How well did you do? Here are the points and winners over 28 races – more than most years despite Covid.
A crisp, sunny autumnal afternoon with a decent breeze saw a fleet of eight dinghies launched for the final race of the season – including “Ait Knots” as a spectator under electric motor for an inaugural outing for Tim’s grandson. The Safety Boat was manned by David Jones and Tim Williamson who efficiently laid buoys for course A in time for a prompt start at 14.35, with the Bell and Crown chimneys aligned and the signal flags (ably broken out and dropped by Mary S) being complemented by OOD Nick J’s whistle. This piercing noise went unnoticed by two boats, “Pakman” and “Distant Thunder”, that started 3-4 minutes late. (NB: ISAF: “Times shall be taken from the visual signals; the absence of a sound signal shall be disregarded”). Leona, aboard the Tonic “Lightning” decided not to start due to gear failure so it became a four-boat race for the first 20 minutes as Jane aboard “Pakman” and Chris & Felicia aboard “Distant Thunder” duelled it out for last place at the first buoy in front of The City Barge, with three capsizes, all out of sight – and earshot – of the OOD. The Thames Barrier was closed so tide was negligible making for quick progress mid stream. The first lap saw just three minutes separating the four leaders: James’ “Zephyr” (9:50), Lev’s “Porpoise” (11:23), Ben’s “Envy” (12:05) and Ian’s “Backwash” (12:59). The two enterprises held the lead with “Zephyr” completing six laps in 56mins:27secs and “Porpoise” five laps (59:20), Ian’s Vibe four laps (1hour:3mins:55secs) and Ben’s Laser five laps (1:5:54). Chris’ Leader managed five laps (1:8:15) while Jane’s Gull took the final sound signal at 1 hour 12 mins and 26 seconds (including the 3-4 mins start) for three laps, six-year-old Kieran blowing the club’s horn loudly, to mark the end of the season’s racing. SGSC members and guests then enjoyed some excellent home brew beer, chicken soup, sausages, cheesy quiche tarts, Ukrainian pirogy, cup cakes and banana bread, Mary S expertly manning the BBQ and Commodore Ian thanking all for attending and sailing through the season.
Seven boats set out gamely to take part in a late afternoon B course under grey skies and calm conditions. All seven made it under the railway bridge downstream to the start line, this being a challenge in itself given the light winds and incoming tide.
Sadly three boats (Jane in Pacman, Sam in SY2 and Nick Jeffery with his crew in Eeyore, the Duckling) had to retire before completing a first lap, despite Lev and David Kolobov in the safety boat having sympathetically set out a relatively short course between the two marker buoys. Rob Adams in his Laser led the race and completed three laps as did Chris Greenwood and Felicia in Distant Thunder. Congratulations go to Ben in his Laser and the youngest crew (Ariel and Tamina in Tonic) for completing 2 and 1 laps respectively, both artfully exploiting the eddies close to the north bank to make way downstream against tide and with only relatively light winds.
There was a little excitement during the race when an Eight managed to hit the pier and also when Distant Thunder was washed onto the pier by the prevailing current. However Felicia deftly took down the sails and mast so the boat could pass under a gap in the pier and then having got the mast and sails back up proceed round the pier and resume their course with minimum fuss – and without recourse to help from the safety boat which would have meant they would have had to retire from the race.
The OOD was cheerfully and ably assisted by 5-year-old Kieran with signalling the race start and end both with the flags and sounding the horn.
There’s no race next week because the tides and daylight hours don’t match, but the week after that, 7th November, will be the last race followed by Beer and Bangers (around 16:00), for which brewmaster Steve Newell has laid down some 40 pints of his best. Please join in.
Mary Short OOD
On a cloudy but dry Sunday lunchtime, an impressive seven boats turned out for today’s C course. As we know from previous C courses, the historic start point is now obscured by heavy foliage, and the pontoon by the houseboats was inaccessible. As a result, the OOD decided that visibility was paramount, so selected a start a few metres nearer the bridge than before.
Despite their best efforts, both Lasers found the light wind and strong tide pushed them slightly over the starting line, so were each awarded a 20 second time penalty. In any event, the seven competitors made a good start and were soon out of sight around the bend, accompanied by the Safety Boat.
After a thankfully uneventful race, the fleet returned. First back was James Armitage and his daughter Ruth in Zephyr in an impressive 69 minutes. Next to cross were Henry and Mary Brown in Big Polly, the other Enterprise racing today, in a creditable 75 minutes. Chris Greenwood and Felicia were hot on their tail in Distant Thunder, which finished just 45 seconds later. They had been ahead for much of the return run from Isleworth.
The rest of the boats followed closely behind: Ben Chappell in Envy, then Keith Clarke in his yet-to-be-named Laser, followed by Tonic, with Tim Young bringing up the rear in Ait Knots.
Huge congratulations to Aerial and Tamina who were not only our youngest competitors but crewed Tonic to come first on handicap. Congratulations also to Keith Clarke, who completed his first race with the club. Finally, many thanks to Andy Ross for his sterling work in the Safety Boat and for his skilful manoeuvring of the boats under Kew Bridge.
Jane Watkins, OOD
A lovely Autumn evening tempted 8 boats out onto the river. The wind forecast was a light 4 knots from the north, with gusts of 8 knots, and from time to time the sails were fluttering encouragingly as we rigged. Chris in his Leader was crewed by Felicia, who provided two more of her family for the race: daughter Tamina crewing for James Armitage in his Enterprise, and son Aerial helming Joesph Armitage’s Laser. The Browns provided another Enterprise; there were two other Lasers helmed by Keith Clarke and Rob Adams; Leona Shepherd in her Lightning; and Tim Young in his Wanderer.
The course was a triangular ‘A’ starting at the Bell and Crown, a downstream mark at the slip dock, an upstream mark on the Surrey side provided by the rowing buoy, and an upstream mark on the Strand side opposite the Steam Packet.
The north wind gave a choice of starting down the Strand side in the slack water by the footpath or stemming the tide on the Surrey side of the river where the wind and tide were stronger. Most boats took the latter choice and James and Rob took the lead on the first lap with a run down to the downstream mark, a beat back to the rowing buoy (which gave the best sailing of the day) and a reach across to the Steam Packet. There was nasty doldrum at that point in which several boats unintentionally rafted up and started the drift back to Kew Bridge. At the end of the first lap James was narrowly ahead of Rob, closely followed by the Browns, Aerial, Keith and Chris. By the second lap James had gained six minutes over Rob who was still followed closely by Chris but by the third lap James was lapping everyone but Rob. Keith was caught in the upstream doldrum and had to be rescued by David Jones in the safety boat from Kew Bridge. In the end James and Rob both completed 4 laps with Chris, the Browns and Aerial on three laps, and Leona (only her second time out in a race) and Tim on two laps.
Thanks to Enoch for doing the timekeeping and Dave Jones for safety boating. It was a strong spring tide and the boats practically floated into the yard at the end.
Next week is a C-course at 12:15.
We had hoped to entertain South Bank Sailing Club to a race and refreshments. Late on Saturday afternoon they changed their minds on the grounds that the weather forecast for their return sail to Putney would be assaulted by horrible weather. As it happens, they were right: conditions later in the afternoon were pretty nasty, but the weather for our race, starting at 1130, were close to perfect.
Seven boats launched: two Enterprises with James Armitage crewed by daughter Ruth, and Lev Kolobov crewed by son David; Chris Greenwood in a Leader with Felicia; three Lasers with Rob Adams, Joseph Armitage and new member Keith Clarke; and Ian Nethersell in his Vibe. The wind was light before the start, coming from the SW, but promising to increase to mid F3 with gusts of F4. We set a short A-course with a start at Zoffany House, an upstream mark just below the Steam Packet, and a downstream mark at the top of the draw-dock.
For the first two laps Lev was ahead of James with Joseph in third place. Well done Lev. Then James crept ahead by a matter of seconds with Joseph close behind Lev for a further three laps. On his sixth lap Lev was caught by a nasty gust at the downstream mark and capsized. He and David then had to right the boat and get rid of gallons of water as he re-rounded the mark and headed upstream, bailing madly. So Joseph then slipped into second place and was abreast of his Dad at the seventh lap, and Ian was now in third place having sailed consistently and well, with Lev catching up in fourth place.
For a novice in our curious waters and with a new boat, Keith had sailed impressively, learning the hard way when to short-tack close to the bank out of the tide and when to benefit from the full tidal flow. But on his 9th lap, tailing the fleet and approaching the downstream mark, he was caught by a gust and capsized. Being a Laser he managed to right the boat without any water aboard and set off to complete the course but his unfamiliarity with the boat meant that the main sheet unthreaded itself from its blocks and flew off out of reach. At that point, all other boats having finished racing, he decided to retire.
So the finishing order was an Armitage affair with James/Ruth 1st, Joseph a minute behind, both on 10 laps; Rob 3rd, then Lev, then Ian on 9 laps; and finally Chris on 7 laps. On the PN handicap (Polly Prize) Ian advanced to 3rd place.
Back at the Arch it was like old pre-Covid times with a crowd of sailors, family and friends enjoying the feast that had been prepared for South Bank Sailing Club. An excellent fish soup from Chris and a lemon drizzle cake from Heather were star attractions.
Thanks to Mary B as OOD and to Tim Young for helping HB in the safety boat.
Next week we have a working party (1030) and an A-course at 1640.
It was past the equinox and the Met Office were threatening the imminent start of autumn, but Sunday felt like a lovely summer evening with a very variable, nominally SW, wind. The Met Office forecast 3 knots gusting 12. There was debate before the start about whether it should be an A or B-course, but the advocates for an A-course prevailed.
6 boats launched off a slimy foreshore: James Armitage, with crew; the Browns, and Lev/David Kolobov all in Enterprises; Chris Greenwood and Felicia in a Leader; and Ben Chappell and Rob Adams in Lasers. No ‘Little Boats’ today. Dave Jones and Tim Williamson were in the safety boat and set a relative long course from the Steam Packet to just above the draw-dock.
It was a most unsettling wind, constantly changing in strength and direction but enough to get everyone around the course 5-10 minutes. The first lap had James a minute ahead of the Browns followed by Rob with Chris close behind, and that pattern was repeated with variations for most of the hour. James was in the lead for the first 5 laps followed closely by the Browns or Rob after which James had to re-round the bottom mark and lost the lead to the Browns and then Rob for a couple of laps.
Confusion and crowding were frequent occurrences at the bottom mark where there seemed to be a local wind shift that forced a gybe at the last minute. By the 8th lap James had regained the lead, a minute ahead of the Browns, a lead that he increased to 3 minutes on the 9th and final lap. By that time he had lapped everyone except the Browns who also completed 9 laps, with Chris, then Lev, then Rob all on 8 laps, and Ben close behind on 7.
Thanks to Tom and Enoch for meticulously logging so many boats around so many laps, and to Dave and Tim for keeping an eye on things from the water.
Next week we hope to welcome South Bank Sailing Club to our waters for a race and post-race tea party. Fingers crossed for the weather.
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.
I regret to report that, in the face of NIL wind and a Spring Flood Tide starting to run strongly, the assembled band of hopeful sailors (Jane – already rigged!; Ben, optimistically kitted out in buoyancy aid; Chris, looking sceptical; and James, discerning the frustration implicit in the remote possibility of trying to work around even a very short A course) eventually accepted that there would be no sailing today. (As Tim Young, presciently, had done some 5 hours earlier after his Oliver’s Island Ferry business had gone into liquidation after some customers had made the startling discovery that the river bank was muddy and declined to embark.)
The safety boat crew (Andy &, I suspect, Dave) gratefully stood down from the inevitability of Kew Bridge recovery duty.
However, we have some very smartly repainted Club gates, so the day was not entirely lost.
Next week is the annual Sunday 12-hour closure of the Thames Barrier, so there will be not tide – just the flow of the river. We put a B-course in the Calendar before the closure was confirmed since a low-water B-course is what we usually do on a Barrier day, but an interesting possibility is a race from Strand to Isleworth and back. This will depend on there being enough wind to overcome the mighty Thames, so we’ll make a final decision on the day.
Tim Wellburn, OOD-in-waiting
Be warned. The rules for parking at Strand on the Green have changed. Formerly there were no restrictions at the weekend in SotG and the surrounding roads. As of last weekend there is, in effect, no weekend parking for non-residents between Kew Bridge and the Railway Bridge, and the adjoining roads.
But you can still park on SotG and adjoining roads south-east of the Railway Bridge (Magnoliia, Loraine, Riverview etc.) at the weekend.