The winter in Cape Town can be very unpredictable. Cold fronts can pass through on very short notice, with very strong NW winds and rough seas. We had such a front going through on Saturday morning at 11am and experienced winds up to 40 kn in the bay, with a big 5m swell. All racing of the day got cancelled and I ordered our academy boats to stay at the mooring.
Grant Chapman offered to take 3 of our students out for a sail on ‘Rotary Scout”, a very seaworthy Tosca 39. They had a great time out there, under a reefed genoa and main sail of course. It was a wise decision to choose this solid platform instead of our rather tippy 26ft training boats. As you can see from the picture, the conditions have been a little rough.
As I was attending the Commodore’s Breakfast at the RCYC, where Ray Matthews and Vitor Medina invited all commodores and vice commodores of yacht clubs in the Cape Peninsula, I was sitting high and dry in our chartroom, listening to the speakers. The RCYC Sailing Academy was also one point of the agenda and I was able to share the experience with our youth sailing program. It was great to hear that the other yacht clubs are running similar projects.
When the meeting ended at 1 pm, the weather conditions had calmed down enough to allow the Lipton team to go out for a sail training. Duane Petersen, the helmsman of the team, could not make it because of work commitments and I was asked to jump in. How can you not help out this enthusiastic team? Even if the conditions promised to get us properly wet.
Greg Davis and his team were training as well and we could match our boat speed against them. It took us a while to find the right trim of the boat in the rough conditions out there. The big breaking swell could almost stop the boat and you had to foot off all the time to keep the boat speed up.
Unfortunately our crew weight was about 30kg under the ideal crew weight and our engine plug lifted all the time, filling the transom with a lot of water. Nevertheless we were able to pull slightly away from ‘Co-operation’ in the beginning, as they were using a smaller number 2. After they changed to a number 1, we were fairly even upwind. Of course that doesn’t mean much as Greg’s team will lift up their game plentiful until the start of the Lipton Challenge in 4 weeks.
They are by far the best sailors and did prepare their boat to perfection during the last 2 weeks. My bet is, they will have speed on all competitors, especially in strong breeze. So being able to match race them for a couple of days of training will only give our boys a slight idea what they are capable of. Just being able to hang on to them did put a smile to the face of my students. That already was worth it to get wet.
The surprise came when we sailed downwind and were able to surf the swells. The 2 ton L26 is not really a planning hull but we had the boat surfing properly on a couple of occasions. It was a great feeling until the gybe came up. Nick is very new being a foredeck and at the age of 16, he can’t be the most experienced or powerful one any way. First he struggled to open the beak of the pole and then he struggled even more to get the beak attached to the mast track again after the jibe. That gave our kite too much chance to roll the boat and we ended up in a very decent broach. After dropping the halyard a few meters we were able to continue our downwind ride again.
Then followed another close upwind match with ‘Co-operation’ and it was time to hoist the kite again. After our experience with the pole on the first run, the boss, alias Daniel volunteered to do the foredeck himself, to show young Nick how it should be done.
Again, we had some fantastic surfs until the jibe came up. It was the perfect repetition of our first jibe. The beak of the pole did not release and then Daniel struggled to attach it on the mast track after the jibe. The unstable kite and big swell forced us in another spectacular broach and left the whole crew hanging on the guard rail for dear life. This time we were even able to wrap the kite around the forestay. After this incident we didn’t want to push our luck any further and followed Greg’s team back to the mooring.
In the end we all knew what caused the trouble in the jibe and we made a virtual list in our heads what still has to be done on the boat before Lipton. We will need to spend a lot more time to make her race ready, that’s for sure.
I am not quite sure how I was able to get completely wet under my oilies, sitting so far back in the boat, but I did. We all were completely soaked but also very happy to have spent a couple of hrs in the angry sea.
Daniel Agulhas decided to spend his whole birthday at the RCYC with his sailing buddies that day, instead of having a few drinks with his other friends at home next to the fireplace. It’s that kind of commitment of our students which keeps me motivated to introduce more young people into sailing.
The sponsored main sail for our Lipton team is ready for action. It’s a beauty!
A big thank you to our sponsor Chris de Kock, from Yacht&Power Sales.