This afternoon would have been a cold and breezy Last Race with a sharp shower to accompany Beer and Bangers in an ankle-deep arch. So perhaps we didn’t miss too much to the COVID clampdown.
Here are the final results for our extraordinary 2020 season. We lost the first race to strong winds, the second to a PLA river closure, and the next 9 races to COVID-19 lockdown. But from 17th May to the second lockdown on 5th November we had 21 races and some very good turn-outs.
James swept the board of 1st prize silver for the Handicap, Big Boats and Polly prizes, with Alex winning the Little Boats prize. Commodore Lev got two 2nd places (Big Boats and Polly Prizes); Rob got 2nd prize in the Handicap, and Ian 2nd in the Little Boats. Third places went to Rob (Big Boats), Alex (Handicap and Polly), and Jane for the Little Boats.
And our average turnout for points races was 6.4 boats. Last season was 4.1 and the last time we had a higher number (6.7) was 2001.
Sunday was overcast and strong gusty winds with rain were forecast. Nevertheless several helms turned up at the arch at 12:30 to get the feel of conditions. Four boats decided to launch: James Armitage with his increasingly experienced Enterprise crew, grandson Ayanda; Alex Pape in his lugger; Ian Nethersell in his Vibe; and Jane Watkins in her Gull. In view of the conditions, in consultation with the sailors, Mary Brown (OOD) decided on a short race of around 45 minutes.
In reality the weather wasn’t as bad as feared. There was a F3-4 WSW wind blowing diagonally across the A-course and its force was somewhat diminished by the still leafy trees on the Surrey bank, and the rain didn’t materialise. So the fleet had a broad reach on the way down to the bottom mark by the slip dock, and a fine reach on the way back to the top mark just below the Steam Packet.
James, Alex and Ian (in that order) all completed their first lap in about 5 minutes after which the Enterprise stretched its lead over the other two. Jane had too close an encounter with the top mark, and re-rounding cost her some time. Ian and Alex swapped positions at least three times during their 8 laps and finished 27 seconds apart with Jane, on six laps, sandwiched between them. James had already completed 8 laps and was about 3 minutes ahead of Alex at the line.
After the sums, Alex won the Handicap points and the Little Boats points and James was first in the Polly Prize. Henry Brown, in the safety boat, was pleased to have very little to do.
The Master of Sums apologises for having posted a misleading report that did disservice to Alex and Ian. This is the true story.
Next week we intend to sail a B/D course at 13:40 if the new Covid rules allow but we shall email / post on the website the RYA/Government advice if we can’t.
Sunday 18th October was fair and dry but there was little wind, which may account for the fact that only three boats decided to sail an afternoon A-course, which was set appropriately short.
James Armitage was sailing his Enterprise with Ayanda, his light-weight crew. Rob Adams and Ben Chappell were both sailing Lasers.
There was enough wind to start with for all three to sail the first lap in between 7 and 10 minutes – James in the lead. The second and third laps were sailed by James and Rob even quicker in around five minutes each, but then the wind dropped dramatically – or perhaps, undramatically. James’ fourth lap took 10 minutes with Rob lagging behind on 29 minutes. But then the last lap for James lasted what must have felt like an eternity of 36 minutes, while Rob gradually caught up with a 19-minute lap.
So James won the endurance test in one hour and 43 minutes with Rob five minutes behind. Ben had kept within striking distance of them for the first two laps but struggled for over three quarters of an hour on his third (and last). But it was only his second race with us in his Laser, and If it’s any comfort to him, they say it can take five years of racing to master a new dinghy. And that doesn’t allow for our weird tidal waters.
Thanks to Jane Watkins for her patience as OOD, and to Lev Kolobov for manning the safety boat.
Apologies for late reporting – the M of S has been away.
Sunday was a lovely sunny autumn day with a nice F3 NNW wind blowing down the river from Kew Bridge. We had scheduled a D-course (Hammersmith and back) but since the COVID restrictions came in we have been sailing laps on the B-course (between the railway bridge and Chiswick Bridge) instead, so that the safety boat can keep an eye on all competitors. The fleet tends to get very stretched-out around all the bends to Hammersmith. The main problem on Sunday was that we also had a strong ebb tide boosted by recent rain going in the same direction as the wind.
At 15:45 the fleet, an exceptional turn-out of 11 boats, set off with a rush down-wind and down current and reached the bottom buoy in a large bunch at the downstream end of Chiswick Staithe, in about 5 minutes. That’s when the difficulties started. The current was just too strong for most boats to make the turn and beat back against wind and tide. And there was the added problem that, it being low water, the shelving gravel threatened centreboards and rudders and there wasn’t the width of river to luxuriate in long tacks. And rowers, canoes and paddle boarders were also out in strength.
There were, of course, exceptions. James Armitage with Ayanda as crew showed the way with short and accurate tacks in the lesser flow along the Middlesex bank, but even they made painfully slow progress. Rob Adams (Laser) kept reasonably close company with them, as did Lev Kolobov (solo in his Enterprise). James took 32 minutes to complete his first lap with Rob about ten minutes behind. It was a full hour before Lev reached that point. He was followed in 8 minutes by James on his second lap with Rob a quarter of an hour later. Lev did his second lap in half an hour, finishing about 8 minutes after Rob.
Meanwhile the rest of the fleet tacked and cursed, and cursed and tacked, gradually drifting downstream of the bottom mark until, one by one, they gave up the struggle and either walked their boats back up stream or reluctantly accepted a tow from the safety boat. Chris and Mary’s Leader was an exception: they persisted heroically and completed a lap in one hour and 38 minutes. Ian Nethersell almost made it but, after capsizing once (while remaining dry above the knees), decided that was enough. And Ben Chappell, in his first race with us, in a new (to him) Laser, with a dodgy tiller extension and an immersive capsize, after almost two hours of struggle accepted a cold tow home.
In contempt of the tide tables (low water at Strand 16:14) the ebb was still running by then, although less strongly as the river level built up against the flood.
Mary Brown logged all the action from outside 1 Strand on the Green, and Henry B spent a busy afternoon in the safety boat.
A lively day on which James and grandson, Chris & Mary and Rob decided to challenge the gusty conditions and Ben to try out, but not to race Envy, his newly acquired Laser.
James and Rob positioned themselves for a Surrey bank start; Chris, after a late rigging delay, achieved a prompt Middlesex departure. Conditions downstream favoured the southern pair who were back at the upstream mark in just under 11 minutes. Rob, marginally in the lead approaching the buoy, was pipped round it at the last moment by James. Chris & Mary followed 3 1/2 minutes later.
Rob & James were still only 27 seconds apart at the end of the second lap. However, near the downstream mark on the third lap James came back into view sailing only on his jib. The explanation for this proved to be a broken kicking strap. However, they tacked back on the jib to complete their third lap.
In the meantime, Chris & Mary had lost further time but were valiantly staying upright in the gusts (which Rob had briefly failed to do – although it didn’t appear to delay him much). They retired after crossing the line before exhaustion set in – or a final gust decided the issue. Rob followed them across 13 seconds later and a lap ahead and was awarded the (shortened) race as being the only competitor remaining with a mainsail.
The Club is now required to be able to inform the NHS of who takes part in our Sunday races in case there is a risk of catching the bug. This could arise if a participant or visitor is tested positive elsewhere after having been to an SGSC event.
The Club now has a QR code (the square spotty thing on an A4 poster) at the arch which is specific to SGSC and the arch. This means that, if you have the NHS COVID-19 App on your smart-phone, you can register your presence by, in effect, photographing the poster. If someone at the race is subsequently tested positive the authorities can contact all those who registered on that day.
If you don’t have the app or don’t have your phone with you the authorities will contact the Club if the nee arises and we will send them a list of those present, plus phone numbers, to be contacted by track and tracers. We will know who is present from the OOD’s race sheet for the day.
Please use the QR code / App on a race day and make sure that the OOD knows of any non-member crew or other visitors who may be potential contacts. The helm of each boat will be responsible for identifying any non-member crew or other visitors.
Sunday was a perfect day for being out on the river – sunshine, the last of the summer warmth, and a gentle breeze to tease the sails, and even to fill them at times. There was also a strong, even aggressive, spring tide that quickly took over the foreshore and caused most of the fleet to rig waist-deep in water. The minor bonus was that the tide diluted the abundant algal slime that made the foreshore slippery and unpleasant.
Ten boats launched – another exceptional turnout for Strand – and after a slightly delayed start to get all boats launched and up to the start line, Inna Kolobov started the race on a shortened A-course with a Zoffany House line. The triangular course had a downstream mark just off the PLA grid, an upstream Surrey-side mark opposite the top end of the PLA moorings, and a Strand top mark opposite the Bell and Crown. The wind, according to the Met Office, was ENE F3, which meant that it was coming to the river over the roofs of Strand on the Green and being diverted by any building, island or other obstacle that struck its fancy.
About half the fleet decided to start in the clearer air but stronger current on the Surrey side of the PLA moorings, the other half hoping for better conditions off the Strand bank. James Armitage (solo in his Enterprise) took the mid-stream choice and, guess what, he was right. He followed the relatively slack water in the slipstream of Oliver Island and gained at each puff of clean wind as he almost disappeared into the foliage of the island before tacking across to make the mark. It meant that he got around his first lap in under 12 minutes and almost got in another lap before boats 2 (Joseph Armitage, Laser) and 3 (the Browns, Enterprise) got back to the start line. Joseph led the Browns by 5 minutes at that point and they continued in that order until their fourth lap when the Browns passed the line a mere 2 seconds ahead of Joseph, and 20 seconds behind James on his fifth and final lap.
Lev Kolobov (solo, Enterprise) finished about 12 minutes later on 3 laps with Ian Nethersell (Vibe) 2 minutes behind. Rob Adams (Laser) had a bad day in several doldrums and only finished 2 laps, and Chris and Mary (Leader) managed one lap. The rest of the fleet, Tim Young (in his shiny new Wanderer), Jane Watkins (Gull), and Clare Walker and son (Laser) all found the strength of the current too much for the fitful wind and had to accept a tow back from the dreaded Kew Bridge from Sam Shemtob in the safety boat. A pity, but no shame: standard Strand conditions that can catch anyone, and hopefully doesn’t entirely spoil a lovely afternoon on the river.
The high spring tide meant that practically everyone, including the safety boat, could float onto their trolleys on the ramp platform and be dragged into the muddy arch.
Many thanks to Inna as OOD for keeping tabs on everyone, even when hidden by the PLA moorings, and to Sam for saving the unfortunates from Kew Bridge.
On a lovely mid-September Indian summer, nine boats turned out for this C course race. Sam was the last to leave the club – understandably so, given his two crew were both novices. They found themselves challenged with navigating Kew Bridge on a rising tide, half-rigged and drifting sideways but were successful. Dave in the Safety Boat hovered around ready to assist.
The OOD had established a line for the start and then allowed a five minute delay to enable Sam to re-rig and join in. After much impatient gilling-about in a decent South-West wind – with plenty of calls of ‘Starboard!’ – Joseph was first across the line, followed by Rob and then James. Behind them were Ian, Alex and then Tim, who was becalmed for a while. They were followed by Nick Jeffrey in his tiny red Duckling ‘Eeyore’, along with daughter Nicky on only her second SGSC outing in their new boat. Completing the fleet was Sam, with Stuart and Katy as crew.
First across the line coming back was Joseph (showing that an early start is usually a big advantage), followed by James and then Rob, all within a minute of each other. All three went on to pass under Kew Bridge, though James appeared to stall in mid-stream (and nearly got caught?).
Lev crossed the line 10 minutes later, followed within a minute by Alex and Tim, with Ian two minutes behind them. Nick & Nicky took a further ten minutes to reach the line.
Yet to return were Sam and the Safety Boat. Alex rowed up to look for them, without success, so the OOD cycled upriver. He found them still up at Syon, dealing with a slackening wind and relying mainly on the now fast-ebbing tide. They had not yet reached the upstream buoy and by the time they crossed the finish line Sam had dropped the sails and David had taken them in tow. Notwithstanding their misfortunes, it was a good race on a glorious day.
Many thanks again to Andy Ross for keeping a clear results sheet for an impressive turn-out.
The annual Thames Tidefest is sponsored by Thames Water Plc ‘to help Londoners reconnect with their river’. For SGSC this also means a grant of £200 (to run our safety boat) and a silver cup for the winner of our Thames Tidefest Trophy Race.
This year, the Tidefest fell upon a beautiful, warm and sunny day with a light wind from the North-West – good conditions for bystanders watching an A course starting at the Bell & Crown.
A spectacular fleet of 10 boats charged across the start line, led by Lev and his son David with a goosed-winged flourish. Two new members – Clare Walker (with her son, Winter) in Paul Williamson’s Laser and Nick Jeffrey (plus his daughter Nicky on her first ever sailing experience) in a Red Duck boat named Eeyore – completed the fleet at the rear.
After reaching the downstream mark, Lev & David chose to turn out into the mainstream to go round the PLA trot and he kept his lead to cross the line first for the first lap, in eight minutes, just one second ahead of James. Clare & Winter rounded the course last, taking 16 minutes.
The second round saw most boats still taking the mainstream river route; however, James went straight for the upstream buoy and crossed the line this time one second ahead of Lev & David, a lead he then kept throughout race. Tim, meanwhile, was sailing cautiously with a reef in the sail and was becalmed at the downstream mark.
Rob, Alex and Nick (Floyer) took full advantage of the soft wind to stay within two minutes of each other with alternating leads over the next two laps, with Jane dipping in and out between them. The last three boats – Tim, Clare & Winter, and Nick & Nicky – were close together at the rear. A late entrant – Sam Shentob in his weather-beaten Wayfarer – then miraculously appeared and completed two laps.
James, Lev, Rob, Jane, Alex and Nick Floyer all managed five laps while Tim, Clare & Winter, and Nick & Nicky each completed three. Clare was unlucky to become stalled in a dead calm patch just before the line and was last to cross, after an hour of sailing well.
Back at the Club, James had a laptop with the algorithm to translate times into handicap-adjusted places. Many congratulations to:
1 James – winner of the 2020 Tidefest Trophy
3 Nick Floyer
5 Lev & David
7 Nick & Nicky
9 Clare & Winter
Thanks to Andy Ross for an impressive effort on the score sheet: keeping track of ten boats on several laps is no mean feat.
As well as the Tidefest Trophy the sailors were competing for the usual SGSC race series, for which the results were as follows: