Sunday 29th December 2019 – Downriver race.
As Ratty said to Mole,
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing –half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” And on a bright and warm Putney morning with a stunning river ahead of us, I couldn’t agree more. Further on in the masterpiece that is Wind in the Willows, an often overlooked passage also came to mind, not verbatim I must admit but certainly enough to reflect upon (I will get to the race report in a minute…)
There, sooner or later, the ships of all seafaring nations arrive; and there, at its destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go its anchor. I shall take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till at last the right one lies waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. I shall slip on board, by boat or along hawser; and then one morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the foresail, the white houses on the harbour side will glide slowly past us as she gathers steering-way, and the voyage will have begun! As she forges towards the headland she will clothe herself with canvas; and then, once outside, the sounding slap of great green seas as she heels to the wind, pointing South!
And so back to Putney and our gathering on the foreshore, Jane SH and I overseeing proceedings and Jane D (Laser full rig), Sara B (Solo) Alan MF (solo) and – all the way from Finland making a guest appearance -Leo (420 single handed).
The wind was gentle, the sun was shining and the river was to become our very own, very special treasure that we wouldn’t share with anyone except maybe those looking down upon us from their bridge-high vantage points amid the hustle and bustle we had left behind. An eager start, hotly contested, and we were off on the last sail of 2019 with the lower reaches of our beautiful river stretching ahead. It was close, very close, very very close in fact. After 45 minutes less than 30 seconds separated all 4 boats.
The RO had a wobble at this point, decided the tide was turning and dumped a finish line buoy into the water. A large eddy on an outside curve of the river and ensuing back current had thrown him but after hails of protest from one of the sailors the order was given to carry on.
The race continued and with steely eyes for the water that even Ratty would have been proud of, it was clear the tide was about to turn and a finish line was set just below Albert Bridge.
It was still very close and all 4 boats finished within one minute of each other, first over the line Allan, Sara close behind, with Leo and then Jane close on their heels.
After a short delay for the current to finally make its mind up that it wanted to go back uphill, a clean start saw our fleet on a beat back to Putney in a wind that had by this time become quite fickle and less inclined to provide forward momentum to our boats, becalmed at times but onward with the tide under their keels.
At the clubhouse it was first Sara, then Allan, followed by Jane and quite a long way back due to a halyard issue, Leo.
After adding the race times and corrected for PY, Allan was first by 6 seconds (I said it was close and that’s after 2 hours of racing !) only just ahead of Sara, followed by Jane and then Leo.
A rather scrumptious lunch along with the most convivial company followed, thank you Sara.
Thank you Jane SH for your ultra-efficient time keeping and everyone else for making it a day that fitted Ratty’s words to an absolute tee.
All the best for 2020 everyone!