Sunday was a perfect day for being out on the river – sunshine, the last of the summer warmth, and a gentle breeze to tease the sails, and even to fill them at times. There was also a strong, even aggressive, spring tide that quickly took over the foreshore and caused most of the fleet to rig waist-deep in water. The minor bonus was that the tide diluted the abundant algal slime that made the foreshore slippery and unpleasant.
Ten boats launched – another exceptional turnout for Strand – and after a slightly delayed start to get all boats launched and up to the start line, Inna Kolobov started the race on a shortened A-course with a Zoffany House line. The triangular course had a downstream mark just off the PLA grid, an upstream Surrey-side mark opposite the top end of the PLA moorings, and a Strand top mark opposite the Bell and Crown. The wind, according to the Met Office, was ENE F3, which meant that it was coming to the river over the roofs of Strand on the Green and being diverted by any building, island or other obstacle that struck its fancy.
About half the fleet decided to start in the clearer air but stronger current on the Surrey side of the PLA moorings, the other half hoping for better conditions off the Strand bank. James Armitage (solo in his Enterprise) took the mid-stream choice and, guess what, he was right. He followed the relatively slack water in the slipstream of Oliver Island and gained at each puff of clean wind as he almost disappeared into the foliage of the island before tacking across to make the mark. It meant that he got around his first lap in under 12 minutes and almost got in another lap before boats 2 (Joseph Armitage, Laser) and 3 (the Browns, Enterprise) got back to the start line. Joseph led the Browns by 5 minutes at that point and they continued in that order until their fourth lap when the Browns passed the line a mere 2 seconds ahead of Joseph, and 20 seconds behind James on his fifth and final lap.
Lev Kolobov (solo, Enterprise) finished about 12 minutes later on 3 laps with Ian Nethersell (Vibe) 2 minutes behind. Rob Adams (Laser) had a bad day in several doldrums and only finished 2 laps, and Chris and Mary (Leader) managed one lap. The rest of the fleet, Tim Young (in his shiny new Wanderer), Jane Watkins (Gull), and Clare Walker and son (Laser) all found the strength of the current too much for the fitful wind and had to accept a tow back from the dreaded Kew Bridge from Sam Shemtob in the safety boat. A pity, but no shame: standard Strand conditions that can catch anyone, and hopefully doesn’t entirely spoil a lovely afternoon on the river.
The high spring tide meant that practically everyone, including the safety boat, could float onto their trolleys on the ramp platform and be dragged into the muddy arch.
Many thanks to Inna as OOD for keeping tabs on everyone, even when hidden by the PLA moorings, and to Sam for saving the unfortunates from Kew Bridge.
Next Sunday is a 10:20 B-course.