The Ruby Bell is a complicated race to get right. It is a downriver where the Race Committee decides where the buoy is to be placed and the sailors decide when they want to start, taking into account the wind patterns and the tide. Each boat has an individual start and finish time and the fastest time wins once the handicap is worked out.
The 2016 Ruby Bell was even more complicated due to the fact that the tide at Putney Bridge was only turning at 1:59 pm, Andy Murray was playing on Centre Court at 2pm and France and Portugal were playing in Saint-Denis at 8pm. Given that the Race Committee consisted of two Portuguese (Rita & Miguel Ferreira), a Spaniard (Ana Guyatt) and a Scot (Richard Graham), the point was fair and clearly made that any late starters (or more importantly finishers) were not going to be well received.
At exactly 12.46 and 42 seconds Allan and Steph crossed the line in an Enterprise. Given that the sailors could not leave anytime before the official time of 12:15pm, this is likely to be a record for any SBSC boat to start a race so close to a designated time. Sally followed in a Laser Radial, then Johnny Lyell in a fully rigged Laser, Jane Deith in a Laser 4.7 and Jamie Maule-Ffinch in a Laser Radial. Renato started last in a Laser Radial, after being seen consulting wind charts, tide charts, star charts and the latest odds for him winning the race himself on Betfair. He looked confident.
The downriver segment of the race had a few changes to the running order, with Allan and Steph, Renato and Johnny looking good. The wind was strong and gusty. Jamie had a down-wind-induced capsize after Battersea Bridge and struggled to right the boat on numerous occasions. We could see from the safety boat how tough the wind was for those who capsized, and it was becoming clear that this race was going to have a few capsizers.
By the turn near Battersea Park, Johnny looked like he had a marginal lead over Allan and Steph, and Renato. Jane and Sally were not too far behind. The tide had still not turned and the wind was still heading downriver too making progress extremely tough.
The race back upriver was extremely tactical and Johnny, Allan and Steph and Renato were each trying to outsmart the other. Johnny took the Battersea side of the river and Allan and Steph and Renato took the Chelsea side. It was not clear whose tactics were working, and it took until Wandsworth Bridge to see the results and Renato was in the lead. Allan and Steph and Johnny followed him.
The safety boat then bizarrely came across and unmanned kayak, which we then had to salvage and secure to Wandsworth Riverside Quarter. The sailing continued despite this rather large obstacle.
By the end of the race, Renato was first back, followed by Johnny, Allan and Steph, Sally and Jamie. Jane retired, following a massive amount of energy expended on capsize practice.
In terms of timings and final positions taking into account handicaps:
1. Renato (1 hour 50 and 42 seconds)
2. Allan & Steph (1 hour 55 and 41 seconds)
3. Johnny (1 hour 57 and 14 seconds)
4. Jamie (2 hours 9 minutes and 52 seconds)
5. Sally (2 hours 10 minutes and 20 seconds)
Congratulations to Renato for winning, as well as to Andy Murray and Portugal (without Ronaldo!) for their own individual shows of excellence.
A huge thanks to Ana Guyatt, a new member, who stepped in to fill a gap in safety boat duty, and to Rita & Miguel for coming along on the biggest sporting day of their country.
What a great club!