Race Report Sunday 26 June 2022: Mare’s Tails.
Mare’s Tails, two miles high and five miles across an azure-blue sky signaled a fast-galloping race
on a ‘C’ course to Isleworth and back. In a warm and southerly wind, deceptively mostly F2, but
gusting dramatically to F4, the question was: would the riders manage to stay in the saddle?
Tim, and his experienced sailing friend John, fine-tuned their Enterprise rigging while Keith
prepped his Laser, hoping his new £3k hearing aids were water-proof, while Nick carefully
maneuvered his pretty new boat onto the foreshore, trusting that his sticking centre-board would
seriously stick to the job of keeping him upright. Rob also then joined the fleet, anxious that his
boom cords were not as tight as would be needed for a high-tension performance.
Tim was first out on the river – and soon found himself becalmed in the long wind-shadow above
Oliver’s Island until Enoch and David in the Safety Boat arrived to guide him through Kew Bridge.
Alongside each other they headed for mid-channel. But just as they entered the bridge a vicious
roque gust swirled them round 180 degrees – and the mast scraped along the arch roof [at the
expense of the burgee] – and they emerged, painfully slowly, all going backwards, on the upstream
side of the bridge, but all thankfully still upright and onboard. Keith and Rob sped through
unassisted. But the OOD, by then walking over Kew Bridge, saw that Nick, rather than commit to
this journey of discovery towards a highly probable dunking, was dropping his mainsail – surely a
sign that he was returning to base; later confirmed by the Safety Boat team.
A perfect line-abreast start was achieved as Tim, Keith and Rob hurtled across the line, billowed
along by the ever-so-strong southerly wind. Their tacks sounded like whip-cracks as they shot back
and forth – and the OOD gathered up the starting flags and walked on up to the Herbarium steps to
see how they were faring.
Immediately, it was obvious there was trouble. In a violent gust Keith had capsized. So too, just
two seconds later, did Tim. Keith then righted – and then capsized again. Tim struggled to get
round the boat to the centre board [or was it John?] – and once upright; and wallowing deep in the
water, with the Safety Boat beside them, they drifted into Brentford Ait and began baling. Keith
capsized for a third time – and this time it seemed he couldn’t find the energy to do anything more.
Meanwhile Rob, who had been boisterously bouncing along upriver, must have seen this chaos
behind him. And, very nobly, he turned round and came back to see if he could help. Later, and in
a typically self-deprecating way, he said that he did not fancy capsizing somewhere up in Isleworth,
all on his own. Now sticking to the bank edge, he made his way against the strong incoming tide
back to Kew Marina.
There too, Tim was towed into the trees again to bale out while the Safety Boat took Rob and Keith
back through Kew Bridge – and turned them in to the slipway beside the bridge, before returning to
pick up Tim – and tow him to SGSC; before then going back for Rob and Keith.
Nick was astonished to see everyone back so soon. What had happened? As the tales and the
experiences of this totally eventful, but totally non-race event, were related, typically, by the time
everyone had got their boats and the Safety Boat back in, the wind had dropped to the gentlest
and easiest of an English summer Sunday afternoon. A Mare’s Tail tall story had turned like the tall
tale of a London Mayor who said one thing – and surprised everyone by doing something
completely different: spinning Mayor’s Tales like a weather cock. Just like on the river!
Thoughts then turned to remembering the three days of Glastonbury – and to looking forward to
Henley and Wimbledon. And, of course, to tea. Alice, Enoch’s partner, had made a banana cake
that was so dense with the concentrated taste of bananas that it rivalled the GDP of an entire
Banana Republic. It was the best kind of tea-time treat – and the tastiest tale of the day for us all!
OOD Andy Ross 26.06.2022