Second time lucky. After the cancellation of last weeks race it was a relief to see that this Sunday gradually turned into a benign afternoon. Sunshine and autumn colours, the only thing missing was a consistent wind. The start, at 1200, was promising with a steady ESE at F2, gusting at F3, but it tailed off after an hour or so.
Eight boats rigged and from the start James Armitage with Felicia Bierkark (Enterprise) took the lead with Rob Adams (Laser) in attendance. It was a beat down to Chiswick Bridge amongst quite a crowd of rowers and the vigorous tacking continued around the Barnes bends and on to Corney Reach. The perfect sailing wind gradually died at this stage. James managed to keep his momentum and led by about 300m with Rob apparently becalmed on the Middlesex bank. The Browns (Enterprise) followed Rob with a pair of Lasers (Ben Chappell and Keith Clarke) and Ian Nethersell (Vibe) close behind. The tail enders – Tim Young (Wanderer) and Toby (Laser) were by then just emerging from Barnes Bridge. Forward progress was provided in the main by the ebb tide.
In consultation with James, Nick Jeffery (and family) in the safety boat dropped a buoy just at the downstream end of Chiswick Eyot. James rounded the mark and started a goose-winged return, followed at some distance by Rob. The following pack of the Browns, Ben, Keith and Ian swapped places many times as the tide brought them down to the mark, but Ben proudly rounded the mark in third place.
The wind at that point died to the extent of just being enough to master the dying ebb tide and the return upriver was much slower than the downstream leg. From the point of view of the middle of the fleet James was soon out of sight beyond Barnes Bridge and we thought that was the last we’d see of him. Gradually, as the middle pack caught up with Rob, the flooding tide brought Tim and Toby up to them and, once through Barnes Bridge we were surprised to see James almost within reach, apparently becalmed, in the approaches to Chiswick Bridge. And so as the flood tide compressed the fleet, James finished at the Railway Bridge seven minutes ahead of Rob, who was two seconds ahead of the Browns, who were one minute and 18 seconds ahead of Keith; 15 seconds ahead of Ben; 35 seconds ahead of Toby; 54 seconds ahead of Tim. The handicap sums made a significant difference to that finishing order, except for the triumph of James (see below).
At least there were plenty of bodies to haul the boats back up the muddy foreshore and into the arch. And there, miraculously, was a barbeque of sausages and a feast of other contributions: Margaret Berger’s soup, Mary B’s flapjack, Heather Adams’ chocolate cakes, Polish dumplings, Steve Newell’s excellent home brew, and much else. Andy Ross, as well as being OOD, had organised and lit the barbeque while the sailors toiled and drifted on the tranquil river, for which many thanks.
And there was plenty of good company of all ages to celebrate the end of the season, including nonagenarians Marthe Armitage (founder member) and Margaret Berger.