Tuesday, February 27, 2018

________________________ Zephyr Nationals 2018 ______________________

'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.
You Tube video - 2018 Zephyr Nationals

All kitted up and ready to go. Launching off the beach had its moments with small waves creating a bit of chaos at times. One boat got away from its skipper and rammed me in the side - my ribs are still recovering.

My mate Bernie never made it to the first race. He sheared off his Zephyrs rudder stock on the way to the start.

Bernie managed to purchase a new rudder stock and we spent a couple of hours drilling and bolting on a new set of rudder gudgeons to the stern of his boat. He raced the next two races but unfortunately strained his back so severely he had to retire from the contest.

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.

All construction site scaffolding and various tents on the wharf were held down with arrays of concrete blocks.

Christine and I stayed at the 'Beachfront Wellington Bed and Breakfast' (Extreme left in the photo). This was a beautiful spot across the road from the yacht club, the rigging area and the beach. We went to sleep each night and woke in the morning to the sound of the surf breaking.

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 lesson I learned from the contest was that the Zephyr is a very technical boat to sail fast and that I have only scratched the surface of what the boat is capable of doing. Of course I also need to improve my basic small boat racing skills - getting clear wind right from the gun in a big fleet will be a start.
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.
The 2019 Zephyr Nationals will be held in Tauranga - I will be there.


Dan Gurney said...

What fun. I'm impressed you had such a large number of boats in the fleet. You learned a lot and enjoyed the event—just what you were after. Well done!

Alden Smith said...

Thanks Dan, it was a lot of fun. I was obviously totally out sailed by the vast majority of the fleet, so there is plenty to work on : >)

Barubi said...

Congratulations, you’ve been stubborn enough to keep going but flexible enough to take advice.
Round in Evans Bay we blew out our spinnaker in the first race on Friday so the fear-to-fun ratio swung more to cruise mode for the rest of the regatta. I waved to you on Saturday when our race course moved towards Somes Island, but the Zephyrs were only dots in the distance.
We stopped at Worser Bay on Sunday morning after the skipper decided we wouldn’t sail the last races, couldn’t find Slipstream but could see close up that Zephyrs are technical boats with as many strings as a Finn.

Alden Smith said...

Thanks Barubi - stubbornness and bloody mindedness saw me through. If you were sailing last week then you do know what the weather was like.

Yes, the Zephyr, despite the fact that unlike the Finn it has a fully battened mainsail and stayed mast there are similarities to the Finn. Others also make this comparison. The Zephyr has all the technical challenge of Finn sailing but with a sail area and rig (boom nice and high for old heads) that is appropriate to the age group that is sailing them - hence their popularity.

Paul Mullings said...

Well done that man! Anyone completing all races is a champion in my books...;)

Alden Smith said...

Thanks for the supportive comment Paul - I was pleased to finish all the races in such rugged conditions but the overall result of course leaves something to be desired. But we all had a great time and I'm looking forward to the next one!!!

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

I'm with Paul too.. always consider it a "win" if I just finish all races, and even better if I'm not last... two ticks for you... and you enjoyed it as well.. three ticks.. good result!

Alden Smith said...

Thanks for the supportive comment Steve. I came close to coming last in the first race when 20 boats retired from racing and I looked and saw only 3 boats behind me!! - a humbling experience that cures one of human hubris and ego centrism, reminds one that we all like to win or at least do well, but encourages empathy by being placed right at the losing end of things - it won't do me any harm even at this stage of my life!!! .... and I did enjoy myself immensely.

Ben said...

Some spectacular photo’s Alden.
I can appreciate very much your experiences of completing all 9 races and not capsizing.
Planing under these conditions must have been thrilling.
Next year again?

Alden Smith said...

Ben, I enjoyed the experience very much and I intend to compete every year until I am physically unable to do so. Apart from enjoying the sailing, because the Zephyr Nationals are held all around New Zealand it will be enjoyable seeing and experiencing these different localities. Next year they will be held in Tauranga.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alden, Nice to find your great little blog here! I enjoyed competing with you around the 60 place mark in the Zephyr Nationals at Worser Bay. You did better than I did, but it was all good fun. Hope to be at Tauranga next year...
Heather N0.312

Alden Smith said...

Hi Heather - thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes it was all very good fun. After sailing keelers for decades I had forgotten how great small boat sailing (especially national contests) really is. I am as competitive as most people, but I have to say simply competing and being part of the sailing was pretty satisfying. Setting realistic personal goals regarding sailing performance I think is the way for me to go. If I can improve on my Worser Bay performance I will be happy - if not I will still have enjoyed the sailing.
I think both of us deserve a medal for simply surviving what was a tough windy series.
Looking forward to seeing you at Tauranga next year.