Jun 20

Ruby Bell Trophy

* Race Officers and SB 1: Graham Douglas and Sophie Henwood

* Safety Boat 2: Giles Harrison and Keith Simms

The Ruby Bell- A race where the sailors circle each other before the race and wait until the first one blinks. The challenge is to use the outgoing tide until the turn mark and time it so the return leg utilises the incoming tide. Get it right and it will flatter your handicap ensuring victory. Get it wrong and you either arrive too soon at the turn that you have to stem the tide and suffer the agony of watching all the following boats catch up, or you leave too late and the tide turns against before you reach the mark.

The start is a game of calculation, bluff, counter bluff and bravado.

Fun for all except perhaps the organising race officer. With the likelihood of a race fleet more strung out than normal and a mark to be laid at a pre-determined, but as yet unseen position.

Fortunately the weather was kind. A forecast 12 knots from the west promised a downwind, downstream start, often the hardest to judge for a countdown start, but easy when the choice of start time is entirely at the sailors discretion.

The fleet of eight boats were rigged and ready on the gravel at the bottom of the ramp. Robert in his new-to-him Enterprise elected to go early. Much muttering on the beach that this was far to early and everybody else kept their counsel, with a few furtive glances at watches. With a predicted tide turn at the mark by a reputable iPhone app of 12:35 it was a surprise to see the remaining seven boats resolutely parked on the beach at 12:20 whilst the early bird was already out of sight under Putney Bridge.

Finally at 12:21 the tension had got too much for Calum and he broke cover and launched. Within the next 5 minutes all the boats had started, with Allan and Stephanie in the Enterprise along with Renato bringing up the rear.

The conditions were good and tide and current were running hard. The whole fleet got down to the mark just past Albert Bridge in good time. Too good it turned out. The tide was making a fool of the iPhone and refused to turn until after well after 13:00. The fleet compressed as the leaders turned into the flow of water and hugged the river’s edges to escape the worst of it.

Upwind a few helms started to stretch the fleet and the ability of the safety boats to keep everyone in sight. Sara took an unseen capsize, but showed tenacious spirit as always to recover and continue the race. Henry suffered a Clew fitting failure within sight of the finish line, but it was Renato who led at the finish line. But had he done enough, Allan was only moments behind and the race had taken just short of 2 hours.

In the final analysis it turned out he had. Renato won by 35 seconds on corrected time. The results are as follows:

1st Renato 1:40:11
2nd Allan and Steph 1:40:46
3rd Tara 1:41:30
4th Callum 1:49:09
5th Sara 1:50:45
6th Jamie 1:51:23

Robert and Henry scored a DNF as they were both towed home.

An interesting format to the race and a great day on the water.

Many thanks to Sophie, Peter, Giles and Keith for safety boat cover and results.

Graham Douglas