Race Reviews: From Steiner 29 Redshift

The Royal Cargo All Souls Regatta 2016 was a superb, competitive sailing opportunity for both local and international yacht racing crews and cruising sailors. Under partially cloudy skies, and with breezes generally in the range of 8-12 knots for much of the 3-day regatta, 29 yachts in three classes competed for honors on the water and bottles of rum at the evening awards.

The three classes covered racing keelboats, cruising multihulls and cruising keelboats. The largest yacht in the fleet was elegant, 70-foot, Andrews 70, Bella Uno while the smallest was the exciting, Steiner 29 (like a Laser with a bulb-keel and wings), Redshift, both of which came head-to-head in the racing division.

International crews that chartered local yachts for the event came from Hong Kong and Japan, while cruising yachts came from as far away as Australia and Germany. The All Souls Regatta is a truly international yachting event and the largest of its kind in the Philippines.

Although 32 yachts had registered for the regatta in advance, due to various mishaps along the way there were only 29 starters for the 2016 Royal Cargo All Souls Regatta. During the first day of racing two more yachts were to drop out with mainsails in need of repair. Other yachts had jibs to be repaired or replaced at various points; Hyde Sails of Cebu were opportune sponsors of the event and on hand to offer instant estimates and to dispatch sails to their repair facility.

The main feature of the 2016 regatta was a new set of courses for skippers (and organizers) to learn. Of course the tidal flow and currents do not change (except by the hour of the moon), but the length of time a yacht is in them, and the opportunities to avoid the most negative effects, add a new dimension to the competition. The new courses had been plotted in conjunction with visiting members of the Aberdeen Boat Club, Hong Kong, with the intent of adding some additional excitement on the water to match the revelry of the parties each evening.

Steiner 29 Redshift
smallest in fleet Steiner 29 Redshift

We aboard Redshift, starting almost last under the pursuit race handicap system, had the spectacle of the entire fleet ahead of us as they sped (or in some cases slogged) to the first mark, some 7 miles distant, off the south coast of Maricaban Island. There was just sufficient wind angle for us to use our spinnaker and so we flew towards our quarry with a speed-over-ground of 13 knots at times.

The 9-mile hike from the first to the second mark was a very different story. We now had wind and tide on the nose as the racing and multihull fleets headed for the lighthouse, to the West of the Ilijan natural gas power station. The cruising fleet had less than half that distance to sail before turning for the finish.

As in previous years, when inflatable buoy marks have been laid along the Batangas coast, by the time the yachts arrive the marks have disappeared and skippers must navigate to the published GPS positions before turning for the finish. During our approach to the published GPS position it became apparent that some skippers did not have crew aboard who knew how to read a GPS – protests would be heard later.

Once clear of the gaggle of racers and multihulls at the lighthouse mark there were four racing class yachts between Redshift and the finish – a misty 9 miles away to the southwest: Selma Star (Beneteau Oceanis 36.7), HanaFe (Hanse 445), Emocean (Beneteau 47) and Bella Uno. The drag race that followed allowed Redshift to touch 15.1 knots over the ground but it was not so simple as it may sound – the choppy conditions, through the various tide-rips, combined with the wind generated wave sets meant Redshift’s modest freeboard was breached many times.

We slipped past the first yacht at speed but had no time for pleasantries, as the chop was severe just there and all were focused on keeping Redshift level and looking least like a wind-powered submarine. The three in the distance were more of a challenge but plane by plane we reeled them ever closer. Finally there was only Bella Uno to beat but she was just too far ahead and the finish line just too close. An exciting 2nd place and a bonding for Redshift crew, who were sailing as a team for the first time. Unfortunately, Redshift’s only serviceable jib was de-bonding, so our shore-crew would have to be up early, sweating over a hot sewing machine to get us racing the following day . . . go Girlie!

Unfortunate also for some of the multihulls, they were unable to finish in the allotted time and scored a DNF. Perhaps the Club will not be using that course with that wind angle in future.

The second day for the racing class was to be somewhat of a gamble insomuch as the only mark of the course was Verde Island and it was skipper’s choice as to which way around to sail. It has been 15 years since this course was used in a regatta so there was no residual knowledge in the Club as to the best way around . . . it was down to calculation, with a smattering of speculation concerning tidal flows and variable winds.

Redshift was set for a starboard rounding and exceeded expectations in the choppy conditions by closing in on the first two competitors before half-way along the North side of Verde Island. The northeast side of the island proved more challenging than expected as the wind unexpectedly dropped to barely 3 knots and the tidal flows made for some exciting moments close to rocky outcrops. As we approached the half-way point, three of the yachts that had chosen the port rounding had already crossed us, but they would now have to struggle with softening breezes along the North shore whereas we would, in theory, have stronger breeze and positive tidal flow in our favor along the southern shore.

video: Redshift uncomfortable to windward in the chop

Redshift was ahead of the starboard-rounding group soon after hoisting our spinnaker. Gliding towards Escarceo Point we had only HanaFe in serious pursuit . . . but we could not yet see any of the port-rounding group.

Eventually the port-rounding group came into view, predictably struggling with light winds and still 6 miles or more from the finish, all except one . . . the distinctly elegant classic 8-meter, Anthea, was on a converging course with Redshift, and ahead. The fluky breezes and tidal flows along Puerto Galera’s peninsular beaches did not provide sufficient speed to catch Anthea but there was also a chance that Bella Uno, powered by her enormous spinnaker and long waterline length, would get ahead of us as well. Come the finish Redshift scored another second place, just ahead of Bella Uno and Emocean.

The third and final day of racing saw all classes sailing the same, relatively short course: East along the peninsular beaches, South to an inflatable-buoy mark off the Mindoro coast, in the vicinity of San Teodoro, and back to the traditional finish off Haligi Beach.

Starting near the back of the fleet Redshift had the unique appreciation for where the breeze was strongest and where the tide-on-the-turn may be affecting yachts ahead. We chose a tack that gave us some advantage en-route to Escarceo Point and more when we headed for the upwind mark.

With most of the fleet still ahead of us we hoisted the spinnaker early after the mark rounding and powered up for our run for home, knowing we had to finish ahead of Bella Uno to win the racing class or at least ahead of Emocean to be sure of a podium finish and the all-important bottle of rum.

About half-way to Escarceo Point the angle of breeze prevented us from climbing above the metallic bulk of the 60-foot Van Dam ketch, Aragorn, under full sail, and so a course to leeward of her was the only option. There was a perception that our 12-plus knots of boat speed would allow us to pass close and pop-out ahead of Aragorn, unscathed. A valuable lesson was about to be learned: no matter your speed, a large enough wind shadow can bring you to a halt. And so we sat in Aragorn’s shadow of ten minutes before finally escaping. There was now no chance to catch Bella Uno, nor Emocean, nor almost any of the racing class fleet before the finish. That’s yacht racing.

video: Redshift gliding towards the finish . . . too late

The 13th All Souls Regatta closed out with an awards ceremony and much merriment among the assembled crews and friends. The new yachts that were competing for the first time made promises to return. The new crews racing were smiling into their beer and sausages and would almost certainly return. The photographers and videographers would make sure the memories would live on until new ones are made during the 14th All Souls Regatta in October, 2017.

Book you place now for the largest yachting event in the Philippines: the All Souls Regatta 2017.

words: John Smart

image & video: Girlie Cervantes

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