2019 Gascoigne Cup and Thelma Plate

The second race of the CYCA Short Ocean Racing Series was held on Saturday, writes John Maclurcan. Under a long standing arrangement with the CYCA, the RSYS ran the race, awarding the Gascoigne Cup to the winner on PHS for Division 1 and the Thelma Plate to Division 2. The race was also the first heat of the Perseverance Trophy, an event exclusive to those who enter at the RSYS for three offshore races spread through the season.

The weather forecast predicted westerly, shifting in both strength and direction, which is always a great challenge for the race officials. David Ross, Race Officer of the day, once again set a really good start line for the reach to the Heads. He cleverly angled it so that neither end was favoured and this was reflected in the spread of competitors along the line for both Division 1 and 2. Rob Ridley’s course was perfect with two good windward legs and two good squarish runs.
In Morag Bheag, as ‘Tail-End Charlie’ in a big fleet of 16 entrants in Division 1 and 21 in Division 2, I am unable to tell you much about what all of the fleet were doing though we observed a few Chinese gybes and broaches on the second run but I can tell you about our exciting race: A quick reach to the Heads and as soon as we pulled away around the junction buoy off Lady Bay, up went the bulletproof 2.2oz kite. The wind was gusting 20+ kts and was quite shy but Morag Bheag was able to carry the kite and  run to leeward but abeam of larger boats who were without kites. The mark was laid four miles east of North Head. The wind backed and most yachts by now had kites. The breeze also abated in typical westerly fashion. When it returned, it had a nor’west slant and as the southernmost yacht, we were last to get it, dropped astern and were last to the first mark. There was plenty of southerly set running too.  

On the wind with a full main and no 2. There were plenty of shifts for the beat back to the shore to a mark north east of Bluefish. I tried to play the shifts which is not a good idea in the heavy Morag Bheag but eventually we settled into a 25 kt lift on the port tack, overtaking one boat. The run back out was very square so I opted to pole out the No 2 and we ran comfortably at 7.5 kts on a nice straight course to the mark, allowing for the set. As I felt the breeze was strengthening, the crew prepared the No 3 headsail for the beat back in and were we glad we made the change. With a full main and No3, the beat back to Bluefish was exciting but arduous and Morag Bheag ploughed through the choppy sea. The wind was easily over 30 kts and after we passed the mark at Bluefish, we put a reef in the main. I had been hesitant to do so earlier, although it might have been prudent, simply because I did not want to take any risks flogging either the sail or the rig any more than necessary. I felt it was better to feather the boat in the gusts. We beat back through the Heads very comfortably and eased sheets slightly for the leg to the finish.

In a race that favoured the big boats, Samarkand from MHYC won the Gascoigne Cup and the Sydney 38 Shine On from the CYCA won the Thelma Plate. Of the Perseverance Fleet, Peter Williams’ Erica was first. and Ian MacDiarmid on Hellrazer, pictured above, came 2nd in Division 2. On Morag Bheag we achieved a 5th in Division 2 and the Perseverance, and it was one of those results where 5th place felt like a million dollars. We had a ball in a most challenging and thrilling event although I detected that the boat gave a groan of relief when it reached its mooring.

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Article by John Maclurcan

Photo of Hellrazer taken April 2019 by Paul Barbour.