Coffs Harbour Catamaran Classic 2019, Round 1 of the F16 East Coast Grand Prix.

With much excitement the four remaining entrants to the East Coast Grand Prix set off with two trailers of double stacked Vipers for a weekend of racing and the long awaited start to the regatta funfair. Four 14 year old boys bundled into the car, very excited at first. Jame’s ute carried the balance of gear, boat bits and bobs, kite boarding gear and tool boxes. Brett Goodall rock starred in from Bendigo and was ready to take the association boat for a whirl around the racecourse.

Road trips with teenagers are different, there’s not much chatter, a lot of Instagram and more laptop movies being watched with headphones than any 40 + year old can watch in a month. Theres the odd snigger from the back seat and question of where we are. As a result I have no tales of danger and intrigue, the monotony was broken for about  30 minutes with them punching themselves on their biceps to make a “mouse” – a spasm in the muscle that looks rather strange.

The location is excellent and the Coffs Harbour Yacht club a brilliant venue. Al’s Aqua Villa Apartments were fantastic, clean, well kitted out and the games room and pool saw much action. Ok not as much as Instagram but that’s teenagers …right?

The offshore racing was soooo much fun. Its different to lake chop, working the swell and navigating the building sea states on both days made for stimulating stuff.

Saturday started with a smooth sea, gentle southerly and a very easy beach launch inside the harbour. After breakfast with rather dusty heads from an evening with a few too many drinks, Brett and I herded the cats into the car, only to arrive to fully rigged boats and kitted up sailors. The start was brought forward we were behind schedule. With much panic and rushing about eventually we all made it out to arrive at the racecourse to witness the four boats that did make the first start, finishing the first race. The F16s and F18s shared the start and racecourse, this made for GREAT fleet racing! 13 F18s and 4 F16 Vipers lined up for a 17 boat – 4 race battle – (I cannot comment on Race 1 none of us were there) .

The breeze and seas increased steadily through the day and the attrition rate increased after race three with Tristan going home with a busted hand, he toughed out 2 races but the pain was too much. Brett headed home during race 5  after dragging the halyard hook out the mast trying to depower the bucking Banger in the building gale. James Butler continued on bravely single handed in the mayhem till he lost his tiller extention.

Race 6 was started in strong breeze and a pretty whacky sea state. Once getting out from the relative protection of the headland that makes up the north of the harbour it was massively bumpy. Will and I pitchpoled after a gybe in the whoop section. He became tangled in the stay and cool heads were needed to prevent him being pulled under as the boat turtled. Shaken but not terrified we stowed the kite and turned tail for the safety of the harbour, beach and club.

Most of the F18 fleet continued to tear about the racecourse, finish and head in. The lighter Taipans were starting to struggle and the 6th race turned into a Taipan destruction derby after they were started much later than the F boats. The 20 knots blew up to 30+++ and sailors were tested to the maximum as were the rescue crew and the police boat. The safety of the harbour was not what one would hope in the southerly gale. Taipans coming in were flipped by angry bullets from the breakwall and driven toward the vicious rocks of the marina.

There were many stories recounted over beers at Al’s Aqua Villas, most of which had us belly laughing. Yes its scary at the time, but the guys pick themselves up, dust themselves off and then tell a story with some added humour that had me wiping the tears from my eyes. Eli Henebery’s involuntary sail into, around and back out of the marina was particularly entertaining.

As a result of Saturdays carnage there were a number of Taipans that unfortunately did not make Sundays Champagne conditions. In the F16s with Tristan being unable to sail, youths were swapped and traded and all 4 F16s headed out on Sunday morning with James and Beau single handed – AH THE JOY OF F16 VERSATILITY!

The 17 boat fleet was EPIC! Sailors were more settled down and the racing rhythm was legendary, upwind duals were the order of the day where we were working each swell, chop, and rise of breeze at the top of the big southerly swells. A slapped beam or stuffed bow and the opponent would roost you with turbulence. So good – love racing!

Mark roundings were pretty full on too, with the big swell and chop, add 15+ knots of breeze, a left-hand favoured course , 17 fast catamarans and it gets pretty wild. Mal Gray and Pete Skewes on non deck sweeper equipped Wildcats gave a masterclass in F18 sailing , especially when it became heavy. It is so good to see them on course in a F18 traveler series. The charging Wildcats were split by Grant Maver and Ben Leslie on a C2.

Presentation was a bit delayed due to some arguing about the early Saturday start, but once underway was fun even with an appearance by the mayor – not to shabby eh?

The trophies were as only you would get in Coffs Harbour – Bananas. With Beau White and Will Hillyer sporting the biggest banana for the F16 fleet.

All in the regatta was a ripper! yes some things could have been better – as always. The racecourse location, rigging grass, launch, club, accommodation and surrounding Coffs Harbour activities we outstanding. We will be back!

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