Race report 24th October 2021

Seven boats set out gamely to take part in a late afternoon B course under grey skies and calm conditions.  All seven made it under the railway bridge downstream to the start line, this being a challenge in itself given the light winds and incoming tide. 

Sadly three boats (Jane in Pacman, Sam in SY2 and Nick Jeffery with his crew in Eeyore, the Duckling) had to retire before completing a first lap, despite Lev and David Kolobov in the safety boat having sympathetically set out a relatively short course between the two marker buoys.  Rob Adams in his Laser led the race and completed three laps as did Chris Greenwood and Felicia in Distant Thunder.  Congratulations go to Ben in his Laser and the youngest crew (Ariel and Tamina in Tonic) for completing 2 and 1 laps respectively, both artfully exploiting the eddies close to the north bank to make way downstream against tide and with only relatively light winds.

There was a little excitement during the race when an Eight managed to hit the pier and also when Distant Thunder was washed onto the pier by the prevailing current.   However Felicia deftly took down the sails and mast so the boat could pass under a gap in the pier and then having got the mast and sails back up proceed round the pier and resume their course with minimum fuss – and without recourse to help from the safety boat which would have meant they would have had to retire from the race.

The OOD was cheerfully and ably assisted by 5-year-old Kieran with signalling the race start and end both with the flags and sounding the horn.

There’s no race next week because the tides and daylight hours don’t match, but the week after that, 7th November, will be the last race followed by Beer and Bangers (around 16:00), for which brewmaster Steve Newell has laid down some 40 pints of his best.  Please join in.

Mary Short OOD

Race Report 17th October 2021

On a cloudy but dry Sunday lunchtime, an impressive seven boats turned out for today’s C course. As we know from previous C courses, the historic start point is now obscured by heavy foliage, and the pontoon by the houseboats was inaccessible. As a result, the OOD decided that visibility was paramount, so selected a start a few metres nearer the bridge than before.

Despite their best efforts, both Lasers found the light wind and strong tide pushed them slightly over the starting line, so were each awarded a 20 second time penalty. In any event, the seven competitors made a good start and were soon out of sight around the bend, accompanied by the Safety Boat.

After a thankfully uneventful race, the fleet returned. First back was James Armitage and his daughter Ruth in Zephyr in an impressive 69 minutes. Next to cross were Henry and Mary Brown in Big Polly, the other Enterprise racing today, in a creditable 75 minutes. Chris Greenwood and Felicia were hot on their tail in Distant Thunder, which finished just 45 seconds later. They had been ahead for much of the return run from Isleworth.

The rest of the boats followed closely behind: Ben Chappell in Envy, then Keith Clarke in his yet-to-be-named Laser, followed by Tonic, with Tim Young bringing up the rear in Ait Knots.

Huge congratulations to Aerial and Tamina who were not only our youngest competitors but crewed Tonic to come first on handicap. Congratulations also to Keith Clarke, who completed his first race with the club. Finally, many thanks to Andy Ross for his sterling work in the Safety Boat and for his skilful manoeuvring of the boats under Kew Bridge.

Jane Watkins, OOD 

Race Results 10th October 2021

A lovely Autumn evening tempted 8 boats out onto the river.  The wind forecast was a light 4 knots from the north, with gusts of 8 knots, and from time to time the sails were fluttering encouragingly as we rigged.  Chris in his Leader was crewed by Felicia, who provided two more of her family for the race: daughter Tamina crewing for James Armitage in his Enterprise, and son Aerial helming Joesph Armitage’s Laser. The Browns provided another Enterprise; there were two other Lasers helmed by Keith Clarke and Rob Adams;  Leona Shepherd in her Lightning; and Tim Young in his Wanderer.

The course was a triangular ‘A’ starting at the Bell and Crown, a downstream mark at the slip dock, an upstream mark on the Surrey side provided by the rowing buoy, and an upstream mark on the Strand side opposite the Steam Packet.

The north wind gave a choice of starting down the Strand side in the slack water by the footpath or stemming the tide on the Surrey side of the river where the wind and tide were stronger.  Most boats took the latter choice and James and Rob took the lead on the first lap with a run down to the downstream mark, a beat back to the rowing buoy (which gave the best sailing of the day) and a reach across to the Steam Packet. There was nasty doldrum at that point in which several boats unintentionally rafted up and started the drift back to Kew Bridge. At the end of the first lap James was narrowly ahead of Rob, closely followed by the Browns, Aerial, Keith and Chris.  By the second lap James had gained six minutes over Rob who was still followed closely by Chris but by the third lap James was lapping everyone but Rob.  Keith was caught in the upstream doldrum and had to be rescued by David Jones in the safety boat from Kew Bridge.  In the end James and Rob both completed 4 laps with Chris, the Browns and Aerial on three laps, and Leona (only her second time out in a race) and Tim on two laps.

Thanks to Enoch for doing the timekeeping and Dave Jones for safety boating.  It was a strong spring tide and the boats practically floated into the yard at the end. 

Next week is a C-course at 12:15.


Race Report 3rd October 2021

We had hoped to entertain South Bank Sailing Club to a race and refreshments.  Late on Saturday afternoon they changed their minds on the grounds that the weather forecast for their return sail to Putney would be assaulted by horrible weather.  As it happens, they were right: conditions later in the afternoon were pretty nasty, but the weather for our race, starting at 1130, were close to perfect.

Seven boats launched: two Enterprises with James Armitage crewed by daughter Ruth, and Lev Kolobov crewed by son David; Chris Greenwood in a Leader with Felicia; three Lasers with Rob Adams, Joseph Armitage and new member Keith Clarke; and Ian Nethersell in his Vibe.  The wind was light before the start, coming from the SW, but promising to increase to mid F3 with gusts of F4.  We set a short A-course with a start at Zoffany House, an upstream mark just below the Steam Packet, and a downstream mark at the top of the draw-dock.

For the first two laps Lev was ahead of James with Joseph in third place.  Well done Lev.  Then James crept ahead by a matter of seconds with Joseph close behind Lev for a further three laps.  On his sixth lap Lev was caught by a nasty gust at the downstream mark and capsized.  He and David then had to right the boat and get rid of gallons of water as he re-rounded the mark and headed upstream, bailing madly.  So Joseph then slipped into second place and was abreast of his Dad at the seventh lap, and Ian was now in third place having sailed consistently and well, with Lev catching up in fourth place. 

For a novice in our curious waters and with a new boat, Keith had sailed impressively, learning the hard way when to short-tack close to the bank out of the tide and when to benefit from the full tidal flow.  But on his 9th lap, tailing the fleet and approaching the downstream mark, he was caught by a gust and capsized.  Being a Laser he managed to right the boat without any water aboard and set off to complete the course but his unfamiliarity with the boat meant that the main sheet unthreaded itself from its blocks and flew off out of reach.  At that point, all other boats having finished racing, he decided to retire.

So the finishing order was an Armitage affair with James/Ruth 1st, Joseph a minute behind, both on 10 laps; Rob 3rd, then Lev, then Ian on 9 laps; and finally Chris on 7 laps.  On the PN handicap (Polly Prize) Ian advanced to 3rd place.

Back at the Arch it was like old pre-Covid times with a crowd of sailors, family and friends enjoying the feast that had been prepared for South Bank Sailing Club.  An excellent fish soup from Chris and a lemon drizzle cake from Heather were star attractions.

Thanks to Mary B as OOD and to Tim Young for helping HB in the safety boat.

Next week we have a working party (1030) and an A-course at 1640.


Race Report 26th September 2021

It was past the equinox and the Met Office were threatening the imminent start of autumn, but Sunday felt like a lovely summer evening with a very variable, nominally SW, wind.  The Met Office forecast 3 knots gusting 12.  There was debate before the start about whether it should be an A or B-course, but the advocates for an A-course prevailed.

6 boats launched off a slimy foreshore: James Armitage, with crew; the Browns, and Lev/David Kolobov all in Enterprises; Chris Greenwood and Felicia in a Leader; and Ben Chappell and Rob Adams in Lasers.  No ‘Little Boats’ today.  Dave Jones and Tim Williamson were in the safety boat and set a relative long course from the Steam Packet to just above the draw-dock.

It was a most unsettling wind, constantly changing in strength and direction but enough to get everyone around the course 5-10 minutes.  The first lap had James a minute ahead of the Browns followed by Rob with Chris close behind, and that pattern was repeated with variations for most of the hour.  James was in the lead for the first 5 laps followed closely by the Browns or Rob after which James had to re-round the bottom mark and lost the lead to the Browns and then Rob for a couple of laps. 

Confusion and crowding were frequent occurrences at the bottom mark where there seemed to be a local wind shift that forced a gybe at the last minute.  By the 8th lap James had regained the lead, a minute ahead of the Browns, a lead that he increased to 3 minutes on the 9th and final lap.  By that time he had lapped everyone except the Browns who also completed 9 laps, with Chris, then Lev, then Rob all on 8 laps, and Ben close behind on 7.

Thanks to Tom and Enoch for meticulously logging so many boats around so many laps, and to Dave and Tim for keeping an eye on things from the water.

Next week we hope to welcome South Bank Sailing Club to our waters for a race and post-race tea party.  Fingers crossed for the weather.


Race Report, 19th September 2021

The most unusual feature of Sunday’s race was that the Thames Barrier had out-performed Canute and stopped the tide for the day.  This happens every year on a Sunday in September and usually we sail a B-course where the prevailing SW wind is against the flow of the river and gives us a chance of a few low-water laps.  This year we decided instead to sail an upstream course, through Kew Bridge, (which is OK at low water) and onwards towards Isleworth.  What little wind there was came from the NW, which meant a beat upstream and a run back.  We didn’t expect to get as far as The London Apprentice so the safety boat was prepared to drop a turning mark after about a half-hour of sailing. Nick Floyer as OOD thought that Brentford Dock would be an achievable target.

We decided to start from the Club, using a lamp post between us and the City Barge and a tall tree on the Kew side as the line.

Five boats started, James Armitage and Lev Kolobov both solo in their Enterprises, the Browns in theirs, Chris Greenwood and Felicia in his Leader, and Ben Chappell in his Laser.  From the start it was clear that the single-handed Ents had a significant advantage in the very light airs.  They could creep to windward and carry their way as they delicately tacked their way between the Kew bank and Oliver’s Island and were practically at Kew Bridge before the Browns and Chris reached the end of the Island.  It was not a good day for the laser: Ben never caught up with the bigger boats. 

James and Lev swapped the lead as they tacked almost in unison beyond Kew Bridge, past the Brentford islands and around the buoy that Sam, Dave and Tim in the safety boat had dropped just before Brentford Dock.  They were halfway back to Kew Bridge when they passed first Chris and then the Browns on the way up.  Chris and the Browns were together for most of the frustrating return journey in which the river current was marginally faster than the following wind – floppy sails and not much to do except avoid the flocks of paddle boards, kayaks and rowers who wondered at our slow progress.  Ben, by this time, had turned around and was returning home.

At the finish James was less than a minute ahead of Lev after 85 minutes or sailing, Chris followed after another 13 minutes and the Browns 3 minutes later.  Many thanks to Nick for being OOD, out of sight of the excitement for so long, and to Sam, Dave and Tim Williamson in the safety boat.

Advance warning: on 3rd October we are hoping that South Bank Sailing Club will sail upstream to join with us – the first time since Covid struck.


Not-the-Race-Results 12th September 2021

I regret to report that, in the face of NIL wind and a Spring Flood Tide starting to run strongly, the assembled band of hopeful sailors (Jane – already rigged!; Ben, optimistically kitted out in buoyancy aid; Chris, looking sceptical; and James, discerning the frustration implicit in the remote possibility of trying to work around even a very short A course) eventually accepted that there would be no sailing today.  (As Tim Young, presciently, had done some 5 hours earlier after his Oliver’s Island Ferry business had gone into liquidation after some customers had made the startling discovery that the river bank was muddy and declined to embark.)

The safety boat crew (Andy &, I suspect, Dave) gratefully stood down from the inevitability of Kew Bridge recovery duty.

However, we have some very smartly repainted Club gates, so the day was not entirely lost.

Next week is the annual Sunday 12-hour closure of the Thames Barrier, so there will be not tide – just the flow of the river. We put a B-course in the Calendar before the closure was confirmed since a low-water B-course is what we usually do on a Barrier day, but an interesting possibility is a race from Strand to Isleworth and back. This will depend on there being enough wind to overcome the mighty Thames, so we’ll make a final decision on the day.

Tim Wellburn, OOD-in-waiting

Race Report 5th September 2021

A dry, sunny, windless Sunday afternoon with an Easterly wind blowing 4 but increasing to 6 Knots for short bursts. Because of the lack of wind and its direction it was decided to change from a “B” Course to a short “A”. The course was laid by Enoch and Andy in the safety boat, with a “Zoffany House” start line and buoys upstream of the Bell and Crown and at the upstream end of the PLA grid.

Amazingly, 11 Boats assembled on the foreshore, just like the old days.

4 Enterprises, Zephyr (James and Ruth), Porpoise (Lev and David), Big Polly (Henry and Mary), Ixion (Tim W and crew), and one Leader – Distant Thunder (Chris and crew) .

2 Lasers, Phoebe (Rob) and Envy (Ben).

Together with the little boats, Ait Knots (Tim Y), Pacman (Jane), Tonic (Leona) and the delightful tan sails of Eeyore (Nick with 3 crew).

The start line was crowded and confused with the lack of wind giving minimal control. The whistle was blown and the flags were dropped at 13-00.  James quickly found the wind and sped away closely followed by Rob. Others were slow off the mark with some getting caught in the vegetation growing in the river close to the towpath and others struggled with the tide and the lack of wind.

James and Rob made the 1st lap in 5.56 and 7.04 respectively. The other Enterprises and Ben’s Laser followed 12-14mins after for the 1st lap. 1st lap for the little boats was – Tim Y in 23.26, Jane and Leona 40.10 and 40.12 respectively. Eeyore struggled to stay over the start line for most of the race, which was expected with such light winds and eventually retired.

James continued to lap at about 6-7 mins until he finished after 9 laps in 61.27. During the race Lev and Henry were very close for the first 3 laps, but Lev eventually lapped Henry and they finished together on 8 laps and 7 laps in 66.46 and 66.05. Chris (Leader) and Tim W in his Enterprise finished in a similar time to Lev and Henry, 66.57 and 67.08, completing 6 and 4 laps respectively.

Rob and Ben in their Lasers completed 7 laps in 64.29 and 6 laps 68.58 resp.

Tim Y finished 4 laps in 67.56, Leona 2 laps in 72.15 and Jane 1 lap 40.10.

A difficult day for the little boats but a fine sunny afternoon and a brilliant turn out.

Thanks to Enoch and Andy on the safety boat.

OOD John Bull

Race Results 29th August 2021

It should have been a Gins Weekend according to the draft programme and that is possibly why only two boats decided to race.  It was also a Bank Holiday weekend and rather late in the day.

The weather was cloudy but dry with a steady-ish north wind that the Met Office said was 8 mph (bottom of F3) at Kew Gardens.  After some discussion we decided on a long A-course but starting at Zoffany House.  The top mark was set at the Bell and Crown, well downstream of the Kew Bridge wind-shadow, with the bottom mark at the City Barge, and with a down-wind, against-the-tide start.

James Armitage (crewed by Emanuela) in the newest Enterprise afloat and Tim Wellburn (crewed by Emma) in the oldest, both decided to start on the far side of the PLA moorings where the wind was clearer than on the Strand side.  It was a run down to the bottom mark, with the usual diversions for capricious wind shifts, and a beat or a fine reach back, usually also on the far side of the PLA moorings, to make the turn at the top mark.  James led Tim by less than a minute at the first lap, even after Tim had taken the gamble of staying on the Strand side after his first Bell and Crown turn.  It almost looked as if the gamble would pay off, but he was caught by a mini doldrum at the downstream end of the moorings.  Thereafter both boats did what looked like a risky chicane after the top mark to catch the freer wind in the middle of the river.

James gradually increased his lead as the race progressed as Tim was seen to have problems with a newly-rigged kicker that lost him some headway.  James finished seven laps in 4 minutes over the hour and Tim completed 6 laps about 6 minutes later.

At the launch Andy Ross tentatively introduced Comma to the water after a two-year repair job and declared her watertight.  At well over 50 years old she is the oldest Enterprise in the Club (sail number 12,130), even older than Tim’s (sail number 19,286). When can we hope to see her sail?

Thanks to Mary Brown for officiating from Zoffany House, and thanks to David for company and heavy-lifting in the safety boat.

Race Report 22nd August 2021

A dry, sunny, breezy Sundav aftemoon with a North Westerly wind predicted blowing 4 but gusting 14 knots. A ′′C′ course was programmed and was accompanied by a strong tide flowing through Kew Bridge.

5 Boats assembled on the foreshore, being reduced to 4 when Chris in Distant Thunder experienced a problem and decided to withdraw.

The 4 boats, Porpoise (Lev and David), Ait Knots (Tim), Envy (Ben) and Pacman (Jane) headed off early to Kew Bridge with the safety boat in attendance. All 4 boats passed through the Bridge without a problem.

As OOD, l set up on the towpath in amongst the trees with greatly restricted vision.

The race start was set at 14:40 and the boats had to suffer a long wait in a fast tide and fickle wind conditions. This resulted, when the wind dropped, in some boats getting swept over the start line.  The safetv boat assisted and brought some boats back over the start while others stemmed the tide.

The 6-minute start procedure commenced, but unfortunately 2min,15secs before the signal to start was given, the tide and/or the fleet decided to start, with confusion on the water. This resulted in all the boats being over the start-Iine before the two flags were lowered and the start whistle blown.

The only boat to stem the tide and tack back over the start line was Porpoise – Lev and David Iaughing as thev managed it.

Sam and Dave in the safety boat told me afterwards that the race continued up to the buoy off the London Apprentice pub but then haIted as the tide was so strong. I am toId a beer was taken.

As time marched on, the OOD, hidden in the tree-covered towpath, asked cyclists, runners and walkers with their dogs  ”have you seen any sails?”  “Sails?” they said – they thought l was mad.

Eventually a blue sail appeared through the trees. It was Lev and David in Porpoise, timed in at 87min,36 secs. The others (strictly speaking over the line at the start) were timed in as Ait Knots 92min,42; Envy 93min, 28sec and Pacman 96min, 5sec.  The Master of Sums, in keeping with SGSC tradition, agreed that their times should stand, with an addition of the 2min,15sec that they jumped the gun.  The charitable view was that they were confused by the strength of the tide, the invisibility of the OOD, and the urging-on of the safety boat.

A Iong day.   With thanks to Sam, Dave and guests in the safety boat.

OOD J.A.E.Bull.