Race Report, 6 October 2019

Despite an unpleasant forecast, a growl of thunder and a scatter of raindrops at around 1400, five helms prepared for a 1510 start of a D-course.  The wind was forecast to be NW, F3, gusting F5 or more, with quite a lot of fresh rainwater in the ebb tide.  Mary Brown delayed the start by 5 minutes or so as Sam Shemtob (and crew David) struggled with his Wayfarer and Jane Watkins debated whether or not to go downstream under jib alone in her Gull (she didn’t).  It was a running start with a fitful wind, but by Chiswick Bridge Lev Kolobov was well in the lead, followed by Ian Nethersell and Rob Adams in close company and with Sam and Jane bringing up the rear.  Those relative positions remained much the same all the way through the varying wind conditions of our bendy river down to the Hammersmith reach.  Henry Brown in the safety boat was keeping a close eye on the tidal flow but the ebb was still strong when the leaders approached the Corinthian’s line with a stiff following wind.  First Lev, then Ian and Rob rounded the buoy about ¾ hour after the start and started the long beat back to Strand.  Rob’s years of experience showed as he short-tacked up the Surrey bank into the tide and wind.  The others struggled to master the conditions.  Ian beached and waited for the ebb to diminish in strength.  Lev demonstrated how challenging it is to tack an Enterprise single-handed – he capsized twice on the way back.  Sam also capsized and beached to bail and change to a storm jib.  And Jane, after getting tangled with a rowing 4 and its attendant, decided to call it a day.  She accepted a tow back to Strand.

Rob’s break-away at the turn took on a familiar pattern: he found he was continually struggling against the ebb tide while those behind him were lifted by the flood and almost threatened to overtake him.  Ian, having spent some time beached at Hammersmith, was able to catch up first with Lev and then to get within sight of Rob.  In the end Rob finished in just over 2 hours, after a hard beat of 75 minutes, 20 minutes ahead of Ian, who was 7 minutes ahead of Lev.  Sam returned in the fading light just after 6pm.

The worst part of a D-course is the struggle to recover all the boats and kit up into the arch at the end.  But at least there was hot tea and Mary’s rock buns to ease the pain.