The summer sailing season has finally started and the first race of the season was the Wednesday Twilight Race, and this time I sailed in much a smaller boat than I am used to, a Bluebird.
The Wednesday Twilight Series races are held each Wednesday afternoon and start not long before sunset. This means that by the time you finish, the sun is setting and you get a magnificent view of the city as all the lights start coming on.
My usual skipper had just come back from sailing in Queensland, but he is not able to do any racing for a while. But I was still keen to go for a sail and rocked up hoping there where any skippers in need of a spare hand (there usually always is). And an old Sailing buddy of mine, David, needed another hand on his Bluebird Nunyarra. I have sailed with David a couple of times before, doing the delivery cruises of Blue Chip after the Melbourne to Hobart races.
This race I was doing foredecking which is something I am used to doing on Blue Chip (the boat I usually sail on), except this was on a Bluebird which is a much smaller boat (22 feet or 6.7 meter long), making it quite different to sail. I have sailed on Bluebirds once or twice before when I just started sailing, but I have pretty much predominantly been on bigger boats so it was a bit of an adjustment. Everything is essentially the same since most yachts have Bermuda Rigging and have mostly the same sails and ropes, it’s just that everything is a whole lot smaller. This in turn means that everything is a whole lot lighter too and thus easier to carry and manage. No need to have 2 – 3 people pulling up the jib to the foredeck, I was literally just passed a bag containing the sail which I could easily carry with one hand.
Another thing that I noticed was that it was very important where you where sitting while we where on a tack. Since the boat was much smaller and thus much lighter, moving your weight around affected the boat to a much higher degree. So if there was a fair bit of wind I would sit on the edge of the board to counteract the force of the wind pushing on the sails, thus generating more forward momentum. But if the wind dropped off I would need to move up onto the cabin roof closer to boats centre. And if the wind got really strong, the third crew member needed to come up from the cockpit and sit next to me to provide even more counter weight. So I found myself moving back and forth quite a bit throughout the race to shift my weight around as the wind changed.
We used the spinnaker twice in this race and it was really very easy to set up. There was a very light bag that got attached to the front of the boat and the sheets would be hooked onto to their respective clews for the duration of the race. Then when the spinnaker was needed, the very short and light pole would get attached to one of the sheets and then the mast and up it would go, very quickly and easily and as long as you paid attention to where the lines where and ensured they all where in the right position everything would be okay. And even if they weren’t it was not much of an issue and it was easily fixed. Jibing the spinnaker was very easy as well due to lightness of the pole, I just had to detach it, spin it around and then attach it again on the other side, no complicated manoeuvres required. Only thing that was a bit hard with it was that it was quite hard to pack it up again. I had to pull it down and stuff it into the bag at the same time but the wind kept catching it. It was almost like it was designed to catch the wind!? But I guess that is something that gets easier with a bit of practice.
The weather was overcast all day with a bit of rain towards the end. It was really quite windy and picked up a fair bit before we finished. It was not as bad as the day before where we had gale force winds, or even as much wind as that morning but it was still a fair bit. And the water was pretty calm so at least we did not get tossed about, nor did we get drenched by huge waves so that was nice.
Race went pretty okay, at the southernmost gate we went west instead of east like the other boats, and couple of mishaps with spinnaker (as usual), mostly due to me not being used to it. But what got us in the end was that we missed the last gate, due to being pushed passed the edge marker by all the other boats who where all going through it at the same time, including the big ones. So we had to do a couple of jibes to get us back on course and be able pass the gate properly. In the end we placed 4th PHS out of 10 which is really quite good considering the whole spin around.
Going back after we finished was not as easy as with the big boats where you have the luxury of just switching on an engine and cruising in. It took a lot longer because you are very much at the mercy of the winds and currents, and we had to do lots of tacking back and forth before we where back at the club again.
Altogether it was lots of fun to sail in the Bluebird, it was much closer to the water and somehow felt quicker (even tho it probably wasn’t). Whereas I always prefer the bigger boats and I cant wait to go out on Blue Chip again, I will definitely go out in a Bluebird when I can and will be doing so again this coming Wednesday.