Tropical Race weeks have to be approached in a pragmatic fashion. Often crews arrive to find themselves apparent “handicapped out”. The reality is that until you are out on the race track you don’t really know. Having coming 2nd twice before at Magnetic Island Race week, the race committee should have had a good read on where Wine-Dark Sea should fit in the fleet. There was the debate about whether she should be in Division 1 with the “race” boats or Division 2 with the large cruising boats. I have long since given up debating this with the race commitee. Just sail where you are put and deal with whatever handicap they give you. In the end we were put Division 2, up against our best of friends Paul and Clare on Pilgrim, and starting with a nice round 1.000 handicap, the second highest in the fleet.
With great merriment we watched other crews removing biminis and dogers and removed all extraneous weight from their boats. We did undergo a slight weight reduction regime and did remove the dodger, the solar panel bimini remained. The other major weight adjustment was to remove half the champagne we brought (about 4-5 cases) and “trim” the other half into the now dedicated champagne fridge. We decided that 0 deg Celsius would be an appropriate temperature to allow sabraging
As usual the high performing crew of Wine-Dark Sea headed home early the night before the first race….hang on a sec, that’s not right!!! In fact just take it as read that every night we all got up to not good, got drunk, turned up hung over having had very little sleep. All with the exception of RSYS Club Captain Karyn Gojnich who would never be party to such bad behaviour or excess. She may, however, have assisted in going through our daily quota of 6 bottles of champagne every day. Here is a sample of what we have photographic evidence of…
The week was ably supported by our loyal shore crew of Choppa and Fran Lowndes, Peter Lawson, Jo Dan and Elisha soon-to-be-Wulff. Each start was cheered on from room 4002 and a watchful eye from Choppa over finish line, if not the whole race.
So how did we do? Well endless people had told me over the years that you’ll never win a PHS regatta if you win the first race. So what did we do? We fluffed the first start but managed to recover OK by the windward mark. We then sailed our course as normal and finished second across the line just behind the Swan 60 that had the highest handicap. I was pretty sure we had our time on him. What I didn’t count on was the fact we were 5 minutes in front of the second placed boat on corrected time. We had blitzed them. The handicapper was sure to punish us.
Day 2 saw 5% added to our handicap. This time we nailed the start and lead pretty much start to finish. To be honest we were so far in front of most of the fleet I didn’t even bother to hassle the crew to hike out. We were doing everything right it was up to everyone else to catch us. We got a 3rd to see us into the lay day.
After the lay day the handicapper put another 5% onto our handicap, elevating us to the highest handicap. We responded by nailing the start again and leading around the race track again. Fastest on scratch by 4 minutes and 3rd on handicap. 3 Races, 3 Podiums. As good as it was we were tied in first place with 2 other boats!
The penultimate race was not fantastic for any of the regatta leading boats. We had been handed almost another 5% to our handicap. We were now 14.7% higher than day one. Nailed the start….again. This was the only other day we didn’t get line honours. One of our closest competitor, Wings (Dehler 46), got the gun but we did manage to pull back about 2 minutes on them on the last upwind leg. We placed 8th on handicap but if we had our handicap from race 1 we would have won by 11 minutes! Let’s just put that one down as the handicap catching up with us.
Nerves were on edge for the last race. We had been in line for victory twice here before only to lose it on the last day. I gave a little pep talk to settle everyone down and reminded them that nothing had to be done differently. We were in this position because we were doing things right. So why change them? We continued to do things right by winning the star, again. We lead from start to finish and extended the whole way around the race track. We knew if we beat Wings across the line we were looking pretty good. We were. We got 2nd in the final race. In a fairy tale finish Pilgrim won the day but we won the regatta.
To a crew person everyone burst into tears as the reality of the victory sunk in. Everyone on board had a special place in their heart for Sarah Goddard-Jones. Everyone missed Sarah so much but put it in the back of their mind for racing. That was because that’s what Sarah would have done. Not only was she a phenomenal seaman, she was also a fierce competitor. She was with us all in our hearts but it still devastates us she wasn’t their in person.
In Sarah’s memory I donated a Spirit of the Regatta award to the event that was accepted by Townsville Yacht Club. This award was presented back to Wine-Dark Sea as it was decided that we still best embodied the Spirit of the Regatta. In Sarah’s spirit we then continued to fill it for the rest of the night with the French bubbly stuff.
Thanks again to the champion team. Karyn Gojnich, Jason Neuhaus, Lindy Hardcastle, Trent Goldsack, Pam Messenger, Jocelyn Webb, Claudia Thackray, Richard Wulff, Jeff Welstead and Greg Lake. Special thanks to Greg and Lindy for helping me get the boat up.