'Slipstream' and I were placed 60th out of 73 boats in the 2018 Zephyr Nationals. After less than two years experience in the Zephyr this placing wasn't really unexpected so I have to say it didn't dent my enjoyment of the event in the slightest. I had a truly wonderful time. It blew like hell ( 20 knots gusting to 28) for the first race (23 boats withdrew) and wasn't much better for the remaining 8 races. I really struggled in the first few races in the high winds. I reached the top mark in these early races with the cockpit half full of water having been unable to control the heel of the boat when the big squalls drove through.
My mate Bernie never made it to the first race. He sheared off his Zephyrs rudder stock on the way to the start.
The Cook Strait ferry was a constant background presence throughout the sailing on windy Wellington Harbour.
Happily we didn't race on the official last day (Sun Feb 24th) of the contest because the predicted weather prevailed and it blew a steady 35 knots - gusting to 45 knots all day. An extra race was held on both Friday and Saturday in light of the predication of high winds for Sunday.
Secretly I actually wished we could have sailed - the downwind runs would have been spectacular. I took this photo (above) on the wharf on the seaward side of Te Papa Museum. I also took this photo (below) which is a good symbol of Wellingtons legendary weather.
After the 3rd race I had a talk to Andy Knowles a former Olympic sailer and very experienced Zephyr sailor about my struggles going to windward in the tough conditions. He gave me some excellent technical advice regarding raking the mast, sailing with the centre board raked and raised about 120 -300mms and freeing the mains'l leech by putting on as much boom vang as I could. This worked well, I was able to keep the boat upright and water free and my placings improved somewhat.
The positives I took from the whole experience were:
- Completing all 9 races.
- Not capsizing.
- Learning how to sail better to windward in high winds.
- Stonking along with the boat balanced on a knife edge as she planed like hell in a ferocious following wind.
- Enjoying the company of wife Christine and Lynn and Bernie our traveling companions.
- Meeting some old friends and new friends.
- Being amazed by the skill and fortitude of Zephyr sailors (Over 40 of the skippers were aged 60 or more - with one over 70).
- Enjoying great breakfasts every morning cooked by Craig the B'n'B owner (I told him I am going to nominate him for TVs Master Chef).
- Racing in a really big fleet
- Watching 73 beautiful, beautiful Zephyrs sailing.
- Experiencing a really well run contest; well done Worser Bay Yacht Club!
- Going to sleep and waking to the sound of surf breaking.