the unofficial coordinator of the social sail/race and he advised that he had already started his motor in the fading wind. So, feeling that Sylph had achieved her mission for the day, I decided to follow suit. I handed sail, started the engine and motored the rest of the way back to the sailing club where we secured alongside at 2055.

All is well.