Light winds becalm practice runs for upcoming Vasco da Gama race

2014-06-05 00:00

ROYAL Natal Yacht Club’s Offshore Series saw eight yachts take on the out and back course, the vessels using the race as preparation for the Vasco da Gama race from Maputo to Durban, starting on June 19.

Starting off Vetchies Pier, the yachts went four nautical miles up the coast to the weather mark, dropped by RNYC rear commodore Rob Samways just beyond Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The yachts glided at snail’s pace over the start line, with winds just under one knot. Late arrival for the start, Spindrift, skippered by John Bandfield, was the first casualty, retiring halfway to the turning point.

After nearly two hours, Bellatrix, with Gregg Hurter at the helm, rounded the bouy, hoisting his spinnaker, in 1:57. A little over a minute later, Ray of Light, under the charge of Heidi Kavanagh, made the turn, working hard to stay within touching distance of the leader.

Kavanagh decided to venture further offshore for the stretch home, her 44-foot yacht catching some of the breeze in the massive spinnaker, moving at close to three knots at times.

It was a wise move from Kavanagh as Hurter’s plan of staying close to shore saw him bobbing at times as the wind turned against him.

Ray of Light cruised over the line after 3:12 on the water, eight minutes ahead of Bellatrix, who missed the handicap win by failing to finish within five minutes of the victors. Commodore Graham Rose summed up the conditions saying, “We had a difficult time battling with the light winds which kept shifting. We did two full turns trying to stay with the wind which would pick up then drop, leaving us high and dry.”

Westville’s Gavin Wadsworth soldiered on with just one crew member, Reg Aburrow.

The pair took their 38-foot yacht through the course by hoisting their spinnaker, a brave move which bore fruit.

“Club member Nqoba Mswasi, who has just completed the Clipper Round the World race, said that in conditions where the wind was less than five knots, they sailed without their main sail. We tried it and can’t say if it really worked for us or not,” said Wadsworth.

Flyer, skippered by Brad Rayson, was third over the line, having opted not to use a spinnaker and stay inshore. Wadsworth and Aburrow got home just before the cut-off, fourth boat home after a commendable effort.

Half the fleet managed to finish with three boats retiring and one running out of time.

“This was great practice for the sailors and we have been fortunate with good winds. However, it takes an accomplished yachtsman to make it happen in the lighter stuff,” said Samways. “It’s good preparation for the Da Gama as I am sure the competing fleet will have some days of zero winds along the day.”

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