Meltemi – The Whitsundays, Hogsbreath Race Week and Hamilton Island Race Week

Expectations. The weather in north Queensland, he said, is warm, with smooth seas light breezes and sunny. Just look at the brochures. You will need a light spray jacket, a hat and plenty of sunscreen lotion. Don’t worry about foul weather pants, they are too hot. Just wear shorts and your legs will dry quickly and you wont feel cold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was cloudy, rained heavily, blew a gale half the time and was cold. Full foul weather gear, and lots warm under it was what was really needed. We were consistent in wearing too much sail The shipwrights, sail makers and medico’s had a very profitable fortnight. There were umpteen dismastings, grounding damage, sails ripped to shreds, broken bones and a quilt quantity of stitching. (sails and skin). Did we have a good time ? absolutely.,

We finished 16th out of a fleet of 46 in the Hogsbreath series and 41 out of 101 at Hamilton Island. The conditions suited us very well and we should have done better, so what went wrong? The starting sequences and methods had us initially confused at Airlie beach. For instance the start vessel carried a Red on station flag and there were red and pink fleets and we had trouble distinguishing between them. They also used a 6 minute start sequence between fleets and it was necessary to sail close to the stern of the start vessel within the 5 minutes prior to starting to confirm the correct course. In the end the uncertainty probably caused more concern than time loss. The best course to minimise adverse wave action and tidal streams without sailing into holes is certainly a skill we learned progressively but were no match for the locals and repeat competitors. We blew the top cringle off the big spinnaker during the first race but recovered the sail without other damage and did not lose a lot of time. Many of the competitors had trouble just staying afloat in the wild (35kt) gusts. You may ask why the big kite was up at all. The answer is we started in a very light breeze and were still bewitched by the advertising brochures.

At Hamilton there were hundreds of competitors in about 5 fleets. 101 in ours alone so we had further trouble even seeing the start sequence signals. This led to our down fall and we started race 2 in the wrong fleet and retired. In race 5 we broke the main halyard and retired again. Only one race could be discarded so we added 101 to our points score instead of about 23 and this cost us 20 places in the final count

The tidal rips between close islands were a completely new experience. During the first race there was a monstrous opposing rip of about 4kts. An evil muddy streak churned off the leeward point of the island we had to round. We tacked away and were carted off back up the course only to watch as 50and 60 ft competitors sailed past straight through the rip.

The last race (race 6)was an 11km spinnaker run followed by an 11km beat in 20/30kt winds. The course was the same for all with little benefit from local knowledge so we did as well as our handicap allowed and finished18th.

The photo was taken during the down hill run in race 6 in the Hamilton series and shows Meltemi in company at hull speed with the #2 kite and a reefed main.

With the limited local knowledge gained we should be able to be more consistent in a future series and when they left, the crew were keen to do it again. At present Russell taking advantage of a boat at the Whitsundays to cruise with his family during the school holidays. He will deliver her to Laguna Quays to be penned awaiting favourable winds for the return to RQ.

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