Little Jim – A16 Coastal Classic Race Report
Today’s story and photos comes to us from Little Jim’s skipper and owner James Mortimer and crew – Ash Smith, Rodrigo Salas, Janez Mikec, Max Goutard, Erwann Jooris.
I’ll let James share the story with you, as always – click on photos to enlarge. Enjoy 🙂
“After four long months out of the water at the Milford marina yard over winter, I know that Little Jim had been wanting to stretch her legs and get a good long sail up the coast. She feels fast with her newly reinforced decks, rebuilt rudder, and all over paint job. Or maybe it’s the long winter without any sailing that has made her crew push her along that little bit more.
The weather forecast for Labour weekend had been looking challenging, with light northerlies and rainy weather predicted. On Tuesday night we got together on the boat to go over safety and systems, not at all confident that we would even start the race. Over the next two days the forecast slowly got a little better, with the wind direction moving ever so slightly toward the east. On Thursday night, we made the call to go, knowing full well it was going to be tough.
Early Friday morning and with enough food and beer to supply a small army, we got ourselves into racing mode and set off for Devonport. There is something special about this race, with more than 150 yachts lining up across the harbour, a sense of anticipation building as the gun gets closer, an adventure ready to start.
We made an early call to cross the channel toward Rangitoto and escape the worst of the incoming tide. Little Jim made excellent ground on most of the fleet who were busy short tacking up Cheltenham Beach in very little wind. A long tack due east across the top of Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands allowed us to finally turn north and lay the outside of Tiri Island and and make some miles to the north. As it turned out, the short stretch between Tiri and Kawau Island was to be the best sailing we would get all day, with a perfect NE’er of 12 to 15 kts, and boat speed above 7 kts.
On any Coastal Classic, there is a decision to make off Takatu Point. Is the boat and the crew in good shape and ok to go on. In any adverse weather this is no small call to make. As all boaties know, crossing Bream Bay can be brutal, and there is no decent shelter until Tutukaka. An easy decision this time, and it was champagne sailing as we passed Cape Rodney. It didn’t last though, and as afternoon slid into evening the wind eased away and turned back north. A frustrating night of slow tacking between the Hen & Chick Islands and Whangarei Heads began, with not a lot of northward miles being made. What the wind failed to deliver the night sky made up for, with an impressive meteor shower, a crystal clear Milky Way, lots of phosphorescence, and an incredible sunrise.
At 8.30am, we made the difficult decision to pull the pin on the race just south of Elizabeth Reef. The forecast was light until afternoon and we had little hope of reaching Russell before cut off at 3pm.
Ending the race early wasn’t going to put a damper on the weekend though and we spent the next three days sailing downwind back to Auckland under spinnaker via the Poor Knights Islands, Tutukaka, the Hen & Chicks, and Kawau Island.
Little Jim, built in 1934, was the oldest boat to enter in this year’s race, and it is a fitting testament to the skill of New Zealand’s early boat builders and designers that we can often keep up with boats that are 60 or 70 years younger!
Can’t wait till 2021”
A16 – bermudan rigged, she was designed & built in 1934 by Arch Logan & Bill Couldrey.
LOA: 42’10”, LWL: 28′, BEAM: 9’1″, DRAFT: 6′