Race Report, 7 April 2024

The race was exciting to say the least if somewhat short-lived!

With wind speeds recorded at Kew of 24knots, gusting 34, from SW, a lot of members decided to opt out of the race.  However, we managed to sign up 5 boats for a B-course!

Rob Adams with new sailing member Rob Walsh got caught by a gust leading to a capsize and some swimming to the Safety Boat, which ended their race in Big Polly (Enterprise).

Dave and Sheila Berger (Entre Nous, Enterprise) decided to retire after the start leaving James Armitage with Felicia Biekark in Zephyr (Enterprise) to complete one lap in 15mins 59secs.   James yelled up to me to stop the race and I decided to listen to the voice of experience and did just that.

Joe Armitage finished the lap in his Laser (Punt) shortly after in 18mins 52 secs. That would’ve ended the race except for the determination of single-handed Lev Kolobov (Porpoise, Enterprise) who after numerous capsizes managed to finish his one lap in 58mins 52secs.

A big shout out to Sam Shemtob with Louise who stepped up to man the Safety Boat on a very challenging race day!

Frankie Skrzeszewski, OOD.

Race Report 24th March 2024

Heather Adams OOD, and Rob Adams with Tim Young in the safety boat.

B Course

There was time for us to have a race before the Vets HORR (Head of the River Race) that runs on the falling tide. Tim and Rob in the safety boat had a friendly conversation with the PLA launch crew who were happy with our reassurance that we would be off the river in time for their race.

A little bit of anxiety over an apparent ‘no start’ from the outboard. For the record and for future drivers the issue was two-fold: first, no petrol through the supply pipe (push the bubble down in the loose/motor end and ensure flow by pumping the squeezer). Second issue was the kill chord: it was on but in the wrong position i.e. above the ring that allows the engine to start.

The weather was good for a sail with a good force 3-4 Westerly at the start of the race. 4 boats launched but Kieth Clarke in his Laser (Kaia) never really got away from the club hard and retired. The remaining three, Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekark in DistantThunder (Leader), James Armitage and novice crew Pacu Biekark in Zephyr (Enterprise), and Olly and Billy Adams in Spinosaurus (Mirror), got away for a good start with the Mirror out in front. Chris and Felicia spent a little time in the trees on the Surrey bank fixing their rudder and set off 100yds behind. Cracking planing run down to the buoy at Chiswick Staithe, by which time the Mirror had been overhauled by both big boats but not without a spirited defence of its position.

This was the order for the rest of the race, but the Leader had closed the gap on the Enterprise. A few close calls with all crews experiencing SGSC wind changes. Olly reported that he had water over the side for the first time! 180 degree shifts on the beat challenging the combatants! Three laps completed with the average sail time of an hour.

Finally nice high tide to make boat recovery easy pulling boats straight into the yard.

Next week is an A-course, starting at 16:50.

Rob Adams

The First Race Report

Race Report 10th March 2024 – the First Race

OOD: Leona Shepherd

Safety Boat: Keith Clarke with Frankie Skrzesewski

Weather: Wet with very light to no wind.

Course: A

Five boats launched with James Armitage and Billy Adams in Zephyr (Enterprise); Rob Adams (new owner!!) and Henry Brown (old owner) in Big Polly (Enterprise); Ollie Adams and Felicity Adams in Spinosaurus (Mirror); Ben Chappel in Envy (Laser) and Lev Kolobov in Porpoise (Enterprise). At 13.10 all the boats were holding steadily into the tide/wind, while the safety boat repositioned the buoys to shorten the course due to the lack of wind and the strength of the tide.

The race was started at 13.21 with all 5 boats eventually crossing the start line. Ben in Envy crossed first and held the lead for almost 30secs until Lev overtook him and held onto it for most of the next hour. It was a day for light boats that could accelerate in the slightest gusts – as with single-handed Lev, and Ben’s Laser.  Even James with a light-weight crew failed the test, and the Rob/Henry combo didn’t even make a lap.  The trickiest and therefore, slowest section for the leaders was the upstream end after rounding the 2nd buoy. Here the lack of wind left the tide dominating which proved challenging for all the boats. At the end of the 2nd lap, Ben in Envy crossed the finish line first, just ahead of Lev in Porpoise in 2nd place.. James in Zephyr came 3rd. Spinosaurus and Big Polly after heroic commitments retired.

The water came from all directions: a spring tide from the East; a fluvial flow from the West; and the opened heavens above. By the end of the race even the OOD’s party were perched on steps above in crotch-deep waters on the footpath. Due to a dead calm spot near the 2nd buoy, the last quarter of the last lap took up to 30mins, and so it was declared time to stop.

Keith took on towing duties and delivered dinghies back to the Arch and a reception committee of Tim Young and Heather Adams, all well over welly-height of cold water.

Ultimately it was a soggy start to the sailing season with exceptionally slow times and very wet sailors, safety boaters, OOD and assistants.

Thank you to everyone who helped on shore, on the water and back at the club.

Leona Shepherd (OOD)

Race Report, 5th November 2023

The race was originally set for a 1300 D-course but with so much rainwater coming down the river, the current wouldn’t be turning until a couple of hours before high tide, so a Hammersmith race wasn’t an option. We decided to try a delayed A course instead but by 3.45pm the current was still running fiercely downstream and darkness was not far away. We found a little eddy between the Bell and Crown and the steam packet. We set buoys at each end of it and managed short centreplate-scraping race round and round in lightish but usable wind until it got dark.

Despite all this, of the five boats that set off, Tim Young’s Ait Knots (Wanderer), Toby Hick’s Laser and Nick Jeffery’s Eeyore all drifted under the railway bridge on setting off and had to be rescued.  Taking note, the others walked the boats towards the Bell and Crown, where a fair westerly wind was more pronounced. 

With the start delayed to 1530, James advised adopting a ‘reverse A-course’, with boats setting off from the Bell and Crown towards Kew bridge and passing both buoys on the port side.  So sailing in an anticlockwise loop, with the upriver boy halfway between the Bell and Crown and the Kew Bridge, and the downriver boy more or less opposite Zoffany House.

With Eeyore retired, the race eventually started just before 1600, with Dave Berger (with Sheila in Entre Nous, Enterprise) getting a great start but Tim and Toby getting recalled for being in front of the start line.  James (Zephyr, Enterprise) did a 360 at the first buoy, presumably as he’d hit it.

With Dave Berger ahead after the first lap, James did an incredibly tight turn on the downriver buoy going into the second lap to beat both Dave and Tim. James completed the second lap two seconds ahead of Dave and wasn’t going to let him back into the race. 

Tim then ran aground and retired after completing his first lap.

With the sun setting and the weather cooling, and some sage advice from Nick Floyer, we stopped the race after 6 laps, with James completing in 22.28 mins, ahead of Dave Berger on 25.18.

An interesting event!

Sam Shemtob (OOD) with additions from JA.

Race Report 22nd October 2023

OOD: Tom Broadhurst;   safety boat: Tim Young and Dave Jones

It was a fine autumn afternoon – perfect for a downstream race to Hammersmith and back, were it not for the lack of wind (a light SW) and the abundant rainwater that filled the river and threatened to overcome the incoming tide, on which we rely for the return journey.

Seven boats launched – James Armitage and Kiran Biekarck (his first ever race) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Ben Chappell in Envy (Laser); Joe Armitage in Punt (Laser); Toby Hicks in Cip (Laser); and Olly Adams and Billy in Spinosaurus (Mirror).

The downstream half had the benefit of the ebb and the light SW wind.  After a 14:30 start James reached the downstream mark at Chiswick Eyot at 15:05, followed at one-minute intervals by Joe, Rob, Chris, Ben and Toby, and finally Olly at15:16.  From then on it was a slow struggle against the river, which was doggedly reluctant to admit the flood tide, and the wind.  This is illustrated in a brilliant graphic from Olly plotting his course around the buoy and, eventually, the start of his slow beat back up-river.

Tim tells me that James and Joe swapped the lead at several points, and both were becalmed at Barnes Bridge for a time.  Rob and Chris kept similarly close company through much of the return.

The end of the ordeal came for James after 3 hours 5 minutes from the start with Joe 5 minutes behind.  Rob was third after 3 hours 22 minutes with Chris on 3 hours 35 minutes.  Olly and Billy were 4 minutes short of 4 hours – heroic endurance.  Both Ben and Toby had decided that enough was enough and accepted a tow from Tim and Dave.

Next week is a A-course at 13:00.


The course of Spinosaurus, 22 Oct 2023

Race Report 15th October 2023

OOD: Mary Brown;   safety boat: Henry Brown and Andy Ross

The sailing conditions on Sunday belied the Met Office forecast, which was for a mere 4 knots from the north. The reality presented us with very sailable 6 knots, gusting 13 from NNW – perfect for a B-course, and enough to overcome a strong tide.

Five boats launched – James Armitage and Tamina Biekarck in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekarck in Distant Thunder (Leader); Rob Adams in Phoebe (Laser); Keith Clarke in Kaia (Laser) and Nick Floyer in flo (Gull).

There was quite a scramble at the ramp as the fast-incoming tide took away our foreshore, but all got launched in time for the scheduled start.  The downstream mark was laid opposite Chiswick Quay with the upstream mark well clear of the railway bridge.

The race was a simple run downstream against the tide and a beat back upstream with the flow.  James rounded first and completed the first lap in about 15 minutes, followed by Rob and Chris about a minute later, and then Keith at around 19 minutes.  The downstream leg was much more challenging for Nick in his Gull: it took him 24 minutes.

That pattern was maintained for the two remaining laps:  James, first in 48 minutes; Rob, second in 49:27 minutes; Chris, third in 50:06 minutes: Keith, fourth in 52:38 minutes.  Nick did an elegant pirouette at the end of his second lap to allow James to finish and thus avoid a lonely third lap.

There was another scramble as the boats queued to get under the railway bridge and onto the ramp, which was by this time immersed in a wellies-worth of water.  Wet feet all round. 

So it was a lovely sail on a lovely autumn day with a bonus of a delicious cake from Heather Adams to supplement Mary’s rock buns.  Thanks to Andy Ross for help in the safety boat and for launch and recovery assistance.

Next week is a D-course at 14:15.


Race Report 1st October 2023

OOD: Leona Shepherd

Safety Boat: Lev Kobolov and David

Weather: Sunny and with light Easterly breeze blowing with the spring tide.

Course: A

Seven boats, supporting 10 sailors were rigged and launched by 15.00. At the 15.10 start all boats were holding steadily into the wind with James, Rob and Olly (with Billy) demonstrating a perfect line up (see photo): James Armitage with crew Ariel Biekarck on Zephyr (Enterprise), Rob Adams on Phoebe (Laser), Olly Adams with crew Billy Adams on Spinosaurus (Mirror), Chris Greenwood with crew Felicia Biekarck on Distant Thunder (Leader), Tim Young on Ait Knots (Wanderer), Ben Chappel on Envy (Laser), Keith Clarke on Kaia (Laser).

A challenging sailing day with clear, sunny weather, a light breeze and a strong flood tide on the A-course.  James caught the wind best at the start and took an early lead rounding the buoy first. The other 6 boats competed hard to round the first buoy. The legs heading upstream were pacey with the tide and wind together making for exciting sailing.  Rob demonstrated local skill at the end of lap 1 (and on several subsequent laps) by sailing close to the wall at the Bell and Crown and making a tight tack to pick up the best route back down river.

Half way through the 2nd and 3rd laps a mele of boats took their time rounding the downstream buoy. James, on his 4th lap, broke through first. Next was Rob. As Keith approached the end of his 2nd lap, he was a little too far out and, frustratingly, the tide caught him and pulled him back off the line.  On the final lap most boats were taking a slow pass allowing the crowds at the Bell and Crown to cheer each finisher as they crossed the line. That said, Tim flew past with the style you only get from our commodore (see photo!).

Leona (OOD)

The Commodore at speed
The starting line-up

Race Report 17th September 2023

Strong tide, light east wind, rain before the start and forecast, but did not happen during the race or the hour before.

OOD: Nick Floyer;   Safety Boat:  Keith Clarke. 

Only Rob Adams (Phoebe, Laser) and James Armitage (Zephyr, Enterprise) with Felicia Biekarck turned up to sail, but were determined to race.  Keith Clarke was ready to launch the safety boat, but James and Rob decided to go without.

The moored pontoon opposite the Zoffany House start line provided two buoys, one at each end, to make a very short A-course.

The racing was close to start with but soon James drew clear, completing 10 laps to Rob’s 8.

Nick Floyer, OOD

Next week it’s a D- Course (Hammersmith and back) starting at 15:20

Race Report, 28th August 2023

OOD:   Mary Brown / Henry Brown

Safety boat:  Nick and Nicky Jeffery

Weather:  Fine, wind NW, F2-3

B-course, Start: 11:20

Another good turnout for an August Bank Holiday race.  Time was when SGSC would have decamped down to the Solent for a Gins weekend.

Six boats launched: James Armitage with a novice crew (sorry, I forgot to note his name) in Zephyr (Enterprise); Chris Greenwood and Felicia Biekark in Distant Thunder (Leader); Nick Floyer in flo (Gull); newcomer Tamir Gottfried in a Laser; Tim Young in Ait Knots (Wanderer); and at last – after many repairs, Andy Ross and Enoch Rodriguez in Comma (Enterprise).

We chose a B-course because of a light but steady northerly breeze urging the fleet against a weak neap tide down to Chiswick Staithe.   There was plenty of holiday river traffic to contend with: not so many rowers as usual but all other varieties from paddle boards up.  At the start all but Tamir went for the Surrey bank hoping for weaker tide flow than in midstream.  It was the wrong choice and Tamir gained a substantial lead by sailing in the freer midstream wind.  So we had the unusual sight of James a full minute behind the lead at the first lap. He was followed 2 minutes later by Chris, then Nick, and then Andy and Tim.

James gradually crept up on Tamir over the next three laps, which were completed in about 15 minutes each, but he was still 7 seconds behind at the finish.  Chris maintained third position and finished about 7 minutes later, followed in 5 minutes by Andy, then Nick in another 5 minutes and finally Tim, who got delayed by a doldrum at the last mark.

The Strand handicap sums (Handicap Cup) gave the race to Tamir, then Andy, then Nick.  The regular yardstick sums (Polly Prize) gave the race to James, then Tamir, then Nick.  The Big Boats points went to James, then Tamir, then Chris, and Nick took the Little Boats points.

Thanks to Nick and Nicky in the safety boat for unobtrusive reassurance, and Mary for time-keeping.

Next week it’s an A-course at 16:15 following a working party at 10:30.