Monday, April 12, 2021


With two National contests under our belts 'Slipstream' and I are now old mates in all of this.

Here are some screen shots (with unfortunately the lower image quality) from the Zephyr Owners Association website of the 2021 Nationals held at the Manly Sailing Club over the last 4 days. My Zephyr 'Slipstream' 195 can be seen (on the right) in the above photo at the start of one of the 3 races that were held on the first day in heavy wind conditions (18 - 20 knots with gusts up to 30 knots).

This screen shot is taken from a video on the website and shows moi in deep mains'l contemplation mood - not that it helped much. 

The only two yellow boats in the fleet - to leeward of me is Zephyr 200 'Big Bird' from Wellington.

                                        There were always obstacles at the leeward mark.

Photo of the contest. Tony Millar wipes out in the heavy weather race.

Preparing to gybe - always a game of Russian roulette.

On a big wind day racing off downwind is the most exciting point of sailing.

My cunning plan was to slay the fleet with my secret weapon which was a set of home made wooden sail battens. They worked well in the survival conditions of the first days racing but unfortunately were a disaster on the second light air days racing.

Day One - 20 knot north easterly wind, gusting 25 - 30 knots, with a big sea running. I reveled in these conditions and was in overall 34th place out of 70 boats after 3 races. I only capsized once (losing one place as a result). The windward legs were exhausting - the awesome downwind rides were thrilling and slightly unnerving.

Day Two - 25 - 35 knot NE wind - sailing canceled for the day.

Day Three - Light, patchy wind which never got above about 4 knots. Very shifty with big holes in the breeze. My battens and my crap sailing skills let me down. Big shifts meant that if you picked the wrong side of the course in the early windward stages you lost big time. My position dropped to 46th overall.

Day Four - Seafog, no wind. Racing cancelled - prize giving in the afternoon.

I am pleased and positive about a few things:

- I was determined to improve on my last Zephyr Nationals result (60th out of 73 entrants) at Worser Bay in Wellington in 2018. My over all position this time was 46th out of 70 entrants), a reasonable improvement.

- In the Masters section of the competition (Ages 60 - 69years) I was placed 5th out of 12 old buggers - so that was a positive result.

- I learnt a great deal, talked to a lot of interesting and talented sailors about sailing in general and tuning Zephyrs in particular, gaining a lot of new insights to try out over the next 12 months.

- Despite only two race days I enjoyed the sailing immensely (especially the first day) and are determined to do better again next year when the Nationals return to Worser Bay in Wellington - I'll be there.


Dan Gurney said...

Looks like a whole lot of fun. You guys in NZ live in sailing Mecca. America's Cup, Zephyr Nationals and a whole lot more. I got myself a little Topper to dink around in salt water in my dotage. I'm one of a half dozen guys in their 70's who sail weekly together on our 40 year old single handers (Lasers, mostly) on the bay we sailed in our 30's. It's so fun. We don't race, but we get out every week on whichever day has the most favorable wind forecasts (we're picky about wind conditions) and sail till it's time for a beer on the beach.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

...your last position in 2028? ;o))

Irrespective of your end positions (and sounded to me like you did damn well) it sounded like the (even) better result was how much you enjoyed it...!

George A said...

Sounds like a great few days well spent. I used to like a big breeze but now that I'm in my 70s I'm not much of a heavy wind gorilla anymore! Twenty five knots is a lot of wind in a small boat. Congrats on your improvement! Due to the virus we haven't raced since last September. Hope to race in June. We'll see.

Alden Smith said...

You are right Dan - NZ is a bit of a sailing Mecca, something that I don't take for granted and go sailing as often as I can.
Your Topper sailing sounds sensible and idyllic - just the tonic us old guys need. I will be 70 next month and reckon I should have close to another 10 years sailing. It may not be in a Zephyr, rather in something less strenuous (good excuse for a boat building project).

Alden Smith said...

Thanks for the proof read Steve - 2018 - NOT 2028! That movie 'Back To The Future' has a lot to answer for.

Yes, like most sailors I am reasonably competitive and it is always good to feel that you have done well and better than the last time. I guess it's a bit like being an old Marathon runner i.e. the time to beat is always your last time.
My aim in 2022 at Worser Bay will be to do better than this year. The top placings went mainly to the younger guys but many sailors (some older than me) did very well indeed.

Alden Smith said...

I still like the big breeze George and surprised myself at how well I sailed but it certainly took its toll physically. I was very pleased when they cancelled the second days racing as I was completely buggered and needed a rest.
Hope things pick up for you Covid wise - NZ is doing Ok at the moment, but things can go into a downward spiral pretty quickly - stay safe - hope you are able to get back to sailing in June.

Ben said...

That is the spirit Alden you always can improve even when you hit 70 this year 😊

Alden Smith said...

Yes, quite right Ben, it is possible to keep improving and for me, the person I am competing with the most is myself - and yikes!!!! Yes!!!! 70 years old next month - I am determined to make my 70th decade my best decade EVER!

Paul Mullings said...

Happy Birthday for next month Alden, I entered the last year of my sixth decade while you were out sailing. At the end of the day it's just a number!

Alden Smith said...

Thanks Paul - you are quite right it IS just a number, the important bit is how we respond to the passing years and the challenges that arise with age. In terms of sailing it is getting difficult physically to sail hard out competitively, but if this becomes untenable there are (as you know) lots of other ways of sailing that are immensely enjoyable and satisfying. I have the plans for CLC's 'Lighthouse Tender Peapod' which I will build at some time as my old age plan B.