It is a truism that: “A rising tide raises all boats”. But as the tide comes in, does the water actually tilt forwards to flow uphill? Or is it simply: ‘Levelling-Up”? And if it is doing it just to be politically correct; does it get any votes?
That was the question on Sunday. The thunder-clapping sound of loose sails banging about amongst the boats on the foreshore was quite intimidating enough. Could “Levelling-Up” actually mean “Levelling-Down” masts and sails: all flattened on the water? That was suddenly the opinion of Nick who, having rigged, promptly de-rigged. And Mary, too, looked decidedly anxious as Chris struggled to keep his boat on the trolley, even without a sail up.
Tim Young and Leona with Tom were early on the water in the Safety Boat to help guide boats under Kew bridge for a ‘C’ course. But as the OOD made his way up Strand, it was apparent that Chris had very clearly been better advised – and had thought better of it: they were returning to the Club.
The OOD took up a bank position amongst the snowdrops and bluebells on a line from the last post on the barge pontoon to the water tower as the fleet of Rob, Joseph, Lev with David, and Lotte with Pat, came through the bridge and moored up on the pontoon rather than risk jilling about in the stiff wind, with rowers sculling about. As they waited, so the north-easterly wind began to drop. However, Tim Wellburn with his son Rob had been blown through the bridge – and then onwards along Waterman’s Park. By a stroke of luck, the RNLI lifeboat was coming that way – and towed them back to the start line.
As they all set off, so the sun came out – and later news recounted how the Safety Boat had chased after them to set the buoy somewhat before the London Apprentice – and Joseph had overshot it. Meanwhile, Rob [who had already capsized and righted once] spotted the opportunity to make up time and rounded it ahead of Joseph – eventually to finish 59 seconds ahead.
Co-incidentally, the wind then veered from north-easterly to southwesterly. But it was quite unsure about it – and so held its breath in long lulls that meant that by the time it picked up Rob and Joseph and Lev were nearly 20 minutes ahead of Tim and Lotte across the finish line. However, quite extraordinarily, now with a following wind, they were all back before the tide had fully turned.
Expert control of the Safety Boat meant they were all slowly and carefully manoeuvred under the bridge since a “Falling tide lowers all boats”: except for Rob and Joseph who both deliberately decided that they were in charge themselves – and would get under it in their own way by “Levelling-Down”.
OOD Andy Ross 10.05.2021
Lovely photos from Hans Styrnell high up in Brentford Dock. Many thanks. HB
While the boats were being rigged, except for random gusts, much of the surface of the River was ominously smooth, suggesting that progress downstream might be difficult against the incoming tide, so the course was switched from the scheduled B to a 2-buoy A course.
In fact, by the start, the wind had happily re-established itself as a reasonably steady westerly, allowing a stately run downstream and some brisk tacking back up. And, as a bonus, the sun shone for most of the race!
Congestion on the slipway and lack of wind having left half of the 6-boat fleet still working upstream as 18:00 approached, the start was postponed by 8 minutes to allow them to come up under Starter’s Orders.
Chris’s chronometers disagreed with the OOD’s ancient iPhone timer, so he declared a unilateral start, but after thus slightly extending his first lap put in some brisk sailing, including a rare sub-5 minute time on lap 5, and thereafter was consistently second round the upstream buoy leading a group of boats that were keeping the OOD busy capturing times sometimes only seconds apart. The assistance of Andy Ross in calling out their approach was much appreciated.
However, the consistent race leader was Henry who put in two sub-5 minute laps and filled all 10 boxes on the race sheet in just under an hour, at which point the OOD yielded to Mary’s sign language that enough was enough, leaving Alex, on his inaugural return to the water, to complete the race with his brisk 10th lap. John Bull and Chris were also 10-lappers, the latter also completing the race in just under the hour.
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye So priketh hem Nature in hir corages, Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
When April with its sweet-smelling showers
Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
And small birds make melody
Those that sleep all the night with open eyes
So Nature incites them in their hearts,
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages.
The General Prologue: The Canterbury Tales: Geoffrey Chaucer 1343-1400
Except that it hasn’t rained for the whole of April; with not even a sniff of ‘sweet-smelling showers’. A blocking High pressure over the UK as the jet stream shifted south bringing Arctic air across the North Sea had produced clear blue skies. A gusty East wind randomly tumbled over the Strand’s houses and helped to push on further the incoming tide that was meeting with no resistance from water coming down the river.
The small fowls [the geese anyway] were all making a honking melody – and Nature indeed had incited the hearts of SGSC sailors as: ‘folk longing to go on a pilgrimage’ since nine boats turned out to set forth on the scheduled ‘A’ course. But pilgrimages are difficult journeys.
With a consistent wind apparent out on the main river the OOD decided to add in a ‘sausage’; historically reflecting our fondness for ‘beer and bangers’ [but perhaps more properly described as a loop], into the base of a triangle of buoys – and specifically requiring a return beat back and forth across the river from the Bell & Crown to the Surrey bank, before heading on the next lap downstream again to a third buoy that was set at the grid.
Carried with the wind and the tide the fleet easily reached the open water; roughened up with gusts. As they turned and tacked back up to be at the start, so they separated.
A ‘Super League’ of James [with Emma], Rob, Lev [with David] and Henry [with Mary] more or less maintained a start line position while a ‘Championship League’ of Ian, Chris [with Laura], Tim Young, Ben and Tim [with John] carried on being drifted upstream by the tide.
Ominously, Rob capsized just before the start – and failing to get across the boat in time he fell into the water and struggled to get back on board but eventually did – and, soaking wet, resumed his position to be second across the line after James, followed by Lev, then Henry. But the rest of the fleet, without the sponsorship of such rich owners of ‘the luck of the gods’, were finding the combination of strong wind and tide were hard to overcome.
Chris, in this second fleet, found the trick of sticking to the Surrey bank paid off sufficiently well to be able to cross over between the PLA trot and Oliver’s Island and then return and be able to cook his own sausage on this grill of a course. But it took them over 40 minutes. And then, having done it, they very gratefully proceeded back to the club to recover.
Meanwhile, exhilarating gusts were still sending the second fleet streaking back and forth – but without ever providing sufficient momentum to get them up to the start line.
Ian in Vibe followed Chris’ idea and tracked up all the way along the Surrey bank to try and get round the top of Oliver’s Island but was defeated there with no wind and returned back to the start – and then got drifted all the way back down to Kew bridge, where he crossed the river, and found himself becalmed at the Steam Packet – and decided to retire.
Ben had begun his race with at least two capsizes before the start, but quickly re-righted and re-joined the race with a constantly zig-zagging course which eventually took him up to the buoy at the grid, where there was also very little wind – but he manged to round it and returned to confuse the OOD with a second lap largely spent sailing backwards while heading forwards while also tracking sideways; turning through all points of the compass. Eventually successfully.
But where was Tim Young? At the back of the second fleet, he had not only tipped over in a capsize just before Kew bridge but had turned turtle with the mast at risk of grounding on the riverbed.
With David Jones in the safety boat, crewed by Nick Jeffery on his first induction into the dangerous and complex procedure for rescue, they faced a collision with the bridge. Scraping the side, they got through it, though the sail was badly ripped by a log hidden in the water – and emerging on the far side, they tried to right the boat. The gusty wind, funnelling through the bridge arch capsized it again, and again. They could not right it. Carried on by the tide and heavily waterlogged, they all drifted off together to Brentford.
Tim and John had been gallantly jilling about, back and forth, and they eventually crossed the start line and found their way all the way around the triangle, until sinking back into a lagoon right in front of the Kew Pier pontoon – with the imminent risk of being carried into it with the heavy tide. Where was the safety boat? Nowhere in sight! Thankfully, and very skilfully, they gradually eased their way forward again, completed their sausage in a dancing skittish wind – and finally completed the course after well over an hour of strenuous sailing.
While all this was going on, the ‘Super League’ triumphantly managed to score points.
Both James and Rob each completed four roundings of the course. In particular, Lev [with David skipping lightly around from moment to moment with every shift and nuance in the wind to perfectly balance the boat] completed their first lap just 6 minutes behind James – though the strain began to show, and they dropped down to 6 minutes behind Henry and Mary; similarly completing three laps in just over one hour. They too, had manoeuvred their way around this complicated course surviving hair-raising dramas in sudden deep gusts followed by instant patches of dead calm – and back-sliding to end up exactly not where they wanted to be.
This racing spectacle was watched by an increasing crowd of spectators at the Bell & Crown.
They had dared to bare pallid skin in shorts and dresses that had not seen the sun for a year; and never in such company; either on the water – or amongst each other. Fiona, the landlady of the pub, standing guard on the pub steps with her laptop to QR her customers – and keenly observing how the dramatic sailing enabled them to engage in romantic conversations, pulled a pint of London Pride for the OOD! His first of the year! And by way of joining in with the telling of the tale, the scudding clouds blew off the froth on the beer!
Oh! How this Spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day
Which now shows all the glory of the sun
And by and by a cloud taketh all away.
Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Act 3. Sc1. L178.
Sunday was a lovely spring day with buds bursting, geese gaggling, pubs finding unaccustomed and thirsty customers, but little wind. We set a short A-course starting at Zoffany House, top mark at the Bell and Crown and the bottom mark above the slip dock.
Five boats launched, including an Enterprise retrieved from the back of the site. Lotte Cutts is the new owner, sailing with her neighbour, Pat.
The trick, as ever in light conditions, was to hug the bank downwind against the flood tide, which was fortunately weak. James Armitage (solo in Zephyr) was first around the short course in less than 6 minutes, followed by Lev Kolobov and David in Porpoise about a minute later, and then Ben Chappell in his Laser. James proceeded to lap everyone else and tick off 6-8 minute laps but after his second lap he was very closely followed, and sometimes led, albeit a lap behind, by Lev.
James finished 8 laps in the hour, followed by Lev on 7 laps. Lotte did very well given a new boat and unaccustomed tidal conditions to finish 5 laps. Ben and Jane Watkins both did 4 laps.
Thanks to Mary Brown for officiating and to Chris and Mary for providing cans of outside-the-arch refreshment to celebrate our gradual return to normal.
With F3 NNW wind blowing straight down the river the consensus was for a B-Course.
Eight boats launched and Rob Adams (Laser) led for most of the 3 laps ahead of James Armitage (Enterprise), but was pipped by 20 seconds at the finish. Third over the line was Lev Kolobov (Enterprise).
Rob took the Handicap points ahead of Jane Watkins (Gull) and Chris and Mary (Leader). James won the Big Boats and Polly points, and Jane won the Little Boats points.
The Covid lockdown delayed the start of the season by three weeks, so this was the First Race (worthy of its own trophy), as well as the Easter Egg race, and, as it happens, the 75th anniversary of the Club’s first race back in 1946. Plenty to celebrate, and 10 boats trundled down the foreshore in welcoming spring sunshine. The only thing that was lacking was, as is often the case, a decent breeze to get us around the course. By common consent we had decided to sail a long B-course rather than the scheduled D, down to Hammersmith, for fear of being stuck far from home by contrary wind and tide.
The gentle westerly breeze aslant the river helped the fleet to the downstream mark opposite the Putney rowing club and it was immediately apparent that getting back up the river wasn’t going to be easy. A trio of boats, consisting of James Armitage in his brand-new Enterprise Zephyr, crewed by his son Joseph, Lev Kolobov (solo in James’ old boat Porpoise), and Ian Nethersell in his Vibe managed to work their way up the bank upstream of Chiswick Quay, and from there in slow stages back towards Strand. A second group consisting of the Browns, the Greenwoods and, briefly, Jane Watkins and Ben Chappell managed at least to stay up stream of the mark before first Jane and eventually Ben, decided to return by other means. Jane, fed up of being on the wrong side of the mark, took her Gull by the painter and dragged her home along the bank.
The Browns and the Greenwoods stayed together in a slow oscillating progress upstream, being overtaken by skulls, canoes, paddle boards, even the foreshore, until after an hour or so the current slowed enough for them to follow the leaders.
By then the safety boat had started to tow back the rear guard from the environs of Chiswick Bridge and ferry them back upstream. Ben was the last to accept the inevitable.
In the leading group an intriguing dilemma was being enacted: Porpoise, after 25 years of winning with James at the helm was being challenged by a shiny new upstart with James at the helm. In the end Porpoise’s habit of winning triumphed over her upstart rival and Lev helmed her over the line 39 seconds ahead of Zephyr. Ian was 14 minutes behind, and the Browns and the Greenwoods, 30 seconds apart, were another 14 minutes behind.
To add to the anniversary theme the race was the day after Mary Brown’s 75th birthday. So the first race was more memorable for these coincidences than for the quality of the sailing, which was more a challenge to patience than to skill. But at least it was a beautiful day and a hopeful prospect for the remaining sailing season.
Lev was awarded the Easter Egg and the First Race prize. Many thanks to Heather for serving as OOD and to Rob, David Jones and several helpers in the safety boat.
It is with great pleasure I can announce the reinstatement of our much loved Gins weekend and confirm the above dates over the August bank holiday weekend.
For our members who have not been before:
Gins is the clubhouse of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club (RSYC) on the Beaulieu River just outside the New Forest. Other than in recent years this weekend has been on our calendar since the 60s. This weekend is open to all members and their guests.
There is normally a small contingent of SGSC members yachts or chartered boats which can be moored alongside or put on one of the visitor buoys down river. (payment to Beaulieu River HM)
Dinghies are towed down from Strand or can be borrowed (for a nominal fee) from RSYC. Currently available are Wanderers, Lasers, Toppers and Picos. Dinghies towed can be left on site during our rally.
Canoes can be borrowed too but these of course are easily transportable from Strand.
Camping on site is no longer allowed but local to Gins are Roundhill campsite, Lepe Meadows campsite and Lepe Beach campsite.
Dinner is available and bookable in advance for numbers over 16 (I have the menu and it is mouth-wateringly good) and various breakfast options for bookings over 12 people.
There is access to changing, lavatory and shower facilities on the Gins site.
Outline itinerary (subject to weather and tides)
Friday pm: yacht and early arrival possible (HW Portsmouth 1544 LW 2045)
Saturday morning: Breakfast, rig and launch to explore the river with lunch perhaps at Bucklers Hard or down river overlooking the nature reserve. Venturing out on The Solent with dinghies and canoes is dependent on safety cover and conditions.
Saturday evening: Meal in the clubhouse.
Sunday morning: Breakfast then day sailing on the Solent either to Alum Bay/Keyhaven (by The Needles) with lunch in Newtown Creek or exploring the forts to the east with lunch in Osbourne Bay (by Cowes). Some people may choose to stay out and overnight at anchor.
Monday morning: Breakfast and spend the morning on the river before packing up and returning for home.
For now I only need expressions of interest but would ask they be more likely than not likely as RSYC need an idea of numbers. Also the numbers in your party and what vessels you may be taking to the water on, or would like to take to the water on.
I look forward to hearing from those of you interested.
The latest Government advice (25th February) is good and not so good. The Good News is that from 29th March most of the restrictions on our activities will be relaxed. Here is what it says:
Step 1: 29 March Outdoor sports facilities including sailing clubs can reopen, subject to the Rule of six/two households. The Rule of six means that (apart from a set of limited exemptions including work and education) any social gatherings of more than six people are against the law. Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s – will also restart and where compliant with guidance issued by the national governing bodies (the RYA) will not be subject to the gatherings limits. Indoor facilities, such as changing rooms, should not be used at this time, although toilet facilities can be accessed.
The Bad News is that the four of our programmed activities will be cancelled. They are the working party on 7th March and the three races on 14th March, 21st March and 28th March.
So the first race of the season (all being well) will be a D-course on 4th April starting at 15:15. See you then.
Season’s greetings. All of us here at SGSC want to wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year. Wishing you the best this coming year.
We want to give warm holiday wishes to all of our members and friends that have helped us this year. From all of us at SGSC, thank you so much for your endless support. Members like yourself are what makes our club possible. Thank you!