Summer Saturday 4 & 5

The Hebe Haven Yacht Club was a hive of activity early on Saturday, the 1st of July 2023, as sailors arrived to prepare their boats for a day out on the water. Groups gathered here and there to discuss their plans and, in the Garden Bar, a stage was being assembled for the evening’s prize-giving. On the hard, young sailors rigged their dinghies and along the pontoons day trippers loaded their boats with supplies and equipment.

On the club’s 43-foot powercat, Hebe One, the management team for Races 4 & 5 of the Summer Saturday Series 2023 gathered for a briefing. Courses and procedures were explained to the volunteers and, in the absence of regular race office Rob Allen, Queenie Ho was elected to lead the team, ably assisted by Sara Houghton and Bridget Chan – indeed a formidable trio, ready to take on the responsibilities of running an efficient and competitive racing event.

The outlook for the weather was mainly cloudy with a few showers, and a Force 3-4 blowing from the southeast. Not a bad forecast but then things can change for the better, or worse, on location. Two geometric courses were scheduled and there was some hope of getting in a third as a replacement for Race 3 which had to be abandoned two weeks before (17th of June). If each race could last between 50 minutes to an hour, it would be possible to have everyone back for the prize-giving at 1730. That was the plan.

Buoy Zone would be used to ensure the courses were laid accurately but, even at this stage, there were some doubts about the wind. Would a shortening of course be necessary? Would times be taken after one lap?

Hebe One headed out into Port Shelter and the RO took some time before dropping anchor in the eastern quadrant. Course 2 was chosen for both divisions and the six Dragons that joined from Shelter Cove. The RO didn’t feel an offset mark was necessary in the light airs.

Then, 10 minutes before the scheduled first start, there was a major windshift to the south and the AP flag was raised. Twenty minutes later the marks had been reset and race management confirmed that everyone would be sailing Course 2 with two windward marks set in towards the University at 270 degrees, and 0.7 nautical miles distant.

At 1330, six IRC boats got away in a clean start, RB leading Out of Africa. Five minutes later, a horn went for the 12 entries in HKPN – another clean start in about 4 knots of wind, although Baring Asia 2 and the sportsboat, Merlin, were late. Six Dragons started cleanly at 1340 and the stage appeared set for an enjoyable afternoon’s racing . . . provided the wind held.

But it didn’t. It got lighter and, despite the odd patch, boats struggled to complete their two laps. A little pressure near the finish saw the mid fleet finish with a flourish but it didn’t last.

Out of Africa took line and handicap honours in IRC, followed by Nightshift and RB. Patrick Pender and Tommy Wong in Serendipity excelled in HKPN to claim line and handicap honours ahead of Simon Lynch’s Bucephalus and the J/80, Jazz. Eaux de Vives pipped Mei Fei in the Dragons with Elfje in 3rd.

Anxious to get in another race, the RO started Race 5 for the IRC fleet at 1505. Drifting across the line in little wind, their progress was slow. HKPN followed at 1510 with the Dragons bringing up the rear 5 minutes after that.

Out of Africa, with David Kong helming, was first to the windward mark but then there was quite a gap. Dexter II slowly caught up but Ocean’s Five and Nightshift took a long time to finish their two laps. Out of Africa was first home to claim line and handicap honours with Dexter II in 2nd and Kiasu! 3rd. RB retired.

Among the HKPN boats, for most of the fleet it was tough going. Port Shelter looked like a parking lot and, in the end, among the 12 entries, only five made it. Serendipity took line and handicap honours with Lazy Piggy in 2nd and a delighted (and relieved) Harpseal in 3rd. Five boats retired and two did not cross the start line on time.

The Dragons suffered even worse: out of the six entries, Mei Fei and Dragonfly finished in that order, but four boats never made it.

Ah well, that’s yacht racing. Let’s hope all 24 boats return for Race 5, scheduled for Saturday, the 15th of July 2023.

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