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B&G Simrad 100 Race Report...

09 Sep 2008

The final race for the 2008 series surprisingly got away on time and with perfect weather ! This year's series has been a logistical nightmare with the first two races being postponed due to the terrible weather that has battered the country this winter.
Once again it was an early start on Saturday morning after a final weather check confirming things couldn't be much better. Down to Akarana to launch the RIB and blow up the start mark. I may then may have made the mistake of breathing a sigh of relief that this time we were on track and would manage to complete the series ! Sure enough this meant the start of things not going to plan... First it was getting cut off 20 seconds before going on air live with Peter Montgomery. Luckily we got reconnected with 1 second to spare. Next as we were motoring out to the start I got a call from the committee boat saying they were under tow as the engine was overheating ! What....Gardeners never break down ! Luckily they managed to get on station in time and drop the pick. Next we took the opportunity to do a few safety checks but before long I get another call "A boats dropped it's propshaft and is taking on water, can you go and investigate ?" "Sure" I reply "where are they ?". When I couldn't get an answer we decided to take a punt and luckily found them straight away. At that point the inflow of water was controllable but only the anode was stopping the shaft falling right out. We contacted Coastguard and then stood by until they arrived before returning to the start. 
The starts all got away smoothly and the fleet looked great under spinnaker heading out of the harbour. After checking off all the boats that started the hunt was on to find a mechanic to fix the committee boat. Eventually they found one and discovered the problem was a faulty thermostat which had jammed shut.
Meanwhile the Longhaul and Shorthaul fleets were enjoying a huge windward/leeward. The courses provided plenty of tactical options and challenges. Particularly in the smallboat fleet the big winners were those who stayed on starboard after rounding Little Barrier sailing into the persistant shift before tacking.
We all then had a few hours break before getting back to take the finish times. Initially everything went very well. A nice but reducing breeze and the smallboats and multihulls finishing with nice gaps between them. The race committee getting plenty of time to record the finish times, have a bite or two of pizza and a few of them even getting a little nap. However once the tide turned and wind reduced the gaps between boats finishing was getting larger and there seemed to be a growing number of lights gathering off Rangi light. We were still getting the odd finisher, but they were all coming in via the Motuihe channel in what would prove to be the race winning move. In the meantime there seemed to be more and more lights gathering in the Rangi channel but only very slowly edging towards the finish.
By 3am there was a line between North head and Bean Rock of 50 odd boats. Some of them struggling to maintain steerage and a few calls of starboard followed by the odd bump together. As a race committee we were starting to get worried...any breeze at all and we could get 50 boats finishing at once !  As if we didn't have enough problems, the cellphone goes again, a competitor is stuck off North Head asking for assistance. We charge off to help, but after a couple of attempts we find 60 horses aren't enough so recommend the coastguard gets called in. Now I get a call from the race committee, "some breeze filled in, need you here NOW !" We charge back to find 50 odd boats about to finish at once ! We get to the other end of the line and use the VHF to call out the boats at our end as they finish, just hoping the Committee boat manages to get the rest. Chaos ensues, lots of yelling, boats struggling to find a space to finish. This would have to be the most dramatic finish I have ever experienced. 48 boats within 3 minutes !
After the boats all clear away heading to the marina, the random scraps of paper where boat names and times were written (in the chaos everyone just wrote down whatever they could where ever they could !) got collated and we tried to make sense of it all. Just as we are getting on top of things the VHF goes again. The coastguard haven't managed to free the yacht aground at North Head and need us back to assist. We get over there to find not one but 2 boats stuck aground ! After a few attempts failed the decision was made to either wait for the tide, or get aggressive for one final go ! As it would have been a long wait the decision was made to have a go. Coastguard was pulling on the bow while we pulled at 90 degrees on a halyard to heel them over. Finally after hauling the 1020 over so far the cabin top windows were underwater they were freed. With our successful experience we then found getting the other boat off the bottom was easy !
By this time there weren't many finishers left to go so we had a quiet end to our long night before finally heading home at 7:30am
I guess we should have known better, despite perfect weather something had to go wrong, and the final race provided drama aplenty. I guess it just wasn't our year ! Despite this I think we made the most of what we had and competitors seemed to throughly enjoy themselves and what an epic finish to the final race ! I'm sure the competitors loved being part of it even if the race committee didn't !
Results are still provisional on the SSANZ website as we seek to make sure we have everything correct especially for the 48 boats finishing just before 4am. Overall results have been delayed until they are confirmed.
We can now all look forward to next year, when we must have a better run with the weather and maybe even crack the 200 boats entry milestone !!!