Etchells Tuesday Night Series: T'was the flight before Christmas

Close racing in the Etchells World Championship Sydney Australia 2012.

Flight 6 of the Auckland Etchells Tuesday Night Season were sailed on Tuesday December 12 , Fleet Captain Alex Webster reports:

If the events of Flight 6 evoke one word, that word is 'bugger'. But if they evoke any other word in addition to 'bugger', that word is 'tide'. Your correspondent was delighted to join Scotty 'Exocet' Kennedy for the penultimate flight before Chrimbo. Scotty may have regretted the invitation following Race 3 of the flight, but lest my readers unkindly conclude that I am a Jonah, I would refer them to earlier flights in the season where both Willzy and Al Gwyer have prospered with the same super-cargo...

Race 1 was straightforward enough with a somewhat abridged fleet of 7 starters leaving the traps just under Bayswater Point into around 10 knots of breeze and a turning tide. Upfront (814) made a decent start, squeezing above Split Decision (914) at the boat end and pushing out of the harbour on starboard with the rest of the fleet Despite seemingly eating wake, Split Decision (914) lifted and then tacked with Valsheda (950) and Irish Crystal (809) into fresh breeze and by the top mark, they were ahead by a respectable margin. The run was a one way bet in the ebbing tide and having made a better fist of picking the shifts in the second work, Upfront (814) finished 4th after Irish Crystal (809) from Split Decision (914) and Valsheda (950).

It was at this point that the tide began to make its influence felt, warping the two-dimensional time/space continuum, bending straight lines and shifting perspectives and lay-lines. Light itself seemed to bend - as at the event horizon of a black hole - so that, from my vantage point, objects that must surely have been behind the start line, appeared to be in front of it. However, this effect was not shared by the Race Committee and the race started at the first attempt and saw 5 boats slide cross-course on starboard while Quantum (1314) and Bobby's Girl (1058), having been squeezed out at the start, stuck into the ebbing tide on port. Valsheda (950) was the first to join them as it became apparent that the right would pay. The top mark was a busy affair and at least one collision was witnessed, but never litigated. The crossing tide forced a low, slow ferry glide to the bottom of the course and after a second lap, that saw Valsheda (950) finesse a tricky course, they took the gun from Quantum (1314) and a resurgent Irish Crystal (809).

The trick with this yacht racing lark is to make sure you secure the least bad result. After an indifferent start or a series of mis-timed tacks it is tempting to go for broke and hit a corner, but that strategy fails far more often than it succeeds.

Accordingly, it pays to maintain both positional awareness and firm grip on reality - both of which proved untenable in the twilight zone that was Race 3. After a fast start, Upfront (814) was at the pin-most end of the fleet and accelerating into a persistent lefty.

This had all the hallmarks of a heroic coup and your correspondent was relishing the prospect of taking the whole fleet on port and yah boo sucks to you, but then reality bit and bit hard. Forced to the far left by boats inside, Upfront (814) tacked onto what should have been the layline, but, viewed from above, it would have been apparent that - in the fast-moving tide - she was tracing a arc to a point from which the top mark was a ever-broadening reach. Game over. Valsheda (950) and a brilliant Irish Crystal (809) teased out an excellent final work and took out 1st and 2nd respectively over Quantum (1314).

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