The most unusual feature of Sunday’s race was that the Thames Barrier had out-performed Canute and stopped the tide for the day. This happens every year on a Sunday in September and usually we sail a B-course where the prevailing SW wind is against the flow of the river and gives us a chance of a few low-water laps. This year we decided instead to sail an upstream course, through Kew Bridge, (which is OK at low water) and onwards towards Isleworth. What little wind there was came from the NW, which meant a beat upstream and a run back. We didn’t expect to get as far as The London Apprentice so the safety boat was prepared to drop a turning mark after about a half-hour of sailing. Nick Floyer as OOD thought that Brentford Dock would be an achievable target.
We decided to start from the Club, using a lamp post between us and the City Barge and a tall tree on the Kew side as the line.
Five boats started, James Armitage and Lev Kolobov both solo in their Enterprises, the Browns in theirs, Chris Greenwood and Felicia in his Leader, and Ben Chappell in his Laser. From the start it was clear that the single-handed Ents had a significant advantage in the very light airs. They could creep to windward and carry their way as they delicately tacked their way between the Kew bank and Oliver’s Island and were practically at Kew Bridge before the Browns and Chris reached the end of the Island. It was not a good day for the laser: Ben never caught up with the bigger boats.
James and Lev swapped the lead as they tacked almost in unison beyond Kew Bridge, past the Brentford islands and around the buoy that Sam, Dave and Tim in the safety boat had dropped just before Brentford Dock. They were halfway back to Kew Bridge when they passed first Chris and then the Browns on the way up. Chris and the Browns were together for most of the frustrating return journey in which the river current was marginally faster than the following wind – floppy sails and not much to do except avoid the flocks of paddle boards, kayaks and rowers who wondered at our slow progress. Ben, by this time, had turned around and was returning home.
At the finish James was less than a minute ahead of Lev after 85 minutes or sailing, Chris followed after another 13 minutes and the Browns 3 minutes later. Many thanks to Nick for being OOD, out of sight of the excitement for so long, and to Sam, Dave and Tim Williamson in the safety boat.
Advance warning: on 3rd October we are hoping that South Bank Sailing Club will sail upstream to join with us – the first time since Covid struck.