The drizzle that threatened the overcast day stopped well before the 12:20 start. Several bodies were around in good time to make ready the safety boat but the amount of rainwater in the river meant that the foreshore was awash before most of the nine dinghies could launch in dry feet, and the exceptional number attempting to launch meant a lot of shuffling of boats and trolleys in the yard. The wind was a light SE, blowing with the weakened flood tide that was pushing against the flow coming down river. But all boats made it to the Bell and Crown on time.
James Armitage with Kiren Biekark in Zephyr (Enterprise) made good progress in the beat downstream to a mark just off the slip-dock and ran back easily to finish his first lap in under 10 minutes. He was followed by Lev, solo in Porpoise (Enterprise), then Dave and Sheila Berger in Entre Nous (Enterprise), Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser), Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekark in Distant Thunder (Leader), Toby Hicks in Cid… (Laser), and Ben Chappell in Envy (Laser). Olly Adams and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror) were about 12 minutes behind, with Sam Shemtob solo in his Wayfarer bringing up the rear.
After his first lap Lev picked up a crew in the form of half a tree. The OOD reported that “the new crew slowed him down – they were just dead wood really! Once ruthlessly casting off the new crew he started catching up with the leaders” but didn’t quite make it. James completed five laps in just under the hour followed closely by Dave and then Rob. Lev, Ben and Chris completed four laps, Olly and Toby three, and Sam two.
The water was welly-boot deep on the ramp and much warmth-creating energy was expended by all in recovering and parking the fleet in preparation for the main event – Beer and Bangers.
B&B lived up to its high reputation. Steve Newell had brewed an exceptional beer and Mary Short had barbequed the sausages well on the way to perfection by the time the cold and weary competitors were ready for them, and there was several tables-full of delights contributed by too many members to mention to satisfy every palate.
Mention must, however, be made of the OOD team of Enoch and Andy. Keeping tabs of 9 boats, making 35 separate crossings of the line, with rising water and falling temperature, is no mean feat.
So that was the last race. A report on the sailing season will follow shortly, but please note that the Dinner and Dance will be held on 23rd March 2024. Mark in your diary and contact Marian for tickets.
The race was originally set for a 1300 D-course but with so much rainwater coming down the river, the current wouldn’t be turning until a couple of hours before high tide, so a Hammersmith race wasn’t an option. We decided to try a delayed A course instead but by 3.45pm the current was still running fiercely downstream and darkness was not far away. We found a little eddy between the Bell and Crown and the steam packet. We set buoys at each end of it and managed short centreplate-scraping race round and round in lightish but usable wind until it got dark.
Despite all this, of the five boats that set off, Tim Young’s Ait Knots (Wanderer), Toby Hick’s Laser and Nick Jeffery’s Eeyore all drifted under the railway bridge on setting off and had to be rescued. Taking note, the others walked the boats towards the Bell and Crown, where a fair westerly wind was more pronounced.
With the start delayed to 1530, James advised adopting a ‘reverse A-course’, with boats setting off from the Bell and Crown towards Kew bridge and passing both buoys on the port side. So sailing in an anticlockwise loop, with the upriver boy halfway between the Bell and Crown and the Kew Bridge, and the downriver boy more or less opposite Zoffany House.
With Eeyore retired, the race eventually started just before 1600, with Dave Berger (with Sheila in Entre Nous, Enterprise) getting a great start but Tim and Toby getting recalled for being in front of the start line. James (Zephyr, Enterprise) did a 360 at the first buoy, presumably as he’d hit it.
With Dave Berger ahead after the first lap, James did an incredibly tight turn on the downriver buoy going into the second lap to beat both Dave and Tim. James completed the second lap two seconds ahead of Dave and wasn’t going to let him back into the race.
Tim then ran aground and retired after completing his first lap.
With the sun setting and the weather cooling, and some sage advice from Nick Floyer, we stopped the race after 6 laps, with James completing in 22.28 mins, ahead of Dave Berger on 25.18.
OOD: Tom Broadhurst; safety boat: Tim Young and Dave Jones
It was a fine autumn afternoon – perfect for a downstream race to Hammersmith and back, were it not for the lack of wind (a light SW) and the abundant rainwater that filled the river and threatened to overcome the incoming tide, on which we rely for the return journey.
Seven boats launched – James Armitage and Kiran Biekarck (his first ever race) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Ben Chappell in Envy (Laser); Joe Armitage in Punt (Laser); Toby Hicks in Cip (Laser); and Olly Adams and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror).
The downstream half had the benefit of the ebb and the light SW wind. After a 14:30 start James reached the downstream mark at Chiswick Eyot at 15:05, followed at one-minute intervals by Joe, Rob, Chris, Ben and Toby, and finally Olly at15:16. From then on it was a slow struggle against the river, which was doggedly reluctant to admit the flood tide, and the wind. This is illustrated in a brilliant graphic from Olly plotting his course around the buoy and, eventually, the start of his slow beat back up-river.
Tim tells me that James and Joe swapped the lead at several points, and both were becalmed at Barnes Bridge for a time. Rob and Chris kept similarly close company through much of the return.
The end of the ordeal came for James after 3 hours 5 minutes from the start with Joe 5 minutes behind. Rob was third after 3 hours 22 minutes with Chris on 3 hours 35 minutes. Olly and Billy were 4 minutes short of 4 hours – heroic endurance. Both Ben and Toby had decided that enough was enough and accepted a tow from Tim and Dave.
OOD: Mary Brown; safety boat: Henry Brown and Andy Ross
The sailing conditions on Sunday belied the Met Office forecast, which was for a mere 4 knots from the north. The reality presented us with very sailable 6 knots, gusting 13 from NNW – perfect for a B-course, and enough to overcome a strong tide.
Five boats launched – James Armitage and Tamina Biekarck in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Keith Clarke in Kaia (Laser) and Nick Floyer in flo (Gull).
There was quite a scramble at the ramp as the fast-incoming tide took away our foreshore, but all got launched in time for the scheduled start. The downstream mark was laid opposite Chiswick Quay with the upstream mark well clear of the railway bridge.
The race was a simple run downstream against the tide and a beat back upstream with the flow. James rounded first and completed the first lap in about 15 minutes, followed by Rob and Chris about a minute later, and then Keith at around 19 minutes. The downstream leg was much more challenging for Nick in his Gull: it took him 24 minutes.
That pattern was maintained for the two remaining laps: James, first in 48 minutes; Rob, second in 49:27 minutes; Chris, third in 50:06 minutes: Keith, fourth in 52:38 minutes. Nick did an elegant pirouette at the end of his second lap to allow James to finish and thus avoid a lonely third lap.
There was another scramble as the boats queued to get under the railway bridge and onto the ramp, which was by this time immersed in a wellies-worth of water. Wet feet all round.
So it was a lovely sail on a lovely autumn day with a bonus of a delicious cake from Heather Adams to supplement Mary’s rock buns. Thanks to Andy Ross for help in the safety boat and for launch and recovery assistance.
Weather: Sunny and with light Easterly breeze blowing with the spring tide.
Seven boats, supporting 10 sailors were rigged and launched by 15.00. At the 15.10 start all boats were holding steadily into the wind with James, Rob and Olly (with Billy) demonstrating a perfect line up (see photo): James Armitage with crew Ariel Biekarck on Zephyr (Enterprise), Rob Adams on Phoebe (Laser), Olly Adams with crew Billy Adams on Spinosaurus (Mirror), Chris Greenwood with crew Felicia Biekarck on Distant Thunder (Leader), Tim Young on Ait Knots (Wanderer), Ben Chappel on Envy (Laser), Keith Clarke on Kaia (Laser).
A challenging sailing day with clear, sunny weather, a light breeze and a strong flood tide on the A-course. James caught the wind best at the start and took an early lead rounding the buoy first. The other 6 boats competed hard to round the first buoy. The legs heading upstream were pacey with the tide and wind together making for exciting sailing. Rob demonstrated local skill at the end of lap 1 (and on several subsequent laps) by sailing close to the wall at the Bell and Crown and making a tight tack to pick up the best route back down river.
Half way through the 2nd and 3rd laps a mele of boats took their time rounding the downstream buoy. James, on his 4th lap, broke through first. Next was Rob. As Keith approached the end of his 2nd lap, he was a little too far out and, frustratingly, the tide caught him and pulled him back off the line. On the final lap most boats were taking a slow pass allowing the crowds at the Bell and Crown to cheer each finisher as they crossed the line. That said, Tim flew past with the style you only get from our commodore (see photo!).
Strong tide, light east wind, rain before the start and forecast, but did not happen during the race or the hour before.
OOD: Nick Floyer; Safety Boat: Keith Clarke.
Only Rob Adams (Phoebe, Laser) and James Armitage (Zephyr, Enterprise) with Felicia Biekarck turned up to sail, but were determined to race. Keith Clarke was ready to launch the safety boat, but James and Rob decided to go without.
The moored pontoon opposite the Zoffany House start line provided two buoys, one at each end, to make a very short A-course.
The racing was close to start with but soon James drew clear, completing 10 laps to Rob’s 8.
Nick Floyer, OOD
Next week it’s a D- Course (Hammersmith and back) starting at 15:20
We have been discussing methods of getting to and from the start of the C course through Kew Bridge recently and have trialed some ideas of Andrew Ross. This has been helpful and the Committee has agreed that it would be appropriate to publish these notes about the discussions:
The first thing to remember is that each sailing dinghy has a skipper who is responsible for the safety of his crew and boat. She/he should not do anything or ask anybody else to do anything which he/she is not confident is safe and prudent. The safety boat driver is responsible for the safety boat and if she/he is not comfortable to provide requested assistance he/she should refuse, and the club will support him /her.
For large vessels, travelling under Kew Bridge is awkward, because the current is quite strong the arch is narrow and the bridge is on a bend in the river with poor visibility. It is important therefore that the river is clear before setting up to enter the central arch.
In the old days Bermuda rigged boats set off early enough before high water so that they could get under the bridge without having to heel over. This is a good idea and should be routine! An Enterprise can get under the central arch until the water gets up to the top of the vertical part of bridge piers. We certainly need to get back to the habit of allowing extra time, say 30 minutes, to prepare and get to the start of a C course.
If a boat launches late and if the safety boat driver is prepared to help sailors under the bridge, it’s better if he has two competent people on board. If he has more, he can always put the surplus ashore and pick them up again later.
Heeling the dinghies over is easier if no one is aboard, so the helm and crew should transfer to the safety boat, having lifted both the centre board and rudder (this makes the dinghy much more manoeuvrable). Unless the wind is light it’s easier to take down the sails, in which case it is possible to wait for your turn for help by the ramp just downstream. If going through with the sails up the dinghy must be head to wind, so it might be taken through backwards. The safety boat driver must decide if he is happy to take the safety boat backwards or would prefer to go forwards with the dinghy facing backwards. The safety boat driver must be happy that there is enough time to get properly set up before the current takes the boats under the bridge.
After the race roughly the same applies to the return through the bridge! Or preferably wait for the tide to fall.
Another good turnout for an August Bank Holiday race. Time was when SGSC would have decamped down to the Solent for a Gins weekend.
Six boats launched: James Armitage with a novice crew (sorry, I forgot to note his name) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekark in Distant Thunder (Leader); Nick Floyer in flo (Gull); newcomer Tamir Gottfried in a Laser; Tim Young in Ait Knots (Wanderer); and at last – after many repairs, Andy Ross and Enoch Rodriguez in Comma (Enterprise).
We chose a B-course because of a light but steady northerly breeze urging the fleet against a weak neap tide down to Chiswick Staithe. There was plenty of holiday river traffic to contend with: not so many rowers as usual but all other varieties from paddle boards up. At the start all but Tamir went for the Surrey bank hoping for weaker tide flow than in midstream. It was the wrong choice and Tamir gained a substantial lead by sailing in the freer midstream wind. So we had the unusual sight of James a full minute behind the lead at the first lap. He was followed 2 minutes later by Chris, then Nick, and then Andy and Tim.
James gradually crept up on Tamir over the next three laps, which were completed in about 15 minutes each, but he was still 7 seconds behind at the finish. Chris maintained third position and finished about 7 minutes later, followed in 5 minutes by Andy, then Nick in another 5 minutes and finally Tim, who got delayed by a doldrum at the last mark.
The Strand handicap sums (Handicap Cup) gave the race to Tamir, then Andy, then Nick. The regular yardstick sums (Polly Prize) gave the race to James, then Tamir, then Nick. The Big Boats points went to James, then Tamir, then Chris, and Nick took the Little Boats points.
Thanks to Nick and Nicky in the safety boat for unobtrusive reassurance, and Mary for time-keeping.
Next week it’s an A-course at 16:15 following a working party at 10:30.