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Sun Fast 3600 Racing's SSANZ Evolution 100 Report

10 Aug 2016

Sun Fast 3600 Racing's SSANZ Evolution 100 Report

It seemed that someone must have confessed all their sins as we were blessed with another forecast of strong winds, just what we love!
Had a pretty good start and was right at the front of the pack getting out of the harbour. The first leg to Rangi light was almost hard on so just a main and medium jib, we hoisted the code zero as soon as we rounded Rangi light and settled in for the reach to Tiri.
Breeze was still only around 10-15kts here but there was a menacing black could behind us which we were keeping a close eye on. The breeze built quite quickly into the early 20s so we furled the zero and dropped it. Shortly after we had tidied up it swung right aft into a flat run, the big squall that was decimating the shorthaul fleet behind us had dragged the breeze around about 90 degrees. We went straight into the A5 gennaker which was not the best sail for a flat run but is in a snuffer so easy to deal with if the breeze changed back again- at this stage surrounded by some seriously angry clouds anything was possible! 
Everyone else stayed with poled out jibs so we made some decent gains here and even ended up with a goose winged gennaker for a while to soak down for a better angle into Tiri. The Goose wing is quite an effective tool to get depth with a gennaker. We use it a lot on the smaller sportsboats in short course racing, much harder to keep it set with the waves so we only ran it for 5 minutes but it gave us the best VMG and saved us a gybe.
After Tiri Passage we held the A5 all the way to Motuora, again we were one of the only boats to carry an extra for that leg and extended again even thought the breeze had lightened right off which doesn?t suit as as well.
After rounding Motuora we did a quick peel to the S2 spinnaker for the run down to Flat rock in about 5-8kts of wind. About half way down the breeze shifted forward slightly and built which gave us a great angle and some pleasant sailing. Slowly some of the bigger Div 1 boats over took us with Powerplay and Fiction just slipping through before the rounding but the rest of Division 2 comfortably behind. From here it was a slightly eased lay through to Durville Rock in around 15kts of wind. We managed to hold off Lawless and the rest of the chasing pack on this leg but had bled a bit of time to Activator and Powerplay who were having great races. 
Anticipating more breeze and with the current wind angle showing a fairly tight gennaker angle to Black Rocks, we hoisted the A5 gennaker which worked great for the first 15-20minutes of the leg. The breeze slowing shifted aft and lightened so we peeled to the A1.5 gennaker then 10minutes later to the S2 Spinnaker as the breeze continued to swing aft. Lawless who had hoisted a code zero, started to drop back but we watched the 2 Ross 40s, Nosaka and Gale force bring some nice forward pressure down to us narrowing our lead to only a few hundred meters at the black rocks. All our hard work seemed to have evaporated but we just dug it in and knew that the next leg beating to the Cow and Calf was going to be good for us. We were comfortable with the medium Jib and full main as the breeze built to 20kts, then 25, as it touched 30 we were a bit over powered but with everything flattened right out and plenty of twist we were still smoking. We were pretty sure we would have put some time on the others as we were in the groove and in phase with the breeze chucking 6 or 7 tacks up the beat on every wind shift. The beauty of this boat is how well it handles the sail area, while everyone else was chucking reefs in and changing jibs, we were still holding full sail and were able to concentrate on tactics and trim rather than reducing sail and finding the groove again. We rounded Cow and Calf still comfortably ahead of Lawless and with the lights of the rest of the fleet far astern. It was pitch black, cold and wet which made life quite challenging but once we bore away around the calf we shot off across the Firth of Thames sitting on 10-12kts with outboard sheeted medium jib and full main. It was really great sailing and the boat felt fantastic. Damon had just set up the A5 for the next leg from Shag island down the outside of Waiheke when we got hit by a solid puff of 40+kts, just a bit too much for the medium jib and full main and we rounded up and were not able to bear away again so we dropped the jib and went under main alone for a while. The A5 while still in its snuffer had started to blow out of the bag and we had a few meters of it in the water which Damon tidied up before it cause us any grief. We did the last bit of the leg under main alone and even though the wind has eased into the late 20s we decided it was not a good idea to hoist at Shag island with the unpredictability of the breeze, limited sea room and pitch black. We used the run to sort out the jib sheets that had tangled into a big knot while the sail was flogging in the squall and had a general tidy up while still surfing to 17kts in the tide rip at kauri point. We could see a few lights in front of us and knew that must be the 3 big boats, Activator, Fiction and Powerplay. A couple of them had ended up quite wide of Thumb point and some big gains were made by us. The next leg along the Northen side of Waiheke was pretty uneventful with an outboard sheeted medium jib and full main. The breeze had dropped to under 20kts most of the time but there were a few big puffs coming off the land that kept us working hard. The committee boat was very hard to spot with the city lights behind but we were pleased to see them shine a light on Power play who were 3 minutes in front so we could see where the line was. We crossed the finish line at 11.09pm to take the line and handicap win for division 2. We had sailed a new flawless race and chucked everything at it. When the conditions suit us we need to make the most of it! 
Thanks again to Damon Jolliffe for leaving no stone unturned and putting the effort in.