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.
Race Report 27 may 2018
The only two sailors to turn up for this windless Isleworth race were so underwhelmed by the conditions that the whole thing was very nearly not bothered with.
Eventually Lev’s enthusiasm prevailed and two Enterprises were launched, Rob C collecting Lucy as crew on the way.
Through the bridge there was no question of sailing against the current so it was a hang-on start , managed by Michael Somerville from the safety boat , which was operated by Tim and Dave.
In the total absence of any wind to speak of, Rob and Lucy seemed to drift with the tide slightly faster than Lev – perhaps the extra weight of a 2 person crew made their boat catch the water better than Lev’s single handed displacement- but anyway by Syon they had a 50 yard lead.
Puffs of the lightest wind then materialised occasionally, and by skilful use of these Lev managed to make up all the ground he had lost . The two boats rounded the mark at Isleworth together. With a strong flood still running the two boats made for the still water near the quay where they waited for the turn- Rob anchored, and Lev somehow managing to keep sailing against the tide in zero wind and eventually ghosted decisively into the lead.
A dramatic snails pace battle then developed – initially in the tide dead spot along the quay and in front of the pink house using occasional puffs that came randomly from ahead, astern and abeam. As the tide eventually slackened enough for the boats to be able to use more of the river they started to make progress, sailing in the puffs and drifting in the calms as far as the Brentford dock housing, neck and neck, with the lead changing continually.
Here Rob made a lucky choice and took the Brentford bank where he found a tiny but useful breeze and a strengthening tide. Lev, on the Kew bank, had neither.
Rob’s luck held as he rounded the bend to Kew Bridge where the finish line swept up past him while he happened to be 50 yards ahead of Lev.
The total time taken to get to Isleworth and back was something like 2 hours. Is this a record?
Report from the water, by Alex:
5 boats started a C course with a light breeze from the west. Lev, solo in the Enterprise for the second time, led from the start, but John caught him soon after Brentford Marina. Alex and Lev then proceeded up to Isleworth together. Both misjudged the mark somewhat, allowing Ian to catch up and start the (long) journey back. Tim followed round the mark soon after. John moved to the Surrey bank around Syon House, which proved slower and Ian and Alex overtook, inching along the Middlesex bank, but mostly perfectly balanced against the incoming tide and a little warm in the sun. Eventually they returned to Brentford, where the winds improved and the tide slackened. Sticking to the Surrey bank now, the front three made a close finish, Alex and Ian over the line less than a second apart. Conditions had improved upstream and Lev and Tim had both crossed the line just 6 minutes later. Many thanks to David and David in the safety boat, and OOD Tim with assistance from Andy.
Report from the finish line by Andy:
On a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll into Kew Gardens for lunch and to see the spectacularly reconstructed Temperate House [fully £41m-worth] Andy came across Tim, anxiously scanning the upstream horizon searching for sight of the returning boats. Already an hour and a half had elapsed – and Tim was on tenterhooks as he was due to be in High Wycombe for the spring corn grinding ceremony in the Penn Watermill that afternoon. And as time and tide wait for no man – and the last of the miller’s last year’s corn harvest rations were going to be distributed to the starving peasantry, hungry for their annual loaf of bread on a first-come-first-served basis, something had to be done.
A ransom was required and Tim emptied his pockets, but found only a whistle.
Ah well; that and a promise to save a slice of genuine artisan-produced, water-mill stone-ground, home-baked granary loaf – or stand-in as OOD on a later date, and he was free to go.
Three-quarters of an hour passed by, with only the occasional rowing eight going up river when suddenly round the bend appeared a great flotilla.
“Gloriana” was coming down the river! Heralded by a PLA motorboat. And a crowd of boats behind her! What was this about? And where were our boats?
As she drew level it was clear there were properly-dressed dignitaries on board. Gentlemen in frock coats and tricorn hats, and ladies in floral frocks and with amply-wide hats; all being heaved along by 16 red-coated, red-faced oarsmen. “Where have you come from?” met with no reply. “Where are you going?”, similarly silent. The two stern-faced coxswains were much more concerned to lower the Union Jack and City of London flag and drop the two masts before reaching Kew Bridge.
But the followers were more communicative. They had come from Hampton Court and were heading for Tower Bridge. And what a lot of them! (Tallow Chandlers, Master Glaziers, Ahoy, God the Only Founder, Catamoran, Barbers’ Cutter, Richmond BC, Thames River Soc., etc. etc.) The gentlemen of the City and Guilds Livery boats were especially pleased to wave back; their gold chains of office glinting in the sunshine; feather hats pluming in the breeze; what rich pageantry was on the river for the towpath peasants to behold! Yet all was apparently a rehearsal in honour of yet greater ceremonial pageantry to come; the royal wedding in Windsor in a week’s time. As Morecombe and Wise (or was it Cleese, Barker and Corbett – ed.) so wittily said:
“I look down on him; and he looks up to me; and I look up to him [and her]; and they [both] look down on us”.
This exchange of pleasantries had a sudden an unexpected effect. Sequentially, pre-occupied and distracted by the rude questions from the commoner on the riverbank, and keen to reply politely; boat after boat collided with the red can rowing boy – despite each of the downstream boats ahead of them calling back to warn them! Had they similarly collided with, and sunk, the SGSC fleet somewhere upstream?
It took another half-hour for SGSC to turn up. With a light westerly wind and a slow-turning tide they had obviously had a gruelling time of it in the upper reaches; and obviously not with the help of a glint of gold or with any splendid tunics being worn. However, young David Kolobov, accompanying David Jones in the Safety Boat, had in his pocket his special find on the foreshore that morning: a metal button badge with an inscription on it that appeared to read: ‘London and South Western Railway Company’ and on the reverse ‘Newcastle..?’ A find that the metal detectorists, also on the foreshore, had missed! We wait to hear what it reveals of its history when cleaned up and researched into. Now then, if SGSC sailors were properly dressed – and duly buttoned-up with official ceremonial tunics, and ostrich-plumed tricorn hats, they might have made a better show of it on the river; and made a better time. All boats crossed the line within four minutes of each other; some 2 hours and 40 minutes after the start.
Andy Ross, Acting OOD
Sunday 13 May 2018
Race report, 6 May 2018
At last – a perfect spring evening for a relaxing race. We were missing an OD, but Inna Kolobov gallantly volunteered to run the race, for the first time, while Lev Kolobov tried out an Enterprise for the first time. Not only that but he sailed it solo.
There wasn’t much wind – a gentle F2 from the SE – but enough to make a race of it for the 7 boats that launched. The consensus was to set a short course with the start at Zoffany House. Chris Jones in the safety boat missed the start searching for the key to the safety boat so the sailors decided to improvise. After the starting signal from Inna we passed the word around to turn in line with the first post on the mooring grid for the downstream mark and opposite a grey inflatable outside the Bell and Crown for the upstream mark. All went well, with John Bull taking the lead, beating down to the first mark, and running up to the upstream mark with a brief detour to check with the Browns in their Ent on precisely which mark to turn on. It didn’t hold him back much and he crossed the start line about 30 seconds ahead of the Browns. Ian Nethersell was about the same distance behind in third place with Nick about a minute behind him.
Fortunately, by the time that Lev in his Ent completed his first lap at the back of the fleet, Chris (aided by David Kolobov) had managed to release the safety boat and had laid a proper downstream mark about half way down the mooring grid. And he laid an upstream mark in ample time for John to come around on his second lap. Ian was second on the second lap still about 30 seconds behind John but there was plenty of position-swapping at the downstream end of the course. By the third lap Ian was in the lead ahead of John with Lev just over a minute behind and after much close-quarters tacking by the end of the fourth lap Ian and john crossed the finishing line with only two seconds between them. Third and fourth position were fought over by the Browns and Alex Pape who finished 4 seconds apart. Lev was a few seconds behind, obviously getting the feel of the boat, followed by Andy and Enoch and finally Nick. All meticulously recorded by Inna, to whom many thanks.
Next week it’s a C-course at 12:30.
Race report, 29 April 2018
B course, 13 50 start. OD Rob Collingwood, Rescue Boat James Armitage
Another ridiculously cold April day- Overcast and just about remaining dry. Hats and gloves weather at a 7 degrees which felt cooler in the good force 3 North westerly breeze. This made it a dead run down towards Chiswick bridge on the B course, with a brisk tack coming back, the apparent wind strength sharpened by a quite strong opposing tide.
Only two contestants: Tim and Lev; the battle of the Gulls.
On the first lap, Tim rounded the Chiswick Staithe buoy first, but Lev pulled ahead on the tack back- his tactic of frequent short tacking to stay in the strongest wind and tide paying off against Tim’s fewer but longer tacks into the easier conditions at the bank.
Both boats had a blustery sail back and Lev completed his first lap in 18 minutes against Tim’s 22. The Bulls Head buoy was set quite close in under the lee of the pub giving both boats the opportunity to grind to a halt in true Strand style even with this very adequate wind.
Then, just after completing his first lap with a small lead, Lev’s Gull got rolling in mid-river opposite the pier, and that was the end of his race. While Tim ploughed steadily on to complete a second lap in about another 19 minutes, Lev struggled with the slippery and buoyant hull of his boat which allowed him to right it about 4 times but each time re-capsized in protest at his efforts to climb back on board. Eventually Lev outwitted the uncooperative boat by climbing in over the stern . However as he was almost under the railway bridge by then, the rescue boat manned by James and David Kolobov, pulled him away from this hazard and Lev decided he should not continue, though whether a sideways tow towards the bank really constituted assistance might have been a fine point .
This left Tim the sole contestant and undisputed winner after making no mistakes in a textbook sail under testing conditions.
Race Report 22 April 2018
Perhaps one of the participants will volunteer a proper report, but to fill in the space for the time being, here is a race-sheet-eye-view.
Four boats started on a promising late spring afternoon with a variable W,NW breeze: Rob Collingwood solo in his Enterprise, Andy and Enoch in Andy’s Ent, Tim Young (Gull) and Nick Floyer (Lightning). Rob zoomed around his first lap in 6 ½ minutes and kept up that pace, and the lead, throughout. Nick was close on his transom on lap 1 but something nasty happened on his second lap that left him way behind. Andy maintained second position after the first lap but couldn’t prevent Rob lapping him before the finish. Tim kept up a steady pace of 8-minute laps throughout and finished his seven laps just after Rob finished on nine. Andy completed eight laps and Tim and Nick both completed seven.
Tim won the Handicap points and Rob the Polly points. The race was supervised by Alex with Sam and Dave on the safety boat. Next week it’s a B-course at 15:50.
RACE REPORT 15 APRIL 2018
Four boats competed on Course B, in the face of a strong easterly breeze.
The start was delayed 12 minutes to enable Tim Young’s Gull and Sam Shemtob’s Wayfarer to be towed under the Railway Bridge.
Ian Nethersell led off from the start line and, having quickly negotiated the pier, established a clear lead ahead of the other three boats. Of these, the wind initially seemed to favour Sam’s Wayfarer, but he and Alex consistently contested second position in a long series of tacks as they clawed their way to the easterly buoy.
In the face of wind and tide, this proved an objective too far for Tim’s Gull and he retired after about half an hour, around the time Ian completed his first lap.
After an interval of about 15 minutes, Sam’s Wayfarer appeared, heading west, only to be strongly challenged by Alex, the two completing the first lap only 16 seconds apart after some 50 minutes of racing.
The OOD, deciding it was tea time, generously allowed them to regard this as their finish, and 5 minutes later blew the whistle for Ian as he completed his second lap in a noble time of under 20 minutes.
Race Report 25 March 2018
The first race (4th March) was cancelled because of a bad forecast. The next race, a D-course (11th March), was sailed with very little wind on a tide that refused to turn. Only James rounded the buoy and returned; Lev and Tim were towed home in the gathering dark. The race on 18th March was cancelled because of a Beast from the East. But last Sunday’s race, another D-course, was sailed by James Armitage, Lev Kolobov, Nick Floyer and Michael Sommerville with Alice as crew.
There was very little wind – at best a F2 from the NE – and as usual some reaches of the course were without any wind. James, sailing alone, was in the lead from the start but Nick and Lev followed him closely down to Chiswick Bridge and beyond, and Michael, sailing with first-timer Alice, were in amongst them as far as Barnes. The beat from Barnes to Corney Reach gave James the scope to increase his lead and the fleet stretched out. After fifty minutes of sailing, and the strength of the ebb weakening, Henry and David in the safety boat decided it was prudent to shorten the course and a buoy was dropped ahead of James at the upstream end of Chiswick Eyot. He rounded and started back downwind, creeping up the Surrey bank in the relatively slack water – even fifty minutes after the predicted low water at Chiswick Mall there was still an ebb flow. Nick and then Lev rounded about 20 minutes later and started their run back, still without an appreciable flood tide, and now with even less wind to help them. Michael and Alice were struggling to make the buoy and decided to retire – they soon accepted a tow from the safety boat.
The flow of the river is most perverse. The water level was rising from the time of low water but the flow was still apparently heading out to sea. It was as if lighter, fresher water from upstream was still flowing out on top of the heavier, salty water coming upstream. Nick reported that he was at Barnes Bridge before the flow did what it should do.
James reached the finish line after two hours and ten minutes – from Chiswick Bridge there was at least the satisfaction of a beat against a gentle breeze and with an appreciable flow in the right direction. Nick followed a quarter of an hour later and Lev was 5 minutes behind him.
The handicaps more or less reversed these positions: Lev won on the Handicap points and the Polly Prize; Nick was second in the Handicap and third in the Polly; and James was third in the Handicap and second in the Polly.
Next week, as well as being April Fool’s Day, we have an A-course at 15:00 with and Easter Egg as a prize.