Race Report: What happens in Vegas. 26 May 2019
90% of what happens on the B Course is an unseen mystery to the OOD.
All that is known is who starts, and who doesn’t, and who finishes; and in what order and when.
Vision is obscured by the jetty and the race mainly proceeds behind the scenes where ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’, – for those who go there.
In an overcast and blustery slightly drizzly westerly wind which threatened big gusts, Tim decided that his preference was to encourage others to start – while he would seek the comforts of a leisurely Sunday back in Brentford; the Vegas of west London.
But his help and support encouraged Jane onto the water in her Gull. And she was then joined by Chris and Rob in the Enterprise, followed by Sam and Matthew in the Wayfarer, while Enoch and Lev and David rigged up and headed out in the Safety Boat.
But Chris and Rob never arrived at the start. Apparently springing an unstoppable leak from an unknown source they never got under the railway bridge – and with a sudden flurry of dropping sails and much tiller-waggling made it back to foreshore safety, and retired.
Meanwhile, perfectly timing a long slow drift with the wind behind her and against the incoming tide and in a straight line in the middle of the river, Jane eased across the start line ahead of Sam and Matthew, who were struggling with a determined set of cross-river tacks that only held them back.
But size counts when it comes to sails and on the final hooter Sam sped off with a following wind to the head of the jetty while Jane was bounced and jolted around mid-river, wallowing in the wake of a pair of upriver steamers.
Then they were gone.
Incoming jets like gigantic predatory aerial reptiles streamed behind them long trails of pencil-thin lines of drizzle. Swifts plunged, swooped and darted for insects in the wind; though with far fewer of them around now than ever. Their numbers are dropping catastrophically as all insects are declining drastically in number. Remember when car journeys had swathes of insects smeared on the glass and glued to windscreen wipers? All now gone.
The Bank Holiday weekend coincided with Thames 21 River Week.
Seeking the ‘Rewilding of London’s Rivers’ their idea is to open up the concreted-over tributaries of the Thames in urban London. Amazingly, there are over 430 miles of these streams hidden under London.
We have our own one in the Sailing Club; the outfall under the side gate originates in a spring at the top of Whitehall Gardens. It flows underneath the back gardens of the roads alongside the railway line: Deans Close, Magnolia Road. Following the course of the original Dead Donkey Lane it was the source of the astonishing wealth of Chiswick.
Clean clear fresh water flowing over rich soil enabled the stunning productivity of the horticultural and market gardens of Chiswick – and the wealth of the Parish of Chiswick as a “Peculiar Parish” of the Bishop of London, which paid for the running of St Paul’s cathedral for 600 years – before the Great Fire, and Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt it.
Wouldn’t these current residents rather like a fresh open stream running across and through their back gardens? Imagine the estate agent’s description of the amenity of biodiversity and wildlife and nature? It’s maybe more difficult for SGSC to open this up on site; how to get our boats across it? But we could put a submersible run-of-stream hydropower engine in it – and generate renewable electricity for the arch and battery-power an electric motor for the safety boat?
Ah! Jane has appeared! And, stunningly, she’s in the lead!
Midstream, and only occasionally tacking while being carried along on the incoming tide; she was comfortably ahead of Sam whose heavy boat needed long slow tacks from bank to bank – which repeatedly left him stalled in the eddies.
Jane was first round the upstream buoy; and first across the line after some 30 minutes of sailing; followed by Sam 4 minutes later.
Then they were gone again.
Nothing much to see on the river except the dull foreshore was brightened up with speckled dots of plastic: a colourful mosaic of bottle tops, lids, spoons, wrappers, straws, labels and bits of bag. A species list of occupants of this habitat far outnumbers the native leaves, twigs and branches.
Suddenly blue sky opened up. A rainbow arced across the deep grey clouds of drizzle. The tops of the trees on the south bank shone with a brilliant greenness. The flowering yellow irises on the river bank glowed with colour, as though all voting for Lib Dem.
And here they were again!
But the roulette wheel of the sailing game had spun round the fortunes of the gambling sailors. Somewhere, somehow; Sam had done it.
Somewhere over the rainbow
And the dreams that you dare to
Oh why, oh why can’t I?
But he hadn’t just dreamed the dream. Sam was convincingly in the lead. And with a confident gybe around the mark he was up to the line to finish his second lap after just under an hour of sailing.
Jane meanwhile got stalled at the buoy, and then drifted into the shallows. Inch-by-inch she crept up to the finish line –willed on by the safety boat keen to pull up and go home.
Determined to maintain a strictly poker-faced and dead-straight tiller, she was 4 minutes behind Sam at the finish; nonetheless on handicap points, very likely the winner – and so scooping the pool of punters in sailing to Vegas.
26 May 2019
The winter is over and we are back !
The Strand on the Green Club Annual General Meeting took place at The City Barge on 19th of February 2019.
Minutes can be downloaded here:
Good luck in the new season.
Two major events in the offing:
The Ladies Plate race on Saturday 25th August. It’s and A-course with a start at 1340. Any qualifying member who wants to sail but doesn’t have a boat can contact James, who is a willing and expert crew.
The Summer Party is on the same day at 7 pm. in James and Marian’s garden at 2 Strand on the Green. The entrance fee is £12.50 but larger and rounder sums are accepted. All very welcome.
Please email Marian so we can prepare enough food.
See you there
The Master of Sums is back for a while and here are the results of the last few races.
Many thanks to Nick Floyer for doing the sums in my absence.
There was no race on 29 July: the OOD (Mary), safety boat driver (Chris), Tim Y, Tim W, Henry, Alex and Rob C all turned up, sucked their teeth, shook their heads and decided that top of F4 gusting F7 was too much for fun.
Let’s hope for better weather on 5 August.
“And now the shipping forecast for inshore waters:
Gibraltar Point to North Foreland: Another sweltering hot and steamy day, folks, so
go easy on the cold lagers, at least until the Croatia v Denmark kick-off at 7.00pm
when you can crack open the Carlsberg….and especially leave plenty of room for
Stand on the Green sailors zigzagging around on the Thames in the sunshine during
another baking hot day; everyone knows they’re totally mad, so leave them to it.”
Lev was first to arrive. Keen to go, he’d been uncovering his boat practically at dawn.
Then Alex, limbering up in super zany blue and white Hawaiian shorts and crocs.
Finally Tim, cycling in with a flourish and tales of having been up at 4.00am the day
before for a whole day sailing on a tug from Brentford to Greenwich and back. No
sign of Michael who had said he’d sail. John Bull turned up, as did James, and they
kindly assisted everyone getting ready; despite already sweating in the heat.
Boats were trundled down across a sticky brown foreshore; the river had had no
fresh rain in it for three weeks and so the agricultural run-off of farming fertiliser from
farmland up-stream had been sinking undiluted into ditches and small streams;
loading the foreshore with nutrients and producing mats of algal sludge.
The odd puff of wind was just that. James was quizzed about the timing of a start:
‘Some time after 10.00am – so as to get to Battersea railway bridge just on the turn
of the tide – about 12.00pm.’ But the general opinion was that around 10.15am
would be about right. So Tim set off; and meandered around aimlessly in no wind
until he drifted listlessly under the railway bridge and was recorded by the OOD as
having officially started at 10.09am.
Alex followed at 10.19. And finally Lev, sailing his newly-rigged and restored
Enterprise single-handed, passed under the bridge at 10.21am.
There was a bit of a breeze; oddly from the North, but enough to send everyone
down to Chiswick steps which Tim reached at 10.25, Alex at 10.35 and Lev at 10.45;
all at the same 10-minute interval from the start.
But, in a sign of things to come, a sudden flip of the wind caught Lev sideways – and
he was at 60 degrees for a dramatic moment. Calm was restored and he drifted
under Chiswick Bridge into a pool of plain, silver-smooth water.
By Barnes railway bridge Tim was out of sight, but Alex was easing his way round
towards Corney Reach while Lev cleared the bridge at 11.05.
The majestic long line of twenty tall black poplars at Corney Reach arched over their
tops; there was a bit of wind up there. And by Pissarro’s [now sadly defunct, with its
brand name letters askew] a sprightly new breeze from the East was encouraging
the thought of better sailing.
The sign post at the end of Chiswick Ait indicating the headroom at Hammersmith
Bridge showed there was 6m clearance; easily enough for us.
At Corinthians, Tim was still out of sight but Alex passed the LCSC signal box at
11.07 and Lev at 11.17 – still exactly a 10 minute gap between them. Oddly, there
was not a single other boat to be seen anywhere on the river; no rowers, sailors or
motor boats. Where was everyone? Unbuttoning lagers?
Under Hammersmith Bridge and along to the Harrods Furniture Depository [or the
Oligarch’s Suppository, as it’s unkindly known] all three boats were back in sight; Tim
down by Fulham Football Club, Alex at SBSC – while Lev was plugging up the rear,
so to speak.
The time between the three began to tighten. Tim passed under Putney Bridge at
11.40 followed by Alex at 11.45 – and Lev at 11.50; each now at five minute
intervals. Was Tim slowing down? Or Lev catching up – or both? The wind was
freshening to a steady Easterly.
The whole character of the River Thames changes at Putney bridge.
To start with, it has 16 CCTV cameras on it; covering all arches, both sides.
Suddenly the GDP of London becomes much more obvious. The buildings are
bigger and make important statements about their presence. Tiered and set-back,
they rise up in geological layers; stratification of wealth and ownership, overlooking
Wandsworth Park and Hurlingham Gardens.
And with the architectural grandeur came an even stronger hot wind. Stiffening
breezes from the East were making waves – and arriving in unexpectedly big gusts.
It was at Wandsworth Bridge that the dramatic action began.
Tim passed through exactly on 12.00 noon. Alex was through at 12.04.
But Lev, still upstream and right beside the Wandle river as it tried its best to add
some fresh water to the turgid Thames, spun around in a gust and heeled over into a
capsize. Thus he found himself carried under and through the bridge; fortunately
without any traffic about. Easing himself onboard he found that in the stiff wind it was
just about possible to make sufficient speed for the self-balers to begin to gurgle
away – and he resumed the race – though still noticeably low in the water.
Battersea Bridge was then in sight!
Rather as the Hubble telescope observes the passing of exoplanets across a distant
sun, seen by the dimming of the light they cause, so the sails of Tim, and then Alex,
darkened from white to grey in the shadow of the bridge – and then lightened again –
only to darken once more, and return to white as they re-emerged, having turned
around and come back. Tim went dark at 12.06 – and returned to white at 12.08.
Alex went dark at 12.20 – and returned to white at 12.21.
Lev, meanwhile, was held in a slowly becalming arena of water around Plantation
Wharf; beside the stacks of apartments like ocean liners, even with white balconies
looking like empty lifeboats strung alongside. The reed beds on the embankment
were being gently ruffled; but without much to indicate which way to bend in the light
and fickle wind.
Stories of Lev’s capsize were exchanged as Tim and Alex passed by. But now the
real race was on to see if Lev could get to the bridge in the face of the turning tide.
Firstly he attacked the south bank. Tacking to and fro in the gentler tide by the side
of the Battersea heliport he inched his way forward, only to find that the shadow of
the buildings was blocking the little wind. So he went into the mid-channel. Only to
find the ‘Cockney Sparrow’ was jauntily steaming down river towards him, with no
intention of giving way to the intruder on his [her?] territory. Back to the south bank.
From 100m back the OOD observed, firstly, the Overground train going north to
Willesden. And then a hugely-long freight train went the other way to Clapham
Junction. After a while, another Overground train followed to Clapham. The Sunday
timetable is a relatively relaxed affair. How many more would come and go before
Lev got to the bridge?
Significantly, the level of fuel in the tank was hovering down to minimal. And it was
with great relief that the OOD thanked John Bull who, despite the OOD having
assured him that he was quite certain there was more than enough fuel for the
journey had, nonetheless, wise virgin keeper of the oil lamp that he proved to be,
tucked in a small can in reserve. It was glugged in.
There was then a difficult conundrum for the OOD to ponder: whether to go and ask
Lev what he intended to do? On the one hand, Tim and Alex had long gone and
were probably sailing happily together. The obvious priority was to stay with Lev.
But in asking what he wanted to do would be rather like asking Schrodinger’s cat if
it’s alive or dead – the question itself would make the difference. And it was clear
that Lev was engaged in a Nietzschean existential battle; overcoming nihilism with
insight into the meaning of life though positive engagement with difficulty as a
personal triumph of the will. He crossed the river again; just 20m from the bridge.
The Battersea Heliport windsock hung like an elephant’s trunk.
But what was that noise: a clattering in the distance – and a helicopter coming into
land! Would the downdraft blow him through the bridge? Alas no. And five minutes
later, it took off again – doing its best to send a flurry of wind his way. But there was
no way against the water.
At 13.25 the game was over for Lev. Human willpower cannot contradict nature.
Turning into the main channel he picked up the current and shot away.
But no sooner than Wandsworth bridge had come in sight when a big gust of
following wind spun Lev round – and into another capsize: No. 2. This time, the OOD
felt it was appropriate to ask if he’d had enough? No way! He was baling out and
baling out – and carrying on!
And then capsize No. 3, at Putney road bridge – with, no doubt, the operator of the
16 CCTV cameras watching the drama.
Capsize No. 4 was at Fulham football stadium. And it was the same syndrome. Not
helped with jugloads of water sloshing around in the bowels of the boat, it seemed
that as the wind bore down on the mainsail it couldn’t accelerate the sluggish boat
speed; so the centreboard acted like a plane wing lifting and tilting further and faster.
Capsize No 5 was at The Dove.
By this time Lev was sailing in a well-filled bathtub with loads of warm water and
plenty of soapy suds [Sustainable Urban Drainage System] for company, but not
really something to relax into and enjoy. There was, in addition, the distinct smell of
rotting seaweed in the air – a fragrant reminder that the incoming tide was bringing
back up the presence of the sea.
Capsize No 6 was at Corney Reach.
This time, the event was watched by the passengers on the packed-out Princess
Rose, going upriver, The captain decided not to overtake him and hooted four times
– and all the passengers applauded as Lev eased himself back onboard like a seal
hauling itself onto a sandbank.
Lev eventually crossed the finishing line at the railway bridge at 14.54; after some 4
hours and 33 minutes of gruelling sailing in broiling heat.
Alex [who had finished at 14.00] had taken 3 hours 41 minutes.
Tim [who had finished at 14.06] had taken 3 hours 57 minutes.
Alex and Tim had very kindly waited for everyone to return and it was much
appreciated that they helped to bring all the boats and gear ashore – and to share
their stories of the Long Distance Race.
1 July 2018
Only Blue Angel showed up to sail. David (safety boat) and Lev decided not to go for just one boat. We called SBSC, talked to Olly and offer our apologies. Next year.
The predicted Met forecast for Kew was light winds from the North East. A “B” course was programmed, however, the OD considered the possibility of a change to an “A” course due to the light wind making it difficult to clear the Pier, but after discussion with the helms and the site of ripples off the Pier, a “B” it was.
Six dinghies were prepared to endure the light and fickle conditions. The course was set by Tim Young and Dave Jones in the safety boat with the usual buoy positions, except for the downstream buoy being moved upstream to shorten the course.
Apart from Andy and Stephen in Comma who were having a problem making the start line against the tide by the Railway Bridge, all the other dinghies had good starts. Rob (Phoebe) rounded the Pier after 6 mins followed by Chris (Ho Ho Ho).
Lev (Blue Angel) and Alex (Phoenix) rounded the Pier after 17 mins. Tim Wellborn and his son Rob (Enterprise) and Andy and Stephen (Comma) were struggling with the very light and variable wind and the tide conditions. They tried inshore to avoid the tide but little wind, mid-stream to get the wind and sometimes getting a puff of wind to send them towards the Pier only to be washed back with the tide. Most frustrating for them. The others who had rounded the Pier were stalling by the rowing club and drifting. It was decided to shorten the course again by bringing the downstream buoy nearer the rowing club.
Chris (Ho Ho Ho) was sailing his enterprise solo and brilliantly. He completed his first lap after 32.25 mins. Lev, Rob and Alex followed with Tim and Andy still attempting to clear the Pier. It was debatable whether a second lap could be achieved with the one-hour race closing. However, the tide was easing. Amazingly all the dinghies began to make the tide and within a few minutes all had rounded the Pier, some for the first time. HOORAY.
Now all the dinghies were together, tacking past the rowing club and rounding the downstream buoy with little trouble. Positions were changing and Alex in Phoenix was breaking free. He rounded the final buoy ahead of the fleet and squeezed over the finishing line 5 seconds ahead of Lev. All the other dinghies were very close behind with only approx. 2 minutes between them at the line. Comma and Ixion completing 1 lap and the rest 2 laps.
Many thanks to Tim and Dave in the safety boat, sorry about the soaking Dave.
A lovely sail for our Sailing Club picnic at The London Apprentice, Isleworth