Manly Pole Race
Not quite the America's Cup but "Alinghi Rules" used at 2008 Manly Pole Race
These boats are accused of cheating by people who don't make the Rules!
The "Auld Mug" at Manly Sailing Club is the McMillan Cup which is contested "annually on an arm of the sea". That arm of the sea is the same one each year and is that patch of sparkling warm waters of the Hauraki Gulf contained within the 7 nautical miles from Manly Beach to "the Pole" off Orewa Beach and back. The race is famously known as the "Manly Pole Race". Over the years the tradition and kudos associated with winning this coveted trophy has steadily risen and with Laser World Champions Mark Page (winner 2005) and Murray Thom (winner 2006) adding their names to the esteemed list of winners etched on the cup the desire to win the "Auld Mug" has only grown.
"The Pole" being left to Starboard (L to R) by Kevin McGrath, Phil Ash in a Farr 3.7 (winner 2000 & 2004) Rex Maddren (winner 1999) at the halfway stage of the Manly Pole race.
The "Pole Race" has always been open to any type of boat to enter and over the years various types of handicap systems have been used but in recent years it has been a straight out line honors drag race to the Pole and back that has won the trophy. Generally the race has been won by a Standard Rig Laser (although a youth 2 handed skiff designed by Hal Wagstaff came 3rd in 2006) as the Laser seems fastest over the range of conditions which might have to be faced on race day. In 2007 the wind blew 15 to 18 knots from the Southwest making the race a very long 3.5 nautical mile beat on Port followed by an exhilarating blast reach of 3.5 nautical miles back to Manly Beach. To deal with the conditions in 2007, two sailors combined to sail a Laser Radial and were very quick on the beat to "the Pole" but could not get up and plane as quick as the single handed Laser Standard sailors and were past on the way home. So the question for the 2007 holder (and Manly Sailing Club committee member responsible for making the rules for this years race) and the other sailors who desired the "Auld Mug" was: How do you make a Laser Faster?
Hobbie Cat ahead of Mark Griffiths 136732 and Phil Clark 3 as they turn for home.
Some of the answers this years competitors came up with included: You do a "Dennis Conner" and sail a Catamaran, or a Farr 3.7, a Starling, or a Phase 2 single handed, or "I will sail with the brand new sail that I was saving for the Nationals", or "I am Laser 4.7 sailor and weight 55kgs and I will sail with a Radial or a Standard Rig". The current holder and rule maker in a very "Alinghish" manner had been making annoucements & press statements about using the new Rooster 8.1 sail to turbo charge his laser prior to the event. These announcements seemed to be being ignored ahead of the event by most sailors except current World Laser Radial Apprentice Master Champion Mark Page who desperately wanted the Auld Mug back after three long years since his 2005 victory.
The fleet well spread as Stephen Wagstaff 156765, with Malcolm McCowan 187887, ahead starts the very tight reach back to Manly Beach
Mark Page wondered how he could beat the turbo-charged Laser with Rooster 8.1 sail. The Rooster 8.1 is a normal laser with a slightly longer bottom mast section and a specially designed 8.1 square metre sail. It is designed for Laser sailors who are over 85kg and get frustrated on those light wind days when the sailors who normally sail the 5.6 square metre Laser Radial Sail use the 7.1 square metre Laser Standard Sail. The 85kg Sailor does not have this option to increase sail area and they end up floundering at the back of the fleet. The Rooster 8.1 gives them the step up in horsepower they need on those light wind days to be competitive. You don't get to be a World Champion without being creative so Mark designed a bowsprit for his laser similar to that of "The Red Sled" NZL 20 and added a Gennaker to his Standard Rig Laser. His bath tub tank testing indicated that as long as the wind stayed below 10 knots he would be able to fly an extra 4 square metres of Sail on top of the 7.1 square metres of his Laser Standard Rig without the un-stayed Laser Rig coming crashing down around him. The Page Laser 11.1 was created!
The Page Laser 11.1 Note NZL 20 style bowsprit
Allegations and grumblings started in the rigging up area as the standard & radial rig sailors got that distinct sinking feeling that they had brought knives to a gunfight. Whisperings of "Cheats" and "Hope the sea breeze really kicks in" could be heard throughout the boat park. When anyone was brave enough to come forward and ask about the rules they were given the straight forward answer "Alinghi rules, turn up, sail and when the race is over I will tell you the rules." For some reason this did not stop the grumblings.
Peter Busfield 156988 approaches the pole behind the brotherly rivalry of Don Salthouse 181964 and Dean Salthouse 140179 already around
OOD Marcus Frith, as is customary (and as instructed by the defender after seeing the Page 11.1 for the first time), added another 1.5 nautical miles to course with a .5 beat leaving the top mark to port followed by a .5 dead run to a gate then leave the Pole to starboard back to the gate and a .5 beat to the Finish. So you would expect that with 8.5 nautical miles ahead of them, sailors would be relaxed at the start. No, this is the Pole Race, and a General Recall necessitated a change in the start line and a 2nd start under a Black Flag.
55 kg Alex Prior who normally sails Laser 4.7 with a 7.1 square metre Standard Sail ahead of John McArther in the Phase 2
The first beat was shifty as the sea breeze built and the fleet split to both sides of the course. Malcolm McCowan in a full rig sailed well up the middle and the defender was only just able to cross on port then get the last shift and lead at the top mark closely followed by Mark Page (only using the Standard Rig sail on the beats) & Malcolm, with Commodore Mike Jones and the Salthouse boys close behind them.
Working the right on the first beat. Left to Right: Phil Ash 305 Farr 3.7, Mike Jones 192280, Great Grand Master Ross Morton 159999 and 181722 Mark Page in the Page 11.1 in Upwind Mode (Laser Standard). Note the Gennaker neatly rolled on the foredeck.
With the dead run Mark Page could now unleash the beast and the crew work was good with a really sharp hoist and set. Unfortunately some idiot thought they had jammed the halyard when they really hadn't and the boat quickly reverted back to Laser Standard rig mode with the addition of an underwater parachute! Dean Salthouse, who was few of boat lengths dead astern, suddenly had visions of helming Emirates Team NZ's NZL 92 in race 5 of the Americas Cup (and maybe he saw a chance to use his knife at the gun fight), gave Mark's crew an absolute roasting that could be heard across the course encouraging them to get a Gennaker up again as quickly as possible. Unlike NZL 92, the Page 11.1 does not carry 3 or 4 Gennakers that can be cut away or used as large red flags so Mark's crew had to retrieve the underwater parachute and re-hoist it. A number of Standard rig sailors seen passing the Page 11.1 at this point did not seem as sympathetic as you would expect when passing a boat in distress.
One of the Catamarans used to try and win the "Auld Mug" and right Katie Parker heading home from the Pole.
Mark was able to hoist again and quickly set about taking those smiles off the faces of the boats that had passed him as he broad reached out the to the Pole. The sea breeze slowly strengthened and Mark was hiking hard watching the tip of his mast do things that he had never seen a laser mast do. Mark managed to get to the Pole 2nd behind the Jaguar like Rooster 8.1 which had comfortably roared away from the fleet on the run and long reach. The reach back was quite tight almost a beat and Mark struggled to hold the Gennaker and was eventually passed by Commodore Mike Jones who Mark had just pipped to the Pole. At the last gate Mark's crew again let him down and it took some time for the Underwater Parachute nee Gennaker to be stowed. Don Salthouse got the better of Dean on the last reach and managed to get past Mark to finish 3rd. A big thank you to OOD Marcus Frith and protege Finn Croft, and Gary Prior for providing another safety & photo boat. A great day enjoyed by all with free drinks & BBQ at the end. Malcolm won the Rum and Katie the wine. Below are photos of the Top 10 Sailors in finishing order (except for the Commodore who finished 2nd!). Where are the photo's of the Page 11.1 in action you ask? I am sorry but due to strict Pole Race rules photos can not be taken of competitors craft under sail. If you want to see it you'll have to enter next year! Although I suspect there maybe some slight changes! Mark can take some comfort as designer that the design was correct and fast it was just that idiot crew on the foredeck that let him down!
Young Finn Croft helped by OOD Marcus Frith prepares to sound the horn for a successful Defence! Now how can I change the rules for next year!
Don Salthouse 3rd (but more importantly ahead of Dean) and Mike Jones 2nd already well out of shot
Mark Page finishing 4th (note "neatly" stored Gennaker compared to photo above before it was hauled!) with Don Salthouse 3rd already finished
Dean Salthouse 5th and Peter Busfield 6th
Daniel Jones 170532 7th first of the usual 4.7 Sailors home & first Laser Radial and Malcolm McCowan 8th
followed by another 4.7 Sailor Robert Pasco in Radial 22 9th and GGM Ross Morton 10th