Race Report, 19th September 2021

The most unusual feature of Sunday’s race was that the Thames Barrier had out-performed Canute and stopped the tide for the day.  This happens every year on a Sunday in September and usually we sail a B-course where the prevailing SW wind is against the flow of the river and gives us a chance of a few low-water laps.  This year we decided instead to sail an upstream course, through Kew Bridge, (which is OK at low water) and onwards towards Isleworth.  What little wind there was came from the NW, which meant a beat upstream and a run back.  We didn’t expect to get as far as The London Apprentice so the safety boat was prepared to drop a turning mark after about a half-hour of sailing. Nick Floyer as OOD thought that Brentford Dock would be an achievable target.

We decided to start from the Club, using a lamp post between us and the City Barge and a tall tree on the Kew side as the line.

Five boats started, James Armitage and Lev Kolobov both solo in their Enterprises, the Browns in theirs, Chris Greenwood and Felicia in his Leader, and Ben Chappell in his Laser.  From the start it was clear that the single-handed Ents had a significant advantage in the very light airs.  They could creep to windward and carry their way as they delicately tacked their way between the Kew bank and Oliver’s Island and were practically at Kew Bridge before the Browns and Chris reached the end of the Island.  It was not a good day for the laser: Ben never caught up with the bigger boats. 

James and Lev swapped the lead as they tacked almost in unison beyond Kew Bridge, past the Brentford islands and around the buoy that Sam, Dave and Tim in the safety boat had dropped just before Brentford Dock.  They were halfway back to Kew Bridge when they passed first Chris and then the Browns on the way up.  Chris and the Browns were together for most of the frustrating return journey in which the river current was marginally faster than the following wind – floppy sails and not much to do except avoid the flocks of paddle boards, kayaks and rowers who wondered at our slow progress.  Ben, by this time, had turned around and was returning home.

At the finish James was less than a minute ahead of Lev after 85 minutes or sailing, Chris followed after another 13 minutes and the Browns 3 minutes later.  Many thanks to Nick for being OOD, out of sight of the excitement for so long, and to Sam, Dave and Tim Williamson in the safety boat.

Advance warning: on 3rd October we are hoping that South Bank Sailing Club will sail upstream to join with us – the first time since Covid struck.


Not-the-Race-Results 12th September 2021

I regret to report that, in the face of NIL wind and a Spring Flood Tide starting to run strongly, the assembled band of hopeful sailors (Jane – already rigged!; Ben, optimistically kitted out in buoyancy aid; Chris, looking sceptical; and James, discerning the frustration implicit in the remote possibility of trying to work around even a very short A course) eventually accepted that there would be no sailing today.  (As Tim Young, presciently, had done some 5 hours earlier after his Oliver’s Island Ferry business had gone into liquidation after some customers had made the startling discovery that the river bank was muddy and declined to embark.)

The safety boat crew (Andy &, I suspect, Dave) gratefully stood down from the inevitability of Kew Bridge recovery duty.

However, we have some very smartly repainted Club gates, so the day was not entirely lost.

Next week is the annual Sunday 12-hour closure of the Thames Barrier, so there will be not tide – just the flow of the river. We put a B-course in the Calendar before the closure was confirmed since a low-water B-course is what we usually do on a Barrier day, but an interesting possibility is a race from Strand to Isleworth and back. This will depend on there being enough wind to overcome the mighty Thames, so we’ll make a final decision on the day.

Tim Wellburn, OOD-in-waiting

Parking at the weekend

Be warned. The rules for parking at Strand on the Green have changed. Formerly there were no restrictions at the weekend in SotG and the surrounding roads. As of last weekend there is, in effect, no weekend parking for non-residents between Kew Bridge and the Railway Bridge, and the adjoining roads.

But you can still park on SotG and adjoining roads south-east of the Railway Bridge (Magnoliia, Loraine, Riverview etc.) at the weekend.

Race Report 5th September 2021

A dry, sunny, windless Sunday afternoon with an Easterly wind blowing 4 but increasing to 6 Knots for short bursts. Because of the lack of wind and its direction it was decided to change from a “B” Course to a short “A”. The course was laid by Enoch and Andy in the safety boat, with a “Zoffany House” start line and buoys upstream of the Bell and Crown and at the upstream end of the PLA grid.

Amazingly, 11 Boats assembled on the foreshore, just like the old days.

4 Enterprises, Zephyr (James and Ruth), Porpoise (Lev and David), Big Polly (Henry and Mary), Ixion (Tim W and crew), and one Leader – Distant Thunder (Chris and crew) .

2 Lasers, Phoebe (Rob) and Envy (Ben).

Together with the little boats, Ait Knots (Tim Y), Pacman (Jane), Tonic (Leona) and the delightful tan sails of Eeyore (Nick with 3 crew).

The start line was crowded and confused with the lack of wind giving minimal control. The whistle was blown and the flags were dropped at 13-00.  James quickly found the wind and sped away closely followed by Rob. Others were slow off the mark with some getting caught in the vegetation growing in the river close to the towpath and others struggled with the tide and the lack of wind.

James and Rob made the 1st lap in 5.56 and 7.04 respectively. The other Enterprises and Ben’s Laser followed 12-14mins after for the 1st lap. 1st lap for the little boats was – Tim Y in 23.26, Jane and Leona 40.10 and 40.12 respectively. Eeyore struggled to stay over the start line for most of the race, which was expected with such light winds and eventually retired.

James continued to lap at about 6-7 mins until he finished after 9 laps in 61.27. During the race Lev and Henry were very close for the first 3 laps, but Lev eventually lapped Henry and they finished together on 8 laps and 7 laps in 66.46 and 66.05. Chris (Leader) and Tim W in his Enterprise finished in a similar time to Lev and Henry, 66.57 and 67.08, completing 6 and 4 laps respectively.

Rob and Ben in their Lasers completed 7 laps in 64.29 and 6 laps 68.58 resp.

Tim Y finished 4 laps in 67.56, Leona 2 laps in 72.15 and Jane 1 lap 40.10.

A difficult day for the little boats but a fine sunny afternoon and a brilliant turn out.

Thanks to Enoch and Andy on the safety boat.

OOD John Bull

Race Results 29th August 2021

It should have been a Gins Weekend according to the draft programme and that is possibly why only two boats decided to race.  It was also a Bank Holiday weekend and rather late in the day.

The weather was cloudy but dry with a steady-ish north wind that the Met Office said was 8 mph (bottom of F3) at Kew Gardens.  After some discussion we decided on a long A-course but starting at Zoffany House.  The top mark was set at the Bell and Crown, well downstream of the Kew Bridge wind-shadow, with the bottom mark at the City Barge, and with a down-wind, against-the-tide start.

James Armitage (crewed by Emanuela) in the newest Enterprise afloat and Tim Wellburn (crewed by Emma) in the oldest, both decided to start on the far side of the PLA moorings where the wind was clearer than on the Strand side.  It was a run down to the bottom mark, with the usual diversions for capricious wind shifts, and a beat or a fine reach back, usually also on the far side of the PLA moorings, to make the turn at the top mark.  James led Tim by less than a minute at the first lap, even after Tim had taken the gamble of staying on the Strand side after his first Bell and Crown turn.  It almost looked as if the gamble would pay off, but he was caught by a mini doldrum at the downstream end of the moorings.  Thereafter both boats did what looked like a risky chicane after the top mark to catch the freer wind in the middle of the river.

James gradually increased his lead as the race progressed as Tim was seen to have problems with a newly-rigged kicker that lost him some headway.  James finished seven laps in 4 minutes over the hour and Tim completed 6 laps about 6 minutes later.

At the launch Andy Ross tentatively introduced Comma to the water after a two-year repair job and declared her watertight.  At well over 50 years old she is the oldest Enterprise in the Club (sail number 12,130), even older than Tim’s (sail number 19,286). When can we hope to see her sail?

Thanks to Mary Brown for officiating from Zoffany House, and thanks to David for company and heavy-lifting in the safety boat.

Race, Sunday 29th August

Dear Sailors,

This Sunday the club had planned an outing to Gins Farm on the Beaulieu River. An alternative (A) course starting at 18:10 has also been pencilled in. I’m aware that many people are away or may have other engagements planned for the bank holiday weekend, so please can you confirm using the email below that you definitely will be turning up.

Chris Greenwood

Duty Chaser


Race Report 22nd August 2021

A dry, sunny, breezy Sundav aftemoon with a North Westerly wind predicted blowing 4 but gusting 14 knots. A ′′C′ course was programmed and was accompanied by a strong tide flowing through Kew Bridge.

5 Boats assembled on the foreshore, being reduced to 4 when Chris in Distant Thunder experienced a problem and decided to withdraw.

The 4 boats, Porpoise (Lev and David), Ait Knots (Tim), Envy (Ben) and Pacman (Jane) headed off early to Kew Bridge with the safety boat in attendance. All 4 boats passed through the Bridge without a problem.

As OOD, l set up on the towpath in amongst the trees with greatly restricted vision.

The race start was set at 14:40 and the boats had to suffer a long wait in a fast tide and fickle wind conditions. This resulted, when the wind dropped, in some boats getting swept over the start line.  The safetv boat assisted and brought some boats back over the start while others stemmed the tide.

The 6-minute start procedure commenced, but unfortunately 2min,15secs before the signal to start was given, the tide and/or the fleet decided to start, with confusion on the water. This resulted in all the boats being over the start-Iine before the two flags were lowered and the start whistle blown.

The only boat to stem the tide and tack back over the start line was Porpoise – Lev and David Iaughing as thev managed it.

Sam and Dave in the safety boat told me afterwards that the race continued up to the buoy off the London Apprentice pub but then haIted as the tide was so strong. I am toId a beer was taken.

As time marched on, the OOD, hidden in the tree-covered towpath, asked cyclists, runners and walkers with their dogs  ”have you seen any sails?”  “Sails?” they said – they thought l was mad.

Eventually a blue sail appeared through the trees. It was Lev and David in Porpoise, timed in at 87min,36 secs. The others (strictly speaking over the line at the start) were timed in as Ait Knots 92min,42; Envy 93min, 28sec and Pacman 96min, 5sec.  The Master of Sums, in keeping with SGSC tradition, agreed that their times should stand, with an addition of the 2min,15sec that they jumped the gun.  The charitable view was that they were confused by the strength of the tide, the invisibility of the OOD, and the urging-on of the safety boat.

A Iong day.   With thanks to Sam, Dave and guests in the safety boat.

OOD J.A.E.Bull.

Race Report 1 August 2021

Despite fair conditions and a good wind, only three boats opted to sail the long D course today. After a 15 minute delay, Ben Chappell on Envy and Chris and crew on Distant Thunder got off to a cracking start. They were followed by Ian on Vibe, who crossed the starting line three minutes later before rapidly moving to the shore to re-rig his spinnaker.
Rigging resolved, Vibe gave hot pursuit down the river, whereupon all three soon disappeared from view.

Thanks to the decent winds, however, Distant Thunder returned to cross the finishing line in a particularly speedy 1hr 13mins (barely enough time to sink two pints at the Bull’s Head), closely followed by Envy two minutes later. After a further six minutes, our Commodore valiantly brought up the rear.

Congratulations to Ben Chappell for his first handicap win at SGSC.

OOD: Jane Watkins

Race Report 25 July 2021

A spring tide, not much wind, rumbles of thunder, at least one heavy shower.  Six boats started a short “A” course from the Zoffany line.  OOD Steve Newell regretted later not starting from the Bell & Crown as the towpath gently flooded and the times of the later laps were recorded initially in ankle deep and finally calf deep water.  For reference it was predicted to be a 6.9m tide at London Bridge.

Fortunes fluctuated as the calms, eddies and occasional weak gusts triggered faint hopes and despair in almost equal measure.  The ever present fear of drifting too near the jaws of Kew Bridge eventually got the better of Tim who accepted assistance from safety boat driver Ian Nethersell but the other five kept going and all but Jane (3) completed four laps in rather more than an hour.

James was always at or near the front and was the first to cross the finish line and then immediately ordered his young crew to start paddling.  Chris made up for a poor start and was second to finish followed by the erratic Rob.

With the ramp well awash the safety boat was floated back into the arch and safely locked up for another week.

Steve Newell