'Exciting and exhilarating' is how Squadron Member Josh Chant describes his first overnight offshore race as navigator on board 'Solutions'. He writes:
The Cabbage Tree race was popular this year as it is one of the main qualifier races for the 75th Sydney to Hobart. 67 boats entered, of which 58 lined up on the start line but by the time we reached Sydney Heads the fleet had already been cut dramatically.
The start was originally scheduled for 1900hrs but thanks to the sunset departure of a cruise liner, we eventually got away at 1920hrs. With dusk now upon us and gusting to 35knots, it was a tricky and challenging ride out of the harbour. We had a quick broach but quickly found our feet and with a small fractional chute up, we stormed our way to North head.
With a few gusts into the higher 30s, we pulled down our kite and ran out under jib and reefed main.
Another quick gybe and we were square running under poled out jib straight down the rhumb line to Cabbage Tree Island. It was a beautiful night sailing with a three quarter moon and small following sea to drive us along.
Unfortunately at about 0430hrs, as we were on our final approach to Fingal Head and Cabbage Tree, the moon set and some cloud cover came over blocking out the stars, leaving us quite in the dark as we waited for sun up. Normally this isn’t much of an issue, but it was this time, thanks to our modern day reliance on technology, as we found ourselves without AIS coming through to the chart plotter. Suffice to say we kept a very careful watch out and as we crossed the mouth of Port Stephens, the pre-dawn sky started to lighten, and we made our way around Cabbage Tree Island.
It was a long slog upwind to get us back to Sydney, and our goal was simple: to get back as quickly as possible in anticipation of the anticipated shift to the south. The breeze was still blowing steadily from the SW at 20-25knots at this time.
We did our single tack for Sydney at approximately 1500hrs for what turned out to be an easy lay into Sydney Harbour. While our strategy to get south quickly wasn't a bad one, we carried on too far and over laid. We certainly could have afforded to have the bow down and travelling a bit faster once we finally tacked onto port too. This saw us getting inshore a bit later than planned and we landed right into the small trough that had moved offshore, parking us in no wind for two hours, just five miles off North Head.
A westerly finally arrived at 2000hrs and we sailed in and crossed the finish line at 2300hrs, managing 21st across the line and 20th IRC.
Considering that only 35 odd boats finished, and the only gear failure we had was a bolt on one of the mainsail cars unthreaded itself, we are really happy with how we and the boat went and feel all the preparation for our campaign for this year’s Sydney to Hobart is going well.