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Old 31-08-2007, 00:59   #1
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Sailing Rules (starboard)

Tracking a Leopard

We entered a real fun regatta, hundreds of boats participating, including a number of cats. We were encouraged by the locals to participate. A distance of about 30 miles, sailing the last part along the Maragojipe river for about 7 miles before the finish.

In Salvador there is always good wind and the race is mostly downwind. All stuff that should favour us and make the sailing real pleasant. Amongst our competition was a newly launched Leopard 46 built in Cape Town for the owners Lloyd & Ngaire Parker. Both Kiwis and on their way cruising back to NZ. A beautiful boat and great that we should have something in our own class to race against.

So race day dawns, and true to form, hardly any wind. The prediction is also for light wind. How disappointing, after really looking forward to this down wind dash, now being an up wind slog. For us the communication and race instructions pose a bit of a nightmare. Everything is in Portuguese and we are still on “obrigado” – thank you and “Bom Dia” - good day. For what it was worth, we were to be tuned in on channel 71 on the VHF in case of changes to the race information.

The start is along a narrow channel that opens up into the Salvador bay then about 17 miles across to the river mouth. As the start time draws nearer the wind picks up and we have about 15 knots. Real nice but we prefer a bit more. So many boats on the start line in a narrow channel but there were to be 3 starts as the boats were divided into 3 groups of which we would be last to start.

We start with the fast mono hulls and other cats. These include 2 very fast racing cats, one is no more than a dinghy of 35 feet, very light and powerful rig and carbon sails. The other is also carbon fibre but 65ft which weighs less that us. It won the 1st Cape to Salvador race in record time – took about 10 days and achieves speeds in the high 20’s regularly.

I started in the middle of the line trying to get some clear air. The line had a massive starboard bias and the racers naturally selected the pin end on the starboard side. Our cat could not compete at this end as the handling characteristics of our boat would put us at an immediate disadvantage.
Although we had a good start the faster boats soon were up to weather of us creating a wind shadow that left us disadvantaged until they got further ahead. We had the edge on the Leopard though and were covering them. Our boats seemed to be very similar in speed. They had a much bigger head sail but I clung on to my advantage tenaciously. I was not going to let them get through us easily.

We had progressed a few hundred meters up from the start when a small cat, a real bit of rubbish was coming across on port, us on starboard. We were on a collision course, they had a man standing at the front of the bow, next to the jib, presumably advising his skipper of boats coming across on starboard. Lorna and I both yelled starboard and with much waving of arms indicating that they should tack or go behind us. This port and starboard situation is the most basic rule for sailing yachts, where the port boat has to give way to the boat on starboard. Maybe starboard does not sound the same in Portuguese as it does in English. I may just as well have used Afrikaans for all the good it was doing. At the last minute I swung the helm hard over to tack to Port still hoping to avoid a collision. Had I continued on the resultant damage could have been significant. The other boat then also tacked but we were too close to avoid a collision completely. My left bow hit the front of his hull in a glancing blow, fortunately all the speed had dropped of, then as the boats tacked, the boats came together side on. They left a long blue paint streak along the side of our boat. We both got away lightly and then the yelling started, no idea what they said but I know what I said and it cannot be repeated here.

Sailing Rules

I was still ahead of the Leopard and gradually pulling away. I had a nice lead on him as we came up to the lay line for the tack to the last mark in the channel before heading across the bay. They were well down to leeward and I presumed they were waiting for me to tack. So off I went along with most of the fleet. The leopard was now over standing a long way. It should cost them dear. When I had rounded they had still not tacked and it became obvious that they were taking a short cut.

Once we rounded the channel mark we overtook loads of boats, some that started with us and some from the previous starts. The racing cats were way ahead. We gained on the Leopard and closed the distance to them at the finish. Sometimes it looked as if we would get through them but the wind was shifty and gusty, we were then sailing downwind and although we tried to put ourselves in favourable positions, a gust or changes in direction helped them finish a few minutes ahead of us.

As it turned out Lloyd on the Leopard was justified in taking the shortcut as the race instructions were changed at the last minute. Lloyd had Portuguese crew aboard that interpreted the change competently.

We still do not know where we finished overall but we were hours ahead of the stragglers. We were safely anchored in the river near the finish watching the rest of the fleet battle for positions. Overall we had a very pleasant sail in spectacular surroundings. We had a complementary meal in the nearby town that evening and spent the next 2 days exploring the river banks and features on land. We are now back in Aratu at the yacht club anticipating the arrival of Charles and Fung Yee.

Photos of the regatta at <A href="" target=_blank>

Reposted from Sailing around the world - by James Wilding

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