It’s the last day of the race and a good start is essential. But the weather decides to play around with us again.
The sun was just rising over the distant mountains and the first rays of the day started to glint on the waters around Wall Bay when we emerged from our peaceful nights sleep.
As we sipped hot coffee we stared at the thousands of small fish sheltering in the shallow clear waters.
But suddenly the peace was broken when hundreds of these small fish jumped out of the water their silver bellies glinting in the sunshine. And then the reason for all this action came into view. It was a big long and sleek fish and it was looking for its breakfast.
The rest of our crew emerged as we ate breakfast we made our plans for the final day of sailing. Our route would take us back to Gocek on the outside of Gocek Island and back down ‘Hurricane Alley’ to the finish line.
“The weather looks good today” said one of the crew. It did, a clear sky and a light breeze sounded good after all the ‘fun’ we had over the last two days.
We cast off, stowed the fenders and ropes and headed for the start line about 15 minutes away near Kapi Creek.
We arrived near the start line and then made our customary circle around the committee boat so they could enter us on that days running order.
Then the familiar weather returned and the black clouds formed and the wind started to build. It seemed as if the gathering of all these boats created some force that made the weather change.
I now understood why through the ages sailors have believed in omens. This certainly seemed like one.
We raised the sails, turned off the engine and jockeyed for position with all the other yachts as the countdown to the start of the race began. The wind continued to build and build.
Three, two, one the whistle blew the race began.
Yachts dashed for the line weaving, tacking, and cutting across each other so finely it looked as if they would collide. One of the big, sleek racing yachts complete with light weight racing sails just went through the middle of all this action and emerged ahead. Amazing skippering I thought.
We beat against the wind but were soon left behind by the faster racing yachts who powered further and further ahead. An hour into the race and the skies started to clear. I looked ahead and it seemed that all the front runners had stopped. They were now all sitting on mirror like water. They must have no wind I thought. But we were still right on the wind and catching up with the leaders. The skipper took the decision to follow the wind lines on the water and we took a course away from the stranded yachts. The strategy worked for a while but then, in the blink of an eye, the wind went and we also came to a halt.
We sat watching as the yachts behind us came to the same calm water. Crews on other yachts were frantically changing sails and then trimming them to gain what they could from the breath like wind. But no one was moving. Some yachts had taken a route closer to Gocek Island and their strategy paid off as when the wind decided to build they were the first to fill their sails and power off. We caught the wind a little while later and soon got back in the race. As we rounded the island for the last leg ‘Hurricane Alley’ looked like it was going to live up to its name again. The wind was strengthening, the waves building and the yachts ahead of us were heeling.
It was going to be another tough time on the winches I thought. But Peter who was on the main sail was the one who would work the hardest during this leg. As the wind gusted his job was to be ready to spill the main sail when the skipper said. Spilling is a technique used to stop the boat heeling excessively when the sails are hit by a strong gust. Think of it as a sort of brake on a car but rather than slow you it stops you tipping over. Tack after tack was made as we beat against the wind.
Spill! Peter reacted instantly as a big gust hit us.
The finish line marker was now in sight.
We made a starboard tack and watched the yellow marker on our starboard at 90 degrees. We would need to make one more tack to get over the line and now the time seemed right. Tack was the order and we changed to a port tack!
When we made the turn it looked as if we would have plenty of distance between us and the marker. However, ‘leeway’ is our enemy here. Leeway is the sideways movement that all sailing boats have to content with and more so when beating – sailing against the wind. So even though we are moving forwards we are also being moved sideways to a certain extent too. The keel of a yacht restricts this sideways movement to some extent but doesn’t eliminate it completely.
As we approached the finishing line the distance between us and the marker was getting closer and closer and we wondered if we would make it. But that was irrelevant in the end as another yacht on a starboard tack blasted towards us. We had to give way! We tacked again and scraped over the finish line just feet away from the marker. That was close and exciting!
That was it, the racing was over.
That evening we gathered for the final awards night in the restaurant close to the marina. The race committee had laid out tables and chairs and each yacht had their own team table. The food that night would be brought to our table which was a relief after our previous experiences of queuing only to arrive at an empty buffet.
The complimentary beer and wine flowed and the large crowd chatted about the great race we had had this Autumn. A funky DJ played a great selection of European music making a welcome relief from the usual TurkpopBeat so often heard at events like this.
Then the results were circulated……..and the bad news that we were last in our group even though some boats in our class didn’t even finish some of their races. Our disappointment was brief though. We had experienced great sailing, new experiences and some really bad weather and emerged in one piece.
When the complimentary bar ran out we headed back to the yacht for a nightcap, and another and another. What a great sport this is!
The next Gocek International Yacht regattas will be held in May and November 2010.