Sunday, April 1, 2012

HYDRA RACE 2012 with "Spirit of Poros "

The Hydra race is the opening yacht race for the 2012 Greek Offshore racing series. This year the fleet consisted of 60 yachts in 3 classes. It also had a Whitbread 60 competing in the ORC International Class, it was our opening race for "Spirit of Poros ".
12 crew which included 6 ASA students and 2 instructors meet in the port of Mikrolimano on Friday morning. The plan was to spend the day sail training and to be ready for the start of the race at 1600hrs the same day.
After a yacht briefing from JC, and talking though crew positions and responsibilities, "Spirit of Poros " slipped lines and headed out to clear water to hoist the mainsail. This huge sail has a luff hoist of 25m and is fully battened. Despite being on a roller ball bearing system it takes 3 crew to sweat it up and the aid of an electric winch to get the last 2-3 meters finished.
With the main sail up, it was time for the small genoa or No#3 Jib. A smaller easier sail to hoist and not as heavy. Its a self tacking sail which is nice when going up wind and you are engaged in a tacking duel with a competitor.
Both sails up and drawing we set off on a reach and immediately hit 12-13 knots in 12 knots of true wind speed. The first set of practice drills would be for the runner crews and the jib trimmer. The yacht has no permanent back stay, and the rig is held up by a series of runners and check stays that brace and bend the mast on each tack. So it is important to time the easing and take of each runner as the yacht tacks.
Meanwhile the jib trimmer is easing the genoa to power up the yacht out of the tacks and slowly trim in the genoa as the yachts picks up momentum..
So what is the rest of the crew doing while these simple tasks are being completed ? Hopefully getting their behinds out on the rail to help keep the yacht level. As the afternoon passed we practiced tacking and gybing the yacht, mean time the below deck crew where busy packing and tieing up the spinnakers  we planned on having ready.

When your sails are this big , it's nice to give the crew a little help when hoisting, in particular the enormous spinnakers that can fill by mistake on the way up which makes their job miserable.
So while packing the spinnakers the crew will tie up the sail in to a sausage star shape using wool thread that will break when it reaches the top of the mast and the wind catches the sail... well that's the theory , it does work providing that you have enough wind and that you do not put the woollies to close to each other....

Race time arrived and we watched as the fleet came out of their respective marinas. Spirit was hove too and the crew where taking a break, eating and talking, it seemed we where quite the attraction, as most yachts took time to sail by us and 'check us out'...

It was time to get the show on the road, half an hour to the 10 minute gun, hoisted the No3, and started our pre-start manouerves. The committee boat was a small sailing yacht about 36 ft long crowded with people, some spectators and some trying to act as committee personnel...
The course had been set  with a short windward leg before letting the fleet hoist spinnakers and head for Hydra Island.... The 10 minute warning was given, no gun, no horn... just a woman screaming on VHF channel 72 count down to the 10 minute warning... hmm..seems the Greek crisis has even hit the yacht racing fleet when they are unable to afford an audible signal, the 5 minute warning followed in the same was not until the 1 minute pre-warning that things on the start line became a little more than crazy... With 30 seconds to go the cruising class yachts still had no cleared the start line area and where now mixed in with the starting 1st class who where looking for position on an ever shrinking line. Meantime the greek race committee was scream her count down to the start and all of a sudden we where racing.. some how we had ended up in the middle of the line with good speed but definatley a strong possibility of being over early.... Murphy's rule no43 you continue racing until you are called back by the committee or they announce a general recall...which they did... well sort of... the race committee announced a general recall with a 3 minute warning to the one minute warning... basically that meant that the lead yachts in the first start did not have time to return to the line and restart with the rest of the fleet....well in racing you deal with what you are dealt, and this is never more true than when racing in Greece. We re-started at the back of the fleet along with Optimum and Astapadia, it was not long before we had tacked our way though the fleet ducked a few starboard tackers and rounded the top mark.

Now is the time to make hay, up went the A2 and Spirit of Poros shifted into over drive. The whitbread 60 loves to run before the wind and is designed just for that, plus waterline length never hurt either. We hugged the coast and enjoyed a solid 15 knts from the NE, boat speed was playing in the high teens, fast enough that we quickly started to roll over the whole fleet to leeward. By the time we had cleared the Old airport nearly all the fleet was behind us, 3 yachts remained in front and we where quickly catching them. Unfortunately we had to start to move off shore away from the land mass and into ever decreasing wind pressure. The sun was starting to go down, and with it the wind... with 3 yachts to catch and now the race fleet at our heels we found our selves in a situation where the wind was decreasing the further off shore we went and our lead was slowly being whittled down...

It was about 2230 when we retired from the race, with the sea state oily and no wind it did not make sense to sit in the middle of a traffic zone any longer. On went the iron genoa and off to Hydra we motored. We arrived in Hydra at 0200 about half an hour before the first finishing yacht, a light weight Farr45, that ghosted over the finish line in 3 knots of true wind....

So what is the moral of our little story,.. wind and more wind will win races for Spirit of Poros, ghosting along in zephyrs and oily seas are not for this yacht, she needs the Meltemi and racing in the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands.
So come and join us this summer as we blast around the islands in real wind on a really fast racing yacht..

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