TIK TOK SAILING
After days of unbroken sunshine, attracting all the weather attention, the wind and the rain both agreed: “Nope” “No more”. In a grey sky full of their sullen resentment, they crossed their arms, sat down and said: “We’re not moving”. “Anywhere”. The river agreed; sliding in as flat as a sheet of aluminium foil from the slow unfolding roll of a low neap tide. The scheduled ’B’ course was impossible. The former Bason & Arnold boatyard refueling jetty, where 1980s Wheelhouse Club parties sometimes extended out for silent drug dealing and the waft of incense, is now only occupied by gulls – and is simply a Maginot Line that cannot be rounded without a wind.
Even the ‘A’ course was impossible. An almost certain encounter with Kew Bridge would also be without the Brentford Football Club’s fans with their dozens of red flares celebrating its Premier League promotion – and giving a warning for an entire fleet sliding into collisions with it.
The SGSC windsock limply shifted occasionally with a barely detectable south-west wind. Should we abandon the race completely? With 7 boats in various stages of rigging there was some impetus for doing something. Anything. Even, possibly, an extraordinary innovation. Like sailing backwards? Everyone agreed we did that too often. Moving on the spot, going nowhere? Ditto.
From the hubbub of conflicting suggestions, a strange new hybrid, a new genetic mutation emerged. What about a course starting exactly where we are? And coming back to where we were?
The key challenge would be to see if anyone could actually get to a start line that could be defined as the railway bridge itself. The downstream edge of it would be the line. The challenge would be to see if anyone could actually sail far enough further on beyond it to eventually be able to turn into the mainstream – and so get round the first of the wooden posts in the mid-river, opposite the Bull’s Head. And then allow the tide to carry boats back under the bridge to a buoy set at the City Barge. And then see if anyone could do it again?
But it was improbable that even this would work, given the time it could probably take in what seemed like an absolute calm – and with the prospect of a slow rising tide meaning that the two Enterprises, but not the small boats, would get stuck behind – or even under the bridge.
So, a variant in the genomic sequence of a course was created in the SGSC laboratory. The first lap would be this ‘through the bridge’ manoeuvre. And a second lap [and any possible subsequent laps] would be by rounding a buoy at the City Barge and then back to the Club for a second buoy [also acting as a finish line] at the ramp. The entire course was only about 50 yards.
Dave assembled all the buoys and the equipment in the Safety Boat, grounded on the foreshore. Then Tim, in a moment of divine inspiration and prophecy, declared that he alone would perform for the crowd his miraculous trick of “walking on the water” to lay the buoys. Astonishingly he did so! Seizing the bucket of weights and the buoy he strode forth. And lo and behold! He walked out upon the water to lay the first buoy opposite the City Barge. A cynical disbeliever pointed to the fact that he was ankle-deep in water. But when a full English breakfast was accounted for, it was agreed by all that a miraculous event, never before seen on the river, had indeed occurred.
Anxious for a start, Henry and Mary had snuck up the foreshore to get beyond the bridge – and then had to return back through the bridge before the start. But Lev and David had cunningly stood under the bridge and only at the last moment got in the boat – just before the start. But it had not helped them at all. They still stood absolutely still. As did all the rest of the fleet. Or they began to slowly drift away upstream.
Then a very faint hint of a wind came in from the south-west. And one-by-one, the fleet came up to the bridge and through it – and edged and wobbled and tacked and jiggled their way along the foreshore to get far enough up beyond the Bulls Head to be able to turn to cross diagonally into the tide to get to the wooden post – and so back through the bridge.
And they all arrived, all the same time, at the City Barge buoy. Amidst many friendly exchanges of “Hail and Be Gone” – some expressly nautical, the same thing then happened at the buoy at the ramp. Ian urged Ben politically to “consider his position” – and in doing so Ben hit the buoy and was fruitily informed that the rectification of his sins was through a 360º turn – which he did, while sliding backwards all the way to the City Barge.
Meanwhile, John slipped by unnoticed multiple times and Ariel, who had joined the fleet 30 minutes late, seemed to storm through on the faintest of winds and rapidly caught up with everyone. Chris and Rob were inspired by the rapidity of the boats passing in opposite directions and found they could easily slipstream their way around this very short course.
Small warm spots of rain began to splat onto the OOD’s time sheet, making the task of keeping a record of the rapidly accelerating convergence of boats increasingly difficult. And the astonishing rapidity of how they were all actually managing to get round the course – in almost no wind at all, meant that space on the paper was beginning to run out!
So a finish was called as Lev completed his 11th lap, just one more than both Henry and John. With Chris and Ben and Ian completing 8 – and Ariel following with 7 laps.
(Post-race discussions and analysis of the race sheet determined that Ian had (probably) done 9 laps. The OOD’s task in the circumstance of 7 boats, each doing up to 10 laps, is challenging to say the least. He has my sympathy, and our thanks. Ed./Master of Sums)
What did it all amount to? An astonishing SGSC innovation with adaptation to circumstances!
TIK TOK is famous for the amazing virtuosity of people dancing to very short music themes, and so this new hybrid unrepeatable short course demonstrating a zero-wind theme and variations should have been filmed to display to the world SGSC performing its unique and brilliant short course singing and dancing in the rain routine that we should call TIK TOK SAILING.
© Andy Ross OOD 6.6.2021