The annual long distance race is sailed on an ebb tide to Battersea Railway Bridge, turning there at low tide, and returning on the flood. This means that competitors, who may set off whenever they like, have to estimate when low tide will be and how long they will take to get there. The forecast was for a light easterly wind, though the early morning rain was a surprise to all, and so with a slow windward passage in prospect, it paid to go reasonably early. After the tide turned, there would be no hope of reaching Battersea at all. In the event, the wind was good where there was wind, but some reaches are sheltered by trees, and at Battersea tall buildings meant that there was hardly wind at all. The actual wind direction was very variable, but tended to veer towards southerly during the race.
Lev (Enterprise) played safe and set off first; John (Otter), sailing the slowest boat on handicap, went next; Ian (Vibe) started after another interval, and Nick (Lightning) followed. Lev arrived at Battersea much too early: he was swept past the bridge by the still ebbing tide and took some time to return and work his way along the shore towards home. Ian and John were also early but only by ten minutes or so. Nick took the biggest risk and was only just in time for the turn of the tide. Then what had looked to be an easy run home on the flood tide was anything but, with many changes of wind strength and direction and sporadic doldrums.
On the final reaches, the other three boats started to catch up with Lev. Nick finally overtook him and finished half a second ahead; Ian, who had been practising his spinnaker drill with mixed success, was close behind, and John followed after 15 minutes. So Nick, starting last and finishing first, took the prize. The real hero, however, was Dave in the safety boat, who on his own and for five hours kept a close eye on us all.