It seems the weather gods are just playing with us this season! The forecast was for torrential rain and 20 knot plus winds which not surprisingly put quite a few people off, so only five boats lined up for the scratch start of the 3rd Inside Course of the SIBYC series.
It all started well with really rather nice conditions, a light nor’easter of about 5–8 knots and a little bit of sunshine and a few drops of rain but compared to some previous weeks we all agreed it was a lovely day to be out on the water.
It was a close start with all 5 boats starting pretty much together with Southern Cross (Greg, Lynne and Billy) just sneaking over the line first ahead of Pass The Port (Paul, Lynne, Andy and Lou). The first work was uneventful although Gone Too Farr (Greg, Ronda and Andrew) seemed to be sailing in a completely different wind to the rest of the fleet, allowing them to point higher and seemingly go faster!
The fleet continued to be close as the race progressed through the first two triangle legs. On the long downwind leg a few of the crew had noticed that the clouds were getting a bit on the dark side and some rain had started to fall. There was one cloud in particular that drew our attention, it was very dark, darker than the rest, with some unusual but very interesting features – it certainly seemed rather ominous but most of us just thought it would make a good photo!
And that’s when it all turned to custard (as they say in England!). The wind went from about 8 knots from north-east to 40+ knots from the west in the blink of an eye and unfortunately most of the fleet were flying spinnakers at the time so not surprisingly there was carnage out there. Pure survival instinct kicked and it was a major struggle to pull sails down and avoid running aground.
Sussex Inlet RSL (Silva and Macca) were the most unfortunate with gale blowing the yacht onto its side from where it was not coming back upright in a hurry, as the sails were still up but under water. Many, many thanks to Shawn, Phil and Ray on the committee boat for rescuing the crew and then towing the yacht into the shallows near the entrance to river and also helping getting it back upright the following day.
Tiingaround (Andrew, John and Robert) were in the lucky position of seeing the rest of the fleet get flattened first which gave them a few seconds head start to get their sails down but even they ended up with a torn mainsail.
The storm front lasted about 10-15 minutes with sustained 40+ knots from the west with torrential rain and some hail and thunder thrown in for good measure. Then just as quickly as it started, it stopped – no wind, no rain, all rather surreal as though nothing had just happened!
Not surprisingly the race was never finished as all boats decided to retire with various breakages, torn sails, being capsized and/or totally exhausted crew! The good news is all crew made it back to dry land safe and sound and all yachts will hopefully be back on the water next week for the Basin Chase, hopefully even Sussex Inlet RSL.