January 20 - 26, 2013: Issue 94

 Around the Buoys on Friday 
by Robyn McWilliam

Also known as the Chicken Race, the Friday Twilight Race run by RMYC is a great start to the weekend. During summer it commences at 5 pm. Prior to this up to 30 yachts jostle for position. Hails of “Starboard” can be heard as intersecting wakes churn up the water.

At this time of year Pittwater is often still in the morning. Reflections of boats in glassy water is a calm beginning to the day. By mid-morning wavelets glisten in the sunshine; cicadas chorus in the gum trees. If it’s particularly hot, by afternoon the nor’easter comes belting in.

Recent Fridays it’s been a blustery 15 to 25 knots by race time. Perfect for our No. 2 headsail and once a reef in the mainsail as well. A newcomer to the fleet took his wife (unused to racing) out in these conditions. With the yacht at precarious angles she felt it was not her thing. “I did nothing but hold on. I’m sure there are fingernail scratches in the fibreglass,” she said. Twilight racing can be sheer hard work but for race lovers it’s exhilarating.

The other wind in summer is the southerly. From the start line between the red laid buoy and the tower, the fleet sails downwind, mains out and headsails poled. Depending on the course we’ll go down the bay to Stokes Point mark or Mackerel Beach. Then it’s a zigzag work into the wind or a reach back round the rest of the marks.

Boats racing after the start.

Although the fleet starts together it’s recently been split into two divisions to give the faster boats longer on the water. White division boats such as Outlandish, Whisper and Enticer complete a few extra legs.

While the time allowed for the race is two and a half hours, the aim is to be over the finish line before sundown. Kevin, our friendly race starter in the tower, displays the course and sounds the starting sequence. On really light air evenings he has to bring out a motor boat to shorten course and record finishing times. Optimistic sailors seek to catch any puff of breeze so their boat finishes before time runs out.

Once clearing the line the sails are packed away. For us on Red Red Wine it’s easy furling the headsail. This evening we’re ahead of Here’s Trouble one of our main rivals on the water. Keeping the boat head to wind in strong conditions to flake the main can be a challenge. Then it’s back to the mooring and down to the club house for the presentation.

Assistant Chicken Boy Chris Heraghty (Outlandish)

Scratch places (order over the line) are cheered but the handicap results are what count. First, each boat owner is presented with a frozen chicken. ( Hence the name of the race.) The winners of white and blue divisions are announced from computer generated results. There’s also a crew draw for a prize. Amid a cacophony of sailors, prizes of bottles of wine and vouchers from sponsors are distributed.

For those with sailing skills or others keen to learn, Cathy McDonald at RMYC keeps a crew register. Phone: 99975511. There’s a constant demand and experienced sailors find a boat immediately.

Twilight sailing on Pittwater is special: a dazzling expanse of water, tree-clad headlands and orange-tinged clouds. Each week the weather is different. We’re not fond of driving rain or lightning. The race may go well or dramas may descend. After the race it’s always satisfying to talk over the tactics that worked. Around the buoys on a Friday afternoon, Pittwater is our slice of paradise.

See more at: http://royalmotor.com.au/divisions/sailing.html

Bruce Ferguson skipper of Whisper with prize

 The RMYC tower.

Copyright Robyn McWilliam, 2013. All Rights Reserved.