Top Gun Regatta 2019- Kurnell’s catamaran cartwheel carnival

If you did not do a catamaran cartwheel at this weekends Kurnell Top Gun regatta you were not trying hard enough. That’s the conclusion we drew in the car while recounting the weekend’s events.

A massive fleet descended in the smoky bushfire haze upon Kurnell for the annual Top Gun regatta. I shall refrain from the movie puns and quotes for this magnificently crafted report and reminisce about the weekend of excellent racing.

A huge kite boat fleet attended the regatta, dominated by F18s and Taipans as is customary for the Top Gun. A few Nacra 5.8s and a Tornado. The fragile crazy silent A class speed machines rolled in for their state titles. 5 Nacra 15s made a most welcome regatta appearance, boosting the youth attendance greatly. 20 Spinnaker Shod double hulled rockets lined up for battle in the Div three start comprising of F16/F18/Taipan 5.7 and a Tornado.

The F16 crew were super excited to be back sailing with the F18s and were represented by mixed team of Sophie Renouf/Simon Skoog, father and son Beau and Tristan White, (AKA the Pillowcase skateboard sailor of Kurnell). Rounding out the F16s were the youth team of Billy Gargett and Will Hillyer.

Sophie and Simon tuning up the F16 Association rent a racer

Thrown into the mix we decided to test our F16 deck sweeper against the other F16s and F18s. The controversy and indecisiveness may be coming to an end on these items. Another post is about to read for our personal experience with the sail of evil.

A very pleasant sail down the coast from Pittwater to Kurnell in a building N easterly by yours truly and “ah please dad can we sail rather than do school” Tristan made for a magnificent start to the weekend. Actually….Thursday with the royalty of gothness Sisters of Mercy playing in Newtown on Halloween was the magnificent start to the weekend. Words cannot describe some of the sights in and around the Enmore on such a night. A combination presenting the ultimate trifecta of weirdness. With much growly mumbles from the bald dude with sunglasses, bashing DR Avalanche drum machine and kachugga chugga chugga guitar work while bouncing about shoulder to shoulder with some folks with deep rooted daddy issues was hilarious. The climax was when a gaggle of grey haired 80’s kids starting sending it in the mosh pit. Ah life is so full of humour.

But I digress.

We set out on the Viper from near RPAYC at somewhere near 11:00 am on Fiday slowly worked out of Pittwater and pulled the kite after getting past the layline of Whale beach headland. We worked the little Viper through the swells, chop and waves that refracted off the cliffs. It is amazing how offshore is so different and finding that “groove” takes quite a bit of time. That sweetspot of holding power and speed but not stuffing the bow.

The Viper is certainly not the Nacra 20 when it comes to offshore prowess and proved much more of a challenge in the short Tasman Chop. Its diminutive 16ft length became very apparent when we passed Sydney harbour and the Nor’easter really started kicking with the waves bouncing back of the eastern suburb cliffs. Nevertheless, we were having a blast, chatting and very impressed with our little boat and how well we were able to keep it driving through the building sea state.

As we turned around the final headland into Botany Bay, the Kurnell venturi went into overdrive and we had to drop the kite. What is it about Botany bay that it just accelerates the air through that place? A spectacularly elegant execution of a beach landing was followed by a few cold frosties with Dave Morgan & Co. in the rigging area. We both felt a great sense of accomplishment. A day with my kid that will be remembered for a long long time by both of us – actually forever. Rating:- High recommended.

Saturday was the usual froth, regattas and racing boats is so cool! It takes about 45 minutes to just go fetch a 17 spanner. You end up going from one crew to another and talking up the stoke, fiddling with boat bits, teasing, baiting and complimenting your brothers in arms with whom you soon will be in mortal combat …… against…? Ah the excitement, the waving about of the deck sweeper stick to the F18 gang, smack talking like a rabid dog. Now why? why was I going to the trailer again?– ah! the 17 spanner.

Being the day of the Rugby World Cup Final the white with red flash kite was left firmly stuffed in the sailbag, closed down under the trailer cover. The magnificent Green training sack was left on the boat and would be the weapon of choice in the building North Easterly.

The Nacra 15s made an appearance and young Tristan was setting targets the size of the Simpson Desert on them ….again. Kids….! They were to start 3 minutes ahead and he was more focussed on passing them before the bottom mark than putting the wheels under the boat and putting the halyard in the pocket.

The North Easter was starting to do the “Kurnell”, tide was coming in for 2 hrs more so it would remain smooth (well Kurnell smooth) for a bit longer. Murray was pressing to get as many races as we could in before Kurnell started nuking to the forecast Chernobyl levels. As a back up, kite gear was in the trailer for when the mushroom cloud appeared and Kurnell hit 35+ knots.

Welcome to the Kurnell Catamaran chaos carnival of catapulting and cartwheeling. Yes, 3 races in building breeze and ever choppier conditions left yours truly collapsed and gasping for air on the trampoline after each race. It was magnificent! Brutal, fast, unforgiving, unpredictable and utterly electrifying. Under the strong conditions the decksweeper proved a monster of speed and even with some very questionable starts we tore to the top mark hunting down boats as we went – generally getting to the top in the pointier end of the field. At full noise of 13+ knots of boatspeed we were 4 degrees lower but about 2 knots faster than the average F18. We could not point higher, the chop just stopped the feathery F16. We struggled to hold a lane but when we broke free the little Viper scythed through the chop as we hit massive heart rates working the main, and staying on the boat. Heart rates that would make Chris Froome drool.

The top mark saw no severe cartwheeling, we were saving our selves for the main event. Others were less patient and started the cartwheels and crew slinging early. Now for the downwind. Imagine clinging onto a top fueler dragster, having some form of argument with the driver for being as twitchy as an ice addict, all this while bystanders throw buckets of water at you. You are standing in rubber boots, feet against the rear mudguard (yes yes dragsters don’t have mudguards – jeez work with me here) and hands firmly on the wing. Now hit the nitrous, Yeeehhaaaaaaaa! And away you blast and then ….BUMPS!

Now to keep it interesting our race organisers have put some short three in a row stutter bumps along our quarter mile. 19 knots goes to 1 knot as the bow goes in. The rooster boots are good and the crew’s dexterity is rewarded as he claws back to the mudguard and wing . The raging bucking dragster accelerates again, more angry and random than before. Some foul looks are swapped between the clingon and the driver as the fury resumes.

Baby Viper hacking through the gale after the F18s and As

And then the inevitable “hey dad we beat the Nacra 17 to the top mar|||” Three bump mid sentence stop here and get off the boat happens. A view of the young skipper sliding down the trampoline from an angle usually reserved for drones and helicopters is my last image just before I finish my magnificent catapult arc past the bows for a landing in the welcoming waters of Botany Bay.

Your mates then come past, hooting and hollering laughing their asses off. You right the boat taking solace knowing their laugher will soon be silenced by the waiting ambush of three bump obstacles just a bit further down the track. No-one is immune or above these tricky little things, nope, not even the blisteringly fast F18 of Cookie and Kez.

After much cartwheeling, catapults and crashes we returned to the beach in the now respectable gale. Sand was being driven into the boat park from the beach and we staked down our precious little bronco to weather the sandblasting for the night .

A bit of kiteboarding was had as the Kurnell venturi pushed over 30 knots. It blew so hard I could swear I could see a green nuclear haze in the air. Maybe it was just an omen for the rugby. Sailors huddled around the club house, beers and rums flowing.

The weekend was going well, three races in the bag. Great courses, perfect race management. Somewhere in a parallel universe two rugby teams settled into a contest to decide the greatest team in the world.

Sunday morning, and after a late night filled with much jubilation, it was time to set off for racing again.

On route I heard the news of a kiteboarder who went out on the Saturday evening near the club and had an awful accident, ultimately resulting in his death. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

The Sunday forecast was good, not nuclear Armageddon as per Saturday’s epic, just a sweet North Easter followed by a gentle boat rinsing shower after pack up.

The first two races were held in a light, but building north easterly breeze. Kurnell served up a palatable yet annoying bit of chop that kept the boatspeed down and tempers close to the fraying edge of politeness.

Then, thank the wind gods, the Kurnell Venturi started to sizzle and pop. The breeze was building….yes with an ample side serving of chop. We asked for the order of three line bow traps to be skipped, we hope the order was passed to the chefs.

Then…decksweeper rigged Viper makes it to top mark first! Ahead of a hot F18 fleet and Nacra 17! Ah the joy of an open racetrack ahead…but which way to go now?

Theres no-one to follow. The N15s were in striking distance which caused skipper concentration issues. Then we got passed downwind on the left by the Kamikazies of Cookie and Kez…… arggghh! Then slipped to third , then upside down trying to go too hot after overstanding the bottom mark. Crew catapult length – 8.7 meters with a twist, moro reflex starfish landing. Skipper gets a 7.5 for an impressive ejection from a double bow up to the beams pitchpole and not hitting the main on the downward trajectory. Champion!

Our F16 mixed team of Sophie and Simon were going fast, they were solid on the course and pulling good results. Their starts were scorching, their boat handling excellent and they grinned BIG smiles when we caught up to them after the racing as we bobbed about for the next start. They were equipped with a standard sail and beat us 3 out of 4 races. Their finishes within the combined F18/16 class over the line were in the top 4-6 boats. They had the distinct advantage of when leaving the leeward centreboard down at the bottom mark they were able to fix it, not nearly kill a Taipan sailor with a dodgy tack as we did.

The juniors of Billy and Will smashed us in the light breeze, so is the deck sweeper all round faster, I fear not?

Kurnell is an exhilarating place to sail, the club friendly, the launch convenient, the race well organised and the prizes impressive. If you are sleeping over under the landing approach of Kingston Smith Airport, take ear plugs or lots of booze….probably both is better.

We will be back for more sailing at Kurnell certainly before the season ends.

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