Jan 16

John Cope Down River

Sunday 7th Jan 2018 

John Cope Downriver Race 

What better way to start the New Year than the John Cope cup!  As well as being the 1st race of 2018 it was also the 1st race using the revised calculations moving OTW times closer to the predicted high/low tide times.

As forecast it was a very cold daywith 3-5C temperature with NE winds 16-19mph gusting 33 but we did have some sunshine and lovely blue skies for a while.

Six intrepid sailors turned up to compete in 5 boats; Matthias in a club Laser 4.7, Henry in his Laser Rad, Johnny in his Solo, Carla visiting from Singapore reunited with her teammate Sina in their 420 and Ben with Josh in his Albacore.


There were delays launching our boats partly because of a busy ramp with several rowers coming and going!  However at 12.50, with Steph’s help, I started the race from the beach. Making the most of the strong winds and gusts our gallant sailors moved over the start line at high speed followed by Jane D and Simon in the Safety Boat.   The plan was for the RO and assistant to head to the front of the fleet in the Dory immediately after starting the race. What could go wrong?   Alas the engine would not start (!) even after Commodore Allan’s many attempts. So we had to launch the smaller Rigiflex powerboat and luckily for me VC Sara took over as RO assistant (having decided not to sail).

By this time Matthias had beached his Laser close to the club and returned to change his rudder..  But this action widened the distance on the water between him and the rest of the fleet.  He made slow progress in those extreme conditions and on reflection (hindsight is an exact science!), as RO I should have stopped him from sailing so we could keep both Safety Boats within sight of each other. 

I radioed for Jane and Simon to return to watch Matthias then Sara and I sped to the front of the race catching up with all 4 boats near Albert Bridge.   The tide had well and truly turned so we dropped the buoy just downriver of Albert Bridge. Team Brunette in the 420 sped over the line closely followed by team Albacore and then Laser Rad Henry.  [Race 1 corrected results: 1st 420, 2nd laser, 3rd Albacore]

AND then as if the stormy cold conditions were not challenging enough (!)……two emergency events happened simultaneously; Johnny’s solo capsized and he was battling with the incoming tide and strong winds.  But Sara and I could not go to his rescue immediately because the same strong wind had blown the stern of the Rigiflex around and the buoy-rope was caught in the engine’s propeller! So Sara had to remove the rope before we could go to rescue Johnny..   The other SB with was with Matthias far behind..

Fortunately the RNLI had received a call from the vigilant public and they got to Johnny before us.  Johnny was not wearing a drysuit and was exhausted and very cold. 

Race 2 was uneventful.  The 3 remaining boats set off back to the clubhouse and the wind dropped quite significantly just past Battersea Railway Bridge. 


The overall results on corrected times:

Drum-roll for Carla and Sina the winners of the 2018 John Cope Cup (1:17:41), 2nd Ben & Josh (1:20:39) and 3rd Henry (1:21:51).

I have so many people to thank including Sara, Steph, Allan as well as Jane D and Simon for efficient teamwork in the Safety Boat. And on behalf of SBSC our grateful thanks to the RNLI for helping to rescue Johnny and take him back to the club making sure he was safe and warm. 

This Race Officer has learned many valuable lessons for next time. 🙂 

Wishing you all a very happy 2018

Jane SH