(2nd October 2016)
The Thames Barrier was up for testing, so the river was more like a trickle and the current was almost non existent. Helping matters was a positive northerly that meant we had wind down the entire stretch. The name of the game would be to complete the course without smashing into your competitors or indeed running aground!
Ray and I decided to use the rare opportunity to set buoy A almost out of site towards Hammersmith Bridge, with buoy B below the Club line, the fleet rounding both to starboard. This made for a long beat leg followed by a steady dead run back. It was good to see four Enterprises in the fleet – a rarity these days; we also had Sara in the Solo and seven Lasers (full rig).
So after a little wading through mud to get afloat, the twelve boats smacked the start line, all keen to get the advantage of a few cheap metres plus some clean wind. And not unusually, Allan and Steph did this perfectly, with Jamie also showing form. With the fleet staying clear of the low water mud flaps, there was frequent tacking and starboard-advantage taking, which was great to watch. And soon they were a vague array of colour and movement that doesn’t really assist a race report, but allowed the Race Officer plenty of time for a spot of lunch, a nice cup of tea from Kate and a good chat with Jim who was watching niece Alison out sailing.
And twenty minutes later, there was one rather fast Laser heading back, about three hundred metres in front of the rest of the fleet. That’s got to be Renato I thought, but three hundred metres is a ridiculous lead in such a steady wind? But Renato had experienced tiller issues and hadn’t made the buoy, and was returning early. Or was that just a blokey excuse for wanting to get home to six-day old Nicholas and the rest of the family?
Either way, it opened things up for some hopefuls to get a point advantage for the series, and soon there they were, Allan & Steph in the Ent, Johnny, Jamie and Amy in Lasers, and nothing much between them, all speeding impressively on steady runs, Lasers heeled to windward to allow for a straight rudder and maximum speed. Then Sara in the Solo and John & Bob in the Ent giving chase. Ben, Andy and Alison in Lasers were a little behind them, with Richard & Will and Massimo & Caroline in Enterprises just behind that pack.
It was noticeable that the back markers, despite being separated from the front runners by a good few minutes, were nonetheless finding their rhythm, and soon the whole fleet was back up river.
In safety boat, Ray was assisted by Amanda (new member) and Ben who had stepped in due to apologies from the scheduled crew, and Ray was able to show them some safety boat skills, including how to sort a dodgy engine.
So back came the fleet again, and it was Amy, fresh back today from a longish break in sailing, on a furious run at the front, with a good half minute on the chasing pack. Amy took the final buoy rounding and beat the last short leg back to the line to take an impressive victory on the water, with Allan & Steph, Johnny then Jamie crossing in a pack a couple of hundred metres behind.
After the race, there was a surprise Lemon Cake birthday celebration for the Commodore (thank you Sara) with cheese cake too. And when the results were in, it was in fact Allan & Steph who took first spot on handicap.
Joe D, Race Officer