Non-yachties might not be aware of the fact that anytime a yacht is within sight of another yacht, a race is on!
Seawind Catamarans are very progressive in creating events where owners can meet and challenge their skills against other owners of similar craft. The 2010 Seawind Whitsunday Rally attracted 19 boats and over 80 crew for a week of fun and frivolity.
We had invited our brother-in-law Anthony along for the rally, and had volunteered to host a couple of guests from Seawind who we would pick up at Hamilton Island after race 3.
Race 1 – Airlie Beach to Long Island Resort
Battle commenced with a gate start off Airlie Beach. We had some dramas in the pre-race as one of our batten cars came apart on the trip to the line. I managed to jury rig a repair, which happily held up for the duration of the rally.
As the clock ticked down to the scheduled start time, Colleen had positioned XTsea perfectly and we were leading the pack just before Brent on the start boat called a postponement as he wasn’t exactly happy with seeing 19 boats bearing down on him. He called a ten minute delay, but then started the race after only five minutes and we were well away from the line at that point.
Despite that we were catching the fleet, and soon were leading. I was acting as tactician, and advised Colleen to keep further offshore, and that seemed to work for us, but as soon as we entered Whitsunday Passage, the wind picked up and was on our nose for the shortest course. XTsea was pointing badly in those conditions, and I decided to continue across the Passage and tack over only once to get on a line for our destination. Unfortunately that was the wrong call. By the time we got back through the Passage, we were close to the tail of the fleet who had kept close to shore and out of the effect of the tidal flow. We finished that race towards the back end.
That night we had a Hawaii-themed party with finger food, followed by a karaoke session. Participation in the karaoke would give us some badly-needed points, so Anthony took one for the team and grabbed the mike. The DJ was having some technical difficulties and the sound level was crappy, but the effort was appreciated.
Returning to XTsea, I observed that Leaper had dragged. I dropped off Colleen and Anthony, and raced back to shore to advise Leaper’s crew of their problem. I escorted them back to their boat before too much damage was done.
Race 2 – Long Island Resort to Cid Harbour
The fleet was closely grouped across the Passage until we approached Ross Island. The finish line was east of Cid Island, well in the lee of Ross Island. The fleet split into those who went out wide and those who hung in close. As it happened, the boats who skirted the islands had a better run, and we stayed out wide and finished mid-fleet.
Our after-race activity that day was a blind-dinghy race. Arthur from Sea-Dragon kindly assisted us in the race start, but we were still hopeless. We will do better next year!!
Race 3 – Cid Harbour to Hamilton Island
A short race today, sprinting from Cid Harbour to Hamilton Island. The wind was again strong, so the reef’s stayed in the mains for the fleet. We had a good start, but the boats who stayed in closer to shore made better progress and we finished mid-fleet.
After mooring, our guests David and Linda Renouf found their way on board. Linda had a great American accent, and she and David were huge catamaran racers from the early days of the sport and can still tweak a mean jib. We would have liked to give them the larger stateroom, but Anthony was too tall to fit in the aft berth comfortably.
Trivia Night at the Yacht Club was fun. Some nice finger food was rolled out and the crownies were helping lubricate proceedings. We did quite well on the trivia quiz, despite not having access to the internet as others may have. We finished third, and got to know Dave and Linda better.
Race 4 – Hamilton Island to Cid Harbour
We were supposed to race to Whitehaven Beach, but the wind would have made that a difficult and uncomfortable proposition. It was decided to race back to Cid Harbour. Dave and Linda showed us a few tricks to help us point better, and we started to get the hang of this racing caper. A quick race is a good race, and we finished mid-fleet after guessing incorrectly what the wind would do around Cid Island.
CYA put on a nice barbeque for lunch, and then we created our sand-sculptures. Colleen came up with the idea of creating a turtle, and I jumped on the idea. We basically made a mound of sand, found a stick to pack sand around for the head, and then decorated. We did a pretty good job, and finished second.
After a bit of a rest, my thoughts turned to revenge. We had discovered that Arthur (Sea Dragon) had not actually been excessively helpful in the dinghy race and had held us back at the start. Idle hands are the tool of the devil, and I felt devilish! I came up with the idea of swimming over to Sea Dragon and tying a bucket to their boat with a rock in it. This would hopefully slow them up a tad. I went ashore to get a rock, and then made the long swim to their boat to tie on the bucket. It was 200 metres or so, and I tied the rock and bucket to my belt so the swim was quite slow and challenging in the small swell. Mission accomplished, I swam partially back and was picked up by Dave in the tender.
(We learned later that the eagle-eyed Arthur spotted the bucket that evening.)
Next morning Linda ‘The Hikenator’ Renouf took myself, David and Anthony on a restful stroll through the forest. 40 minutes later our exhausted sweat-drenched bodies crawled back on the tender and we collapsed to recover before the race.
Race 5 – Cid Harbour to Nara Inlet
News overnight of Julia Gillard assuming the mantle of Prime Minister prompted the committee to declare that Race 5 would be ‘Ladies Day’ and that helming needed to be done by women. That suited us just fine as Colleen was already helming for us. A race across the passage, around North Molle, and back across the passage to Nara promised to be challenging and expose the fleet to changing conditions.
After a line start where we observed quite a few boats with GPS errors who didn’t know where the line was, there was some close racing across the passage. We passed Hadja quite closely and got some good pictures of them as we went by. We were mid-fleet as we approached North Molle, but David suggested we stay close to North Molle and by Unsafe Passage it was ourselves and Talisker at the head of the field. We managed to slip by Talisker thanks to them allowing us some room to manoever just before entering the passage again and kept them behind us all the way across to win the race!!
Anchoring in Nara that evening, we visited the Aboriginal cave paintings, and participated in the Seawind Radio Program with all five of us being interviewed before having an interrupted nights sleep thanks to our anchor dragging. Second time we have dragged in Nara.
Race 6 – Nara Inlet to Hamilton Island
Another attempts at a gate start saw the field spread out quite a bit. It was misting rain, and David thought we would be better placed at the far end of the gate, and three or so boats made the same decision.
It was now or never to use up our stock of water balloons, so we filled them up pre-race ready to unleash a dose of shock and awe. David, Anthony and I promptly forgot all about the race, and did our best to get some of the other crews as wet as we could. We were probably more distracting for Colleen than useful, but we were having fun!! We quickly learnt that distances can be deceiving, and that we need to get closer next year before unleashing.
The weather did everything it could to annoy us. Alternating between misty rain and overcast for most of the morning, the wind died out entirely after lunch, before springing up again. We kept close to shore as much as we could to keep out of the tidal flow, and found ourselves in a tight battle with Talisker as we approached the finish line. We enjoyed an engrossing tacking battle and utilised the shallows near Plum Island to the maximum extent, only tacking back when my nerve broke. Talisker had rights on us as we approached on one of the last tacks and we thought we had blown it, but their tack took them back into the flow while we stayed close to shore and made better headway. Victory was ours!
(Colleen popping the cork of victory. She is looking worried because the cork is just about to take out a family of ducks)
The whole fleet then frocked-up for the Presentation Dinner. It was to be at a mystery location, and we were all picked up in a small ferry. It soon became evident that we were headed across to Dent Island, and the Golf Club.
We whacked some tape on a life-ring to spell out S.S.Minnow and then I found some props to look like I might be the Professor. I whipped up something impressive looking, and labelled it ‘Coconut powered metal detector.”
The Presentation Dinner was fantastic. Food was brilliant, and plentiful! Beer and wine was flowing freely. Absolutely fabulous night… book ’em for next year Renee!
Talisker deservedly picked up the Line Honours award as they were always close to the head of the field or thereabouts. Nice people too..
Brent announced the overall rally placings in reverse order, and as the numbers counted down to below five we began to get nervous. It came down to ourselves and Talisker for one and two, and when Talisker was announced as second, I looked at Colleen in amazement!
We had won the rally!