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PONANT Friday Twilight

The view from Gunga Din

Mark Johnson writes, 'I happily accepted an invitation to twilight on Ivan Wheen’s Gunga Din - a Reichel Pugh 46 built by Hart Marine; a mini version of Wild Oats, without the canting keel, built around the same time. Originally set up as an offshore racer, the meticulous Ivan worked with Hart Marine to convert her into a twilight machine.

I arrived for the “5pm sharp” dock out to find the vessel unattended. More surprising, both custom stern iceboxes were devoid of anything chilled. Not an auspicious start. Thankfully, things came together quickly and being the evening back marker, we had time to get organized.

Racing got away in perfect conditions with our competitors very well advanced up the track. With Ivan on the wheel, a full suite of electric self-tailers and Olympic royalty Dave Edwards running the pit, there wasn’t much requirement or opportunity to do anything. If we did, chances were it was wrong. So, I decided it best not to worry and instead attend the bar, heckle fellow competitors as we met on the course, while enjoying the expansive aft deck and fine conversation.

Early on, the popular call was for the Hunter Valley Chard. As we nosed our way forward into the fleet and tensions rose (slightly), the preference shifted to beer and rose, both perfect accompaniments for the duck pancakes Ivan served at the top mark.

As we headed west toward the finish and picked up the last (or first?) of the fleet, talk turned (as I’m sure it often does) to handicapping. Being busy with the important bar work and relatively unskilled with the format, I was not sure what to make of the discussion. The unfamiliar salty language didn’t help, but I’m pretty sure that all aboard were expressing how very well satisfied they always find the system. Apparently, slowing a boat down for handicap purposes was not in the pit boss’ DNA, so on we charged, even quicker now that Sharon Bishop had prised the owner from the wheel.

With the horn blast received, the race proper (i.e. to pack up and get to the bar) began in earnest.

A fun afternoon, excellent company, and a great dinner. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular night out!’

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