POLAR BEAR RACE #1 – 2013-10-20

Polar Bear Series / Racing
Close Quarters

Luckily these boats were barely moving because this looks seriously dangerous to me!

Fog had socked in English Bay for a week and getting a race off this Sunday was not looking good. At least I think it was fog. I did have a drink or two during the week, so it could have been anything! But when Racing Officer Steve Barbour came aboard with Ben Rummen’s new wife, the “unsinkable Mida” in tow, plus two others, I was up, scrubbed and ready to get out there, no matter what.

The Perihelion needed a drop of fuel, so after stopping at the barge we headed out to sit and wait at the QC buoy while the fleet of some 21 boats gathered around us like ducklings.

Steve made a decision that we should move more to the centre of the Bay as a very slight breeze had sprung up from the south and was filling in from the West. It had been from the north when we came out, but had never reached the dizzying heights of more than 2 knots. We set the start line with a pin and anchored the Perihelion at right angles to the breeze and watched as it swung to the North West! Bugger! Fog shrouded the mountains of the North Shore, but the Bay was pretty clear.

But all was not lost. Rather than send the fleet to the Kits Barge Buoy, Steve picked the closest freighter and made what was for me the shortest course I have ever seen, but in this “wind” it would take half a day to get there and back, if they made it at all. We were set to go.

Start Line

Boats barely moved as they approached the line.

The countdown began and boats started to make a “run” for the line. Much more of a crawl really, but these things take skill in light airs. The breeze built to about 3 knots and held. We were going racing!

One or two boats managed to fall over the line before the start but turned to come back and do it all over again, then the ‘gun’ went off, or the horn, but you know what I mean.

I cannot say that it was a great start for most, but all but two boats managed to get away. Those two were still trying to cross the line when everybody came back, but that’s another thing.

Most of the fleet took the northerly tack on port towards the freighter and there was some astonishing things happening out there. At one port I spotted Bedlam II hurtling along, not 5 yards from boats that were stopped completely! This was tricky sailing

Suddenly, and before we were ready for sure, single handed Trevor Salmon aboard Manana (BYC) came around the freighter all on his own, spinnaker up and coming back almost before he had begun. This warp speed travel has got to stop, it just confuses me!

But all was not lost because within 100 yards of the finish – he stopped. Other boats started to appear from behind the freighter, spinnakers flying, while Manana floundered about with its spinnaker like a pair of knickers around his ankles unable to move. Everybody caught up! And I mean everybody!


Look at the colours…

Now it got exciting. Boats were gibing right at the line, and often right in front of another boat coming at them on port. I have to say that if the crews didn’t have fun this day, then they were not paying attention! This was great stuff to watch anyway. The fact that the committee had not had time for their customary bath and a good lunch with Champagne was beside the point!

The hapless Manana was passed at the line by not one, but three boats before he managed to flop across the line himself. Between both divisions ther was only 9 minutes between first and last, which goes to show the sort of scrum that was at the finish line.

Nimue (RVYC) with Jason Vandergaag was first on corrected time, judging the wind lines and shifts to perfection. But line honors went to Brigadoon and Andy Allen (KYC). Rhumblineand Martina Sonderhof (TCYC) made a valiant effort to pip him at the post, but just failed by 1 minute 6 seconds. Sounds like a lots but at the speeds they were moving, this was CLOSE! You have to look at the results on the webpage here to get an idea as to how close the boats were, but the committee boat crew have all had to go to a hearing specialist because of the constant wailing of the horn as so many boats came across the line at the same time!

I have to mention OCD with Kevin Van Hullebush aboard (FCHA)did well to finish 5th with Fred Gimman on Tenacity (VRC) hot on his heels.

In Division 2 Slingshot and Kevin Dempsey (TCYC) won the day with an elapsed time just 3 minutes behind the winner of Div. 1. Brilliant.

I would like to give a special mention to Peter Smits on Avalon who did NOT come last and I know how he feels wielding a big boat around the bay in light airs. And then there was the single handed Daniela Lucas on Pallas Athena who very nearly didn’t come last, but missed by just 11 seconds. I feel for both these valiant VRC contenders. But seriously, everyone deserves a mention here for getting out there and giving it a go. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did watching.

I believe there were nine different yacht clubs represented on this day, which is great to see, and, as we seem to have so much fun doing this, I think the numbers of boats will increase too. 21 isn’t not bad for a winter series in the fog, so if you know of some lay-about with a boat who should be out there, give them a nudge for the next race.

At the finish

At the finish

The race was over, and the two back markers who, for the sake of decency will not be named here, finally crossed the start line, but all to no avail as you have to cross BEFORE everybody else has finished, not afterwards.

A second race was asked of the fleet and with a resounding “yes please” the sequence was started once again. The course was doubled in length because suddenly we had a great little breeze, and then Manana called in to say he was going home. I am sure I heard a foot being stamped in disgust, but we all have to do what we do. The race was started and Ben Rummen on Thursday’s Child got a superb start, only to have the wind die again 5 minutes later. The race was immediately abandoned in favor of a pint in the pub. Obviously Trevor Salmon knew something we did not.

As usual, a great time was had in the pub at the VRC afterwards and many a tale of heroism and guts was embellished beyond reality with crews acting out the race like WW2 fighter pilots back at the hanger. “There I was, nothing on the clock but the makers name, Jerry on my tail….” It was fun and I can hardly wait until the next one. Well done one and all.


Written by Evan Seys


Final Results