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