Race Report, Bank Holiday 29th May 2023

Crowded out from our usual Sunday by multiple rowers ‘Bumps’ racing, and onto an empty river and under an empty blue sky, 5 boats came out to enjoy the Bank Holiday Monday. But it offered no relaxing rest and recreation. A stiff breeze topping 15mph banged the sails about; presaging a rough and tumble ‘D’ course.

James and Tamina [Zephyr, Ent], with Chris and Felicia [Distant Thunder, Leader], and Andrew and Enoch [Comma, Ent], were joined by Sam and Catherine [SY2, Wayfarer] while Joe, as OOD replacing Lev, firstly thought to get on board the Safety Boat with Frank and Kieran – but then decided to quickly go home where he managed to press-gang Marian as OOD; so he could sail his Laser (Punt). Jilling-about the start line revealed that multiple wind twists and turns were to be expected; the Union Jack pointing fully and horizontally across the river.

James led across the line, followed by everyone on a broad reach – with Joe clambering onboard his Laser to catch up. So far, so fast, down to Chiswick Bridge. It seemed it was going to be manageable: just.

In particular, ‘Comma’ was put to the test. As the oldest boat in SGSC with an ownership history dating back to Peter Hatton, who first won an SGSC Cup in 1966, she had been showing her age. Subsequently sailed by James Armitage until 1986, then Peter Osbourne until 1995, she was taken over by Andy Ross in 1999 (having previously sailed the small boat ‘Bumblebee’), ’Comma’ must now be approaching 60 years old. Two years of restoration work, repeatedly discovering soft areas of wood requiring one repair after another, and determined to stick to the original wood glue and timber, with no plastic or fibreglass, and freshly-painted, she appeared to be truly sturdy, and with no leaks detected, she shone – and she flew with the wind. The original Scots pine wooden mast, that often defined for itself whether it was acting as heavy ballast keeping the boat upright – or was going to swing about with the wind and let momentum decide, has been replaced with an aluminium mast; with a pivot bolt in a tabernacle foot to lower the mast to get under the railway bridge. A tensioning lever now held the new mast rigging bar-tight.

All still together, the fleet sauntered gently in a sudden near total calm under Chiswick Bridge. Ah! The warm sun! How very pleasant this Bank Holiday journey was actually going to be! But as we rounded the bend to Barnes Bridge, the North-East wind sucked in deep and blew its cheeks out. Off we galloped! But at the rear of the fleet the suddenness of this great blast hit Sam really hard, producing a spectacular capsize.

Looking back from ‘Comma’ we saw Sam and Catherine were now both just heads in the water – and they were drifting far away from their boat. There was no sign of the Safety Boat. So we decided to turn back and offer help. Coming back around from the rear we seized the bow and, broadside on, enabled Sam and Catherine to grab their hull. Sam then swam back off again to pick up pieces of gear floating away while Catherine, totally unperturbed, and astonishingly glamorous, confidently made-up and ready for her leading actress role, simply asked if her handbag (that she had shrewdly stowed very tightly onboard), was still there? A handbag! It was a truly Lacy Bracknell moment worthy of Oscar Wilde. Funny and wonderful! But their mobile phones were another matter.

The Safety Boat then re-appeared and with Catherine transferred onboard the boat sped off back downriver to re-find the fleet, while the Wayfarer was brought ashore for a ton of bailing-out. 

The pre-agreed plan was that the fleet (those who got there) would turn themselves at Corinthians, which is what had indeed happened, as James soon came back under Barnes Bridge – and the Wayfarer was then taken in tow by Frankie in the Safety Boat back to the Club.

Comma set sail back under jib alone as the rest of the fleet caught up and with varying rough gusts (Joe performing two ‘death role’ capsizes, including one after he had finished!) and yet still with frequent dead calm spots – and still against a strongly ebbing tide, we all made our way back. 

Never has tea and biscuits been more welcome! What a very unrelaxing, but very memorable, Bank Holiday Monday.

Andy Ross

30 May 2023

Race Report, 21 May 2023

Five boats were launched, plus the safety boat, Kurt Berger, and, at James’ suggestion, Course B was selected rather than A for a 15.15 scheduled start. Unfortunately, due to some engine trouble with the Safety Boat there was a short postponement of six minutes while attempts were made to get it running (It was later discovered that the fuel pipe had been mis-connected).  An existing buoy and wooden pile were used as marks, as Sam and Catherine were no longer able to lay the club buoys.

Two Enterprises (Zephyr and Porpoise), a Leader (Distant Thunder) and a Mirror (Spinosaurus) got off to a close start on the opposite bank, initially close-hauled then running by the time they reached the mark downstream. Frank, in his Solo Tango, found it a struggle to make way against the flooding tide mid-stream and retired at 3.35pm, joining Kurt Berger at the ramp.

James and Tamina in Zephyr pulled ahead of Lev, sailing single-handed in Porpoise, gaining about 2 minutes on him per lap. Chris and Felicia in the Leader Distant Thunder were just half a minute behind after one lap. Ollie and Billy in Spinosaurus were precisely four minutes behind Distant Thunder after the first lap and persevered against the tide even when making no headway at times.

Places did not change again, even after James had to take evasive action on his way to the second “leeward” mark, to avoid a collision with a pair of eights speeding close by to their own neck-and -neck finish under the railway bridge.

James and Tamina finished the race after three laps at 49mins,47secs, Lev six minutes behind at 55:53. Chis and Felicia came in third at 58:18. Spinosaurus took 24 minutes for lap one, 23 and a half for the second lap and just 19 minutes for the third and final lap, a few puffs of breeze filling in helping them on handicap. Spinosaurus finished 1 hour, 6 minutes and 37 seconds after the start, just before 4.30pm.

Nick Jeffery (OOD)

Next week’s race will be held on the Bank Holiday Monday (29th May). It will be a D-Course (Hammersmith and back) starting at 16:00.

The reason is that our bit of the river will be occupied on Sunday by dozens of eights storming downstream in a United Hospitals Bumps Race.

Race Report 14th May 2023

A chilly start with a very slight breeze from upstream of Chiswick Bridge (according to the Met Office F1, gusting F3 from the SE). All six boats started at10:00 in a close group across the line racing intently. The race quickly split into two groups of three, but with James Armitage (Zephyr, Ent., sailing solo) leading significantly. Joe Armitage in the safety boat carefully chose the correct point to drop the buoy with the timing, perfect for the change in the tide. James rounded market first, followed by Rob Adams (Phoebe, Laser) in close contention after 30 minutes racing. He was followed by David Berger (Entre Nous, Ent., sailing solo); Chris Greenwood (Distant Thunder, Leader); Oliver and David Adams (Spinosaurus, Mirror), and finally Tim Young (Ait Knots, Wanderer).

Rob’s laser proved to be faster downwind chasing James with David, closing the gap in a chase. The Sun finally came out, and the temperature climbed to a more seasonable level. The leading three caught the breeze and the gap increase to several minutes from the last three in a group. The final run towards the finish line was extremely close with James overtaking Rob in the last 2 m to win by one second with David, only two seconds later for third.

The following group of three had continually changed places on the run towards the finish, but with Tim cruising across the line, some 13 minutes after James, followed closely by Oliver a few seconds later and Chris gamely bringing up the tail at one hour, 19 minutes and 50 seconds.

A good race in light winds, well-marked course by Joe, and close racing with a finish In glorious sunshine.

Keith Clarke, OOD

Next week is an A-course starting at 15:15.

Race Report 7th May 2023

OOD: Tim Wellburn

Safety Boat: Nick & Nicole Jeffery

Weather: Sunny, light SW wind abating for the start but picking up in the latter stages of the race.

Course: short, 2-mark ‘A’ course with a Zoffany House start to avoid the busy SOG street party spilling out towards the Bell & Crown.  Start time 15:16.

Six varied boats took to the water, and initially seemed to ignore Starter’s Orders, remaining for the most part reluctant to leave the shelter of the bank and adjacent festivities ashore.

Eventually all got underway, slowly finding an eddy to edge downstream against the flood tide. Remarkably, David and Sheila Berger (in OOD Tim’s Ent, Ixion) and Lev Kolobov (solo in Porpoise, Ent.) completed the first lap literally in parallel after 11 minutes 39 seconds, Rob Adams (Phoebe, Laser) chasing only a minute behind.  Olly Adams & First Officer Billy in their Mirror (Spinosaurus), and Sam & Catherine in the Wayfarer, Spirit of Youth, followed either side of the 15 minute mark.  First lap Wooden Spoon Award went to Tim Young (Ait Knots, Wanderer) who was chasing Sam Shemtob’s Wayfarer and so nearly crossed the line at 18 minutes, but then suffered the difficult combination of too little wind and too much tide, and duly suffered the frustration of taking another 12 minutes to complete the lap.

Thereafter, lap times improved, albeit not consistently.  To check the OOD’s concentration, four boats managed to complete their first or second laps as an unpredictable flotilla at 16+ minutes.

Thereafter, Rob put in some increasingly fast lap times in his Laser and the Enterprises of David & Sheila, and Lev performed briskly, managing a couple more laps than the other boats.

A miscommunication by the OOD (mea culpa) caused David & Sheila and Lev to sail a gratuitous additional lap (now struck from the record although, frustratingly, probably their fastest!) while the rest of the field completed their (legitimate) final lap.

We retrieved the boats at high water, which was awash the club gates, and proceeded to party in style.

Tim Wellburn (OOD)

Race Report, 30 April 2023

OOD: Nick Jeffery; Safety Boat: Sam Shemtob; Weather: fine, wind SSE F3. A lovely day.

Five boats were launched on a rising tide for a 10.00am start on Course B in sunny weather with a gentle breeze. A beat down towards Chiswick Bridge, where Sam laid the windward mark, saw the three crewed Enterprises, tacking close to the shore, pull ahead of the single handers – Ben in his Laser Envy and Tim in his Wanderer Ait Knots. James’ Zephyr, crewed by Felicia, completed the first lap in 17 minutes, 30 seconds. Henry and Mary’s Big Polly crossed the line a couple of minutes later at 19:55 with Lev’s Porpoise, crewed by his son David, hot on their transom, five seconds behind, at 20:00 minutes. Less than three minutes later, Ben completed his first lap, while Tim crossed at 34 minutes and decided to retire rather than slog against the tide again. On the second round, Porpoise pulled ahead of Big Polly by nearly a minute, while Zephyr stretched its lead to over five minutes. Envy touched the leeward mark and swiftly re-rounded, three minutes before Zephyr came in to win the three-lap race after 51 minutes 18 seconds. Porpoise and Big Polly looked neck and neck as they appeared round the bend on their third lap, jibs goose-winged, but Porpoise pipped Big Polly to finish second with Big Polly coming in third after 1 hour 5 minutes and 48 seconds just 15 seconds later. Six minutes after that Envy finished and the fleet just made it under Kew Railway Bridge before the tide was too high. There was some discussion between Lev and Henry about a missing 360-degree penalty but no protests were lodged or retirements made…

Nick Jeffery

Next week, Coronation week, it’s an A/B course starting at 15:15, to be followed by an informal barbeque at the arch.

Race Report 9th April 2023

Sunday was a lovely spring Easter Day with increasing amounts of green on the trees and a nest of five moorhen eggs on a deflated tender attached to Dorset Dunlin on the PLA mooring.  Not much wind, but enough SW to give a short A-course from the City Barge down to the slip dock.

The river remains very full from recent upstream rain and all five crews got more than their feet wet rigging on the vanishing foreshore.  They comprised Lev and David Kolobov in Porpoise (Enterprise); Ben Chappell in Envy (Laser); Frankie Skrzesewski in Tango (Laser); Tim Young (no ill-effects from last week’s dunking) in Ait Knots (Wanderer); and Nick Floyer (with brand-new sails) in flo (Gull).

Mary Brown (OOD) was able to start the race on time and all the fleet made good progress down to the slip dock against the flood tide.  Lev was there first and stayed ahead for the whole race. He finished his first lap in just under 7 minutes, followed two minutes later by Nick and then Tim. On the second lap Nick was still second with Tim and then Ben close behind.  Frankie decided that his time was best spent practicing tacking and observing the curious ways of the river, and retired from the race.  Ben came storming through the fleet on the third lap to be second with Tim and then Nick close behind while Lev increased his lead with 5-minute laps.  He finished 8 laps in just under the hour to be followed by Ben, then Tim on 7 laps and finally Nick on 6 laps.

The tide was high enough to almost sail into the boatyard at the end where Mary, having paddled down the footpath in wellies, offered tea and lemon drizzle cake.  Lev and David were awarded the traditional Easter Egg by Commodore Tim, who had baby eggs for everyone else. Henry, in the safety boat, was grateful to have had a peaceful afternoon.

Next week it’s a C-course (Isleworth) starting at 11:30

Race Report 2nd April 2023

With 1.5 hours to go racers and OOD were looking at a strange phenomenon. The river level was rising with the flood tide but there was still a considerable stream flowing down river from the recent rain, and the river was already lapping at the bottom of the ramp! The wind was predicted to be N at F3.  The feeling was to press on and race even if it meant a short B course in the slack water of No.1 SotG.  The decision was vindicated as a stalemate was established between the flow and the incoming tide resulting in an almost tideless stretch of water on the B course with a freshening NW breeze.

There were 4 starters: Frankie in Tango (Solo), Tim in Ait Knots (Wanderer) Olly and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror) and Lev crewed by Henry Brown in Porpoise (Enterprise).   With the conditions ideal the race was started 10 mins early at 11.50am.

A cracking start from Olly and Lev saw them level pegging to the first mark off Chiswick Staithe.  Lev took the mark close but a little counter eddy took him beyond the mark leaving enough room for Olly to slip through to hold the lead for a moment. Tim and Frankie followed a hundred yards behind. Tim set off up steam and left Frankie to practice his tacking technique off Chiswick Staithe. After 20 minutes Connaught, that notorious pleasure cruiser, came steaming upriver not wavering from a mid-river course.  In the safety boat, a little concern, so moved closer.  Frankie was on a collision course!  Connaught came charging through with only a couple of lengths in front of Tango. The bow and stern wave of Connaught swamped the Solo.  Frankie did well to stay upright but now had a boat full of water! Time for a tow home.

The rescue boat left the fleet who all seemed well under control.  The sailors running back to towards Chiswick Bridge in a freshening breeze.  Rob, absorbed in trying to land Frankie in a good place at the hard, missed a spectacular capsize of Tim. It was only when Heather (OOD) came running up to the hard that Rob was alerted to the emergency. The safety boat quickly abandoned Frankie and raced at full chat to the capsized Wanderer and immediately took a cold Tim on board. “Which way round does the ladder go?”  With great seamanship Olly had been standing by the Wanderer. Indeed, not only standing by but making ready to take the upturned Wanderer in tow by sail. With Tim now safely on board, Olly left to re-join the race.

Lev and Henry appeared and in turn stood by to see if they could help. A decision was made to transfer Henry to the rescue boat to aid the retrieval of the Wanderer that by now had its mast stuck in the river bed despite having an array of floats attached to the masthead.  Lev having expertly unloaded his crew safely onto the safety boat, now single handed proceeded to join the race.

After various retrieval attempts we managed to get the centreboard out of its slot and lever the Wanderer upright and tow it to UL hard where we could tip out the excess water.  And then tow her back to the yard. Meanwhile the race was back on between the Enterprise and the Mirror each delayed by their excellent seamanship in standing by the stricken Wanderer.  Now that the incoming tide was slackening and the flood was beginning to flow out again the last lap becoming a difficult beat against the outgoing flow. Both managed to complete 3 laps, first Lev in just over an hour, followed by Olly/Billy about 20 minutes later.  Olly won on the Handicap Points but Lev was ahead in the Polly Prize.  Honours even.

Rob Adams 

Many thanks to Heather for enduring the cold at the start line and to Rob for super-seamanship manoeuvres in the safety boat.

Next week is an A-course at 16:15 following a working party at 10:30


Race report 28th March 2023

The start was delayed by 20 minutes because of congestion on the launching ramp with a rapidly rising spring tide having robbed us of foreshore, plus the rigging of a Solo and a Mirror, only the second time of launching, required some team work to sort out.  So the safety boat (Henry Brown) was late down the ramp and Mary Brown (OOD) up at the Bell and Crown wondered what on earth was going on. But eventually six boats were on the water, the marks were set, and the race was started.

Frankie, the first time out in his Solo (Tango), decided that he would get to know Tango rather than join the race.  The other sailors were Lev Kolobov solo in Porpoise (Enterprise), Rob in Phoebe (Laser), Keith Clarke in Kaia (Laser), Tim Young in Ait Knots (Wanderer) and another two generations of Adams’, Olly and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror).

It was cold and overcast – rather forbidding – with a northerly at the top end of F3, but at least there was no sign of rain.  The northerly gave a choice of running either side of the PLA mid-stream moorings but there didn’t seem a great advantage either way.  We set an A-course with a downstream mark just up from the slip dock and an upstream mark, as usual, opposite the Steam Packet.

Rob led the way from the start with Lev close behind and they completed 8 laps before the race was ended, just before the tide turned.  Lev sneaked past Rob right at the end with a 30 second advantage.  Tim sailed a very consistent race and kept clear of the overtaking leaders, which meant he had to do a 7th lap.  Olly and Billy also sailed a very impressive race in the Mirror which, with their beginning of season handicap, meant that they won the handicap points.  They completed 6 laps and were ahead of Keith’s Laser for the last two.  And Frankie managed to avoid a capsize and learned plenty about the Solo.  And at the end the sun shone and showed Strand at its best against a contrasting dark sky – positive signs of spring.

The recovery at the arch was as protracted as the launch with much shuffling of boats in knee-deep water, but at least there was hot tea and flapjack as compensation.

Next week is a B-course, starting at 12:00.


Race Report 12th March 2023

Race 2 of the season was a 1615 long A-course and the afternoon was grey and chilly with F2-3 gusty winds from the south. 

5 boats took part and the sailors included 3 generations of Adams’ – Rob in his Laser and Rob’s son Olly in his Mirror along with Olly’s young son Billy (for whom it was his debut race at Strand). The two Adams’ boats joined the race after it was already underway but continued on successfully to the end of the race.

After the first lap, which was a mere 4 mins 40 seconds for leading boat Distant Thunder (which is a Leader) with helm Chris Greenwood and crew Felicia Biekarck, James and Joseph Armitage in James’ Enterprise Zephyr took the lead and maintained it to the end of the race. 

Ben Chapell in his Laser had started well but sadly had to retire having capsized after doing 4 laps in 22 minutes. Lev Kobolov was driving the safety boat and was happily able to help Ben get safely back to the Strand ramp.

After 50 minutes, the leading boat (Zephyr) had completed 10 laps, the daylight was already fading and so we finished the race.

Congratulations to everyone who had the tenacity to take part – and thanks to Nick Floyer for his support to me as OOD and particularly plying me with a hot coffee when the chill was setting in.

Mary Short

First Race, 5th March 2023

A cold , overcast day did not deter 7 boats from shaking off the memory of winter and starting a new sailing season.  It followed the annual dinner/dance the previous evening from which many of the sailors were both well fed and well exercised.

The wind was W to SW, F2, and as ever variable in both strength and direction. It seemed reasonably constant outside the Club as we launched so Ian Nethersell in the safety boat set a long sausage  A-course with a downstream buoy at the City Barge.  The upstream mark was about 50m upstream of the Bell and Crown start line.

The fleet was 3 Enterprises (James Armitage and Lev Kolobov single-handed in Zephyr and Porpoise, and Dave Berger (helm) and Mary Brown in Big Polly); 3 Lasers (Ben Chappell, Rob Adams and Keith Clarke); and Tim Young in his Wanderer, Ait Knots.

The whole fleet moved off in unison with a following wind against the tide.  It took about 10 minutes for the leading single-handed Ents to make it to the downstream buoy, and another 8 minutes for the rest to follow.  The wind was much more variable at that end of the course and the flood tide was unrelenting.  James and Lev were inseparable on the return upstream and passed the start line seconds apart (at just over 15 minutes for the lap) as they sped down stream to catch up with the Lasers.  Big Polly was third, about 8 minutes behind the leaders. 

It was unquestionably a day for the extra sail-power and momentum of the Ents.  On the second lap James had put 4 minutes between him and Lev, who diminished the gap to 20 seconds at the third lap and finished less than a minute behind, by which time they had overtaken everyone else.  Big Polly finished her third lap just after Lev finished his fourth.

The following Lasers and Tim all finished three laps after swapping places several times.  There was a lot of close-order sailing with, at the end,  Rob, then Ben, then Tim and finally Keith.  And in keeping with tradition, the First Race Cup returns to James.

There was much heaving and shuffling getting the boats back into the yard, which served to warm-up cold fingers and limbs.  And fresh from her triumph of organising the Dance on Saturday night, Marian was there with a steaming pot of the most delicious and welcome spicy, fruity, rummy punch.  It was a revival of a tradition started years ago by Paul Williamson.  And tea and biscuits were there as well. 

So the 2023 season has started and promises well for the future.  Next week is another A-course, starting at 16:15.