The much awaited F16 national kicked off on Friday 13 March with a hot fleet in attendance. The numbers of entrants dwindled as the forecast became more and more ominous with a 40 knot southerly arctic blast heading up the Australian East coast.
This did not deter the committed teams from making the journey from Victoria, Adelaide, Bundaberg and Maloolabah. The balance of the fleet was made up of local punters who had been posturing and strutting for the season at the Traveller series regattas. Now the cards were down and it was time to flip the river.
Youth team of Nathan and Zac borrowed a somewhat dilapidated F16 Blade. Thursday was spent tweaking , replacing ropes, setting trapezes and after 8 quick hours in the Australian sunshine on the RPAYC hardstand the Blade was set for the Friday shakedown sail up the Pittwater.
Friday’s fantasy forecast proved correct and 4 Vipers and 1 Blade headed out to test their setups. The Blade went well and the boys were getting to grips with zipping downwind at speeds in the teens. “What do you mean we need the traveller centred and the main on hard downwind?”
“Yes boys you will be going THAT FAST! when you heat this bad boy up!”
Unfortunately the Blade then ejected its starboard Kite pulley when pressed a bit harder. Some jury rigging and a compromised boat headed home for repairs.
The mini fleet headed up past long nose point toward Lion Island as the Nor Easter started to draw. By the time they passed the shelter of the Barrenjoey headland it was on! Twin stringing across the Hawksbury inlet of Broken Bay. Outgoing tide against a building North Easterly chopped up the seas until the sailing gods presented us with our just reward. As we neared box head it smoothed out, a gentle rolling swell could be ridden under spinnaker at a gazzilion miles an hour all the way to the beach at Umina.
Back and forth we went racing upwind, kite up and blasting back down till we eventually crossed behind Lion Island and smashed back through the chop to the football field flat waters of the pittwater and Palm beach.
A few dodgy mock races were undertaken with some questionable timing calls from Sophie Renouf and Simon who not surprisingly managed to blitz the starts, even though there was no actual line.
Tired bodies and the acceptance that we were not getting any sneak skills for the regatta sent us southward on a 3 Nautical mile long kite run toward RPAYC to beer and some bar karate. We should be ready for tomorrows typhoon we bragged. Oh the glory of Pittwater, North Easter and Vipers! The ultimate combination! (I wonder if heaven is like this? If it is, this writer may just change his religious leanings)
The balance of long distance travellers arrived Friday evening and after dropping boats off at the RPAYC hardstand joined the fleet for Thai food and more beer in Avalon. The non sailing spouses were machined gunned to submission by all the boat chatter, how good was that day of sailing, how awesome are these boats? this gybe, that setting, the forecast. Pretty girls seemed to glaze over completely. Its tough not talking boats. Three exchanges after trying to divert to more neutral inclusive conversation and we were back at it again – the glaze returning quickly to our guests.
Saturday dawned windless and clear skied – a quick look at Seabreeze and the raging front could be seen aproaching on the Southerly weather stations. By 8:00 it was pouring with rain and blasting out overcompensating 40 knot gusts of fury. The Yacht halyards banged and the roar of the air through the masts was mistaken for a passing train at one point.
Race Briefing was a uninspiring affair with longing looks out the club windows and downcast heads. The race committee were understandably cautious. No jokes were tolerated by the race committee as the start time of 12 was pushed an hour with a decision to be made at 11 if we were going out into the tempest or not.
In the interim, not to lose time the F16 gang ordered culinary delights from the Halyards Bistro (thats the restaurant at the club) unfortunately is was still too early for beer so we set about the AGM.
The agm minutes can be found under the F16 rules section of the website. For those of us too lazy to read the minutes here are the bullet points
- F16 is solvent
- Beau White is remaining as President, Sophie Renouf is the Secretary and Treasurer and chief of Entertainment and F16 craziness.
- Nationals next year will be in Victoria on the Mornington peninsula. (it was going to be on Australia Day weekend but with F18 worlds postponed we are moving it earlier) Exact dates and club we will let you know in the next week ..or two
- Decksweepers are now accepted at Australian events, for international events you will need to keep a standard luff length sail.
- The task force working on the F18/F16 co-operation are working hard at it and F16 members have agreed to the idea. Now we nut out the details for final acceptance by the F18 and F16 classes. Basically F16 joins the F18 class and we race together as a bigger fleet. Bring along the kids, youth teams and lightweights and lets battle it out on the water with the Big Dogs.
The AGM finished while the tempest raged outside, there were glimmers of hope that the breeze was easing but that was only followed by more water pouring from the heavens. “I’ll go out in this!” would be followed 5 minutes later by “Wow! glad I’m still in here”. Racing was called off at 11:00 after a phone conversation between the race officials and the airport went something like –
“Whats the wind strength over there Brucey?”
“Jayzuz matey its blow’in dogs of chains! Lemme check the wind -o -meter thingiemabobie ……………………….FFFForty Knots on the last gust – tie down that airbus Dave shees gonna go!”
Sense prevailed and an afternoon of red wine, foosball, chess, boat tinkering between squalls of rain and some millennial version of verbal charades without hand signals ensued. Let me put this silly game in context. Imagine trying to explain how to hoist a spinnaker but you are not permitted the following words in that explanation. Mast, Rope, Cleat, Pull, Sail. Oh! and you have 10 seconds to get it right. And then you need to know which button on the smart phone to press. arggggh – back to foosball for me! Three generations at one function does have its challenges.
Sunday was a cracker! the breeze was in, although in random directions, from the time the sun starting lighting up the Sydney sky. Rain was about but it was light and patchy. Briefing was swift with Halyards Bistro treats getting wolfed down again as it was going to be an early start and not all boats were ready.
The one day national started as the wind was still deciding whether to go chicken or Beef. It was definitely going to blow but at this point was as indecisive as a girl in a hat shop. Beau and Tristan sailed upwind to the start-line to join Simon and Sophie while the rest of the fleet charged behind them under kite. Strange times some may say, but just another day on Pittwater really.
The Breeze sort of settled and race 1 started, Beau Delaine and Ben Clarke read the switch well and tacked off to Port early on the swinging breeze, They made the top mark in one tack as a result, the rest of us meanwhile charged in on a Port shy reach, spray flying, bows dipping nervously in the gusty South Easterly. Top mark took two casualties. Beau White determined to make up lost ground with an Olympic level 0.3 second kite hoist turned to the spin halyard cleat on his new shiny superfast carbon mast to see it dangling by one limp rivet. Some profanity followed whereupon skipper Tristan confirmed the situation with “what? oh F#$#(&^K! ^&&( @@ ^&%nt what a ^&%$” this lapse in concentration coincided with a southerly kick up the chuff to send the bows diving to the beam and Tristan being ejected cannon ball style landing somewhere past the spreaders. The boat went head over heels to turtle as the boats behind zipped passed.
At this point the organisers, thankfully for our upside down duo, decided to cancel the race and reset the course. The mark laying RIB while trying to convey this message to catamaran builder extraordinaire Brett Goodall and hired gun Lilly Smith broke Brett’s well documented limited concentration span. The same southerly boot, tripped their Viper and sent them swan diving into the refreshing Pittwater wet stuff, blobbers an all.
While the flacid Spinnaker halyard cleat was being re-mounted ashore by a despondent team, race one was restarted after much buoy re-laying, startline resets and general regatta necessities. Our hat buyer was getting close to a decision and now it was just between the Southerly Mauve or The Easterly Pink. “But I really like the Peach Westerly…..”
The race re-started with the Southerly whipping up the tidal bumps. Teams tore off the line and upward to the top mark, it was on! So much pressure, gusts and switches made the positions on course change continuously. The repaired Viper of Tristan White and his mechanic re-appeared from the pits at the top mark under kite to join the fray. The blade was going well nailing a 5th and seemed to be staying in one piece. First blood went to regatta favourites Sophie and Simon from a charging Brett and Lilly.
The speeds were nuclear, the fleet filled with gun sailors. The visitors battled to get the rhythm and sway of the Pittwater gusts that the locals knew intuitively. It was a game of leapfrog across the 20 knot gusts. The better teams were looking three gusts ahead and a number of crash tacks in big unexpected shifts were required.
Tristan and Beau’s return after the carbon mast cleat fluffing exercise was rewarded with a win in Race 2 . A very upset skipper had returned to the racing but now things began to look up. We may not win this but if we can hammer home a few more bullets we can get back and maybe we will get a drop. It does little to strategise in these situations, just go as fast as you can and race one leg at a time. Most important, enjoy it. This was the day we had all been waiting 347 days for, to sail with other F16s and just tear around like bunderg fuelled hoons at a ute muster. The breeze was blasting, the water relatively flay YEAH MAN! This upward trajectory of Tristan was in stark contrast to the experience of Nathan and Zac who’s Blade, although fast, began to self destruct in the strong gusts. Zac and Nathan must have counted the seconds on the race watch timer like they they were at the climax of a Star Trek epic where the ship just starts breaking apart and bits go flying. “2 minutes to complete atomisation” would come the android like voice. After Smashing a Jelly Blobber into a million pieces at 18 knots the hold down rod split like William Tell’s apple. “I cannot hold er much longer Cap’n!” shouted the helmsen. Onward they charged as the evil blasts of destructive wind ripped pieces off and bent fittings.
The beleaguered ship limped over the finish, a damage report from Mr Sulu was taken reporting compromised steering systems, some damage to the forward engine. “Its not logical to continue” said Spock from the RIB with two raised eyebrows. “She canno taek much moor” confirmed Scotty. And so, the warp drives were de-commissioned and the Blade with its hot rod paint job and gun crew headed where every man has been before….. the beers at RPAYC.
Jimmy “six guns” Butler had spent two weeks leading up to the regatta getting the Turtle out and polishing it up. The Blue “spinnaker of gallop” was donned. Smooth shiney bows were striking through the Pittwater and a 4th in Race one confirmed that “Six Guns” when teamed with Rachael Renouf were going to be in the mix. But fate dealt the outlaw a cruel blow when they entered the pre-start saloon on the eve of race 2. A new team had blown into town, the Delaine Clarke gang. No-body knew what started it, nobody saw a thang. All we know is Turtle headed outta town with a new hole in his ass.
The rest of the races were fast, blisteringly fast. Getting on the right side of a switch could see you drag 200m out of the field. Positions changed like like actors in a “self quarantine” film. Nose stuffs in the vicious gusts sent crews tip tapping forward typewriter style before the end of line water splash would carriage return them back to the footstrap. A brief recovery and off they would charge again to expound the next sentence of adrenaline fuelled garble. Certified speed addicts Eli and Andreas “do you know who I am” between laughing like a pack of Hyenas and whooping and hollering around the course put some solid races together. I thank the good creator for placing ears upon these dudes faces. They grinned and tooled around all day, had those ears not been there I fear they may well have smiled their faces clean off. Some of their video footage from Friday is on the F16 Facebook page and is hilarious , so long as you are not too precious about the odd F bomb.
Brett Goodall bust out a Bendigo rental and teamed up with young super crew Lilly Smith. They were good on the boat and started like scalded cats….or did their cat start like it was scalded….hmmm….dad joke? But Bendigo Boat Builder Brett neglected to add one of his new super fast spinnakers or mainsails to his armoury. The result was a battle to hold pace against the super-tuned Viper 2 of Beau and Tristan White, complete with its more impressive bigger and stiffer carbon mast complete with re-riveted spin cleat. In January BBBBB (hate Acronyms but this is a goodie!) had stripped the duo of second in the F18 National in Tasmania by 1 point. When the Pittwater randomly unleashed its raging 25knot gusts, Tristan and Beau locked in warp 4 while BBBBB went spear fishing with his kite pole. The wild swings and holes conspired to force him to third, impressive considering the amount of typewriting Lilly was achieving.
All hail to the converted! The final race saw F18 stalwart Murray Makin confidently turn a F16 Viper foiler around the top mark in first spot. The boat had been quickly converted to straight daggerboards on Friday with the Goodall “converter” kit. If only the JWs knew how easy it can be with a few lose screws. The convertible showed it was competitive and impressively reliable. However Vipers are good to 155 Kg crew weight and then the power curve drops like a badly tuned two stroke. The summer harvest has been good to Murray and Jason. Their ballast was ample to stop stuffing and nose dives. They were nitrous charged upwind but all those bundies, pork pies and decimated dessert trolleys commanded a heavy tax on the downwinds. Even in 20 something knots the lightweights floated past, it was a bloodbath in the lulls.
The final race was all to play for, no position was secure. Local rippers and regatta favourites Sophie and Simon just needed a 2nd. But six and a half races in strong conditions. Delicious red wine on Saturday and a lapse in concentration sent them over on a top mark bear away. They slid off the podium as they did their listing Viper.
The exhausted teams headed back and a quick de-rig was herded along by approaching rain. Presentation was professional and cordial compared with the rest of the weekend’s craziness. A farewell to a brilliant regatta and friends from afar is a sombre affair.
It was a sensational weekend with massive highlights. The only low point was sitting at home late on Sunday wishing it was Friday all over again. The RPAYC produced faultless regatta organisation, Dave Renouf on the Mark laying boat assisted with perfect courses. Georg Witting took magnificent photos and as for the the Badlands IPA at the RPAYC bar….. deeelicious! The only additional thing we could have wished for was that a few more of the F16 Sailors had made the journey and enjoyed the experience.
So now as the season draws to a close, we look to the photos to reminisce and to Victoria in January where its going to be 2018 National conditions all over again – if you were there you know what we mean. I can feel the excitement welling up again, can you?
All Photos credit to George Witting, his instgram account is georgewitting to see more of his work. If you would like his services at your event contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org – dude is a legend!