by Luke Scott
Table Bay provides an exceptionally beautiful setting for yacht racing, under the immense majestic gravitas of Table Mountain. However, in the middle of summer, the powerful south-easterly wind often wreaks havoc on the best sailing intentions: apart from the broaches and damage infliction, this wind and the airborne nippy seawater can also make for cold, wet and unpleasant sailing.
Perhaps it is well deserving then that the colourful burst of energy and potential that is the Cape 31 fleet were therefore fortunate to be treated to benevolent westerly winds, mostly in the 10 – 18 knot range, and warm weather for the inaugural “Summer in the South” International One Design Regatta. The regatta was held over two days, and included the successful completion of all six scheduled races – three on each day. Innovative International Race Officer, Stuart Childerley, who is now no stranger to the intricacies of this bay, having been well tested here twice before, brought a variety of sailing challenges to the race course, including downwind and reaching starts, varied point of sail courses to compliment the traditional up-and-down racing, and some quirkiness like introducing the odd starboard weather mark rounding, to test the ability of the sailors to adapt to change.
All seven boats built to date, including two with visiting international crews, lined up to accept the challenge, and over the course of the regatta, proved that it’s anyone’s game in this class. A case in point is the eventual overall sixth place finisher, Vivaldi, who scored a very comfortable second in the 5th race. Ski, who ended seventh overall, showed good pace and mixed it up with the fleet at times, especially on the first day, as is shown by a compact elapsed time difference across the fleet in many of the races. The fifth placed CuAl6, tested the alternatives in her bid to challenge for the podium, often testing the right hand side upwind when the fleet went left, and pushing the downwind lay-lines more than any other boat. It’s good to see a boat willing to try things to keep in the hunt, because when it pays off, the smile is the winner. You wouldn’t know if you didn’t try!
Three different boats managed wins, and four different boats scored seconds. The well-oiled local TnT team showed terrific consistency, pace, and good judgement to end up comfortable regatta winners, but the battle for second was a very close affair. In the end, just one point separated second from fourth before the discard, and just three points after the discard.
Flame, Caro [Scud] and Nemesis’ claim on the second place position was very much alive right up to the last race. Nemesis showed great consistency with four 3rds and two 4th places. They are a very competitive and competent local team, and have not yet had much time aboard to learn the boat, having just been launched in December.
The visiting teams on Flame and Caro, somewhat understandably, blew hot and cold, with very little time in the saddle to acclimatise. The intention of having a practice day before the regatta was thwarted by a powerful south easter in the forty knot range. However, when things clicked, both teams showed that they had the skills and pace to compete. Both these teams each managed wins and second places. Apart from the fact that they did have some really good sailors aboard, this also showed that the boats are user friendly and respond well to sound input. It was great to see these two teams really enjoy themselves, and to tweak and tune their learning curve with each race.
Day 1 Overview: The committee boat set up station just east of the harbour channel, between buoys #2 and #4, but closer to #2. A warm sunny day after some early morning fog, with flat seas and a beautiful westerly wind in the mid-teens, building gently at times to high teens. The Race Committee started the day with two short windward leeward practice races, before mixing up some courses with twists for the first three races of the regatta.
Race 1: Reaching start. 12-16 knots 285°. ±7.8 miles. Start on port tack reach to laid mark 1, which was an offset mark to be left to starboard, run to leeward gate, beat back to mark 1, run to leeward gate, and finish back up at the committee boat. No first race jitters for the visiting team aboard Flame, who took the win from TnT, Nemesis, CuAl6, Caro, Vivaldi and Ski.
Race 2: Running start. 16 – 18 knots. 285°. ±6 miles. Two laps from the start to a leeward gate, weather mark just below the committee boat, leeward gate, finish.
Very exciting downwind start with hoists under pressure together at the start line with the first leg down to a gate close to the beach in the vicinity of Woodbridge Island. Nemesis got a great start on the pin, but struggled to hoist cleanly, and had to claw back lost time. Around the gate and up the beat most of the action was up the left side, with Caro working hard to eventually overtake TnT, and lead around the weather mark. A better hoist from TnT put them back in control as Caro continued to struggle to find her downwind gears on the day. TnT rounded ahead at the leeward gate and held the lead up the beat for a close win over Caro, followed by Nemesis, Ski, Flame, CuAl6 and Vivaldi.
Race 3: Wind 250° 16 knots. 285°. ±6.0 miles. Windward leeward, one and a half laps, with the start/finish below the windward mark. Start; Windward mark to starboard, leeward mark to port, windward mark to starboard, finish.
Crowded committee boat end at the start, with TnT sailing clear down to the pin end side. Nemesis didn’t follow her and elected rather to squeeze the boats above. Nemesis controlled the fleet above them and cleared nicely, but there were some big losers in dirty wind, falling behind and tacking off to port.
Lots of action at the start line with rapid manoeuvring, but no penalties… Nemesis, TnT and Flame showed the fleet the advantages of going left, to round the weather mark in that order. Trouble with their kite left Nemesis jostling with Flame for second and Flame coming out on top, with TnT working hard for the win. Behind them were CuAl6, Caro, Ski and Vivaldi. Caro fought back from second last to fourth with some good pace and decisions upwind. Vivaldi sailed with their A3 downwind, having ripped their A2 earlier.
Day 2 Overview: Such a beautiful day, in a such an amazing picturesque bay, flat seas, with a wonderful consistent west north west breeze in the early teens. With just seven one design boats out on the water with the whole bay to themselves, one has to ask, does it get any better than this? Amazing.
Race 4: Wind 300°, 10-12 knots. Start 10h05. Two laps windward leeward course. ±5miles / 50 minutes. Mid-course start and finish, with port rounding of weather mark and a leeward gate.
Nice spread at the start, but Vivaldi is called on course side, and returns to clear. Caro start closest to the Committee Boat but get squeezed up after the start and tack off onto the right side, with the rest of the fleet going left. Caro go hard right, against the grain, and tack on starboard lay line, rounding weather mark 10 seconds ahead of TnT.
Close racing down the left side of the course with the gate rounding in same order and difference. The leaders go hard left and cover up the beat, holding a 40 second advantage over third, with tight pack third to seventh. Collision between Ski and Vivaldi at right gate mark – Ski takes penalty.
Weather mark, leaders hold same position and difference, round and go left again. TnT gybe back earlier to make a break, but it does not pay off at the gate rounding, where all take the left gate. Caro loose covers TnT up the beat, and holds on for the win, leading TnT, Flame, Nemesis, CuAl6, Vivaldi and Ski.
Vivaldi did a good job catching up and passing Ski. Although it might seem like an obvious comment, across the fleet, decent boat handling shows what an impact this makes in the transitions and roundings, with places won and lost very quickly.
Race 5: Wind 310°, 12 – 14 knots. Start 11h17. Three lap windward leeward course. ±8miles / 80 minutes. Mid-course start and finish, with port rounding of weather mark and a leeward gate. Clean start with tight bunch at committee boat end.
The fleet splits and goes both ways after the start with TnT well ahead playing the left, leading Vivaldi, CuAl6, Nemesis around the top mark. After weak starts, Caro and Flame round in 5th and 6th respectively, with Ski following. Everyone goes left and the closest boats on the water, Caro and Flame, have a dogfight downwind, before Flame opts to go it alone to the right. CuAl6 goes down closest to the port lay-line, and Nemesis overtake.
At the gate, the fleet show even appetite for port and starboard roundings. At the gate it’s TnT with a clear lead, then Vivaldi, Nemesis, CuAl6, with Caro, Flame, Ski well behind. Upwind initially, all bar Ski go left. Half way up, Flame gamble and go hard right with the rest all going for the port lay line.
At the weather mark, TnT have a solid 2 minute lead over Vivaldi, Nemesis, CuAl6, with minute further back to Caro, then Flame and Ski. Flame did not appear to get hurt going right. The downwind separation remained similar in time with a clear gate, but Nemesis gains on Vivaldi, and Caro and Flame gain on CuAl6. 3/4 split on the gate left/right roundings, with TnT now well ahead, leading Vivaldi, then Nemesis, CuAl6, Caro, Flame and Ski.
Most initially go left on the next beat, with CuAl6 and Nemesis initially going right. None go left as far as Caro, who bang the port lay line, and end up making a massive gain and overtake CuAl6 and Nemesis. At the top mark, TnT extend, followed by Vivaldi, Caro, Nemesis, CuAl6, Flame and Ski.
Wind has built gently throughout the race. The order holds to the gate and up the beat to the finish line. A very commanding win for TnT, with some very exciting sailing in the mid-fleet between Caro, Nemesis, CuAl6 and Flame.
Race 6: Wind 300°, 8-16 knots. A bay race with multiple points of sail, using a combination of laid marks and permanent club and harbour marks. Starting at the same laid start line, with a short beat to a laid weather mark, then a deep starboard tack run to Harken buoy; then a close reach to a laid mark in the same position as the leeward gate in the previous race; a long beat to #8; a VMG run to the same leeward laid mark; a long beat right to #2, and then a reach to a finish line at #4. All port roundings.
The wind was concentrated in the south east corner of the bay, with #2 looking to be in very calm conditions. A great start with all boats looking nicely healed and in good shape, bar Caro who looked squeezed and vertical – they consistently struggled with the start in this regatta – and had to tack off to the right. The rest of the fleet worked its way to the left and close to the harbour wall, with Flame controlling the windward boats after a cracking start.
After tacking back on or close to the port lay-line, the approach to the weather mark was crowded, with all rounding in quick succession and hoisting beautifully: Flame, followed by TnT, Nemesis, Vivaldi, CuAl6, Caro, then Ski. Then a great angle to test the hot straight line A2 reaching capabilities of the boats in moderate breeze, with some electing a high/hot/fast mode, and others looking to soak deeper and sail straight for the mark.
Deep paid off for Flame and TnT, who led around the Harken mark. A group of three – TnT, Flame and Nemesis – rounded a little ahead of the next group of three – Vivaldi, CuAl6, Caro – with Ski struggling behind with a fouled keel. Then a reach, too tight to hold the A2 in the conditions, and some exciting jostling for position amongst the second grouping. Once around the laid leeward mark, all in the same order, a long beat to #8, with a nice breeze up the left, but noticeably less breeze on the right.
Some really interesting choices as to how soon to tack back onto starboard, with the two earliest tackers, TnT and Caro, taking out the positions ahead of them – TnT taking Flame, and Caro taking CuAl6 and Vivaldi. At the weather rounding, it was TnT, followed by Flame, then a gap to Nemesis, then another gap to Caro, CuAl6, Vivaldi and then Ski.
Next leg was a deep VMG run down to the laid leeward mark, with all holding positions, but some nice battles between Flame and Nemesis, and then CuAl6 and Vivaldi. The wind is down across the bay as the fleet approaches the leeward mark. RO makes a sensible call to shorten course using an option offered in the Sailing Instructions, where if “F” – Foxtrot is displayed at a mark, boats are to round and proceed directly to the finish line described in the course read out. Ironically, shortly after the shortened course was signalled, the wind picked up nicely, but the right call was made for the conditions at the time of the call. So a last frantic beat up the left to the harbour wall ensued to the finish at #4, with a noticeable compression of the fleet, and some close combat: TnT with Flame, Nemesis with Caro, and CuAl6 with Vivaldi. Ski turned on the afterburners and caught up dramatically after having cleared their keel.
And so ended the last race of a fantastic regatta, with this race result almost mirroring the regatta result.
The TnT team showed the fleet the impact of familiarity of crew with their machine, sound boat handling, team work and sound tactical decisions. The two international crews on Flame and Caro improved on all of these with each race, which one would expect from top sailors, By the last race, both looked like they’d really worked the boat out. Nemesis will be pleased they’ve now had more time in the saddle on their new boat, and showed good pace and consistency throughout. CuAl6, Vivaldi and Ski all showed improvement and can look to consolidate now, knowing that the slickness of boat handling is something that will improve with solid practice.
RESULTS HERE: cape 31 jan 2018 180122-Results-after-Race-6