Race Report, Ladies Plate, 25 August 2018

Four dinghies turned out for the Ladies Plate, a record in recent years.  Lucy, nursing a broken foot, was crewed in the family Enterprise by Rob Collingwood; Catherine was crewed by Alex Pape in his dipping lugger; Jo was crewed by Tim Young in his Gull; and Jane was crewed by another Alex in her Gull.

The wind was around F3 from the NW giving a run down the A-course and a beat back.  The wind was steady enough for all the boats to keep going without the doldrums that often occur at the turning marks. Catherine, Jo and Lucy, in that order, were all within a minute of each other at the end of the first lap with Jane (with rudder problems) a minute behind.  Catherine increased her lead, even with a reef in her sail, for the next two laps, but then something mysterious happened to slow her down, despite shaking out the reef.  Jo then took the lead with Lucy close behind in second place about a minute ahead of Catherine.  Jane by this time had tangled with the PLA midstream moorings – there was a choice of making a long tack to the Surrey side or tacking up the Strand side of the moorings and Jane got caught by a wind shift at the critical moment.  After accepting help from the safety boat, she decided to retire from the race but carried on sailing anyway.

During the fifth lap Lucy’s foot gave enough trouble to hand over the helm to Rob, and she gracefully retired.

That left Jo and Catherine battling it out on the sixth and final lap.  Jo maintained her lead in the well-ballasted Gull and finished almost three minutes ahead.

Congratulations to all concerned and especially to the very infrequent, if not novice, helms for very seawomanlike performances.

And now for the Andy Ross account …

LADIES RACE REPORT                                                   Saturday 25 August 2018

Marvellously breaking the drought of the last few years, four boats helmed by ladies [all crewed by men] took to the water on Strand for the Ladies Race – all still in the afterglow of the warmth of the summer heatwave and possibly induced to take part by a warm and sunny afternoon with just a whisper or two of wind from the West.

As the boats ventured around in an approach to the Start Line, Steve Newell, acting as OOD, rather like an Umpire assembling stray running horses to get them under Starters Orders, – and seeing them all facing in different directions, and with a missing boat – put the Red Flag up and called a 3-minute Delayed Start.

Jane [with Alex] in her Gull 2196 had put into the bank to fix a problem with a troublesome rudder. But she soon joined the fleet; and after some random bumping and thumping between them and Lucy [and Rob] in the Enterprise, Jo Broadhurst [and Tim] in his Gull 2929, and Catherine [and Alex] in his No Name – they were off!

Dave Jones was in the Safety Boat, fully equipped and with the old boarding ladder stowed – and ready for action with its extendable arms, together with young David as his assistant, carefully keeping in his pocket his latest archaeological foreshore finds.

They were still all bunched together at the downstream buoy, set well before the grid. Jo eased round first, followed by Catherine, then Lucy – and finally Jane. Catherine then made a bold decision to head off over to the main channel for a long tack back to the upstream mark while the others all kept to the inner channel. Whose strategy would win?

Triumphantly, Catherine’s strategic vision worked out really well. She rounded the buoy and came up to her first lap first.  Then Jo, followed by Lucy and Jane – thereby setting a pattern that would broadly define the race.

Two laps in and Jane was tempted to follow Catherine’s mid-channel manoeuvre – but found she was becoming becalmed at the head of the trot and in danger of being swept onto it and held fast at the end of the line. Time for the Safety Boat to power into action! Dave eased them back off, pulling them back upstream [thus not in any way giving them any kind of advantage over the other racers]. But it appeared that it maybe took the edge of Jane’s confidence as when she came round again to the Start Line she said she was retiring. However, this was quite unnecessary – and, indeed, she still persisted in carrying on sailing around the course, even when on the next lap she ventured too far off down towards Kew Bridge before managing to return; and in time she successfully completed the entire Ladies Race.

Catherine, meanwhile, had discovered that a quirk of Strand sailing can be encountering inexplicably calm spots. So it was that having established a 2 ½ minute lead the rest of the fleet caught up and overtook her, despite completing another adventurous sprint across to the main channel.

That idea was then also taken up by both Jo and Jane who, although on different laps, and simultaneously racing in equivalent Gulls, streaked off in a freshening wind apparently in order to scatter a long line of 250-300 Common Gulls that were drifting upstream, minding their own business on the far bank. Sequentially, in flocks of 10 x 10, they all took off – obviously annoyed at this intrusion into their mid-afternoon social gathering.

Young David was then landed ashore – anxious to find faster action in prospect with Arsenal v West Ham.

And there was then a discussion amongst those onshore about the reason for the loss, and the apparent theft, of the boat cover. Who could possibly have a use for a cover that was tailor-made to fit on only this boat? Except to cut it up for some other use? How pathetic. The immense time and skill that David has put into making this cover fit so easily and exactly is something that should surely be considered as a potential claim on insurance; and if he can be persuaded to make it again!. Let’s hope so; or be prepared for sitting on sloppy goose poo!

Chris joined everyone including Henry and Mary at the Start Line – and said that his Mary was in Amsterdam at a jazz violin improvisation workshop and concert, but would also have sailed if he had been here. It could have been a fully female fleet!

As Steve signalled for the last lap, Rob took over the tiller from Lucy in a sudden breeze as the Enterprise came by, and thereby retired disqualified, explaining that Lucy had been sailing with a broken foot! How incredibly courageous and stoical! Later, Lucy said that she hadn’t enjoyed the race at all, she was in real pain – and all she wanted was to get home and rest and have a cup of tea! But what great spirit on heroic display for the Ladies Cup!

Tim sailed by, sitting squarely as ever amidships on the thwarts and adding such substantial ballast that all Jo had to do was steer the boat in the right direction; with no need at all for either of them to change their position when tacking.

Subject to the Master of the Sums later calculation on handicap it appeared that Jo had clearly won, followed by Catherine, and then by Jane – in a performance on her first ever race that surely puts her in the running for Paul’s Prize for Persistence.

On the way back to the Club, we saw a huge 42-gallon blue plastic barrel floating in the water. It said “Pickled Limes. Product of India”. 42-gallon blue-painted barrels were the colour-branded product of the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1870, to distinguish its oil from those of its competitors. And 42-gallon barrels themselves had been defined by Richard III as a standard size and weight, made by the Worshipful Company of Coopers, that one strong man could reasonably easily lift, with eight to be fitted on a cart, drawn by one horse – in order to carry eels, salmon, herrings, honey, soap, butter, rum, wine, beers – and oil. And here and now, Pickled Limes!

It was wondered if this empty 42-gallon Pickled Lime barrel had held special ingredients for the SGSC Summer Party? Perhaps there was a new signature dish to add to the wonderful cooking repertoire of Marian?  Were we perhaps going to be treated to a trial run for her much-anticipated entry featuring Shetland products with a Pickled Lime twist that everyone would love to see her make, served of course on an SGSC Ladies Plate, on Masterchef? We’re off to find out!

© Andy Ross 26.08.2018