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Gauteng Dart League 2014. Leg 1: Boskop Yacht Club

Photo Credit: Lara Brown

With ‘Close to the Edge’ secured on her trailer, I knew that I was in for a different kind of weekend when the English lady in my GPS instructed me to head towards ‘Carl Eton Villa’. It took a while before I worked out that this did not refer to the stately home of the founder of some obscure dorp, but was instead Carltonville (apologies to Guy Carleton Jones).

A little over an hour later, the GPS insisted that I was nearly there.

GPS lady demanded that I turn off the tar and onto a dirt road. A little further on and we reached a fork in the road. GPS lady now insisted that I head left and being married I knew better than to argue. One kilometre later bushes had squeezed in from either side of the track and I arrived at a locked and chained farm gate. This had to be wrong!

After covering the same kilometre, but this time in reverse with the trailer – I saw a faded partial sign indicating the way to Boskop Yacht Club posted a short way down THE RIGHT HAND FORK.

And not even an apology from GPS lady!!!

Immediately upon entering Boskop Yacht Club, the road descends into a trough with a hosepipe and a sign requiring that boats be washed before launching in order to prevent the propagation of various marine weeds. I was grateful for this since my boat was layered in dust from GPS lady’s enforced detour.

A brief traffic jam resulted when The Cundill family arrived and were temporarily stuck behind me. With my boat clean, I towed her down to the waters edge and rigged.

Throughout the morning, many more Dart 18s and some Hobies arrived. TCC were represented by:

  • (H14) Douglas White
  • (H16) Mike Herald and Dylan Segars
  • (H16) Oliver and Rolf Eggers
  • (H16) Phillip and Alan Miller
  • (H16) Kirsten and Gary Cundil
  • (Crewing on a H16?) Dave Rickson
  • (Dart 18) Iuan Gray

 

At the funniest skipper’s briefing that I have attended in a long while. We received the welcome news that Shellee, a level 3 ISAF Coach, would conduct training sessions ashore, on the water and post race through debriefing sessions.

Launching at Boskop is a little fraught. They have a beautiful lawn that reaches all the way to the waters edge followed by a short drop into shallow water that is floored with rocks of various sizes just waiting to eat your boat’s gel coat. We found two discarded tyres and placed these a cats width apart and half a boat length out into the water. We could protect our hulls by first carrying the bows out onto these tyres and then lifting and sliding the whole boat out and over the tyre cushion. This way the distance we got offshore was sufficient to allow us to float without scraping on the rocks.

Boskop dam has a lot of submerged weed around its edges, but it also has the clearest water that I’ve seen in a long time. You can comfortably see 4 meters down. So, note 1 to self was check regularly for weed on the rudders. From here, I talk mostly of my own races:

Onto the Racing

Race 1:

The weather was light and extremely fluky.

The fleet did not contest the start very seriously and the first four boats across the line were all from TCC and each within seconds of the others. I was genuinely proud to see that. The fluky breeze and the distinctly different wind patterns over different parts of the course were right up my alley and I won comfortably by over a leg.

Races 2 – 5:

The wind remained fluky with big holes appearing over parts of the course. Lengthy handicap killing periods passed with no wind at all. Occasional gusts came rolling down from different sides of the lake intent on randomising the score sheet. As the day progressed, the wind stabilised a little and strengthened to about 5 knots.

For these races, the fleet arrived in force and the starts were now strongly contested.

Some time during race two, Kirsten wisely decided that Gary had had enough. Gary was not well and when Kirsten noticed he was shivering on the boat she ordered him ashore. Good decision Kirsten – a shaking boat is terrible for light wind performance. This was effectively the end of their regatta.

Jokes aside, we hope that you are feeling better now Gary, and well done to Kirsten for making the right decision.

Throughout the event, I witnessed many collisions between boats and with marks, yet no penalties were taken and no protests lodged.

For my part, I clipped a bouy on two separate occasions and each time exonerated myself by performing the required penalty turn. The frequency of these breaches of the RRS caught the eye of Shellee who made a point of mentioning it at Saturday night’s debriefing session. She also made a point of complimenting me for doing the right thing and exonerating myself. Shellee then went on to remind the fleet that failing to take a penalty after an incident is cheating and you lay yourself open to disqualification under the ISAF Racing Rules [Editor: for anyone who wants to download the latest rules please do so here].

BASIC PRINCIPLES

SPORTSMANSHIP AND THE RULES

Competitors in the sport of sailing are governed by a body of rules that they are expected to follow and enforce. A fundamental principle of sportsmanship is that when competitors break a rule they will promptly take a penalty, which may be to retire.

Sadly, Shellee’s effort went unheeded and the fleet continued to disregard the rules on the Sunday as well.

The disappointing thing for me remains that it is actually those who know better and do well in the final standings who perpetrate the vast majority of these incidents. If this is any indication of the prevailing attitude amongst SA sailors then there are going to be some very upset South Africans come the worlds.

I ended Saturday’s racing with a full house: – 5 races sailed and one of each position from 1-5 a (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and
5th (not in that order)). More serious was that I’d learnt I was substantially down on boat speed when compared to

the top Dart 18s. As the wind improved and the emphasis switched from tactical sailing to shear boat speed, I was struggling. I went to bed hoping that Sunday would not see me complete the full house with a 6th, 7th and so on.

Sunday dawned with a glassy calm.

A huge power breakfast was provided and then the wind began to pick up.

We were summoned to a second skippers briefing. Again, humour was the high point of the briefing with sailors advised to locate the windward mark by simply observing the direction the bridge officer was facing… and then they could locate the leeward mark by sighting down the bridge officer’s cr@ck. The meaningful advice was that the course was to be lengthened considerably, but reduced to one lap in order to place greater emphasis on our starting technique.

The camaraderie amongst the fleet was really good. There was never a need to ask for help – the moment you started to do anything on your boat, a friendly face would appear. This spirit of helpfulness extended as far as the Boskop children who appeared on the lake on paddle-ski’s, offering to tow us in at the end of racing whenever the wind fell.

As a newbie to the Dart 18 fleet, I was made to feel very welcome and received great tips and input from those in the know. I made some changes to my rig and tuning based on this advice and my observations of competitors boats and set out for the 6th race hoping for better boat speed.

Race 6:

In the final seconds before the start, a friendly Hobie Tiger hit me from behind (and didn’t take a penalty). This destroyed my start and I was buried, well down the fleet, in dirty wind and was forced to switch into recovery mode. Fortunately, my boat speed was significantly improved by the changes that I’d made.

I broke for clear wind as soon as I could and rounded the windward mark mid Dart 18 fleet (+- 12th). By the time that I
reached the leeward mark I had recovered to 8th. The final beat to the finish was only around 400 Meters as the crow
flies and the wind had gone very light. This left me with very little recovery time. The leaders had all headed to the right of the course. As I rounded the mark, I saw a thermal starting to generate to the left, and gambling, I tacked for it. The gods smiled on me and the gust picked me up, carrying me over the line for my second Dart 18 win of the event.

I made 7 places on the last, short beat – Lucky.

Race 7:

Wind very light and fluky.

I messed up the start – all by myself this time. I started my run-in too late and fell into the second rank, eating dirty wind from the front row.

To make matters worse, boats close astern and to leeward of me prevented me from tacking away. I had little option but to eat dirt and mutter to myself.

I rounded the top mark well down the fleet and in recovery mode once again. The wind was blowing at around 1-2 knots. Throughout the regatta, I had watched with interest as another Dart 18 had employed the Wild-thing to great effect. Now, with little to lose I decided it was the right time to experiment. What a difference. There I was, on a dead run, trapeezing to leeward, windward hull just in the water and recovering positions quickly. I was even overhauling the person who I’d got the idea from. I was truly staggered at the speed improvement… and went searching for more.

That last sliver of windward hull HAD to be slowing me down – after all, it is unnecessary water resistance isn’t it?

I hiked a little further out on the trapeze to lift the hull clear… It lifted… I would like to think that the boat accelerated… Then the awful realisation hit me that I had forgotten the basics of ‘form stability’ – ie. the moment a catamaran lifts it hull the beam starts to narrow and her righting moment reduces proportionately. Also, the trapeze attachment point was now directly overhead – I could not swing my weight back inboard.

Slowly… gracefully… in all of 1 knot of wind, I capsized to windward on a dead run!!!!

Note 2 to self: Don’t get greedy! I lost 4 places righting the boat.

When she came up, there was Douglas; annoyingly on time and willingly offering me some suitably derogatory words of advice and abuse. My position in that race?
11th.

I maintain that it was worth it because now I know a lot more about doing the Wild-thing on a Dart 18 than I did before. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Race 8:

One more race was sailed in a dying and terribly fluky breeze. I was fortunate to be amongst the few finishers that crossed the line before the wind disappeared for good.  Many abandoned and took the DNF. The only memorable part of this race was when a certain TCC H16 team (who will remain nameless) decided that the heat was becoming unbearable and decided to take a swim to cool off – a stray breeze snuck up on them and their boat sailed off… all on it’s own. But hey, they did give the Boskop rescue boat a reason for being out there 😉

Final results from the TCC contingent:

(My apologies – I missed the other H16 positions but will post them to the TCC Facebook page once I am notified)

Hobie Fleet

  • Douglas White: 2nd
  • Mike Herald and Dylan Segars: 3rd
  • Oliver and Rolf Eggers: ?
  • Phillip and Alan Miller: ?
  • Kirsten and Gary Cundil: ?
  • Dave Rickson: ?

 

Dart 18 Fleet

  • Iuan Gray: 2nd

Well done to all, you did yourselves and TCC proud.

Conclusions

  • Boskop Yacht Club is in a very pretty location and has a rustic flavour that is all its own.
  • The canteen and bar are well run by willing members who are always in high humour and serve great tasting food.
  • This event is an exceptionally friendly regatta suitable for sailors of all levels.
  • Irrespective of your own ability, there are competitors against whom you can pace yourself, learn and who are more than willing to help and answer questions.
  • Tack short of the weeds at the edge and regularly check your rudders for weed streamers slowing you down.
  • Get used to sailing in fluky winds that change direction regularly.
  • I remain undecided whether a Dart 18 is quicker 1-up or 2-up.
  • Since the Dart 18 class rules don’t specify a minimum crew weight, I am seeking an anorexic little person to crew
    with me so I can try to resolve the previous point.
  • Don’t blindly accept all that GPS lady says.

 

Would I go again?

Oh yeah!!

And, I hope to see a much bigger TCC contingent next year. Come on Dart 18s – this is our World Championship year. If you don’t show then don’t count on me to pass on what I am learning 😉

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