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.
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
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.
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!
This notice says it all. We must suspend our racing activities until the emergency is over. When that will be is anybody’s guess, and we will be ready. The Covid bug caused the Dance to be cancelled, but it merely postpones our sailing.
Port of London – River Thames NOTICE TO MARINERS No.6 of 2020 24 March 2020
COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS RECREATION AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES We are issuing this in line with current Government coronavirus guidance, placing restrictions on movement. To reduce social contact, travel and potential strain on emergency services, we strongly recommend that all recreation and leisure activities on the tidal Thames are avoided until further notice. Our priority at the PLA is to help ensure the UK continues to receive essential supplies of food, fuel and medical goods at this time. As a result, we expect to have a reduced capability in responding to recreational incidents on the river. To support our essential port operations, we are reducing the operating hours of our harbour service patrols between Putney and Teddington. We are grateful for your co-operation in these exceptional circumstances.
Not for the first time the First Race was more a whimper than a bang, or even a splash. A handful of helms took stock of the conditions, which were gusty and threatening with rain (the Met office said it was F4-5, gusting F5-6 from WSW at Kew), and all but James decided not to launch. Lev was keen to get on the water and so crewed with James for a couple of laps from the ramp up to the Bell and Crown and back, but on the third pass the threatened rain swept in and they retreated to the arch. But the honour of the Club was saved.
Next week there is no race.
Only a D-course is possible, and a rowing event means that the river
downstream of Chiswick Bridge will be closed by the PLA. But there will be a working party to do
Sunday was a lovely sunny autumn day. All it lacked was a steady sailing wind. But then this is Strand on the Green. The incoming tide was almost swamped by the flow of rainwater coming down the river, which meant that there was little or no beach for rigging the boats. And the rigging was interrupted by the two-minutes silence, orchestrated by Tim on the starting horn.
Eight boats turned out for short A-course from the Zoffany start line, with an upstream buoy opposite the Bell and Crown and the downstream buoy below the grid. Once Jane and Tim had disentangled themselves from the bank all the boats got away without recalls, and had a sort-of run downstream driven by a fickle wind with quite a lot of north in it. Making the downstream mark was quite a struggle for the little boats but the Laser, Enterprises, Leader and Alex’s lugger managed to keep going pretty well.
Rob Adams in his Laser was first around the downstream mark and was well up the course before the Browns in their Enterprise, followed by Lev Kolobov (solo in Enterprise), Alex and Chris Greenwood (with Mary in the Leader) got around for the beat back upstream.
Rob was almost 2 minutes ahead of the Browns and Lev on the first lap; on the second lap he was followed by Alex and then the Browns, who then overtook Alex and maintained second place with Lev in close pursuit. At the end of five laps Rob was 9 minutes ahead of the Browns with Alex and Lev within two minutes astern.
The shifty wind on the downwind leg caused Chris and Ian to complete only four laps with the two Gulls, Tim and Jane, both doing three laps.
After the handicap sums were done Rob was the clear winner with Alex in second place followed by the Browns.
Mary Short got back to the arch in time to fire-up the barbeque and cook some very spicey sausages. Sam, who manned the safety boat, had orchestrated the classic Beer and Bangers feast with home-brew beer, as usual, courtesy of Steve Newell and a variety of other treats from sundry members.
So that was the end of the 2019 season. What will we do with Sundays in the coming bleak winter days?
It was, I am told, a quiet day on the river, one for contemplation and the exercise of patience on a two and a half hour D-course.
Five boats set off on the augmented drift and all finished within 10 minutes of each other. First was Ian Nethersell, very pleased with having flown his spinnaker and having overtaken Nick Floyer in the closing stages. He led by four minutes with Lev Kolobov about 3 minutes behind Nick. Chris Greenwood was fourth in the Leader 2 minutes later, and finally after another 2 minutes there was Sam Shemtob in his Wayfarer.
The handicap sums almost reversed the finishing order in the Handicap points with Sam then Nick then Chris. But the finishing order was restored in the Big Boats ( Lev then Chris then Sam); Ian then Nick in the Little Boats points; and in the Polly Prize (Ian then Nick then Chris).