With Storm “Angus” pummelling the UK’s coastlines, gusts of 106mph were recorded off the Kent coast and up to 59mm of rainfall resulted in widespread flooding and major incidents across the UK. The forecast for the Thames was somewhat less biblical but nonetheless formidable with gusts of 32kts and six courageous sailors braved the elements for Campbell 11 to defend their standing in the series.
Taking some solace in the knowledge that the low height of tide would offer a degree of shelter from the Autumn gales gusting over the river embankments, a comprehensive range of sail sizes was opted for, with Steph, Matthias and Sara’s cautious but strategically handicapped Laser 4.7s and small Solo sails, Allan and Henry’s moderately rapid radials and Renato’s speedy full rig Laser forming the line-up.
By general consensus it was agreed that the race start should be postponed by an hour, to take into account the likelihood of the tide turning late, which in conjunction with the low temperature would likely result in a very lengthy and gruelling endurance event had we set off at the proposed start time.
Crews were briefed, many layers of thermals and drysuits were donned, safety boats were provisioned with an arsenal of thermos flasks and sugary snacks and the intrepid racers, safety and committee boat crews launched to commence the first race, which was started from the bank to facilitate a quick getaway by the committee boat. Or rather that was the intention… unfortunately the RO’s (Steffan and Polly) were completely flummoxed by the array of engine start-up paraphernalia at their disposal in the larger safety boat, and so as the minutes went by, the fleet got further and further away, (safely escorted by Peter and Andrea in the safety boat) aided by a swift tide and moderate breeze and the committee boat remained stationary on the shore. After much hard work attempting to pull the starter cord, a vital missing link was identified (keys) which was duly remedied and the engine leapt into life. How embarrassing!
With their earlier blunder behind them and disaster averted, the committee boat quickly caught up with the fleet just as they were approaching Putney. Then followed much indecision about where exactly to lay the finish line, with the tide still running swiftly through the bridge abutments well over an hour after the forecast low water time. A mark was laid, heads were scratched and the mark subsequently recovered as the tide was relentlessly ebbing and the ROs continued to ponder over whether it would in fact turn at all. Eventually the ebb tide showed some signs of abating, and a finish line was fashioned abreast of the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park. Renato’s larger sail area gave him a substantial lead over the rest of the fleet on this leg, with the remaining competitors crossing the line in due course.
In light of the distance achieved and falling temperature, the decision was made to press on with the start of the return leg sooner rather than later. The sailors would be able to beat against the last of the ebb despite some objection that this would give an unfair advantage to those who’d opted for a larger sail area. With a slight bias set on the line to account for the wind direction, the second race was started from the anchored committee boat with most competitors jostling for position, and crossing the line within a matter of seconds. Then followed a close race for most, with Renato again taking line honours followed not to distantly by Allan, Sara, and the rest of the Laser fleet. However, with a considerable race duration, sail handicap would prove significant with Sara clinching victory over Renato on adjusted time!
Results: Sara 1st, Renato 2nd, Allan 3rd