PE’s famous wind abandons sailors

abyc week Jellybaby
pic by Brendan Rees

The Port Elizabeth based Algoa Bay Yacht Club sails it’s annual prestige regatta – ABYC Week – annually before the close of the sailing season. Traditionally the regatta has been one that offers mixed sailing conditions, keen competition and loads of laughs.

In this year’s regatta it was the idyllic windless conditions over four days that had the most laughs, though. Held over four days from 1 to 4 May 2014, the ‘racing’ was frustrating for sailors used to high winds and seat of your pants, hold on for survival racing.

For the first time in living memory not one race sailed during ABYC Week was sailed over the full courses set. Of the six started races, Race Officer Ronnie Baer was forced to abandon two and shorten the course sailed of the remaining four. To compound frustration for the sailors even more the first race saw only one finisher – Jellybaby (Andrew Ward) – as the rest of the competitors failed to complete the course within 20 minutes of Jellybaby finishing, despite many of them being as close as 200 metres behind.

With only two races sailed in the first three days of the regatta, sailors anxiously eyed the weather for the last day of the regatta, Sunday 4 May. A mixed bag of forecasts saw some sailors reefing down and preparing for an expected 12 midday forecast of “30 knots west, gusting 39 knots” whilst others defied the weather gods and sailed out of the Port Elizabeth harbour with full sails and light weather gear.

Difficulties with a swinging wind led to a number of 180 degree course changes before the first race got underway at 10:16 am in a steady North West of 9 knots – a positive gale compared to the previous 3 days. The fleet managed to complete one sausage only to have the race shortened on the first reach of the triangle as the wind died.

The fleets started the second race of the day at 11:15 and, once again the race had to be shortened ahead of a massive 180 degree wind shift to the east. Fleet 2 finished their course on a run. This last race saw some great excitement and extremely close racing between four boats at the top mark. Wild Thing (Russel Morgan) tacked on the lay line and starboarded Orion Express (Kerry Bonnage) who was forced to tack and starboarded Unmatched (Graham Wentworth). Unmatched elected to push Orion up and fouled them in an attempt to make the mark and, in the process banged into Malgas (Tony Bailes). Then Unmatched compounded their woes by hooking into the top mark and extending the course somewhat for yachts behind them as they attempted to entangle themselves. At last count Unmatched had to do three penalties: two 720 degree circles and one 360 degree circle.

In Fleet 2 wily campaigner Rob Smith sailing his 30 foot Muira, Tikalox II, had it all his own way as he sailed to line honours and first place on corrected time in all four races. Andrew Blaine on Struan was also consistent throughout with four second places.

The third race of Day Four was abandoned and the lightest ABYC Week in years ended.

Top Three in Fleet 1:
Jelly Baby (J27 – Sean Wiseman)
Orion Express (L26 – Kerry Bonnage)
Malgas (L34 – Tony Bailes)

Top Three in Fleet 2:
Tikalox II (Muira – Rob Smith)
Struan (Stadt 34 – Andrew Blain)
Fling (Sadler 26 – Morgan Griffiths)

Link to full results:

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