13th December 2020.
It was a cold and relatively crisp Sunday morning, as I drove to the boat club for my first visit since the last round of government ordained hibernation. I was looking forward to it, notwithstanding a slight lingering sense of shame at my only having come to the club a couple of times during this wretched year.
Late as ever, I was greeted on my arrival by Jane SH and Tracy, who had ably prepared the safety boat in my absence. The sailors were busying around their boats, fixing rigging and preparing for action. The wind was light, although there were some gusts, and the sky above the Thames was grey with threatened rain. It wasn’t warm.
Happily, the Commodore arrived with family in tow just before the briefing and was able to give some excellent advice as to course laying. With the unsteady and faltering wind, it was to be a maximum of 10 laps of a course between 2 buoys laid west of the Fulham Stadium and short of the Crabtree.
With Jane SH ably directing operations, the boats were quickly on the water and we were ready to go. Jakob was immediately off to a flying start, and soon had a substantial lead over the baying pack. Renato was looking concerned and tetchy, mid fleet, as James, Henry and the other Laser sailors challenged. Sara too was showing some of the old style, making Conker sing as she caught the gusts in the building wind.
However, nothing could hold Ben’s Albacore back. Notwithstanding his slightly faltering start, he and Josh soon cut through the fleet, leaving the Lasers in his wake like so many gulls chasing a trawler. Jakob was overhauled after a lap, and in the strengthening breeze, it seemed that there could only be one winner. However, the Lasers had not given up, with Jakob, Renato, James and Henry engaged in a tremendous tussle.
After 3 laps, we decided we should shorten the race. There didn’t seem much choice. We’d been racing a while, I couldn’t feel my toes and the leaders were already lapping the back markers, notwithstanding that all were sailing well in difficult, but freshening conditions. As the leaders finished their allotted 5 circuits, Jakob gave way to the relentless Renato, and was closely followed by James and Henry. Sara guided Conker home and Gary and John completed the tally.
Once the boats were put away, it was only left to see whether Ben had established a sufficient lead to see him and Josh home as winners. Happily for them, they sneaked it by a second! This seemed like the right result, as it looks likely to be Ben’s last race at Southbank for a while, as he is off to Sweden with his lovely wife. I am sure we will all miss this big, friendly, garrulous northern gentleman, notwithstanding his overpowered boat.
Thanks to my lovely safety boat crew Ellie, who was great company and laughed at all my bad jokes. Thanks as well to Tracey for stepping in and to Jane SH, who did a fine job as race officer and as ever, does all the little things needed to keep the flags flying at this brilliant little sailing club.
See you all soon I hope!