Every year BYRA (Bayview Yacht Racing Association) in Sydney holds the Peter Loft Marathon to commemorate the untimely death of one of its most promising young sailors and to raise funds (via entry fees) for the Peter Loft Foundation which is established to assist junior members of BYRA to participate in National and International sailing events. The event usually consists of a race around Lion Island for Division 1, and inside Pittwater for the other Divisions, then back to the clubhouse at BYRA. This year weather conditions meant all divisions sailed within Pittwater. The start is “Le Mans style” with the participants running to their boats in the water and then sailing north.
For some years now, Ian Milton has been attending on one of his Australian Sailfish, either 2188 Gooney Bird or 2192 Apsu. The following is his ‘stream of consciousness’ of what sounds like a pretty wild day out on the water. This is a fairly long post, but well worth the read.
Leg 1 – BYRA to the observation pylon off Palm Beach.
Sunshine out, blue sky all around, except the little blotch down in the southern corner. Wind blowing a good 12 knots with a dead run. Whoosh, a Flying Ant has just passed by spinnaker flying doing tacks downwind with crew on the wire. My old adversary Spiral 888 has sat beside me, we are matching pace until off the north of Scotland Island where the wind drops to 10 knots, enough for me to bash about on the chop and loose speed; Spiral 888 now 20 boat lengths ahead. Gusts coming from behind, wind about 18 knots and me hanging on to a slippery deck still running dead square; Spiral gybes ahead heads west and gybes again, big gust gets him, he’s over, Sailfish passes by at high speed.
The rest of the Spirals are over towards the east shore, I take the middle aiming for a gybe near Stokes Point. A green Contender is bearing down on port, I am on starboard, I get the impression he wants me to gybe, but not on my Stokes Point plan and risky. Collision course and closing fast so I bear away to lessen any impact, then he bears away, say’s sorry, gybes and capsizes. I cannot understand why he didn’t go behind much earlier. Wind drops to about 10 knots, Spiral coming back again, thud, thud, thud, boat is shuddering, oh lookie, there are hundreds of big jelly fish, hmmm, boat does not like this, play dodgems instead. Side by side with Spiral 888 again, but he needs to gybe to round, wind picks up again, I am all good, he swings wide, wide, wide, but makes the gybe; meanwhile I open out a 20 boat length lead over him, gotta love mark roundings! Down the leg I have probably dropped 10 mins to the lead Spiral, the Flying Ant while going fast had been running such shallow angles I am only 40 boat lengths back.
Cloud has now come across from the coast but no rain.
Leg 2 – Observation Point to Mackeral Beach.
It started as a shy reach, full planing at high speed, ahead of the Flying Ant now, they couldn’t fly the spinnaker. Closing on a NS14 sailed solo. Looking down south and something’s coming … wind tight on the nose into the mark about 18 knots.
Leg 3 – Mackerel Beach to Morning Bay
Bullets of 20 knots now shooting out of the Basin then 4 knot knocks from ahead. Spiral 888 beside me is now pulling ahead as I thump about in a short chop with the wind steadying in strength to around 4 – 5 knots. Getting knocked more and more but I need to be over the Stokes Point side so I stick it out for as long as I can, then tack, I hit another patch of jelly fish and with the chop and light wind I am no longer making headway. Over to the east a rain blanket is moving down Pittwater and hits with about 25 knots of breeze, similar in strength to Toronto in March 2018. I tack again, by now the Spiral is way ahead and I am still not making much headway with the chop, Flying Ant speeds through with crew on trap wire. The rain and wind drops to a comfortable 12 knots and I am gaining ground once more; starboard, did someone call starboard? It’s a whopping great big Hansa or similar, but way off, looking at the closing speed and trees behind say I have a good clearance so I concentrate on boat speed and with their rig towering up with the hills above I clear with about a 15 boat length gap, phew, don’t want to misjudge that sort of thing. Flying 11 is behind and I manage to keep the lead into the Morning Bay mark.
I hear a nearby windsurfer screaming yahoo, as a wall of water approaches at high speed from Scotland Island, sails on boats upwind shredding, boats wiping out left and right and tops lifting of the waves – batten down the hatches! It hits and the Flying 11 is instantly over and upside down. I concentrated with depowered control, whipping the mainsheet in and out at great speed to keep upright. Rock shelf of shoreline closing fast … I must tack in this … lots of prep and here I go …. partial irons as I struggle to push the nose around, grab all 3 strands of mainsheet, big pull, and nose is around, dump sheet quick as boat takes off at extreme speed.
Leg 4 – Morning Bay to BYRA.
Cannot see more than a few feet ahead with spray and wall of rain, wind swings west and I have some terrific high speed planning, dropping back to a more manageable 25 knots. Then it happens …. wind comes from direct opposite direction and I am instantly capsized to windward, bugger. Got through all the rest unscathed to capsize in the easier wind. Back going and I see a Spiral, closing fast, not 888 though but another. We have a tacking battle for a while then the skipper heads to enter the B.Y.R.A. mooring from the east, I choose the west, the sun comes out the wind dies to 1-2kn, the east has the fading wind and the Spiral gets through to the club and rings the bell. Meanwhile somewhere between the morass of stagnant boats on mooring lines a lone Sailfish bobs about going nowhere. I have my knees tucked under my chin when a puff from the leeward pushes me over to windward, ahhh another capsize, and with no wind. Get boat up and slooowly drift into beach. Make a run, dash, walk … o.k., more like a slow stagger, across to ring the bell. All done and dusted.
Ian also mentioned there were a lots of retirements and broken gear, and that the Flying 11 skipper said they referred to Gooney Bird, as ‘That Plank Thing’. Hope it is a quieter sail next year!