Anyone that has been reading the blog often will know that on the sail home across the Pacific we just happened to be at a few places at the right time for certain regattas. This is what really gave us our taste for doing some more serious ones while back in Australia.
When we arrived in Brisbane in December, we were approached by a sponsor who encouraged us to participate with Spirit in the Brisbane to Gladstone 2013 Yacht Race. It was the results of B2G that encouraged us to plan for the Airlie Beach Race Week Regatta, however we realised that the old sails were well past their “Use by Date”. The next questions were could we organise new sails in time? Can we get a crew together? Will the boat be ready in time?
Having arrived back from a delivery to Fiji from Cairns about a month prior, we felt we had enough time to get it all done. The sails had been ordered from Hyde UK and it was just some small details we had to iron out with the final measurements before ordering. We wanted to make some changes with the mainsail compared to the old one we wanted a larger square top and also larger jib, we really wanted to max the jib size out but with the sail designers being in the UK and us in Australia it was up to us to get the sizes right, which meant we made it just a touch too big.
Abell Point Marina was chosen as our base for the month prior and with word that the marina was now under new ownership and set for significant upgrades, we were keen to check it out. After checking in with a friend and staff member of the Abell Point Marina team, I was overwhelmed with the the new vision and plans for the marina. Plans included development of public access areas, upgrades of on-site amenities and associated tourism facilities and the establishment of a shaded park for community use. There will also be extensive dredging work inside the marina wall to depths never experienced in the history of the marina.
With a list a mile long we set about servicing winches and removing all deck gear and getting Spirit ready for race week. Dave Chittleborough (Chippy) reinforced the deck to hull join below the jib tracks and also patched an old hole from where we pulled out a padeye during the Brisbane to Gladstone. We reinforced the winch bases and removed all the cruising great, which never ceases to amaze me. The amount of stuff that the little boat can fit on, it is incredible! With the sails set to arrive two weeks prior we had some time for the modifications that were needed as I’d gone a bit too far with the dimensions I’d sent to Hyde. We were tyring to squeeze in the maximum size for the new jib and it ended up needing the head chopped off and the clew was also chopped off with a batten being fitted, which allowed for the clew to have two sheeting points instead of just the one.
Once we had refitted all the winches and deck gear it was time to do sail trials and with the Whitsundays at our doorstep, what better location to adjust sails and tune ready for racing. A great deal of the year the winds are from the southeast. This gives you an awesome beam reach to the northwest tip of Hook Island around Stonehaven or Langford. It’s a blast reaching out to it’s best sitting on 18-20kts with the main hull skimming the water and Spirit flying over the wave tops. With the incoming tide you get a nice little chop and Spirit revelled in it. With some fine tunning the sails were working and looking great. We had them measured by Shane Bayer for our OMR rating and we were all set to compete in Airlie Beach Race Week.
We decided that we would go with the least amount of crew we could for race week. The forecast was looking light and weight plays a big role onboard Spirit in the light airs. We had young Dan Townsend, Andrew Mosley, Wazza Innes and also Dave Chittleborough for crew along with myself. Dave and Wazza were to work the pit as we call it and Andrew was foredeck while Dan floated and called numbers while we were sailing the longer legs.
Race one was a blast out around the Cones and back. We didn’t get off to a great start as one of the mast rotation lines got caught around our new rope constrictor clutches that were supplied by AllYacht Spars in Brisbane. If you haven’t seen these things do yourself a favour and check them out! When the mast rotation was pulled it also caught the line for the clutch dropping about two meters of halyard while we were running with our small screecther up! We had “Bullet Proof” below us and couldn’t run off so had to work hard and get the halyard onto and winch and back under tension while trying to still race. It was full station in the pit but Wazza and Chippy managed to keep things under control and get us moving again quickly. About a third the way out to the Cones we realised that we were running way to and were totally underpowered compared with the other boats. Before the start we’d checked the angles but between then and now the breeze had shifted south. So up went the big reacher and off we went with more power allowing us to run deeper angles at speed. We slowly reeled in the other boats and were about the fifth boat around Olden Island. Once around Olden we were on the breeze again which is where Spirit loves to be. With Chippy having done ten race weeks his local knowledge proved invaluable here and we ran as close to the coast as we could. Getting some incredible lifts along the way and staying well out of the tide and chop. We went past Indian Chief and Hot Vindaloo here and made some serious miles on the front-runners. After an awesome beat to windward we crossed the line fifth on OMR, which we were all pretty happy with considering our start.
Race two couldn’t have been more different. The wind went super light under 10kts and the race ended up being shortened with the boats doing the Pioneer Bay large triangle course and finishing at Pioneer Rocks. We did really well this day in the light and managed to get a third placing which was to everyone’s surprise.
Race three proved difficult and eventually the start line was moved out into the passage where the wind line was. The race was around the Molle group of Islands and White Rock near Shute Harbor back to Pioneer Bay. We started in around 7kts from the SE and beat up towards North Molle. We hugged the tip of Molle as we know the tide floods around the point there. With the lack of wind we were looking for anything to help us get South around South Molle and even though we did run into a hole that lasted a few minutes it was a real bonus to have the tide sending us south.
From here we hugged the coast and tide line until we were able to get around Denman and off to White Rock. It was a crazy race as we were on the breeze all the way to Denman then we ran across the passage to White Rock where the wind died out and came in from the North! It was great racing and the guys had to work constantly moving their weight around and changing sails to eek out every little bit of forward motion we could. Once around White Rock we put the light air reacher up and followed Morticia and Mad Max sticking close to the coast looking for wind. We had a great result this day and came in third on OMR.
The following day was a lay day and a few of the boys and girls from Hot Vindaloo joined us for a trip out to Daydream Island where we lazed around in the sun enjoying some ice cold beers and fine scenery the Whitsundays has to offer. It was incredible that the wind just didn’t seem to be filling in for the series. You can normally count on at least one or two days of 20-25kts but not this year it was just not going to happen.
Race four saw the race committee put on windward leeward’s for the multis. It was a glass out and the wind just didn’t seem to be coming in so most of the multis opted to raft up and make a megamaran. The beers and BS was starting to flow fast so when the race committee came onto the radio to announce the course and starts there was some surprise amongst us. Once underway it was painful for us as Spirit is just under four ton she takes a while to get moving and in the super light windward-leewards were hard work. The whale at the top mark made for an interesting rounding and in the first race we did ok getting another fifth place. It was a shame that the 2nd race was cancelled but we could understand why in the next to nothing breeze that we had.
Race five was another passage race and they gave us the Gumbrell Island race. It was another super light air day with next to no wind, with fine scenery and turquoise water surrounding us. We had a good start considering the amount of boats that were still on the line from the other Divisions starts. Between the top mark and the start line were boats from all divisions making it very tricky in the light airs to not hit anyone and to get by and on our way. We squeezed through two monos with feet to spare and once around the top mark with the big reacher up we were off. Once around Grimston Point we headed straight to Gumbrell and with the wind again shifting North it ended up being close hauled all the way. Once around Gumbrell we headed west to Olden where we found some serious breeze and we were off along with everyone else. It looked as though it was going to fill in so we had to dump the big reacher and put up the smaller one. From here the wind died out again and headed us. It was crazy the amount of wind changes and wind strengths we were getting in one day.
Up ahead we could see Malice, Morticia and Mad Max. We stayed in close to the coast gain looking for a lift and also tide to get us around Grimston. Incredibly we found a huge lift once near Grimston and with the tide heading south we were pushed around the point. The finish was shortened and we ducked across the line in 2nd on OMR.
The final race six was set to be a goodie, as there was finally going to be a little wind with some consistency. We ended up having around 15-18kts of wind and you could see that things within the standings would have been a lot different should we have had a few more days like this. It’s where the cats just started to get moving and once flying a hull they were all off. It was great seeing them liven up and boogie around the course. The race committee gave us a Pioneer Triangle again for the last race and it was great.
We had a good start and where hanging onto the leaders. Once around the Grimston mark though I decided to head back into the bay looking for less tide. This wasn’t a good decision and after a few minutes we could see the other boats out wide powered up much more than us so we decided to head back out into the passage looking for the breeze. It was a much better move and Spirit enjoyed being powered up with the other boats. We had a few issues onboard and lost a little time tacking. The guys worked hard to keep the boat going fast and we tried hard to hang onto the front runners. You could see the cats though were making some big gains on everyone when going downwind and being passed by Malice flying her hull was an awesome site. We had a good close race with Hot Vindaloo being taken on the downwind legs to catch them again on the windward legs was great fun. After a good few hours racing we managed to cross the line in 7th on OMR not our best result but not bad considering the people and boats we were racing. In the end and very much to our surprise Spirit came in 2nd on OMR in division 1. At the start we just wanted to have a great time racing be safe and enjoy doing what we all love. So for us to get a place was a huge bonus.
Airlie Beach Race Week has become a huge success over the last few years. The acceptance of Multis into it and the hard work from the volunteers and sponsors and the great setting it's held in is why it’s growing every year. I think there needs to be a special thank you to people like Shane Beyer that organised all the measuring and weighing of boats for the OMR rule so there was no complaints or confusion at the end of racing. The Whitsunday Yacht Club and all their volunteers along with the Abell Point Marina that was the major sponsor and organised all the berthing for competing boats.
I’d also like to thank Allyacht Spars, Hyde Sails and Power By Nature whom either sponsored us or helped us get the boat onto the race track with their great service and help. Also our race crew that put in the hard yards, before, during and after the event, thank you!