As Hugh Macgregor said “any landing where you can re-use the boat is a good landing”. This proved evident during the third race on Saturday, which was started without even being able to use the trapeze and ended with high winds and a few boats cutting the final race short!
I arrived at Stokes Bay on the Friday and was greeted by the welcoming conditions of winds touching 30kts and severe chop. This was not encouraging for the weekend, although it the forecast was still predicting ideal winds for Saturday. At this point, it looked as though the racing would be cancelled on Sunday, however there was still time for this to change.
I made my way to the club early in the morning to allow plenty of time to rig up the boat and meet some of the other sailors at the event. Unfortunately, due to the changeable forecast, only one other A cat would be at the event. A foiler sailed by Dave Roberts.
The first race was due to start at 12:00, and I launched quite early to help get used to the conditions. From the get go it looked as though the racing would be tough. I had only sailed the boat in the sea once before, and never in any sort of chop. The metre high waves proved to be quite a challenge to consistently foil through, however as the warning signals began, I felt as though I was getting the hang of it. After the start, I was able to get into clear air relatively quickly and managed to pull ahead of the F18s. I was only just behind Dave on this leg, as he had the home advantage, and seemed to powering through the chop more effectively. Despite this, I wasn’t far behind at the top mark. On rounding the mark, the first gybe of the downwind leg was parallel to the direction of the chop. This turned out to be extremely difficult to foil in as the boat would lift off and then lose grip out of a wave every time I tried to accelerate it! A lot of the time on this gybe, I was experimenting with the best way to get the boat foiling effectively, however one cannot learn these skills overnight. Before long I decided to gybe. This meant I was perpendicular to the waves, and as a result foiling the boat was far easier. Looking around I saw Dave was struggling to get the boat foiling in the relatively light winds. For this reason, I decided to capitalise on this tack, and really push the speeds to the limit in the conditions. This allowed me to build up a fair amount of distance after the first lap. The second lap told a similar story, however Dave had sailed well and managed to be close behind through the gate. On the final upwind, I fell behind Dave slightly, meaning it was all to play for on the final downwind. Due to my higher flight times downwind, I was able to pass Dave and finish the race just ahead in the first race!
As the second race began, the wind dropped off a significant amount, and foiling was rendered impossible. The combination of the light winds and rather large chop meant that I really struggled to keep the boat going and maintain good speeds. During the race, the rain came over and sailing became rather unpleasant. The combination of chop light wind and heavy rain made it tricky to read the conditions, and as a result Dave managed to pull away. The committee made the decision to shorten the race to two laps, and unfortunately, I was not able to catch up by the end.
Soon after, the third race was started and the first beat saw everyone sitting in and slowly progressing upwind. At the top mark, I was only just behind Dave, and the wind was starting to fill in. Dave sailed off downwind, and I gybed early to maximise the foiling. As the wind increased, I was taken closer to the gate. The wind was fairly strong as I neared it but I still felt comfortable.... until I went for the gybe. I had not realised how much the wind had increased, and as I gybed the boat, I did not have the weight to hold the boat down on the other side, and promptly capsized at the gate. Without hesitation, I righted the boat with the intention of completing the race. At this point, Dave had headed in, and after sorting myself out, I decided to go for the bare away and finish the race. This was not to be. As I turned the boat downwind, it heeled over excessively, and the bows ploughed into the wave in front. Over half the platform ended up under the water and after a few seconds, the boat popped back out and swung upwind! At this moment, I realised my 62kg weight was not enough to bear the boat away and sail in. I then decided it would be best to drop the sail on the water and be towed in. It was a challenge getting the sail to unhook, but I was successful. I was really happy, as this was the first time I had ever had to attempt a sail drop on the water. Soon I was close to the beach and had the foils up and ready for landing. Breaking waves made this a new challenge but thanks to the help of my dad (who waded into the water to help) and Stuart, we managed to get the boat ashore in a reusable condition. A good landing according to Hugh!
Unfortunately due to strong winds, racing on Sunday was abandoned. However, I would like to say a huge thank you to Stokes Bay sailing club and the race committee for organising a fantastic and exciting event!
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