Two-handers dominate Cabbage Tree Island Race

From Lee Condell, PBS director and co-skipper of Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 ‘Sun Fast Racing’

CYCA Bluewater Series Cabbage Tree Race:

Being the last race of the Bluewater series prior to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, many yachts were using as a final test. Sixty nine yachts lined up on the same startline at 7pm on the Friday evening, including 4 super maxi’s, 8 TP52’s, several mini maxi’s, and among them sixteen double handers, including four of the five Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300’s doing the Hobart, as well as an older Sun Fast 36.

The forecast was for a S’Easter to slowly veer into the south and lighten to very little in the early hours of the morning, then a light Easterly to fill in after dawn and then veer and build to a moderate N’E.

Twenty minutes before the start we set and checked the Code 0 to make sure that it had been furled properly the last time we used it and it set and refurled perfectly. We checked out the boat end of the line and noticed that there was a wind shadow from the shore at that end, so elected to start somewhere about a third of the way down the line. We positioned ourselves perfectly with space to windward, but with 30 seconds to go a supermaxi and TP52 appeared from behind and came in below us and forced us up, the result of which was we ended up buried under a First 40. Then the last 5% of the Code 0 wouldn’t unfurl! That combination meant that we were slow off the line and by the time we found clearer air the most competitive boats in our division were all ahead.

We managed to work our way to the pack, but got forced up towards Watson’s Bay by two other Sun Fast 3300’s. Then trying to soak back to our line meant that we were slower than boats below us, so we exited South head last of the two handers!

We found a good path low and in pressure across to North head and overtook a bundle of boats in shy pressure before bearing away North. We romped along with sisterships Tumbleweed and Hip-Nautic on one side of us and Transcendance Crento on the other. Transcendance Crento footed off to stay closer to the beaches, while we stayed close to the rhumbline and in touch with our nearest others competitors such as Disco Trooper and Rum Rebellion, and IRC 2 division boats like the well campaigned Sail Exchange.

The breeze slowly veered and we peeled to our A4 (we’ve dropped our A2 in preference for a J0 drifter), then to our S2 later as it went further south. Thankfully the wind stayed at around 10 to 12 knots all through the night, so we made good progress and were doing well against those boats around us as we continued to make gains. We noticed on the AIS as Transcendance Crento made a jump on us further inshore, and similarly we made gains on those outside us.

Come dawn the breeze lightened and we squeezed around Point Stephens and bore away to round Cabbage Tree Island off Port Stephens to starboard. Those flying asymmetric spinnakers needed to gybe several times while we simply bore away and we gained distance on Disco Trooper, but Transcendance Crento was several miles in front. We came to the island rounding on top of Rum Rebellion and managed to pass them and round cleanly on the back of the two-handed 40 footer Minnie, and then hardened up onto starboard into a lumpy sea until we made the lay-line to head south and clear Point Stephens again. Unfortunately the wind dropped and we had a very slow few miles before we cleared the point which the boats ahead of us hadn’t experience, so they moved further ahead of us. Thankfully that didn’t last too long and we pointed well once the wind picked back up to about 8 knots.

We were conscious of needed to make further gains on Rum Rebellion to beat them as they were our nearest rival, and hoped to make gains on Transcendance Crento and Disco Trooper. The class leader and highest rated of the boats under 36 feet Mistral was well out in front, but we kept looking for opportunities to make gains on these other three.

It came as a hell of a shock when the boat lurched like we had run aground, then felt something hit the starboard rudder only to see a Sunfish appear out behind the boat. Thankfully the steering felt fine and we checked the keel bolts and all was OK there too, but it was quite a concern and was of those things that you simply can’t pre-empt. Remarkably we had a close encounter with another similar sized sunfish only an hour earlier

We saw the two boats ahead footing off inshore and decided that was a bit risky and then noticed that they wouldn’t be able to clear the next headland and would have to tack out, so felt like this was our opportunity to make a gain. To our surprise at that precise moment the breeze backed and they climbed their way back out! Immediately the wind angle hit 70 we set our J0 and hoped to clear away from Rum Rebellion, but they had been further out to sea and footed in closer to us increasing their speed, so no gain was made, even though we set the genoa staysail as well.

The breeze continued to back and as soon as we knew it would work we peeled to the S2, but it was too light for the spinnaker staysail. Some of the bigger boats that had been behind slowly sailed through and we continued to work hard on trim to keep the boat moving as fast as possible. Rum Rebellion continued to stay outside us while Transcendance Crento and Disco Trooper soaked away towards the shore at every available opportunity. We were trying to cover both sides and also felt that we would get an increase in pressure first on those two inside us, and since Rum Rebellion was only flying A sails, that as the breeze clocked the N’East they wouldn’t be able to run as deep as we could.

We didn’t make any apparent gain as the breeze remained at about 10 knots and when it did clock Transcendance Crento and Disco Trooper took advantage of hotter angles to gain back any distance we had gained on them, and Rum Rebellion managed to minimise any VMG gain that we were making. We hoped to make further gains coming through the heads where we would be able to run deep on both gybes, but Transcendance Crento finished 15 minutes in front of us, Disco Trooper 12 minutes ahead, and then Rum Rebellion finished 18 minutes behind us.

Mistral sailed an amazing race, with Rupert sailing with his Melbourne-Osaka 2-handed co-skipper Greg to not only win the 2-handed division, but also win the entire race overall, the first 2-handed to ever win a Bluewater Series race. Disco Trooper with Hobart wining duo Jules and Jan finished 2nd in both TH and overall, the 3300 Transcendance Crento with father and son Martin and John Cross came 3rd in both divisions, and then we were beaten from 4th by Rum Rebellion by just 47 seconds on corrected time to finish 5th TH and 8th overall.

To have six two-handers finish in the top 10 overall just shows how high the standard in this division is, and bodes well for the possibility of 2-handers doing well overall in the coming Rolex Sydney Hobart in the first year when two handers are eligible for overall honours.

On Sun Fast Racing Lincoln and I gave it everything and were very happy with how we sailed the boat throughout. So, while a little disappointed with 5th we are chuffed to have finished 8th overall in a highly competitive fleet of 69 boats.

For Hobart there will be five 3300’s a 3600, and father and son Andrew Miller and his 18-year-old son Harry on the Sun Fast 36 Uprising. We can’t wait for the race!