A normal Februarish forecast, overcast with an E. wind well into the teens and gusts well into the twenties, temperature 5-8deg. A welcome challenge for young laser sailors or so one of them said; I thought it was a good day to be well wrapped up in a stable safety boat with a flask of hot (fortified) coffee and a penguin for half time. Actually the river did not look threatening, no whitecaps and the gusts looked sparkling rather than black and threatening but it seemed that nearly all the club felt as I did because only six boats launched.
The RO was Stefan, a compassionate man, and he agreed to a shorter race. However he spends much of his time patrolling the Thames with the RNLI so he was specially concerned about safety on the river and in his briefing required all boats to use the centre arches. Not everyone remembered.
The fleet made a clean start with Sara well ahead but when they reached Putney Bridge Renato was in his usual place with Stephanie (4.7) close behind. And so they stayed. The gusts were as forecast not so much powerful as sudden and inconspicuous, Sara was turned over, as it seemed to the safety boat, too near the barges but in fact she was clear of them. When the wind fell light Renato had to tack for a centre arch, Stephanie sailed straight on and won the down leg on handicap.
Much of the return leg was down wind and we have some good photos of four lasers abreast against the sun but a typical Thames “reversed gust” gybed Sara clean into the river and this time the mother of the SBSC wasn’t able to scramble over the high Solo freeboard. Ollie sailed the Solo home, standing heroically, one leg braced forward, silhouetted against the sunlit main and closing on the rest of the fleet.
It seemed that Stephanie was the overall winner but, shock-horror, Renato protested*. And he was right because Stephanie had not followed the RO’s briefing instruction to use the centre arches. Stephanie accepted a 30 second penalty so the final result was:-
1st Renato, 2nd Stephanie, 3rd Sally, 4th Henry and 5th Jane Deith.
*The first protest for at least 20 years perhaps we should do it more often.