"I had made up my mind to sit out the Vic championships this year for one and a thousand reasons, but the Monday before the championship weekend brother Ron rings me out of the blue to say there was a boat available that needed a helmsperson. With only a moments thought I was there – great, fly in fly out (rockstar! – how lucky could I be?). Little did I know there was no crew either!
So with help I managed to gather a lovely bunch of keen sailors for the racing. Sydney ‘foldup’ Matt ( mast person from the winning boat Kaotic last year) kindly offered to join us (thank you God!). Matt flew down with me last flight Friday evening from Sydney. Simon and Ron put the boat in the water. And in the morning we woke to a text from our French (very much needed 100kg) crewman who said he was “closing in on very first Australian woman” and couldn’t make it for the racing today. I had to smile having never met the man at least he was honest!
So down to the 4 of us. We arrived to see the boat in the water, clean and neat and tidy and by the time we had met each other and had weighed in ( all 270kg of us) it was time to go ( who starts racing at 1000hrs these days?). The wind was a steady 15knots and after establishing the crews limited sailing experience and positions we pulled on our gloves and hoisted the mainsail. First practice work the main pops out of the boom track. So truckie Matt lashes it to the end of the boom with a tight outhall and we were off again.
Race 1 – not a bad start considering no-one onboard had a watch ( used the flags and the whites of our competitors eyes to estimate the start) 101,102,103!!! Ahh they are coming!! Better power up, lets go for the line!!!… we found ourselves mid fleet approaching the first mark when BANG!! The traveller and mount pulled out from the boat along with 2 x mainsheet pulleys. I was ready to go back ashore but SUPER FOLDUP MATT sprung into action.
We managed to limp around the first mark and lucky it was a long downwind leg as Matt (6ft 4) folded himself up into the back hatch and found the nuts and bits ( he does bit parts for Gumby in the off season). He stayed in there while the girls stood on the traveller and mount and after much blood sweat and tears it was secured. The pulleys and spring were also pieced together enough to give us some purchase for the rest of the day. Miraculously it was sorted by the bottom gate ( with not a second to spare I might add). We headed off upwind to chase ‘em down!
The next 2 races were good – shorthanded the girls were fabulous with learning to set and jibe the spinnaker ( had never done this before on a J). With only one major wrap – sailing angles a little sharp (waved “hi” to Brighton Yacht club) we got to the gates packed up ready for the upwind leg every time. And heck only lost a brace at the finish line nearly wrapping the finish boat with our kite, just the once!
Race 4 – I didn’t take note of the windward mark change and headed over to easterly side of the course for the big lift from the left, overlaid the top mark by a country mile – dunkoff! Last again!!
Day 2 – Wasn’t sure whether any crew would turn up but alas they were there with bells on – comparing bruises. We had time to practice the pole set and jibe while still tied up to the mariner. Matt tightened every nut and bolt and lashed the mainsail before we left the wharf. We decided no matter what the wind did we would stay with the jib and aim to stay with the fleet today.
Race 5 – first start OCS (lost count!) so back we went and decided to practice our tacks upwind – playing the lifts and knocks – and spinnaker sets and jibes downwind – perfect. OK so now we are ready to go and compete!!
Race 6 – In the groove – and found ourselves battling it out for 15th spot with JN in ‘Vice Versa’ by our side and WC in J-Force so excited to see us in the mix at the top mark he nearly drove us into the hitch mark – hands waving I shooed him away – (he doesn’t want to be my best friend anymore!) And we held 15th ahead of Vice Versa! We were on the up!
Race 7 – the last race – I had decided the Thomo cup was well out of reach (again!) – if you cant beat ‘em, join ‘em, I thought as I followed my big brother up the first work and kept up with the pack. Switched into race mode again and we were ripping along. Matt calling the wind, tacking beautifully, floating the spinnaker, Jodie jibing systematically and cleanly and Justine arranging the middle of the boat fabulously and tucking the spinnaker away single handily perfect!. We confidently rounded the last windward mark, set the spinnaker and tucked a quick jibe to squeeze up to 13th . And then it was pin back the ears and go for that finish line!! JN was riding every wave and we could hear him praying from our boat, trying to peg us back with every gust (please God – I have been a good boy this week, make me go faster!) And it was only the congratulatory hail of “Bitch!” that confirmed our victory-- 13th!!
We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces – it was worth it after all. So what a challenge it was and I am grateful for the opportunity to race and to sail Gatsby (thanks JN) with such patient and lovely girls and sooo grateful to sail yet again with Matt. He was our godsend for the weekend.
PS. Last saw JN standing under Gatsby negotiating ‘best price’ to buy the boat back from himself!" Ha ha! Now that's amusing-- lost his girl, now wants it back! For more Australian J/24 sailing news and views