Etchells Race Reports 2009-2010

10-Oct-09 Cirrus 6 | 26-Sep-09 Cirrus 3  | 05-Sep-09 Cirrus 1

Cirrus 1

The global standard for predicting breeze on weekends is that if there's good breeze all week, it'll be gone by Saturday, and if there's no breeze all week, it'll arrive just in time for Sunday night.

Fortunately, this is one of many global standards that has proven untrustworthy recently, and this weekend was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. A steady 5-8kn on Tuesday developed smoothly into a 10-16kn gem out of just south of east for Saturday, flawless for funnelling down the glorious Hong Kong harbour. It may have been 33 degrees Centigrade, but it didn't feel like it on the water (until the offwind legs, that is). Add in perfect visibility, a brilliant blue sky, a very small tide, not to mention loads of new sails for the new season, and you really couldn't ask for much more. It must be our just rewards for all the clean living over the summer...

Anyway, about 12 Etchells snarled out to a Hung Hom start, course 2 big sausages around Shau Kei Wan and Dock Buoy with a beat to the finish at Gate Buoy at the end of the old Kai Tak airport runway. Some early trials up the beat indicated a typical funnelling day, with the breeze at the start line allowing starboard headings of 060, and the built-in veer lifting you up to around 090 towards the top mark. But it didn't work out that way...

Robert Knight the RO laid a beautiful line with a hint of pin bias and Andy Lam and his gang in Mellow Yellow 903 set out their stall at about a minute to go but were over early and had to go back. Simon Watson on Easy Tiger 884 and Jimmy Farquhar on 3x11 787 got off best from that end, and the bulk of the pack headed on out on starboard. Kung Fu Fighting 713 was also over and had to go back, and along with 903 they headed off towards the island shore looking for the veering bend. Mark Whitehead and the squad on Mind The Bumps 1344 peeled off the pack and joined the trip out to the right, and when the fleet reconverged about a third of the way up, 1344 had a narrow lead from 787 who had shown great pace against the others out the left.

As the righty established itself halfway up the beat, there was a classic period where almost the entire fleet were in line on starboard hammering out towards Lei Yue Mun gap in flat water, sun shine and about 15 knots. RIPPER! Charlie Manzoni on The Answer Is 938 was ahead and to leeward of the bunch and people slowly caved into him as the veer failed to live up to its billing, and 713  and 1344 and 787 bailed out on a nice lefty, and as they approached the top mark 1344 got it right best by coming off the wall and forcing 787 to dip, while 713 scrambled into 3rd after a brutal cover tack by the ruthless Jimmy Farquhar on 713 (although in fairness to Jimmy those on 713 know that the call was based on clear pre-race orders from Viv to "nail her husband at every chance").

Anyway, Russ Parker driving Clem Hill's Lickety Split 1235 and Mark Yeadon on Diva II 1193 (enjoying its first full season in HK) were very close behind this front 3 and rolled over 713 who went very low on the set in order to immediately gybe. This quick set/gybe proved to be a big success, as a bit better pressure and a bit better tide got them down the inside and past the leaders on a long port gybe.

At the bottom mark 713 had it from 1344 and 787, but 1344 was in the unfortunate stuation of being so close behind that she had to clear her air on the leader, and it turned out that every yard on starboard in the first half of the beat was a shocker. 713 eased away into a decent lead but got a bit messed up in some shifty spots just after E2, and 787 closed up. It then became a leader's nightmare, as 1344 headed for the island wall and 787 headed for the middle of the channel. Seeing as we were in a lefty already and SURELY the bend had to kick in, 713 decided to play right centre, but got it badly wrong and wound up coming out of the island wall heading 050 (!) and when 787 came back they were within 2 lengths of the leader, and 1344 was miles back. A "this one's for Viv" cover tack got 713 a bit of breathing room at the top mark, but it was game on...

The breeze was down to maybe 10-12 at this stage, and 787 showed good pace in the latter half of the run ("because Evelyn's a brilliant trimmer", according to an anonymous source) to get to within a length or two, but there weren't a lot of passing lanes on the last beat and the tacking duel petered out after about 8 tacks, it being too bloody hot by half for that sort of thing.

So 713 won, with 787 second and 1344 in third, and if we have days like this for the rest of the season it's going to be all-time.

[We'll try and get this info from the winner each weekend]

The leader used a North PC main with soft top batten (although it was borderline as to whether the stiff one would have been better, especially in the puffs), a North DC jib on short tabs, and a fairly old North 0.5 BR kite. Settings were 17'7" heel, 46" forestay, and 19 (Loos PT-2 gauge) on the caps. The lowers were too loose to register on the Loos gauge, but they were between 1 and 3 turns off from reading 10 on the gauge, and the rig was sagging about half an inch to leeward at the spreaders. There were between 3 and 6 chocks showing in front of the mast upwind, none in behind. The traveler was dead centre all day. The inhaulers were between 7.5 and 8.5 degrees (until the port one broke, twice!). Photos of the sails can be seen at the following site: http://www.dropshot le#date/2009- 09-06/05: 50:50


Cirrus 3

Well, if we get many more days of this quality in the Harbour we're going to have a real problem when the Typhoon Shelter becomes a building site...

Although numbers were down due to the seemingly ever-increasing calendar clashes, which is of course not a bad thing - this time being Port Shelter Regatta - the weather turned out in fine style and about 10 or so Etchells had a CRACKER of two loops from Dock Buoy to Shau Kei Wan in 10 to 18knots out of 105-120, and glorious sunshine. The Hung Hom start was neatly boat biased and with a foul tide - bizarrely strong considering it was low water at midday and filling until 4am Sunday (!) - it was a damn tough call whether to flip onto port immediately and go for the tidal relief on the island shore, or to set off halfway down the line and press like crazy for the runway.

Our general rule of thumb in the harbour on 713 is that if there's a foul tide, you go runway if you can head above 80 on starboard off the line, and you go island if not. The theory being that you're probably going to get lifted to something like 90 on starboard by the end of the beat, but throwing only 3 tacks up the mainland compared to 20 on the island shore covers that shift loss, and the tidal gains give you the lead. Of course, the problem with this rule of thumb is that it only really aplies if you are prepared to trust it and set off on a long solitary trip to the runway, which can render you a disappointed spectator for the rest of the race if it goes wrong...

Anyway, it very quickly became apparent that the runway was going to be left alone by the Etchells this day, as everybody who came off the line with a good start flipped onto port asap and booted for North Point. Although 713 Kung Fu Fighting (your cub reporter) was closest to the line at the gun near the boat, 696 Meihem (Mei Han) won the boat end with 760 Sailbad The Sinner (Flemo) very close behind them. Everybody else was a bit late, perhaps underestimating the fierceness of the current.

760 flipped first and along with 696 and 713 led the pack into the wall. 555 Heather (Gavin) was also in a good slot just behind Mei Han and as the leaders approached the wall the impact of the tide became immediately apparent as the boats closest to the wall just came ROUND THE BOW in a massive way. To be honest I had almost forgotten how big that impact can be.


760 hung hung hung but went too far and got a bit becalmed, allowing 696 to lead back out and 713 to slot in a weak lee-bow and then be first to flip back in, which gave them the lead. It was unbelievable how the tide impact could gain you a length in about 30 seconds of sailing. Being pinned outside was death, and 713, 760 and 555 were the most ruthless about protecting the inside, with 696 getting brutalized by a couple of very harsh faceplants which pinned them on the outside of the entire pack and dropped them out of the running. 884 Easy Tiger (Marty) also showed their mastery of the priorities by sucking it up from about 7th to get into a challenging 3rd.

One of the fascinating things about the beat to Shau Kei Wan is the transition from the section under the motorway, where the tide impact is huge because of the water slowing so dramatically between the pilings, into the latter section of the beat where there are no pilings, just a wall, on the island shore and the tidal gains are less relevant than being in phase with the shifts. In this case it was obvious who had it sorted and who hadn't, as 713, 760 and 884 picked their own lanes and extended into a clear leading trio in that order - 884 having gone looking for the last lefty which didn't really come in time.

Down the run 760 stayed longest on starboard which came good for them in the end as they rounded having made up some ground on the leader and put 884 away a bit. Fears on board 713 that the two behind would split, one going runway and one going island, fortunately evaporated fairly quickly and the pack trekked on towards the south side, only 1344 Mind The Bumps (in the able hands of Jimmy F) giving the runway a look - and it didn't work out all that well for them.

It was tight as you like amongst the leaders though, with 760 closing up on 713 in the tricky part after the last ferry pier, but as the breeze dropped to 10-12 and the leaders moved into the more open water towards the top mark 713's setup seemed to find its groove and they stepped out to a pretty comfortable lead, assisted by the fact that 884 had sailed a very flash third quarter and forced 760 into some covering.

So it looked all set for a pleasant cruise home but 884 caught a beautiful line down the left middle after an early gybe, and it was going to be a real shootout for second on the last beat to the finish at Gate Buoy, but then the harbour played its tricks and 760 got shafted by a deceptively pretty-in-pink vehicular ferry out of Kwun Tong. Shame, but there you go.
So 713 won from 884 and 760, with a hugely tight bunch behind which was finally led home by 1344, 555, and a sightly fractious finish (any retirement, or at least Cowbuoy Trophy points, yet?) between 696 and 1193 Diva Deux (Mark Y).

713 carried North PC main (soft top batten), North DC jib (short tabs), North 0.5BR kite, and slightly screwy settings of rake 47"/heel 17'6"/chocks Max/Neweys 8.5deg/caps 19/lowers 1 turn below 10 on the Loos gauge, because we were a bit scrambling beforehand to install a jib halyard (thx a million Mick, Mark and Harold for your assistance). No photos as camera battery was dead. Darn! We were 35kgs underweight but can heartily recommend the 56kgs of Gretchen Lennon who (thanks a million Gretchen) did middle for us, her first ever sail in HK and first ever time on an Etchells. Gretchen is here for 6 months so if you are looking to make the weight, she's definitely worth a call.

Cirrus 6

Saturday 3 October was supposed to be the end of the Cirrus series, but the previous 2-race Saturday had been abandoned without a shot being fired as the breeze took the day off, so instead this time we just had Cirrus 6 and will figure out when to re-sail the missed races as quickly as possible.

The breeze - a gradient NorthEasterly, fuelled by a big typhoon moving west across the South China Sea several hundred miles south of HK - was quite obviously a straight fight between a Northerly coming over the hills behind Kowloon and an Easterly trying to establish through Lei Yue Mun gap. Those out early watched it phase one way and another, surging as the Northerly gained superiority and weakening when the Easterly had the upper hand. The course was HH start, then TKS-DB 3 laps, finish at Gate. There was effectively zero tide.

The line was square to the average wind but at the gun the breeze was in a big right phase so the fleet was spread along it. 760 and 788 were closest to the pin, with 713, 1269 and 1344 next, no doubt reckoning that the righty couldn't last and starting at the pin would enable them to lead the pack to the next phase which was sure (in their opinion!) to be a lefty. 713 and 760 showed good pace after the gun, and as the breeze increased into a solid (;->) left phase only these two were able to flip and cross the few above by a length or two, and join those who had started further up the line and who had already flipped onto port.

The left phase lasted about 5 minutes and then the breeze caved into a right-hand phase again, and 713 was first to flip away, footing hard on starboard towards the next lefty, with only 760 going with them. The other leaders, being 788, 903, 787 and 1344 from the middle of the line, held on on port, perhaps thinking this was the Easterly establishing. Classic harbour stuff leading to a big split from those who had already decided it would be phasing all day.

Sure enough the breeze then built into a solid Northerly phase and 713 just managed to avoid getting squeezed off by 760 who was ahead and to leeward going into the Northerly on starboard, and these two got across to the line of anybody returning from the left corner and flipped onto port, heading at or above TKS... The next time they looked back 713 had put 100m on 760 and this pair were 500m ahead of anybody else.

903 made the best of the middle, getting round in a close 3rd. After that it was a matter of the leaders protecting themelves from being overhauled by the chasing pack in the only passing lanes possible - which were all to the North, but this plan unfortunately bit the dust HARD on the 2nd run when a massive group of about 10 came round TKS about 300m behind the leaders but caught a massive NE gust and popped kites and came roaring up, but they kept heating and heating and eventually got to Kai Tak, where a hole of Ben Hur-like proportions engulfed the entire lot of them.

1235 and 1344 made the best of a bad lot by taking the pain of soaking as low as possible and sliding through below the disaster zone, which led to them claiming a solid 2nd and 3rd at the finish, with 760 doing well to rescue a well-deserved 4th and 1269 managing to claim 5th ahead of 903.

There was some excitement with a ship doing weird things in the middle of the race course at some stage but as there is a protest pending we'll leave that out for the moment.

For what it's worth, the winners sailed with 47" rake and the heel at 17'6", so the mast was touching the back of the gate when the backstay was on enough to snug up the forestay. We varied between zero and 1" of chocks behind the mast during the race. We had a North DC jib on long tabs (we took out the top batten, check attached photos to show difference in top camber stripe when top batten removed, and in the rest of the sail when you have proper heel and rake settings), a North PC main and an Ullman tiny VMG kite. The inhaulers were at 8 degrees when we were on the wind.

Nothing on this w/e coming as it's China Coast Regatta. If anybody has any other ideas, pls drop an email to the fleet...