Singapore's Horseburgh Light Challenge Regatta
(warning - whiney bitchy post to follow...)
So after two months of business trips to the US I was seriously looking forward to getting back and sailing in the Horseburgh Challenge. I was tactician, trimmer, teacher on a Sun Odyssey 36. Great boat, great skipper
, 3 other crew but all a bit inexperienced. The Northeast Monsoon is supposed to blow a steady 15 knots this time of year and this is supposed to be a great deal of fun...
Day one was supposed to be a short passage
from SAF yacht club changi on the east coast
headed west down the coast and back. Sort of a shakedown passage
but first let me bitch about handicaps. We were in PY with a handicap of 96. There was a benneteau First 40.7 in our class with a handicap of 80. So that's our first problem. He's only giving us 16 minutes? There was a Bavaria
37 with a handicap of 110 so we a are giving 14 minutes to a boat with a one foot longer loa
but only getting 16 from a bonafide IRC A boat? Jeez. We are also giving an average of 20 minutes to various 28-30 foot Hunters and other cruising boats.
So the second day is the 65 mile race
across the straits, up to the light and back. Day 3 is 3 windward lewards. The handicap system is that all boats will be adjusted based on the first passage race
and the new handicap numbers applied to the first windward leward (race 3) thereafter the handicaps are adjusted for each windward leward result and applied to the next windward leward race.
Confused yet? So we carry a 96 on the first two passages, adjusted handicap on the first windward leward and then a new handicap for race 4 and 5 based on windward leward results.
The first passage race starts in about 2 knots of cross current
is easterly so the course is set with a short southerly course (about 1/4 mile) then a right turn downwind for about 5 miles. Good idea to not have a downwind start.
The IRC class starts, py 5 minutes later. We start at the committee boat in about 6 knots of wind
and get on the course. 7 of 11 py boats drift past the pin and cant get back. 20 minutes later the IRC boats haven't finished the dogleg and the race is abandoned.
They move the dogleg in and adjust the line to give folks a better chance and during the lull the wind fills in a bit. The restart is better and everyone gets across the line. We make the turn, spinnakers fly in various states and we do a 2 hour drift against a 2 knot current
to the mark. Course is shortened at the downwind end. We are 5th on the water
which is what we expected including beating the Bavaria
but we give him a lot of time. There is an IOR one tonner also that is quite fast. We end up 4th on the water and 9th corrected in front of the Benne and the IOR boat also suffering from their handicaps. At least our handicap is competitive for race 3 where we will have a chance to make up ground.
The next day is a 7am start and an 18 hour time limit. There is absolutely zero wind and the race committe decides (correctly) to have the whole fleet motor
across the strait to Indonesia
(Nongsa) and start the race there at what was Mark 1. We get a start off at 920 on an ebb tide and 3 hours later the fleet is fairly scattered. The IRC guys disappear but we learn from their tactics. It is a long ~30 mile beat to the light. We end up very close to a Hunter
32 and the 37 Bavaria and end up with some tacking duels up on the Malaysia
coast. We end up shaking the Hunter
as he lost
the plot but we are losing ground to the Bavaria and end up 1/4 mile back and downwind n the left side of the course. I decide to split and tack a long way upwind, cross channel where I see a thunderstorm developing. The Bavaria stays left. We tack just downwind of the thunderhead and end up reaching at 7 knots. The Bavaria is way left off the lay line, way downwind of the storm and with that one decision we beat the Bavaria to the mark by a mile, do our rounding and get about a mile downwind before the storm peters out and everyone starts drifting again.
We are 4th on the water in class at least a mile ahead. We are still against current and eventually see 1.8 knots on a heading of 270 but our gps
course is 90! We are reversing! We later learn some guys at the mark anchored for an hour. Where we were however the wind is shifting and what started as about 7 knots easterely eventually becomes a 10 knot
westerly. Oh, joy upwind both ways!
This is good news however as an easterly would have been good for all behind us. The wind slowly fills and our later gps
track shows a starboard tack headed south that lifted all afternoon into a big curve strait at Mark one after only a short 1/2 mile tack to get to the right side. We finally get 5 knots boat speed and get 3 hours on one lifting tack. We are smoking everyone behind us.
We are expecting the course to be shortened at Mark 1 but reaching there in the dark, there is no committee boat to be found. There is lots of radio
chatter about guys with no fuel
(why would they need it?) dead batteries and no nav lights and one retirement
. The is a safety
boat there that causes us some confusion in the dark especially with our "mindset" for a short course but the boat was there to give some folks fuel
and batteries! We clear our heads, round mark 1 at about 8pm and head
across the busiest shipping
channel in the world at night in 10 knots of wind. The good news is it is a reach and we keep a steady 4.5-5knots. We are cross current but it is a light lift
to the finish. We end up dodging 10-12 ships in the night -a bit unnerving. Hard to pick up the eastbound ships as we are looking right at the city of Singapore
as a backdrop and there is lots of light clutter.
We end up finishing at 1043. About 13:23 elapsed time. A long day but we feel we did really well. The high handicappers start coming in way closer than we expected them too and there is grumbling about who used motors and when. Grrr... The closest boat on the water is a hunter 28 only 1:20 behind us. We think this is impossible but what the hell. The committee pulls everyone's gps tracks but we feel nothing will come of it.
We end up 4th on the water, but on handicap end up 6th.
Day 3. Race 3. Here is where we need to shine with our "new" handicap. Because everyone bunched up on day one the max we give is like 7 minutes.
Race 3 starts with a northwest course. Into the easterly current of about 2 knots. We make a late start with minimal sog just below the committee boat. We pass 4 boats and stay on starboard tack a long time. We make one short tack to clear the committee boat just in case the wind dies. We did not want to get set back across the start line. We get back on starboard and get lifted all the way to the top mark. But the wind is really shifting and as we approach the top mark, race abandoned. We all return to the marina.
2 hours later the wind is southeast - a complete 180! The restart of race 3 has us at the committee boat on starboard. We are late again but it works out great. All the early boats stayed on starboard too long, have tacked and are now clawing back up current on port. We are coming through them on starboard and make 3 boats duck us. We end up 4th on water at our first tack. However we are left of course and I really knew we had to stay right but I ma a bad decision to chase down one last port tacker.
The wind dies and everyone on the left side is reaching straight up current to hold position against the current. We end up above the mark down current but the only choice is to keep reaching above it and storm storm down on it from above. We finally get enough height, gybe and barrel down on the mark. We come close on port, button hook (actually steering
through 720 degrees) with our momentum and have finally rounded. Get the spinnaker
up and are almost reaching to stay left. Finally get a line on the bottom mark but by now the course is completely biased. The wind shifted westerly and we ended up gybing the bottom mark and reaching under spinnaker
back up the course!
Just before we had to tack back to the top mark, we doused and by the time we got the boat squared away we timed out. 3 boats were right of the course when the wind died. The benne, the IOR and one other fairly fast boat. Only these 3 boats finished. Race 4 and 5 abandoned!
So. Had a 9 a 6 and a 12. Only 3 of 5 races completed and we only finished 2 of them. We end up 8th overall. Very frustrating for the crew. We had to take solace in our on water finishes in the first two races (4 and 4) which I think was a good indication of where the handicaps should have been. We had a couple of very nice tactical moves in the long race and we smoked everyone we were supposed to smoke as long as the wind held up in the only windward leward race.
The wind gods were not kind this weekend.