Christmas Sailing, Sydney Hobart Race Start & New Years

Christmas Sailing, Sydney Hobart Race Start & New Years

To refill our water tanks we headed back to the Pacific end of Sydney Harbour. A last time running our water maker to fill our seemingly endless water supplies (not to talk about the waste water). As the wind was steady we decided to have a short tour to Bondi - this time from the Pacific side. Jade Akka is still not a race horse, but we did well, trimming a bit more often as learned from our in harbour races.

Turning back we got ready for Boxing day: the Sydney Hobar Race start with pole position views at Watsons Bay. We dropped anchor well ahead so that we got the exact spot we wanted. For the day we have guests invited: Adrian, Maree and crew that invited us so many times to race with them from GFS and RSYS. Also on board will be Oliver, the employee number one to be.

The event is big. While we dropped anchor in calm waters, enjoying a wonderful sunset over Sydey's skyline, the morning brought it up. More and more boats showed up and dropped anchor. Then a first helicopter before noon. And suddenly the air was literally bursting with energy. Boats everywhere. Helicopters circling the harbour. Police boats ensuring order. Police helicopter directing the boats below. And our barbecue became hot, too.

While a nice piece of meat cooked slowly, the racing yachts showed their storm sails, proving they are equipped for the worst. Pumpkin and sweet potatoe getting yummie, the storm sails were down again and the race suit was up. Big towering super maxi yachts dominated the horizon, making the Jade Akka size boats look small. However, a few of them squeezed in with the big ones, cleverly navigating the pre-start chaos and putting themselves in a good position. Then, as the meat gilled in it's last stage, suddenly all the big black sails pointed in the same direction: race has started.

With an incredible fleet along the race track, the maxis took the lead, tacking against the north-easterly in the narrow and partially shallow harbour. The water boiled, rocking even good old and heavy Jade Akka, as the spectator fleet chased the racers towards south head. The helicopter armada whizzed all over the place, chasing racers as well as capturing the amazing number of boats on the water. As the head wave passed us, noise level reduced slightly while we got ready for lunch. Soon the big black sails hit the channel to the Pacific and disappeared behind the head, only the helicopters indicating the leader's position.

Wild Oats X, an all female crew, has made it in front of one of the maxis. Boats this size, a little bigger than Jade Akka, may be challenging the big ones in narrow harbours and tricky changing winds. Out on the ocean, pure phyiscs dictate - the big ones are left alone. However, it turns out Wild Oats both will be remembered for their achievement in that race. Wild Oats XI being a 100ft maxi, Wild Oats X about 2/3rds it's bigger sister.

With the waves created by the spectators not only Jade Akka gets rocked. Also the leighter and smaller race competitors get to fight against this hinderance. Especially as the wind drops short before leaving the harbour, these boats get slowed down due to the movements and wave action created by the spectator fleet. However, soon all the traffic reverted, going back in, while we enjoyed great drinks, tasty veggies and a well done slow roast.

Our guests were caught in the traffic. Rush our on water are Boxing day and New Years. So we welcomed them as the scene calmed down considerably, leaving us to a relaxing afternoon on board. It turned evening soon and we said good bye to Adrian, Maree and their godsons with family, having the teens doing the rubber ducky, a.k.a. dinghy, rides to Joli. Joli is the J-boat we had the pleasure to do several races in the "Twilight" - a light displacement, narrow keel racer-cruiser, ideal for sailing the harbour and vicinity of Sydney.

Next day we tailed the traffic jam of the day before and sailed into Darling Harbour, no diesel use. Passing the Harbour Bridge seems already a habit. The sights however still make us grab the camera - and taking the same shots again. Just before the narrow passage into Blackwattle Bay we furled the genoa and started the engine, heading back to our previous anchorage. One spot left in that narrow anchorage we drop the anchor and keep the chain as short as possible. Holiday season and the upcoming New Year already seem to boost cruising activities. We were told New Years gets super crowded - and the Sydney Hobart Race Start may have given us just a very first glimpse of what that could mean!

Now it's time for some boat beautification. So we dive into the biggest hardware store on the southern hemisphere to get some parts. Then, we are looking forward to New Years! We decided that there is nothing better than celebrating with friends, so we dumped our plans to go to the so-told-best-spot to see the fireworks. Instead we changed from blackwattle Bay to Lane Cove river and dropped the hook in front of the GFS club shed. It's a very familiar club, with easy going and interesting people. It's one of few or even the only predominantly local organised clubs and the vibe benefits big time: instead of oversize marina infrastructure like the CYC with gleaming TV screens all over the club life centers around the barbecue - asdide for the sailing, that is. Nevertheless, GFS had four yachts in the Sydney Hobart Race and all did well, albeit not to all the skippers high aspirations: if line honors is the goal, then we are back to one of Captain Cooks ships: "Endurance". So for InfoTrack the race may not have had the desired outcome, but GFS and the crew can certainly be proud of what they achieved.

For New Years we thus dug into "Aussi" treats. Given the international crowd bringing whatever they liked we ended up with delicious cheese (from Switzerland, France and Australia), prawns (very local), fine meat (local) and desert wine (international and local) to name a few. For the fireworks we hopped on to fast and agile SY Jolie and Adrian skippered us through the crowded harbour. We said hello to all Dutch and Swiss boats we recognized, we greeted the small and super yachts spread out at the Zoo and Shark Island and finally chatted through the night, until we went boating to the fireworks again. The 9 o'clock firework, for the kids, we watch right "under" the Paramatta fire work barge. The 12 o'clock firework included the harbour bridge so we drifted in front of Balmain to see the spectacle. It's a deafening event, the explosions shacking hull and stomach, but the eyes admiring the extravagant addition of stars and lightnings to the summer sky.

With a little headache due to various effects we lifted anchor for a last time for the next few months: we are bound for the marina. As we travel to Switzerland for a month, we dock Jade Akka. She will serve as a home when we get back. Therefore we started maintenance and improvements. Isa convinced me to paint the interior completely new, highlighting the nice woodwork while making it a little brighter. The color choice proved great as the first "wall" in the forward cabin dried. I tested the varnishing in the forward head and also achieved acceptable results. So we are ready and sufficiently experienced by now to finish the forward cabin before turning to the next one. We will certainly not be bored upon our return in late January!

The next few days will see us decomissioning Jade Akka for a rest of 2-3 months. Watermaker, sails, lines, dinghy (a.k.a. rubber ducky) etc all need to be serviced and "hibernated" or need to be protected from the intense radiation. We will be back to our adventure - a completely new one - after a break "at home" in wonderful Switzerland!

Here the Christmas Sailing, Race Start & New Years pics