Race Report 9th August 2020 and Ladies Plate race

On a hot sunny afternoon the Met Office said the wind would be light and from the east.  It was certainly light at times, and Steve Newell set a short A-course from the Zoffany House start line with a sometimes consistent wind coming up-stream from east south east.  Chris Jones set the top mark just above the Bell and Crown and the bottom mark was at the downstream end of the slip-dock, where a barge was somewhat inconveniently moored for the duration of the race.

There was another good turnout of 9 boats which made for a congested start from the short start line.  The well-positioned ones headed off downstream hugging the Strand bank and a leading trio of James Armitage (solo in Enterprise), Joseph Armitage ( a stranger in his Laser, determined to beat his dad), and lev Kolobov (also solo in his Enterprise) made it to the mark with little difficulty.  The big dilemma was whether to tack within the slip-dock, with the added hazard of the barge, or to beat against the stronger tidal flow midstream.  Those three made it around and were practically back at the top mark before the Browns (Enterprise), Ian Nethersell (Vibe) and John Bull (laser) worked out the best way around the bottom mark in the contrary wind and tide. 

Joseph completed his first lap in less than 9 minutes followed by Lev and then James, after which James gained, maintained, and added to his lead.  John Bull was fourth at the first lap and held his position to the end with the Browns in close pursuit.  James and Joseph proceeded to lap everyone at least once, and all but Lev twice.  They did 7 laps with James 11 minutes ahead of his son at the end.  Lev did 6 laps and John, the Browns and Ian did 5. 

While all this was going on a much more notable event was taking place: the SGSC Ladies Plate.  In the absence of the Summer Party it had been decided to sail the Ladies Plate concurrently with a suitable A-course points race, and this was the one.  It was strenuously contested by Jane Watkins (ever growing in confidence in her Gull) and former winner Mary Short (in Chris Greenwood’s Leader).  As luck would have it, Jane had a bad day.  She tangled with the bank and got caught by a series of doldrums which drifted her towards Kew Bridge – the stuff of Strand nightmares – to be rescued by Chris Jones and towed home.  Which left Mary in control of the field.  She completed 3 laps of challenging conditions in considerable style and wins the coveted prize.

Many thanks to Stephen for keeping a clear record of the fleets’ many line crossings – no easy feat.  And to Chris Jones for keeping an eye on everyone from the water.  And to Andy Ross for helping the many weary mariners, and the safety boat, ashore at the end.

Next Sunday is a C-course starting at11:45, and there may be a picnic sail on Wednesday 12th August, starting around 1850 to clear Kew Bridge well before high water.  If it happens you will be contacted by email soon.

Race Report 2nd August 2020

It was perfect weather for a race: sunny on the whole and a F3 westerly wind, which couldn’t help but be gusty in the strange conditions of Strand.  And perhaps because of the COVID restrictions we had a good turnout of 8 boats on a long A-course – top mark opposite the Steam Packet (yes, it’s a pub again!), bottom mark opposite the City Barge.

As usual James Armitage showed the way around the course (solo in his Ent) and established a lead before the bottom mark by keeping well into the lesser tidal flow by the Strand bank.  It was a run with minor variations all the way down.  James was goose-winged with his jib-stick most of the time.  The return leg was a beat to windward and although several boats tried a long tack across to the Surrey bank, shorter tacks between the PLA moorings and Strand proved the best route.  The gusty wind meant that the fleet made steady progress against the tide most of the time on the downstream legs with some exhilarating beating on the upstream bits.

The Browns (Enterprise) followed James at increasing distances throughout the race – a minute at the first lap increasing to 11 minutes by the 9th  after a doldrum-patch just below the slip-dock on the last lap.   Alex Pape (Lugger) was in third place for most of the time followed by Nick Floyer (Lightning) who capsized in a gust at the end of his fifth lap and had to retire (towed home by David Jones).  His place was taken by Tim Wellburn (Enterprise, crewed by Wellburn jnr.),  Ian Nethersell (Vibe) and Tim Young (Gull) who completed seven laps, and Jane Watkins (Gull) who did six laps.

After the handicap sums the Handicap points were won by Tim Young, followed by the Browns and then Jane; the Big Boats points were won by James, then the Browns, then Tim Wellburn; in the Little Boats the winner was Tim followed by Alex and then Jane; and in the Polly Prize James was the winner followed by Tim Young and then the Browns.

Mary Short kept an immaculate record of the race, aided by Chris Greenwood.  Eight boats doing up to 9 laps each takes some keeping up with.  Thanks also to David Jones for shepherding the fleet on the water.  Apres-race at the arch was masked like the Venice Carnevale but with less extravagant costumes.

Next Sunday’s race is an A-course at 1730, following a working party in the morning.

Race results 26 July 2020

Race Report 26 July 2020

Sunday’s race was scheduled as a D-course, down to Hammersmith and back, but under the COVID-19 circumstances we had decided to race a series of low-water laps between Chiswick Bridge and the railway bridge.  This enables the safety boat to keep everyone in sight. 

Four boats took to the water with a warm and gusty north-west wind and headed downstream to a buoy set by David Jones opposite the late Tony Smith’s house.  It was soon clear that the gusty wind was going to cause problems but Ian Nethersell (Vibe) managed the first lap in 22 minutes, followed by Chris and Mary (Leader) and Jane (Gull) in about 26 minutes.  Nick was having less luck and was lapped by Ian before he made his first lap.  He then got caught by a gust and capsized just below the pier and accepted a tow back.

Ian completed his second lap after 34 minutes, 5 minutes ahead of the Leader and 8 minutes ahead of Jane.  That was almost it for Jane who struggled with the fickle wind and a flooding tide to make the bottom mark.  After a creditable struggle she called it a day and retired.

Ian meanwhile completed a third lap after 48 minutes of sailing and set off on a fourth lap.  Chris and Mary followed about 8 minutes later, almost an hour from the start, and Andy Ross (OOD) signalled the end of the race. 

Next week is an A-course at 14:10.

Race Results 19 July 2020

Race Report 19 July 2020

Sunday was a sunny day with a light breeze from NNE.  From the immaculate results sheet prepared by Inna Kolobov the race worked out something like this.  Seven boats took to the water but Tim Young retired before the start.  The remaining six fell into a leading group of Alex Pape (Lugger), Lev Kolobov (solo in his Enterprise) and Ian Nethersell (Vibe), who led from the first lap, swapping first place between them until on their fifth and final lap Alex crossed the line a mere 2 seconds ahead of Lev, with Ian under 6 minutes behind.  Chris and Mary (Leader) followed Lev, having been lapped once, and both Sam Shemtob (Wayfarer) and Jane Watkins (Gull) were a lap behind on 3 laps.

After the sums were done Alex was first in three of the Series (Handicap, Little Boats and Polly); Lev was first in the Big Boats and second in the Handicap and Polly; and Ian was second in the Little Boats and third in the Handicap and Polly.

Thanks again to Inna for keeping a clean score sheet, and to David Jones for doing safety boat duty and allowing Lev to sail.

There’s nothing on the calendar for next week but it could be an A/B-course at 1810 or a downstream D/B-course at 1445 (or later).  We’ll let you know as soon as possible.


Race Report 12th July 2020

Race Report 12th July 2020

Seven boats competed on a 2-buoy A course, the light breezes being deemed inadequate for the scheduled B course.

Ian, James and Alex all managed the first lap in just over 10 minutes, the rest of the field being slightly detained in the vicinity of the downstream mark.  

Ian and James each achieved a total of four laps, the latter taking Ian’s lead on the second; Alex and Chris managed three laps.  The other two boats retired in the face of too little wind or/or sail area.

The award for perseverance went to Chris who, surprising the race officers, determined to finish his third lap and, despite an almost complete lack of wind, managed to do so, setting the day’s endurance record.

The Gentleman of the Day award went to Ian for graciously letting Alex go ahead of him to cross the finishing line, only to have the wind fail a boat-length’s short of it, a piece of gallantry that cost him a further 6 minutes’ sailing.

Tim Wellburn

Race Results 21 June 2020

  Race Report Sunday 21″ June 2020

Seven sailors arrived, eager to rig their dinghies on this breezy Sunday afternoon. After launching three more sailors joined, Chris & Mary, Distant Thunder and Sam SY2.

A long “A” course was set with the buoys being laid up stream of the Bell and Crown and just off the City Barge by Chris Jones in the safety boat.

The scheduled Start of 14.15 was delayed for Chris & Mary and Sam to get to the start line. Chris & Mary managed to make the start line but Sam joined after the start on lap 2.

With the wind gusting 3-4 in a general WSW direction, a good start was made by all with the fleet bunching at the first buoy. James with his crew Ayanda rounded first, followed by Rob and Lev. Not far behind the others all rounded the buoy successfully.

The second lap showed the same leadership pattern, with the gusting wind causing a great deal of uncontrolled listing and Lev in his Enterprise capsized off Oliver’s Island. Lev being Lev quickly righting and continuing to sail plus bailing with his trusty bailer.

Tim had the misfortune to be swept onto the buoy at the Bell and Crown.

The leading dinghies were now lapping at about 10 minutes per lap and generally keeping to the Strand side of the trot. However, others tried crossing over to the Kew side of the trot to have a fast reach to the Bell and Crown buoy. On some laps this appeared to gain ground on the leading dinghies.

The race continued with James and Rob lapping at about 8 minutes and eventually finishing 7 LAPS. Lev, Alex and Ian finishing within 28 seconds of each other at 6 LAPS and Henry & Mary and Chris & Mary 4 minutes behind, also on 6 LAPS.

Tim and Sam completed 5 LAPS.

Many thanks to Chris for manning the safety boat single handed, not easy. This was a testing race, with strong gusts of variable wind typically “STRAND”.


Race Report 14 June 2020

Race Report 14th June 2020

Sunday was a sunny day with a good F3 wind coming straight up the river from Chiswick Bridge, against the river flow.  A high-water race being out of the question a D-course had been programmed (downstream to Hammersmith and back), , but Rob Adams, who was in charge of the safety boat, wisely decided that we should sail as many laps as possible of our B-course, between the Railway Bridge and Chiswick Bridge, so that he could keep all the fleet in sight.  The Covid-19 constraints were a consideration.   The downstream mark was set well down towards Chiswick Bridge opposite Putney Rowing Club and the upstream mark was just below the Railway Bridge.

Most of the fleet set off on time with the Browns a few minutes late (lack of concentration) and Nick Floyer (Lightning) even later with rigging problems.  The beat down to Chiswick Bridge favoured the Enterprises and James and Lev (both solo in their Ents) established a lead which they maintained throughout.  Chris and Mary (Leader), Ian (Vibe) and Alex (lugger) formed a following pack at the bottom mark by which time the Browns (Ent) had worked their way up through the fleet.  They kept in close company on the way back up river where Alex’s lugger showed its paces on the run and Ian tried to intimidate the rest by flying a spinnaker.  He had already tried more direct intimidation over a sculler – or perhaps it was the other way round.  There was a seeming multitude of scullers and paddle-boarders enjoying the river and adding to the excitement of tacking.

At the end of the first lap James was about 3 minutes ahead of Lev with the two crewed Ents, Alex and Ian within a minute of each other and two minutes behind Lev.  Jane in her Gull was another two minutes behind with Tim (Gull) to the rear.  Nick had already retired by this stage and Tim was shortly to follow.

The second and final lap was much the same.  James increased his lead over Lev to 7 minutes who maintained his 2 minute lead over the rest, although he was almost caught around the bottom mark.  The Browns were a whisker ahead of Chris and Mary (Leader) at the end, Alex and Ian followed 2 minutes later with Jane bringing up the rear.

When the handicap sums were done Jane was shown to have triumphed in the Handicap Series and the Little Boats cup.  Well done to her.  And James was first in the Big Boats and the Polly Prize.

The race was the fun part with excellent sailing throughout: close tacking battles, nail-biting stuff on the runs, wearing times for the centre-board. The hard work then took over with the recovery of 9 dinghies and the safety boat up the slimy foreshore, up the ramp and into the yard.  Without, in these plague-ridden times, the consolation of tea and buns.

Many thanks to Heather Adams for officiating over the race and to Rob for ensuring our safety.

Next week’s race is and A-course at 15:10. Let’s hope for similar conditions.

Race Report 31 May, 2020

A handful of sailors turned out for what was scheduled to be a D course on blustery day. After some deliberations, an altered B-course was selected, downstream to a rowing buoy mid stream just past the pier, and then upstream under the railway bridge to a racing buoy set just before Oliver’s Island. Start was by whistle only on this occasion and all got under way without problems and were close together for most of lap 1. James started to pull away thereafter, however Lev and Ian picked up the pace and stayed on the same lap for most of the race. Chris and Mary pulled up after the first lap for some bailing and re-joined after fixes. Jane had a capsize just before the mark on Lap 2, righted the boat and recovered to the rowing club, and soon after re-joined the racing. Lev had a capsize by the upstream mark late on and completed the final lap sitting very low in the water despite furious bailing. Leader James completed 9 laps in just over the hour, and the remainder of the pack followed soon after. Lev and Ian completed 8 laps, Chris 7 laps, and Jane 3.  All boats and kit were launched and recovered socially distanced and with masks in club colours (kindly provided by Jane) donned.


Thanks to Alex Pape for great photos!

Race Report 24 May 2020


Ten swans were there.  With huge good grace and unhurried calm on seeing the gates of the SGSC opening and envisioning the prospect of social competition for admiration and attention they headed in a line for the opposite bank: upper class social distancing by the true aristocrats of birds. Some swifts like black dots on a blue sky screeched by. Two moorhens hooted like journalists with urgent headlines reporting a story of great importance and they made way in turn for a random mob of Canada geese who had heard the news and gathered just to gaze and guffaw in honks of laughter at the odd sight of SGSC boats trundling down the ramp – and at the even odder sight of sailors in Covid-19 face masks.

Alex in a cowboy movie bandana, ready to ride out of town on a raid, Lev in a ghoulishly tooth-fanged Halloween mask [surely pinching David’s party trick] and Sam was unbelievably pretending to be as innocently white-faced as the driven snow on a summers day while Rob wore something red and Andy swore by a heavy duty builders demolition rubble and dust choker, complete with a nose valve. James realised he was not at all suitably dressed for this fancy dress party and came back in a fetchingly backless spaghetti-strap little black dress number.

Covid-19 is making the bizarre and impossible quite normal and no one is used to it. 

Neither are the boats. Nor are its sailors. Lev had taken over the duty as Safety Boat officer from Tim while being in self-isolation. Lev’s boat was upside down but with immaculate external repairs while Andy’s was fighting acute and chronic internal rot with more and more patchwork. Sam tangled his mast in the tree and while commenting that the heavy gusts were not encouraging, discovered a shorn-off part of the gooseneck – which he took as a recipe for cooking his boating goose into an early lunch retirement.  And the safety boat trailer wheel had a flat tyre; requiring the urgent life-saving attention of a mechanical ventilator. Nurses in PPE then wheeled the trolley patient down the ramp to recuperate and recover in the water. No-one clapped.

The warm F3 wind came fitfully but directly from the North-West; perfect for a really long straight ‘A’ course.

As the OOD set up the start at the Bell & Crown he discovered that Covid-19 had struck the scoreboard pen into mute.  No transmission of ink to paper! Unmute your mike! But no amount of empty scribbling would work to fix the bug. There was nothing for it but to abandon the call and zoom off back to the club to get another pen. An aural and video sign was signalled to Lev on the Safety Boat to inform him of the delay.

Hurrying back, the Blue Peter was raised for the 6-minute start – but without using a trumpet or a whistle that would potentially blast corona virus into the atmosphere for miles around and prolong the lockdown of the whole of Britain. Can the squeezy rubber ball for the acoustic hooter ever be replaced?

A brisk and gusty warm wind sent first Alex, then Rob, then James downstream and within three minutes they were more or less together at the mark that was set just off the City Barge.  After rounding it, James took the lead and headed across the end of the PLA trot into the mainstream of the river and stayed close to the punts before crossing to the upstream mark, reaching it only just ahead of Alex.  Both Alex and Rob had stayed on the Strand side of the trot.

Only the tricycle ice-cream seller had a socially distanced queue that could silently watch the gybes round the mark.

Goose-winged, James flew down the Strand side but Alex found he was caught in the slacker wind by the bank and Rob overtook him.

After rounding the mark and coming back upstream, James decided not to risk heading across into the mainstream again but tacked into the wind on the Stand side of the trot.

It seems that as the incoming tide reaches a certain volume its momentum carries it through the railway bridge and on around the bend in the river, away the main traffic route; towards the Strand rather than towards Kew bridge. The wind was perfect for a classic “Round the Island” race but the slackness of the current on the other side of Oliver’s Ait usually also makes it dangerous to manoeuvre with the constant traffic of rowers and passenger boats. But with a totally empty river, this would have been a perfect day for a “Round the Island”.  The OOD regretted not suggesting it.

By the third lap Rob had secured his second place lead over Alex who, by the fourth lap and in a slackening wind and an imminent high tide, was being tailed by James.

Gybing fast round the upstream mark James lapped Alex – and James asked the OOD if this might be the moment to signal the end of the race.

Since they had all been sailing for well over an hour while the ODD starting technology was zoom-meeting muted this was clearly appropriate.  

The Blue Peter was raised – and lowered. 

The sky was so blue – while no planes flew.

A Covid-19 race had ended  – and no tea was brewed.

c Andy Ross OOD

25 May 2020

Race Report, 17th May 2020

Race report, 17th May 2020

On Sunday late afternoon, on the 17th May, three Crews gathered for our first sail under social distancing regulations. It was a warm sunny afternoon with a light North Westerly. It was decided to change the scheduled D course to a short course between the pier at the East end of Strand on the Green and the rowing marker buoy on the Surrey side at the downstream end of the Island. This could safely be sailed without having to launch the rescue boat. Rob Adams our officer of the day set the starting line on the upstream face of the railway bridge with an upstream start against the wind and current.

Down at the bottom of the river bed, the wind was erratic and the shallowness of the water was a constant challenge to our centre plates, but it was great to be back on the water. Porpoise crewed by James led the way, Distant Thunder crewed by Chris and Mary followed and SY2 crewed by Sam was third on the water.  He was struck by a doldrum below Strand End and self-towed along the foreshore back to the ramp.

Successfully hauling the boats back up to the arch was the final challenge for the afternoon.


The next sail/race is an A-course, start 15:10 on Sunday 24 May. See you there – at a safe distance!