Poor visibility with low damp clouds did not look very attractive as we jumped on board Hecate and the gentle breeze did not prepare us for the large irregular rollers which surged up the Roads from the south. It was a slack tide so we needed some power to get through the lumpy seas. Just before the start as we went towards the pin end of the line we were charged at by Popincoota who came far too close for comfort but we did manage to avoid contact. Because of this we did not make a very good start but we arrived at the Governor in the middle of the class then we bore away and hoisted the spinnaker from the main hatch. Immediately we became aware of the Harbour Master's launch coming towards us followed by a large orange coloured coaster leaving the port and frightening us luckily, we and Aurora got out of the way in time. On the run to North Bank we overtook one boat and shortened the gap between us and the leaders enjoying the surges forward, powered by the big rollers. At the mark we dropped the spinnaker, sheeted in the jib and started the beat to Trefusis where we had the problem of staying in the breeze but facing the impressive rollers, or going to the west shore where the seas were calmer but the wind was weaker. At Trefusis we bore away and tried to hoist the spinnaker but our packing had not been too successful, on my knees on the foredeck I struggled but failed to sort out the mess so we had to drop it but we lost much time which our competitors enjoyed.
Everyone in the fleet was pleased to see the return of Bob Chapple after a spell of ill health but if he stays as successful as he was our feelings might change. On passing the Governor we started the beat to the finish which became fraught with difficulties as the wind weakened and shifted constantly. A couple of times as we tacked the wind shifted and so we back on the same course in the opposite direction. Gap Year who had got to the mark first had a continued battle with the two GK24s but on the beat to Trefusis Popincoota and Wilkie got ahead and lead at Waterloo and kept their lead at the Governor. However on the last leg in fitful winds Lennie Trenoweth in Gap Year recovered his original lead and won on the line. Just after crossing the line close to the quay Moonlighter came to a sudden stop when the mast seemed to lean forward a long way but luckily they got off the mud and sailed away but they will be considered for the Mudhoppers prize.
At the start of the IRC fleet two boats were over the line but only one returned and so Xtreme was OCS but they all took real pleasure in close racing in such shifting winds. One crew member described the breeze as a 'fickle mistress'. David Cunliffe described how Encore, his second Laser 28, benefitted from the deepened keel on the mark two which gave a much better performance on the wind which was much needed in this difficult wind.
In E fleet Excelle, on port had to do a crash tack with spinnaker pole up to avoid a collision with a competitor on starboard, at first they thought that they would get through but at the last moment they had to avoid an imminent crash but they managed to sort out the kit afterwards. On board Gunslinger as they powered towards the start a twenty year old stainless steel swivel shackle broke causing chaos but after a long tussle they solved the problem. The skipper of Hawk was not at his usual razor sharp best having whacked his head against a scaffold pole just before the race but he still came third.
Hecate's mooring is close to the quay just over the finishing line and as we put away the sails the large class B working boats came directly towards us hard on the wind and it is a daunting sight to look straight at the end of a fourteen foot long bowsprit as it came nearer. Happily for us as soon as the klaxon sounded they bore away eased out the mainsheet and accelerated for the reach down the fairway showing the enormous power of the main and topsail.
In the clubhouse it was announced that there were two birthday boys one of whom was the OOD, Mike Rangecroft, so they were serenaded and congratulated.