by Bob Chapman, 6 Mar 2017.
Race 21 of the 2016-17 Season, the Sydney Harbour Regatta and Fourth Heat of the Autumn Point Score. Another wet and soggy Saturday for the crews and supporters as 6 skiffs prepared for the day’s racing, hopeful of getting out onto the water this week. For those contemplating which rig to use, conditions certainly appeared variable from the south but switching around in direction and velocity along with the occasional shower of rain. The yachts competing in the early races of the Sydney Harbour Regatta provided a useful indication of conditions at that stage. Most skiffs decided on no.2 mainsail with some variations in jib size, while Britannia had a reefed main and no.3 jib. Some skiffs made a late change to a smaller jib, while Tangalooma after setting out early, returned to the boat ramp to reef their mainsail. The breeze had freshened considerably from the south at this late stage.
Conditions were “fresh to frightening” and well above the upper limit of the rigs in use, as the skiffs made their way to the starting area in Athol Bay, where the team on the Killara II had setup for a handicap start on the no.4 Southerly course, but with the shortened course flag already displayed – it would be a one lap race. Nancy certainly had her work cut-out holding up the start boards in the boisterous conditions, and she did a fine job. Also noticeable, all of the yachts that earlier had been racing had now disappeared, the remainder of their races for the day abandoned; whilst the fleet of Modern 18s were heading out from Double Bay in preparation for the penultimate Race 6 of the J.J. Giltinan Series – the harbour was now an exclusive 18 footer venue.
Britannia was first away, followed 2 mins later by The Mistake and Alruth, then Australia IV closer to the 9 min mark after a delay in getting away, then a gap back to Aberdare off 2 mins. Tangalooma on making their way towards the start (for the 2nd time) decided it was more prudent to not continue and returned to the club without further issue.
Britannia was struggling with the conditions up the first beat to Clark Island and about 2/3rds of the way upwind decided to call it a day and returned to the club. Meanwhile The Mistake and Alruth were enjoying an epic upwind struggle in the testing conditions. The Mistake was first to round the island for the run to Chowder Bay, followed by Alruth where both leading skiffs enjoyed a fast ride in fresh breeze while Australia IV and Aberdare encountered lighter conditions before they could round the island. The Mistake and Alruth made the most of the situation to extend their lead on the run to Chowder where they rounded with a clear lead over Australia IV and Aberdare.
Whilst the extreme conditions at the start had abated, the beat up to Shark Island was still a testing exercise, with The Mistake maintaining their lead to round the island in first place for the long run back to Kirribilli. Alruth rounded in 2nd place with a gap back to Aberdare then Australia IV. At this stage the breeze had lightened off with Aberdare able to carry a peak-head spinnaker whilst the others carried mast-head spinnakers.
The breeze at Kirribilli was light and that is where the race ended with The Mistake a clear winner from Alruth, Aberdare and Australia IV. Well done to all skippers, crews and support team for managing the testing conditions in a seamanlike manner.
With thanks to our on-water support team of Barley, Brian, Peter, Adrienne, Nancy, Chuck, Bill and the rest of our tireless volunteers, along with the dedicated team at Rosman Ferries. We look forward to seeing you down at the Squaddie.