The 2019 Frostbite Regatta

Regatta wrap-up by club member and volunteer, David Gordon

As the days shorten and the winter chills nip, astute observers of celestial phenomena at RMYS cast their eyes to the west searching for a sign from Melbourne’s Stone Henge. One or two days from the winter solstice the dim red orb of the setting sun breaks weakly through the tallest columns of the Westgate Bridge. Viewed from the RMYS clubhouse balcony, this is the signal for RMYS’s immortal sailing gods – but committee members will do – to gird their loins for the Frostbite Regatta. Last Sunday this battle royal contested annually between RBYC and RMYS was held in the waters of St Kilda harbour, right beside St Kilda pier.

Photo Credit: Alex Simopoulos, RMYS Race Management Volunteer

Huey chimed in with a forecast of biting frigidity and fickle winds thus setting the stage for an epic contest in which only true grit would prevail. This year the format of the regatta was extended to include warm up races for the junior squads of each club as a prelude to the main event, and also to demonstrate to the grown ups how a Quest dinghy might be skilfully piloted.

Muster time at RMYS for race officials and juniors’ support personnel was a bright and chirpy 0830. At that time St Kilda beach was cast in gloom by very low hanging cloud trying its best to envelope the course in fog while across Hobsons Bay Williamstown was seen to be bathed in sunshine. Surely the sun would burn off the cloud and warm the faces of the Frostbite competitors. No, it would not. Freezing conditions appropriately persisted all through the event.

Without any sun to drive the hints of the awakening breeze airs remained
light and variable. Race Officer Andrew Gluth said it didn’t matter what sort
of course was set because in those conditions whatever was placed would be wrong, which was kind of redundant because whenever do ROs get things right?

Juniors’ boats entered the water shortly before their scheduled start time and competitors were greeted with an east-west course axis. Their start sequence commenced and the boats gathered near the line, the Blue Peter came down. With just a minute to go tension built as the boats inched towards the start line. Seconds before the start signal the answering pennant shot up the committee boat’s mast. The light breeze had swung wildly necessitating a change to north-south axis.

Photo Credit: Alex Simopoulos, RMYS Race Management Volunteer

Soon afterwards the juniors were off and racing in breezes wavering between 1 and 3 and zero knots and swinging about all over the shop. Working their way up the course crews displayed well practised sailing skills to impressive effect. Leeward weight and forward weight were the order of the day. Patrick Walby of RMYS took this to the limit in hiking out ahead of the bow of his boat to lift its arse out of the water which netted him very nice boat speed. Lead boats hoisted asymmetric kites at the top mark but they refused to fill and worked as air brakes instead. Kiteless boats slipped past them to snatch the lead. Racing was intriguingly topsy turvy.

After the conclusion of the two juniors’ races RMYS crews had acquitted themselves well with the good guys slightly ahead on points. After returning to shore seniors swaddled in multiple insulating layers took to the boats in readiness for the clash of titans.

Photo Credit: Alex Simopoulos, RMYS Race Management Volunteer

Out on the course the breeze continued to vacillate but at least for a while
there was a tiny bit more of it. Cunning plans and huge tactical advantages at the start line and elsewhere on the course would morph into crushing pitfalls as breeze shifts of 150deg toyed with the fleet. There was hoppo-bumpo contact at the leeward mark but honourable sportsmanship was exercised and no protest flags were raised. Courses were short and racing was tight.

At the conclusion of the two races spectators and competitors were at pains
to guess which team might hold the points’ advantage. Back at the clubhouse counting of the results was checked and rechecked and rechecked again. Drums rolled in the Members’ Bar while all anxiously awaited the announcement. Expectant skippers prepared warily to wet their whistles with a Wee Drap o’Yarra. Holy smokes! points were tied at 21 for each team.

Since RMYS held the trophy adjudication of the tie was at the discretion of
Commodore Charles Meredith. In making his decision he referred to the
results of the juniors’ contest, which RMYS had won. Thus it was RMYS’s
illustrious juniors who clinched the Frostbite Regatta for RMYS.

With the juniors having covered themselves and their club in glory once more – all of RMYS remembers well their Otto Meik Trophy triumph at the last Stonehaven Cup – we can now relax in the comfort of knowing that the days are getting longer and warmer weather will soon return; the Earth will continue its lap of the sun propelling us to the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. But come the gloomiest days of winter keep a lookout for the red flash under the spans of the Westgate because that’s when RMYS will defend the Frostbite trophy in our home waters again.

by David Gordon
Anchor Yanker 3rd Class, probationary
Brotherhood of International Mark Boat Operators