Our first coastal race on Airship with new keel and we took first on handicap in the WineWorks Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Race. This 30 mile race is a sprint across Cook Strait from just outside Tory Channel to finish in Wellington.
We almost didn’t make the start – we planned to dock out by 0645 but the clock was wrong in the accomodation and we left a bit late. Fortunately (very) we had a favourable tide taking us up Tory Channel, but still we emerged to see the fleet massing for the start. Fortune favoured us again and the RO delayed the start to shift move the line to better breeze.
Once the race started we set the masthead zero on the prod with the No 1 jib inside it, cutter style, and settled in to the drag race to Wellington’s south coast in a north easterly of about 10 – 15 knots. We sailed a straight line to join at Sinclair Head, Blink took a deeper route heading south of east, and Squealer (Elliot 10.5m skippered by Stu Morgan from Nelson) split the difference. The rest of the fleet, led by Satellite Spy (Ross 40, skippered by Matt Kerr from Waikawa), followed the slighter higher and conventional route to join at Terawhiti to pick up the south-going tide along the coast. It was a fantastic sight looking across the fleet charging across the Strait, especially with at least 30 of them behind us!
We were quite comfortable with our sail choice and started pulling away from the main fleet. Blink was gone over the horizon. Squealer decided to come up to our line and gave a bit of distance away to us. The breeze picked up a little, maybe 20 knots or so, and we were a bit pressed so the zero had to go, and we were just a 30 footer again, losing ground to the bigger boats above us. But by the time we reached Sinclair the wind dropped out and the boats close inshore with kites were wallowing a bit, especially as the tide was unexpectedly adverse rather than beneficial.
There was a southerly shift, perhaps just a little localised sea breeze, along the shore so we put up the masthead spinnaker with the pole at the forestay and slipped along past Sinclair, where a whale (we think it was a Southern Right) popped to say hi on its way south. Here we slipped into sixth place, passing a few bigger boats that had parked up under the cliffs. Blink in the distance seemed to us to be parked in a transition near Baring Head, while Satellite Spy and Squealer were still going on our line, and Paradigm (Davidson 16m) and Midnight (Davidson 45?) ahead but a bit further out. Flying Tiger (FT 10m) was catching us fast with a big gennaker, until they hit the light stuff and didn’t wiggle nearly as well as us through it.
We seemed to have less adverse tide than the two blue boats further out and slid past them at Moa Point – one of them caught a craypot which didn’t help. There was a weird transition going on at the entrance – we were carrying the kite while Blink and Satellite were beating, and planes were landing at the airport were approaching from the south.
We diced a bit with Squealer and got the better of them to round Moaning Minnie first. We didn’t go up Chaffers Passage, which we should have done in the tide, but kept working over to left, hard against Barrett’s Reef and we hooked into the lift on port tack, while Squealer went straight into the main tide, and when they tried coming back at us across the tide they were doubly knocked. We had the better of them up the harbour (seeing and missing the sunfish which Illusions later had a crack at) and past Point Halswell, but Stu gave himself a bit more leverage and sail area passed us at Point Jerningham to cross third on line behind Blink and Satellite Spy, about 1:40 ahead of us.
In the final wash up we corrected into first place, 6 minutes ahead of Satellite Spy.
Great event. Good fleet. Thanks to Wineworks Marlborough and all the sponsors and wineries supporting the race