It's nice to get away from it all for a few days, but go figure... my idea of a holiday is to load up my gear and jump into a racing yacht for the Hope Island Racing Conference. My "vacation" consisted of the busy job of midship on a Benateau First Class 12. This boat is 39.4' at the waterline and has a 60' mast. Proper race crew of 9 is cozy on deck but essential even in light breeze for fast changes, and proper ballast.
This race series is unique as there is no harbour or shore facility of any kind, and to top it all off, it's situated far enough away from anything that the only way to do it is to drop anchor in a nearby sheltered bay.
As the rules of fresh-water navigation regarding pollution control have changed since this particular boat was built requiring the addition of a holding tank to contain the "black water." Unfortunately this tank is far too small for a full race crew. Since the races start and finish in the same area a work-around however was very effective: the skipper of this boat was able to convince some friends in the area to rendezvous with us at anchorage. Race with us during the day on our boat, and when each race was finished off then went back to their home on the water after dinner and drinks.
They were a welcome addition to the crew for the races and with their help we achieved a 4th place for the first day of racing and a 1st place on the second day for a combined overall of 2nd place. In previous years we opted for running under-staffed. Since this boat was designed and built for racing there are many more jobs required on the boat to keep it moving quickly. Unfortunately when we are short handed every change takes much longer and as a result the boat is much much slower. All of these jobs are essentially sail trimming, but because of the nature of this boat there are ways to manipulate the sails in ways that you don't get on many of the other boats in the fleet. Each of these jobs is essentially pulling or easing tension on the thousands of feet of rope. One of the the jobs is to prevent them all from getting entangled by "flaking" the loose ends so that they run freely when the slack is required.
Because we had excellent crew we sailed well and got to think about tactics rather than who was going to pull on what string and when. Unfortunately this is a mixed class event. Performance of the various designs of yachts is equalized by a handicap system which does a lot to level the playing field. Unfortunately for us, our rating is perhaps too low meaning we have to finish far ahead of the other boats for a equal finish on corrected time. We were across the finish line 1st on both days but thanks to the various ratings and the tactics that played out during the day our finish was simply not fast enough to give us the win.
None the less, it was a fantastic weekend of racing, sunshine, food and drink to keep me coming back for more.
Photo: reaching into the sunset