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.