Race Report, 5th November 2023

The race was originally set for a 1300 D-course but with so much rainwater coming down the river, the current wouldn’t be turning until a couple of hours before high tide, so a Hammersmith race wasn’t an option. We decided to try a delayed A course instead but by 3.45pm the current was still running fiercely downstream and darkness was not far away. We found a little eddy between the Bell and Crown and the steam packet. We set buoys at each end of it and managed short centreplate-scraping race round and round in lightish but usable wind until it got dark.

Despite all this, of the five boats that set off, Tim Young’s Ait Knots (Wanderer), Toby Hick’s Laser and Nick Jeffery’s Eeyore all drifted under the railway bridge on setting off and had to be rescued.  Taking note, the others walked the boats towards the Bell and Crown, where a fair westerly wind was more pronounced. 

With the start delayed to 1530, James advised adopting a ‘reverse A-course’, with boats setting off from the Bell and Crown towards Kew bridge and passing both buoys on the port side.  So sailing in an anticlockwise loop, with the upriver boy halfway between the Bell and Crown and the Kew Bridge, and the downriver boy more or less opposite Zoffany House.

With Eeyore retired, the race eventually started just before 1600, with Dave Berger (with Sheila in Entre Nous, Enterprise) getting a great start but Tim and Toby getting recalled for being in front of the start line.  James (Zephyr, Enterprise) did a 360 at the first buoy, presumably as he’d hit it.

With Dave Berger ahead after the first lap, James did an incredibly tight turn on the downriver buoy going into the second lap to beat both Dave and Tim. James completed the second lap two seconds ahead of Dave and wasn’t going to let him back into the race. 

Tim then ran aground and retired after completing his first lap.

With the sun setting and the weather cooling, and some sage advice from Nick Floyer, we stopped the race after 6 laps, with James completing in 22.28 mins, ahead of Dave Berger on 25.18.

An interesting event!

Sam Shemtob (OOD) with additions from JA.

Race Report 22nd October 2023

OOD: Tom Broadhurst;   safety boat: Tim Young and Dave Jones

It was a fine autumn afternoon – perfect for a downstream race to Hammersmith and back, were it not for the lack of wind (a light SW) and the abundant rainwater that filled the river and threatened to overcome the incoming tide, on which we rely for the return journey.

Seven boats launched – James Armitage and Kiran Biekarck (his first ever race) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Ben Chappell in Envy (Laser); Joe Armitage in Punt (Laser); Toby Hicks in Cip (Laser); and Olly Adams and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror).

The downstream half had the benefit of the ebb and the light SW wind.  After a 14:30 start James reached the downstream mark at Chiswick Eyot at 15:05, followed at one-minute intervals by Joe, Rob, Chris, Ben and Toby, and finally Olly at15:16.  From then on it was a slow struggle against the river, which was doggedly reluctant to admit the flood tide, and the wind.  This is illustrated in a brilliant graphic from Olly plotting his course around the buoy and, eventually, the start of his slow beat back up-river.

Tim tells me that James and Joe swapped the lead at several points, and both were becalmed at Barnes Bridge for a time.  Rob and Chris kept similarly close company through much of the return.

The end of the ordeal came for James after 3 hours 5 minutes from the start with Joe 5 minutes behind.  Rob was third after 3 hours 22 minutes with Chris on 3 hours 35 minutes.  Olly and Billy were 4 minutes short of 4 hours – heroic endurance.  Both Ben and Toby had decided that enough was enough and accepted a tow from Tim and Dave.

Next week is a A-course at 13:00.


The course of Spinosaurus, 22 Oct 2023

Race Report 15th October 2023

OOD: Mary Brown;   safety boat: Henry Brown and Andy Ross

The sailing conditions on Sunday belied the Met Office forecast, which was for a mere 4 knots from the north. The reality presented us with very sailable 6 knots, gusting 13 from NNW – perfect for a B-course, and enough to overcome a strong tide.

Five boats launched – James Armitage and Tamina Biekarck in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Keith Clarke in Kaia (Laser) and Nick Floyer in flo (Gull).

There was quite a scramble at the ramp as the fast-incoming tide took away our foreshore, but all got launched in time for the scheduled start.  The downstream mark was laid opposite Chiswick Quay with the upstream mark well clear of the railway bridge.

The race was a simple run downstream against the tide and a beat back upstream with the flow.  James rounded first and completed the first lap in about 15 minutes, followed by Rob and Chris about a minute later, and then Keith at around 19 minutes.  The downstream leg was much more challenging for Nick in his Gull: it took him 24 minutes.

That pattern was maintained for the two remaining laps:  James, first in 48 minutes; Rob, second in 49:27 minutes; Chris, third in 50:06 minutes: Keith, fourth in 52:38 minutes.  Nick did an elegant pirouette at the end of his second lap to allow James to finish and thus avoid a lonely third lap.

There was another scramble as the boats queued to get under the railway bridge and onto the ramp, which was by this time immersed in a wellies-worth of water.  Wet feet all round. 

So it was a lovely sail on a lovely autumn day with a bonus of a delicious cake from Heather Adams to supplement Mary’s rock buns.  Thanks to Andy Ross for help in the safety boat and for launch and recovery assistance.

Next week is a D-course at 14:15.


Race Report 1st October 2023

OOD: Leona Shepherd

Safety Boat: Lev Kobolov and David

Weather: Sunny and with light Easterly breeze blowing with the spring tide.

Course: A

Seven boats, supporting 10 sailors were rigged and launched by 15.00. At the 15.10 start all boats were holding steadily into the wind with James, Rob and Olly (with Billy) demonstrating a perfect line up (see photo): James Armitage with crew Ariel Biekarck on Zephyr (Enterprise), Rob Adams on Phoebe (Laser), Olly Adams with crew Billy Adams on Spinosaurus (Mirror), Chris Greenwood with crew Felicia Biekarck on Distant Thunder (Leader), Tim Young on Ait Knots (Wanderer), Ben Chappel on Envy (Laser), Keith Clarke on Kaia (Laser).

A challenging sailing day with clear, sunny weather, a light breeze and a strong flood tide on the A-course.  James caught the wind best at the start and took an early lead rounding the buoy first. The other 6 boats competed hard to round the first buoy. The legs heading upstream were pacey with the tide and wind together making for exciting sailing.  Rob demonstrated local skill at the end of lap 1 (and on several subsequent laps) by sailing close to the wall at the Bell and Crown and making a tight tack to pick up the best route back down river.

Half way through the 2nd and 3rd laps a mele of boats took their time rounding the downstream buoy. James, on his 4th lap, broke through first. Next was Rob. As Keith approached the end of his 2nd lap, he was a little too far out and, frustratingly, the tide caught him and pulled him back off the line.  On the final lap most boats were taking a slow pass allowing the crowds at the Bell and Crown to cheer each finisher as they crossed the line. That said, Tim flew past with the style you only get from our commodore (see photo!).

Leona (OOD)

The Commodore at speed
The starting line-up

Race Report 17th September 2023

Strong tide, light east wind, rain before the start and forecast, but did not happen during the race or the hour before.

OOD: Nick Floyer;   Safety Boat:  Keith Clarke. 

Only Rob Adams (Phoebe, Laser) and James Armitage (Zephyr, Enterprise) with Felicia Biekarck turned up to sail, but were determined to race.  Keith Clarke was ready to launch the safety boat, but James and Rob decided to go without.

The moored pontoon opposite the Zoffany House start line provided two buoys, one at each end, to make a very short A-course.

The racing was close to start with but soon James drew clear, completing 10 laps to Rob’s 8.

Nick Floyer, OOD

Next week it’s a D- Course (Hammersmith and back) starting at 15:20

Race Report, 28th August 2023

OOD:   Mary Brown / Henry Brown

Safety boat:  Nick and Nicky Jeffery

Weather:  Fine, wind NW, F2-3

B-course, Start: 11:20

Another good turnout for an August Bank Holiday race.  Time was when SGSC would have decamped down to the Solent for a Gins weekend.

Six boats launched: James Armitage with a novice crew (sorry, I forgot to note his name) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekark in Distant Thunder (Leader); Nick Floyer in flo (Gull); newcomer Tamir Gottfried in a Laser; Tim Young in Ait Knots (Wanderer); and at last – after many repairs, Andy Ross and Enoch Rodriguez in Comma (Enterprise).

We chose a B-course because of a light but steady northerly breeze urging the fleet against a weak neap tide down to Chiswick Staithe.   There was plenty of holiday river traffic to contend with: not so many rowers as usual but all other varieties from paddle boards up.  At the start all but Tamir went for the Surrey bank hoping for weaker tide flow than in midstream.  It was the wrong choice and Tamir gained a substantial lead by sailing in the freer midstream wind.  So we had the unusual sight of James a full minute behind the lead at the first lap. He was followed 2 minutes later by Chris, then Nick, and then Andy and Tim.

James gradually crept up on Tamir over the next three laps, which were completed in about 15 minutes each, but he was still 7 seconds behind at the finish.  Chris maintained third position and finished about 7 minutes later, followed in 5 minutes by Andy, then Nick in another 5 minutes and finally Tim, who got delayed by a doldrum at the last mark.

The Strand handicap sums (Handicap Cup) gave the race to Tamir, then Andy, then Nick.  The regular yardstick sums (Polly Prize) gave the race to James, then Tamir, then Nick.  The Big Boats points went to James, then Tamir, then Chris, and Nick took the Little Boats points.

Thanks to Nick and Nicky in the safety boat for unobtrusive reassurance, and Mary for time-keeping.

Next week it’s an A-course at 16:15 following a working party at 10:30.


Race Report, 20th August 2023

OOD:   Tom Broadhurst / Jo Broadhurst

Safety boat:  Enoch Rodriguez / Andy Ross

Weather:  Fine, wind SW, 2-3, gusting 3-4

Start: 16:20

The lovely sunny afternoon brought out 8 boats – the best turn-out so far this season.  The wind, nominally SW but very variable both in strength and direction, was channelled roughly down Strand and the downstream mark of the A course was set, somewhat optimistically, almost at the City Barge.

From the start James in Zephyr (Enterprise), with Tamina as crew took a lead which increased steadily throughout the race.  He caught a nice gust around the downstream mark when the others were struggling past the slip-dock (occupied by a large barge).  His first lap took 10 minutes whereas the following pack took around 18minutes, led by Lev (Porpoise, Enterprise), then Chris Greenwood (Distant Thunder, Enterprise) crewed by Felicia Bierkark, then Henry Brown (solo in Big Polly, Enterprise), then Ben Chappell (Envy, Laser).   Tim Young (Ait Knots, Wanderer) was next followed by Nick Jeffery and daughter in the colourful Duckling, and finally Frankie Skrzezewski, still determinedly learning the habits of his Solo.

James, with his usual combination of skill and good luck with the gusts, completed his second and third laps in 6 and 9 minutes respectively, by which time he’d lapped everyone.  He went on to finish five laps before the OOD called time.  Lev did well to complete 4 laps and was a lap ahead of the following pack, each of whom did three laps: Ben, Chris, Henry and Tim who finished in that order within a minute of each other.  Nick retired gracefully after his first lap and Frankie hung on to the end and finished two laps.

After the handicap sums were done Tim emerged third in the Handicap Cup (after Lev) but on the way back to the Club caught his mainsheet on a moored boat and capsized.  This gave Enoch and Andy the opportunity to exercise their safety boat skills.  Many thanks to them and to Tom and Jo who risked wet feet outside the Bell and Crown.

Next week it’s a C-course on Bank Holiday Monday (not Sunday) – a C-course at 10:50.

Race Report 6th August 2023

OOD: Leona Shepherd

Safety Boat: Tim Young

Weather: Sunny and breezy. NW 7kts with gusts up to 20kts

Course: A

In gusty conditions by the boat arch, six boats were rigged and launched by 16.50. However, out on the course, the wind settled down to a steady breeze of 7-12kts. Due to technical issues Sam withdrew before the 6minute horn. This left 5 boats jostling for position at the start of the race: Chris Greenwood with crew Felicia Biekarck on Distant Thunder, Lev Kolobov on Porpoise, Frankie Skrzeszewski on Tango, James Armitage with crew Ariel Biekarck on Zephyr (Enterprise), Joseph Armitage on Punt. Tim Young on the safety boat.

A beautiful sailing day with clear, sunny weather and a steady breeze. The A-course was made more challenging by a strong spring tide and a keen audience outside the Bell & Crown. The wind died momentarily on the start horn and picked up again just as suddenly. James led at the beginning however with Joseph in hot pursuit both boats finished the first lap simultaneously. This neck and neck ranking lasted into lap 3 when James started to pull ahead (ever so slightly).

Congratulations go to Frankie on Tango, who after a steady start picked up momentum and completed 2 strong laps before taking a capsize and deciding to retire after 40mins. His stated aim, to complete a full lap, achieved.

Sam, made a surprising re-appearance after more than an hour having decided to enjoy the conditions and enter into the spirit of the club, if not the actual race.

After 1hr 6mins the James was the first of the four boats to complete the course in 9 laps, closely followed by Joseph, Chris and Lev. Very enjoyable sailing by all accounts.

Leona (OOD)

Race Report 11th June 2023

OOD: Leona Shepherd

Safety Boat: Joseph Armitage & Joel

Weather: Everything except hail or snow. 0-6kts with gusts >11kts.

Course: D

Four boats were launched by 15.00, however the balmy weather at 3pm became quite exciting winds by 3:15 and 2 boats (Nick Floyer in flo , and Andy Ross with Keith Clarke in Comma) took the sensible decision to retire before the race started at 15.21. This decision was affirmed as the stormy afternoon progressed and the ‘retired’ sailors and OOD huddled in the arch with hot cups of tea.

The audacious sailors were: James Armitage with crew Felicia Biekarck on Zephyr (Enterprise) and Olly Adams with crew Billy on Spinnasaurus (Mirror)

To be honest it was all about the weather which started with fresh winds allowing the boats to head off down river at good speed. It then deteriorated to wet and gusty with winds from all directions as the squall passed over our stretch from Strand to Hammersmith bringing with it thunder and lightning. The eye of the storm was peaceful but didn’t last long as the winds picked up again and the second half of the storm passed overhead.

Once the boats rounded the buoy, the safety boat, after sheltering under a canopy near Corinthians, returned to Strand for warm jumpers, hats and waterproofs for the soaking sailors. Thanks to Marian Armitage. Hypothermia avoided, the boats gradually drifted back up river aided by a gentle tide. Emerging from under Chiswick bridge their red and blue sails reflected peacefully on the water. James demonstrated good sail technique, maximising his forward motion, as the race ended in a fine and still evening. Thanks to Andy and Henry for coming back out to help recover the safety boat and dinghys.

Special commendation to Billy who contributed heroically throughout the race and despite the chill, still had a brave smile as he helped pack the boat away at the end. And Spinosaurus triumphed over Zephyr on Handicap.

Leona Shepherd (OOD)

An outing for the Kayaks

The club’s kayak trip on the same day saw us launching 6 kayaks with 7 paddlers and heading up river to Richmond in fine weather. Very light winds, clear skies and a comfortable 20oC. Fish were leaping, ducklings and goslings were exploring and the rowers were busy! A fresh coffee and fine croissant were enjoyed before topping up the suncream, donning the sun-glasses for the return.

It is hard to believe it was the same day as the race!

Leona Shepherd

Race Report, 4th June 2023

OOD: Tim Wellburn, with the very welcome assistance of Francis Skrzezewski.
Safety Boat: Ben Chappell, assisted by Leona Shepherd & Keith Clarke.
Wind: NNE, light but variable with lulls & gusts.
‘A’ Course, with two buoys laid.
Start time 14:15.  

6 boats racing, with visitor, David, cruising to try out Leona’s boat.

The start was immediately marked by an inter-mingling of some of the boats jockeying for position on different tacks and/or headings.  Eeyore having been retrieved from a considerable way upstream, never made it to the start, but later rowed past with some dignity.

Joe established an early lead in his Laser (Punt), completing the first lap in just under 6.1/2 minutes, followed by the Enterprises of James (Zephyr) and Lev (Porpoise), either side of 9 minute.  The other boats, becalmed at various points, took between 17-20 minutes to do so.

Joe held the lead until the 4th lap when James pipped him by a mere 16 seconds and then retained the lead to the end, completing 7 laps in just under 50 minutes.

Chris (Distant Thunder, Leader) almost caught up with Lev, sailing increasingly quicker lap times until the 5th (& final one for both of them) when, just short of the line, he fell victim of a lull in the wind, completing the race just 30 seconds over the hour.

Nick (flo, Gull) and Ollie (Spinosaurus, Mirror), sailing the two remaining smaller boats, were more challenged by the conditions, both completing 3 laps in just over 50 minutes, Ollie pipping Nick to the post by just 1.1/4 minutes.

All boats suffered to a greater or lesser degree from the frustrating conditions, especially around the upstream mark which, although it was laid very close to the start line, was felt by some to be a little too close to the shore.  However, wind & tide conditions further out into the stream in this reach were equally challenging, with many practicing backward sailing, keeping the two timekeepers on their toes as to which boat had already crossed the line on any given lap, and which had still to do so.

As it was a warm, sunny day, both Armitages washed their boats in the course of the race, but only Joe elected to do so rounding the downwind mark, to earn an ovation from our Bell & Crown audience for his very swift recovery.

Tim Wellburn (OOD)