Saltair Ocean Racing

 

This year we sailed the Launceston to Hobart in the Tasmanian Derwent Sailing Squadron East-Coaster from Tamar Yacht Club Beauty Point to Hobart starting the 27th December, over 285 nautical miles. It is Cat 3+ coastal, but of course to start the race you need to first cross Bass Strait to the start line, the perfect race shakedown.

To enter in this race the responsibility is directed to the boat owner and individual crew. I have competed twice in the double handed division with my husband and decided this year to take both my children, Nicholas 18 years and Lisette 16 years. I therefore had to make special application to the committee. I recommend other boat owners do this as well if you have children with years of ocean miles and experience. Both my kids have grown up with boats and have a boat license, experience with navigation and radio and completed the Sea Safety Survival Course. Boat handling skills from Cadets, Pacers, Zodiac and of course, racing on Saltair. I have also really enjoyed taking the kids on my adventures sailing and hiking. Things are changing too, as primary schoolers the kids on the boat meant I had to be a better person. “Don’t worry kids, I have got this and we will be fine”. Now the kids say to me, “Mum, I got this and you need to chill out”.

 

The race briefing offered a quiet challenging start in light airs and a finisher in stronger 15 – 20 knots. Management encourages people to sail their boats in the comfort zone and pull up or anchor if the going gets rough. I was offered a list of anchorages recommended and put together by the local fisherman with translations – safe from Nor’easter behind Bird-shit Island (Pyramid Rock) and it was a requirement that I remain in touch with the skeds until I was finished in Hobart, even if you have retired from racing. The start offered no sailable wind in the Tamar River, so the start was moved to outside the heads. (practical as no one wants to run aground in the river fighting to keep forward momentum in light airs). Bernard and I do a two watch system with 4 POB (daily 4 hours nightly 3 hours) this keeps my concentration high and fatigue at bay. I like the idea of a 3 watch system with a standby crew in gear at the ready, but as this race does not allow auto-helm for a crew of 4, and I like a coffee, this well-meant suggestion was not possible. Reality of shorthanded racing eludes many sailors, basically down time is not in your pajamas in a fluffy sleeping bag. You are ready to go in seconds in gear and sweat a lot as removing layers can be costly eg. between evening and cold nightfall. Might explain my strange fascination with Bikram Yoga done in 40 degree heat. I imagine on the Osaka with such a long time at sea, there are many adjustments to this style. My boat has only been taken as far as Sydney. I also rarely get the luxury of perfect calm weather windows as my husbands demanding work as a surgeon provides less opportunity for extended leave. Though if you are wondering right now, why not quit work, retire or find a less demanding workplace situation and go sailing. Well for us, we enjoy what we do at work too, so retirement is not something I long for or even give much thought at all too. I enjoy ocean racing because it is demanding and I enjoy work for the same reason.

The Mercury Passage inside of Maria Island always provides a challenge with my usual schedule of reaching this point in pitch black darkness to attempt the narrow strip between land and fish farms. At this point in the race, with my grumpy hat on, I ranted that I was pinned between two Tasmanian boats. Both of which had flanked Saltair in the darkness within meters due to the narrow channel, visible only by the green and reds and blinking yellows of the fish farms. At which my dear boy woke from his off watch slumber to note I “should calm down, obviously the Tasmanian boats where neither going to hit the shore nor the fish farm – so I was in fact in a darn good spot!” – point taken. Pop out of Mercury Passage and you start to see the Hippolyte Rocks and beautiful cliffs before rounding Tasman Island. This is where Richard Bennett does his fly over for photos – usually my sail trim at this point reflects fatigue more than skill. All hands on deck for the photo-shoot and the comedy begins. We got a big gust and rounded up gracefully with sails flapping and sheets everywhere in full with of the circling helicopter taking pictures.

The approach to Tasman Island also provides a few good knock down gusts as the Westerly appears to have hit stronger than the forecast. I cover my furled gib with the gale sail and reef down the main. Note at this point of course the island manages to well blanket the storm ahead for a prolonged moment of pure frustration of lighter airs. I almost shouted ‘yay’ when slammed by the 44 knots I had prepared the boat for. At this point I choose to lecture the family on the value of wind in the neck of the Derwent River. The frustrating lows of the drift to the finish line. This wind was such a blessing, honestly kids, so much better than no wind at all. We overtook 5 yachts up Storm Bay and in the river as we soon found the need to go full sail again and then kite. A move that suitably impressed our fellow racers, unfortunately though they were considering the risk due to the narrows we were currently passing and the lee shore. But we where on fire. We finished in 2-3 knots, crouched on the low side and every move suppressed to keep momentum. So you go from wind hammering you, to nearly becalmed within hours – new experience.

Saltair finished with the parade before the cheering crowds of the Taste of Tasmania – unfortunately we were announced as Extasea from RGYC and I on the helm as Paul Buchholz. Not particularly flattering, even though I was caked in salt, besides he and I look nothing alike. But, the important thing was my Tasmanian friends who saw us arrive and screamed out our name, and my name ‘Sarah’. I was so proud to bring Saltair along side. We had started the race with 26 boats, 8 retired due to the rough conditions (one lost its mast in the blow at Tasman). We came 10th on IRC and 8th on AMS and 12th over the line.

By Sarah Allard, Skipper, Saltair R410