Two Handed offshore racing is a blast!

Intiy takes on the Club Marine BWPS, Pittwater - Newcastle and return races

Pittwater – Newcastle and return races 05 & 06 February 2022

On the weekend of February the 5th, 2022, Intiy took part in the Pittwater to Newcastle and Newcastle to Pittwater races organized by RPAYC and part of the Coastal Blue Water Pointscore Series, in the two handed division.
Alice Tarnawski and myself (Marc Depret) were the co-skippers on both days.

Intiy is a Beneteau Figaro 3 launched here at RPA only in April 2021. First produced in 2018, the design is now mature, with 70+ hulls and 3 seasons of professional one design short handed offshore racing in France, including a transatlantic.

Two foils extending abeam provide righting moment and anti-drift assistance which contributes to lightening her overall weight (3T displacement). At higher speed, they also help with lifting the bow up slightly and getting on the plane.

This particular boat is entirely equipped according to the Figaro class rules. The Sparcraft carbon fractional rig is held by Rod shrouds and a Compact Strand forestay. The wardrobe consists of a 41m2 square top, two reef main, 32m2 reefable jib, 55m2 furlable Code 0, 116m2 A2 and a 81m2 A5. NKE provides all the instruments and the network, the onboard PC runs Adrena Pro on Windows 10.

After ten months of sailing and racing her out of RPA, I am still very much discovering her, learning her idiosyncrasies, understanding her singularity and trying to map the extent of her performance (fun fact: when she is well trimmed and happy, Intiy hums!).
More experienced sailors who have sailed her here have commented on her lightness at the tiller, her responsiveness, her robustness and, when conditions allowed, her power in the breeze (have a chat to Alice Tarnawski, Michael Coxon, David Hobbs, Rob Alpe or Jess Angus).

The Newcastle race would be the first opportunity to expose her to real offshore conditions and see how she would hold up.

The prep
These two races being short, the preparations were fairly succinct and the standard routine was followed: J-2 for victualing and a quick hull clean, J-1 for a thorough boat check, safety items set-up, and a weather and race brief with Cecile Laguette, our coach who lives in Auckland.

On the menu for the weekend, a slow moving high in the South had been sustaining a steady 20-30kn southerly since Wednesday, the strength of which was conditioned by the position of two lows over the Coral Sea.
Precise wind directions and strengths would likely be subject to local coastal effects and the probable presence of low clouds and squalls. Sea state would likely be characterized by disorganized chop superimposed on a 3 to 4m SE swell.

In this context, we chose to carry the Code 0 at the start, which would offer us a wider range of options, the A5 being on standby if needed, A2 onboard but not expected to get wet.
Our objectives for the day were to take a well organized and deliberate start, plan ahead and control our trajectory through the shifts, sail to performance numbers, run a well managed race, have fun and go annoy the big boys if we could 🙂

A good night’s sleep and an early start later, and it was time to get into it.

Pittwater to Newcastle
The morning brief showed all had remained as planned so we tuned the rig for the conditions and set off for the start line which was set up slightly within Pittwater.
One reef in the main (second reef installed for peace of mind), one reef in the jib, Code 0 hoisted and furled, we lined up, unfurled, and took a decent start below Mercury and Concealed Weapon.

Intiy started to stretch her legs for a warm up jog…. Just to fall in the lee of Barrenjoey… Rooky mistake! By the time we managed to extricate ourselves from this inconvenient situation, Quantock and Old School were a good 600m ahead.
Oh well… Back in the saddle, we pointed the boat in the right direction again and proceeded to clear Third Point in about 15kn from SSE at a leisurely 8 to 10kn.

Once exposed to the elements, the wind shifted left and strengthened in the 20kn range, giving us an opportunity to hang on to the leading group. The game would be now to sail through the shifts to our best numbers while keeping an eye on various headlands to clear (mainly First Point and Norah Head).
The sail combination we had up (main and jib reefed, code 0) with the foils raked between 60 and 80 % was working well and Intiy was humming along in her happy spot in the 10 to 12 kn boat speed range, reaching 13kn at one point, which allowed us to take the lead temporarily, shortly after First Point.

This was unfortunately short lived, as the wind dropped off significantly (below 9kn at its lowest) and backed to almost full East. In response, we decided to take advantage of this situation by stepping up and putting some money in the bank to clear Norah Head. This way, we would be entirely free to focus exclusively on speed when the wind would veer and increase again.
So we furled the Code 0 and started to point upwind a bit more, while Quantock and Old School Racing, now ahead of us, continued closer to the rhumb line. As the wind speed remained low, we also shook our main reef.
About 10mn later, around Crackneck point, pressure wind was reestablished in the 15kn range, veering back in the 160T zone, so we unfurled and Intiy continued at around 10kn, in proximity to Quantock and Old School.

As 12h00 came, we had a quick bite of a prosciutto sandwich (we try to stay careful about hydration and food intake so as to keep general energy levels and focus constant) and Alice got at the helm (in normal circumstances, we swap every 2 hours in order to mitigate driver fatigue).

All was rather well. The boat was set up adequately, we were clear of the first mark and in the leading group, chugging along at around 10 kn, the crew was fed, hydrated and still relatively dry.

That’s when Huey decided to turn it on.

The sky cleared, and pressure wind settled in the 150T. Opening offers were placed at 20kn.
Intiy (and her crew) woke up from her post-lunch torpor and happily started to trot a 11kn.
21kn. The boat reached 12kn. 10 mn later, in a gust at 23kn instruments indicated a boat speed in the 13kn range. As the sea state was messy, packets of water were flying over the bow and into the cockpit, inducing much laughter and cheers all around. Bets were placed on 14kn. 13.6kn while surfing a wave! Intiy’s hum had turned into a song. “Dry” was now a distant and foreign concept.
At 13:01, in a 28kn gust, Alice broke the 14kn record (14.5!). What a legend. A first for Intiy. I really should have chosen the Champagne cooler option…

For another 50mn, in winds varying from 20 to 28kn, the boat speed remained between 13 and 14kn.

14:00 arrived, time to swap seats again during a relative lull. A pod of dolphins joined us to play in our wake and check out this strange winged humming machine. We started discussing the best ways to negotiate the entrance to Newcastle Harbour.

But the pause was only temporary, and the wind gods had one last surprise for us.
Wind strengths got back up in the 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 34kn.
With the full main up and the Code 0, the boat just lit up. Walls of spray were making it hard to see the mast. The song turned into a howl of joy. You could feel distinctly the hull lifting up on the plane, lurching from wave to wave and the boat getting on a rail and speeding straight ahead (a sensation not dissimilar to a slalom board in the breeze). No weight whatsoever at the helm, simply the tiny jitters of the rudder keeping in line with the flow of water.
New record broken: 16.5kn

But all good things have an end. As much as we would have liked continuing further North, SI indicated we had to turn left to finish in Newcastle Harbour.

The rest of the race was far less glamorous
We started with an atrocious furl (my code 0 has not talked to me since then), followed by a granny tack to protect the rig from a gybe (as we had the full main up), and proceeded very slowly and cautiously towards the channel due the wind, sea state and our lack of familiarity with the place.
Quantock rightfully took advantage of our hesitations to significantly reduce the lead we had on her.

We crossed the line first, 4h55mn after the start, only 2mn 20s ahead of the second boat.

Time to pack up the boat, regain our composure and gather our thoughts, and we were off to the club to share stories with friends.

What a race.


Newcastle to Pittwater
After a good rest, we caught up nice and early over breakfast to discuss the morning brief Cecile had sent us.
Much of a muchness, only not much better. The High had moved slightly East, but the Lows over the Coral Sea less so, increasing the pressure gradient over the Tasman. At least as much wind and a bumpy sea state would be the dominant features of the pony ride home, the lot being influenced by coastal and cloud effects.
The game would be to stay as close to the rhumb line as possible while keeping an eye on the headlands lo clear, and try to play the shifts as well as we could.
We should expect the bigger boat to escape fairly quickly and our most immediate company would likely be Martin and John Cross’s Transcendence.

We prepped the boat, preset the stack for the long upwind port tack to come, and left to reach the starting area.
After a short delay due to the departure of a bulk carrier, the 5 mn signal was given. As always, Alice did a fantastic job in placing us in a good spot for a rather good start, in a clear lane.

We cleared the channel pretty easily, and very early on, the scene was set: the bigger boat took the lead and we started having a long and meaningful conversation with Transcendence.
By the exit of the channel, the Jeanneau 3300 was on our windward heap, controlling us for our tack towards home.
In order to cut our losses, Alice suggested tacking and ducking as soon as Norah Head waypoint was within target. That worked well: Transcendence followed suit shortly after but we were now ahead of her.

However, the chase was very much on, and Martin’s boat, being fully mained, was grinding away at us. Over 5nm he got back to within 500m windward of us, a situation we did not want to find ourselves in again.
Once again, Alice, tactician extraordinaire, found the way out. She had us step up to Transcendence (two quick tacks in succession) so as to play the shifts more effectively against her. This move had the expected results in stopping the bleeding, but it is only when Martin and John had to take a reef around Moon Island that we could start putting a bit of meaningful space between us.
We had now to focus on our trajectory and speed to keep growing this small lead.

Followed three and a half hours of careful steering in order to deal with the rather unpleasant sea state and adapting to the shifts.
Approaching First Point, we debated the possibility of setting up the Code 0 again and Alice even plugged it in in case we could find a good enough angle after bearing away around Cape Three Points.
As it happened, we never got quite convincingly enough within range to proceed, but the lower point of sail and a better angle to the swell offered us the nice reward of some good surfs on the last stretch home (13.3kn max speed).

We crossed the line shortly after 5pm, which allowed us to take the first spot on PHS, hardly one minute ahead of Transcendence on handicap.
Parting thoughts
Intiy showed she is a solid and performant offshore racing boat, and results so far look encouraging. RPAYC Coastal BWPS Series is a very efficient way to gradually step up to more serious offshore racing.

The growing 2ble handed scene will provide fantastic opportunities to continue competing against accomplished sailors and other performance-oriented boats in the near future and over the coming years.
This format is also a possible avenue for younger talents such as Alice to step into more central roles and grow as competitive offshore racing athletes.

Overall the future looks very exciting.