Saturday 22 June - DBSC Race report

Saturday 22 June presented a break in the middle of the club regatta season with normal DBSC Saturday racing temporarily resuming. The day also presented a series of events which, depending on whom they were visited upon, were good or awful in equal measure.

As the crew assembled on the NYC platform the day promised lazy summer sailing conditions with sunshine and light westerly winds of 8 – 10 kts. Summer holidays have started, affecting crew availability with only 16 crew available, four per boat. There was some discussion of a sea breeze filling in and groans of the great Dublin Bay cyclonic were overheard. As the boats were being rigged it was notable that a fresh wind was kicking in, a little stronger than anticipated, being now in mid-teens. Reefs had not been called for and all boats departed the moorings with full rig set.

High, almost spring, tide was 12.38 so ebbing tide for the race duration. The wind had settled into SE 160 degrees and a G3 course was given by the OOD from black line hut start Rp, Sp, Bp, Vs, Lp, Xp (Bullock, East, Saoirse, Pier, Merrion, Turning,).

The wind direction provided a heavy bias towards the hut end and, observing the earlier fleets there seemed to be sufficient wind inside at the pier and all four Twentyones competed for the optimal close inshore position. Garavogue and Estelle were first to the inshore track within the 30 second countdown with Naneen tacking inshore shortly after both but not having the same momentum or speed approaching the line. Geraldine didn’t come in quite as far, taking a more conservative but still competitive position on the line. As the Gun went it seemed that Estelle and Garavogue had the edge on the other two but then the individual recall signal was sounded and over the radio came the call that boat numbers 3 and 4 were OCS. Garavogue, 4, turned back however Estelle, 3, continued on her merry way.

On the beat to Bullock the fleet remained on starboard tack crossing the harbour mouth and to open up a route into Scotsman’s Bay. Estelle, oblivious of having an improper start, powered upwind in the lead with the other three boats in pursuit. As the boats tacked inshore towards Scotsman’s Bay Naneen was ahead of Geraldine and Garavogue however elected to stay out on starboard tack for longer. Inshore the others tacked back to starboard lining up on for the lay line with Estelle leading Garavogue and Geraldine. The wind remained constant in direction but was by now in the upper teens, and per the Dublin Bay Buoy records afterwards, was hitting 22 kts in gusts. All boats handled the conditions well even with the lumpy sea however at least one skipper remarked on the very heavy weather helm of which more later.

Naneen finally tacked inshore, but it was by now clear that she had taken the less favoured option by staying out, and by now the other three boats were clear ahead albeit not by a huge margin as had been recorded in other recent races. Soon the fleet rounded Bullock Mark led by Estelle with Garavogue, Geraldine and Naneen following in close formation. Geraldine sailed higher that the other boats some thought that she mistook Island for East mark however it was later explained that they were closely monitoring the wind patterns and elected to stay high. Estelle, taking the direct route, rounded the green East pillar mark first with Garavogue following in 2nd place still ahead of Geraldine who were completing their slightly more scenic route. Suddenly, and momentarily causing confusion for the following boats, East mark disappeared from sight - where had it gone? What happened?

It soon became clear as, although Garavogue was sailing on, she was also slowing and heading up to wind. Realisation dawned on all that Garavogue had achieved a remarkable feat to snag East mark with the jib sheets which pinned both together. Neither were easy to separate as the jib sheet found a protruding bolt securing the upper and lower parts aided by pressure from windage on Garavogue pulling on the anchored Mark. Meanwhile Geraldine was cheerfully passing by and then Naneen sailed around East Mark which was now firmly secured to Garavogue. Noticing the connection between the two, Naneen immediately radioed to the nearby committee boat on Ch 72 to summon some rib assistance for Garavogue which duly arrived. As it transpired, they could do little to assist and the brave crew of Garavogue, working out the puzzle, finally had to cut the jib sheet to release them from the Mark. With no port Jib sheet and starboard jib all tangled there was no real option for the embarrassed and tired crew to continue and they took the wise decision to retire.

Back to the race, which by now was a 2-boat contest with Estelle, while sailing very well, not in contention being OCS at the start. Geraldine was leading Naneen and even seemed to be puling away slightly as all three headed on the run to Saoirse with no change in position. On the beat back to Pier Naneen, still experiencing heavy weather helm, eased the main much more to reduce weather helm and EUREKA! by doing so, not alone was weather helm reduced but Naneen found her groove, speeded up and started to close the gap on the boats ahead, but still a long way to go. Rounding Pier on a long run to Merrion, Naneen continued to close in on the leaders also noting that the strong wind was easing as they went westward and that there appeared to be different wind direction form the steam direction on the incinerator chimney suggesting trouble ahead.

Approaching Merrion was busy as all the DBSC fleets from both Hut and committee boat starts were converging giving rise to a large number and range of craft from Glens to Cruser 0. All now entered the convergence zone between the SE sea breeze still prevalent in the bay and the gradient westerly wind which stubbornly held on closer to the city. Merrion mark was at the centre of the battle ground, with each wind vying for supremacy, each gaining and losing and playing havoc with the racing fleets accordingly. Estelle was soon stopped alongside the main fleet while Geraldine once again reading the wind changes initially heading towards Sea Point mark, managed to hold the sea breeze wind a little longer before finding new westerly wind.

Naneen was still benefiting from the following sea breeze catching up fast on the leaders and gauging how to capitalise on the situation. Nearing the Mark all boats were becalmed for a period before slowly the westerly gradient wind emerged victorious providing a gentle breeze to head around on a beat.

Geraldine, benefiting from her well thought out circuitous routing rounded Merrion mark first shorty followed by Estelle and finally Naneen however heading back to Turning meant encountering the convergence war zone again. Geraldine took a deeper inshore track towards Salthill while Estelle maintained a more direct route to Turning. There was a further complication with the red fleet committee boat finishing line being located just northwest of Turning mark limiting sea room for the hut fleet. Most boats were soon becalmed once again and Naneen even passed out a stationary Estelle while Geraldine was still ahead closer to the pier wall.  

Little zephyrs provided promise but were really teasers tormenting the mind. The ebb tide was helping the fleets to drifted towards Turning and the finish and it was now approaching 17.00 when usually all crews would be ashore. Slowly the south easterly sea breeze, remember her? once again took command which the finishing fleets finally picked up to beat to the finish line. Geraldine retained pole position to take the gun with Naneen crossing to secure 2Nd place. Estelle had finished between the two, but no sound signal was given.  

Final DBSC result

  1.  Geraldine
  2.  Naneen
  Estelle - OCS 
  Garavogue -  DNF

Ashore the Garavogue crew had departed before the other crews returned. Upon contact afterwards they recounted their experience and while upsetting and embarrassing at the time they saw the funny side also and their role in adding to the rich and varied annals of the Twentyones.

Key takeaways from the race

1.     If heavy weather helm - ease the main. This is particularly true in heavier winds and, as noted previously, the Twentyones like to sail free. Naneen experienced this on Saturday and only on the beat back to pier did they finally figure out the cause and solution - just too late to overtake Geraldine.

2.     Garavogue later reported that as they were rounding the mark the helm slipped in the bumpy conditions, trapping the tiller in the life jacket, thereby screwing the boat up to wind under the mark. This allowed the flapping jib sheets to catch the mark and the rest is history. The outermost marks. close to the shipping lanes. are different to the standard DBSC racing marks which are conical and have nothing to snag on. These outer marks are large yellow navigational marks with red, green or black wraps applied for improved visual identification.  Attached to the top of each mark is a radar reflector bolted onto the main body and it was on the bolts that Garavogue got her jib sheet ensnared – see picture below. The lesson is to give the outer marks a little extra clearance allowing for any mishaps which can occur at any time.

3.     The crew have all recovered from this ordeal and in due course embarrassment will give way to enjoyment as the story is enshrined, and perhaps embellished in the annals of the class.

East Markjpg
East Mark on pier before deployment this year - note bolted on radar reflector at top.