West Coaster – Champagne Corks and Bobbing Buoys
The 140 Nm West Coaster race to Lancelin and return last Saturday was being tipped as Champagne racing conditions around the club bars all week and it appears the weather Gods don’t like being taken for granted.
A good fleet of 20 took to the race course in the penultimate Siska race for the season and it was always going to be a tense fight between Dirty Deeds and Giddy up with only one point separating them at the top. Then there was Enterprise, Indian and Argo battling it out for the remaining podium spot. Enterprise were an unlikely starter having lost their rig in the Iberia race only three weeks before and their season looked over with the usual 6 month turnaround on carbon masts. Anthony Kirk showed that determination and fast talking pays off by borrowing The Next Factors Carbon mast and getting straight back out there. Full points to Dave Walling for being prepared to lend his mast to Enterprise. The race got away in gusty easterlies giving a good run out to West end and a gybe set on course to Lancelin in very pleasant southerlies around 15 knots. Champagne corks poised? Not just yet perhaps as the wind strengthened and settled into steady 20 to 25 knots and the swell picked up. The PB’s climbed and climbed and climbed and as they started to look like another Denham race kind of wild ride some of the kites came down in deference to safety and some just came down all of their own accord. Argo was loving the dead run with the S2 pulling her down waves at 18 knots, until the beak pin gave way four times in a row and the fordeckies got sick of grappling with a pole reset and the skipper started to have doubts about free polling the kite in 25kts for 30 miles. Twitch’s kite pole pin was working just fine and remained firmly attached to the clew, it just wasn’t attached to the mast anymore as the mast beak gear had sheared off, which left their crew scratching their heads about how to get the pole off the kite. Indian was having challenges doing kite peels, Circa was bat winging it and all the while the little double hander Dart Vader was surfing along just like a big boat and giving Kraken grief. Giddy up in the meanwhile was reeling in Argos lead as their Assi was no substitute for the S2 and Dirty Deeds was sailing by the text book. Then it started to get interesting! Last year the fleet arrived in Lancelin in the dark and the strobe light on the buoy had run flat during the day making it a challenge to find the undersized buoy in big seas and black light. This year the race organisers got cunning. They attached an AIS transponder to a very big yellow buoy and put a light activated strobe on as well, ensuring the battery wouldn’t start draining until it was needed. It worked a treat! The Buoy showed up just fine on everyone’s screens (if you had AIS), but the trip line on the anchor was set too short and it started merrily drifting away just as the body of the fleet arrived to round it. Dart Vader, Sue Sea and Argo chased it down for a couple of miles to get around and let the RO know it was heading to the rocks off Eddy Island allowing it to be declared lost off course and the remainder of the fleet were then able to round the notional position as set out in the SSI’s. While all that was going on the near brand new grand prix racer Weapon Of Choice lost their rig and retired to a mooring in Lancelin bay, making it the 4th rig lost for the season.
The beat home was just that, a southerly beating, albeit with a very pleasant sunset and a full moon . Eventually the wind clocked back into the east and the fleet made good time home with the bulk of the fleet in around dawn with the cork still firmly in the bottle.
Results are on hold with Argo and Giddy Up lodging rarely seen protests against the Committee to seek redress for having to chase the Lancelin Buoy north giving up about 5 miles of extra racing on the fleet. Irrespective of the protests Dirty Deeds secured a well earned win over arch rivals Indian and Obsession in Division One while Giddy Up made the most of the race conditions to push Argo into second place with Aquila coming 3rd in Division Two. Kraken returned to the top of the podium over Dart Vader and Cutty Wren in the double hander division.
The protests of Giddy Up and Argo may impact on the Division 2 results with Argo potentially retaking top spot and in the overall results it could see Kraken relegated from second to fourth by Argo and Giddy Up for the Siska.
The 2017 West Coaster was a tough race made tougher by some unlucky mark laying, but it may pave the way for a review of the management of out of position marks in the future.
The next race is the very popular Mandurah weekender races on the 25th and 26th of March to close out the Weekender series, followed by the Naturalist to complete the Siska and finally the Cape Vlamingh to finish off the Offshore and the 2017 season.
Your Salty offshore scribe