Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Black Cat" in the Governor's Cup Race

In my last post I wrote about how well the Didi 38 "Black Cat" was faring in the Governor's Cup Race to the South Atlantic island of St Helena. I am writing this post based on information that I have read on the official web sites of the race and False Bay Yacht Club.

They were going like a train in showing the way to all of the monohulls. Then they sailed into a hole in the otherwise good tradewind sailing breezes. This was created by a rather odd shape to the South Atlantic high, as an elongated sausage running east/west and in two parallel bands of calm not far apart.

Skipper Dave (Wavy) Immelman was kicking himself for having missed a crucial weather download that may have helped him evade the holes. They sailed slowly through the first calm then the winds started to pick up and they thought they were through, only to be trapped by the second calm.
"Black Cat" rounding the Cape of Good Hope en-route to St Helena.

We watched in dismay as the Vickers 41 "Avanti" sailed a big arc that took her right around the hole in which "Black Cat" languished, at pretty much twice the speed. We despaired for the chances of "Black Cat" even catching "Avanti" before the finish line, let alone getting far enough ahead to beat her on handicap. In the end "Avanti" crossed the finish line about 7 hours 10 minutes ahead of "Black Cat".

I went to bed last night feeling sad that the hard sailing done by Wavy and his crew for so much of the race was thwarted by the fickle winds. I woke this morning to the news that the skipper of "Avanti" declared some time after finishing that they had motored and were dropping down to the cruising division. That leaves "Black Cat" as the likely winner of the racing division, with only "Iechyd Da" with a very distant chance of beating her on handicap.

Congratulations to Wavy and crew. You sailed an honest and honourable race. You didn't deserve the heartache that came from watching your opposition apparently sailing right around you when they had actually motored into a more favourable position.

This brings up two questions that need clarification.
  1. Why did "Avanti" wait until after the finish of the race to declare that they motored? They should have done so immediately that the motor was started. That action disqualified them from the racing division. They didn't declare at the time that they were dropping to the cruising division, so can they be considered to have been racing in that division? None of the other cruisers knew that they were racing against "Avanti" so they couldn't take her into consideration in their tactical decisions. The knowledge may not have had any effect but it should have been open knowledge throughout the fleet within hours of "Avanti" starting her motor.
  2. What is the sense of allowing boats to change their racing division on the water? It may have seemed a good idea at the time that the rules were written but has created a very unfair situation on the water, unfair to those boats that were in the cruising division at the start of the race. The entry list shows 9 boats in the racing division and 4 in cruising. As the race has progressed and the boats ran out of wind, racing boats have chosen to motor and change from racing to cruising division. The leading boat in cruising division changed class after finishing and the 2nd boat changed very late in the race. The whole balance of the event has changed, with the original 9 racers reduced to 3 and the original 4 cruisers swelled to 10 boats. Three of those 4 cruisers have retired and "Tallulah" should get the trophy. Instead she is lying 3rd, with "Avanti" and "Strumpet" having jumped in ahead of her. Maybe the rules of the race have not been broken but I don't agree that this is the right way to do it, in the interests of fairness to all on the water.
OK, I am getting off my soapbox now.Once again, congratulations to Wavy and crew on sticking it out in racing division when it looked like you had been beaten but could have had a clear win in the cruising division by simply starting your motor and changing classes.

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