Nov 08

Campbell 6 Downriver – James’ report

Sunday 7th November, 2021.
Seven sailors made it to the start line on a mild and sunny November morning (an unfortunate gear failure on launching forced John to retire immediately). The wind was light and fickle in the vicinity of the line; at the one minute gun about half the fleet had been swept the wrong side of the line. A helpful puff enabled everyone bar Peter in a solo to get to the proper side and make a clean start. Peter fought valiantly for two minutes to reach the line before the race officers gave him leave to continue.
The first leg started as a run under the Putney bridges. Initially the fleet were tightly grouped apart from the severely trailing solo. By Wandsworth bridge Renato and Jakob had eeked out a small lead but a wind hole in the lee of a block of flats resulted in an effective re-start for Renato, Jakob, Alan and Henry in the lasers and Tom in the Supernova. Out of the wind shadow and the sailors were hanging on by their toes on a fast planning reach straight into the next wind hole under Wandsworth railway bridge. Here the wind seemed to be doing cartwheels which put a rapid end to a possible luffing match between Renato and Jakob when both found themselves gybed.
By now the tide had turned and was flooding rapidly, but strong wind round the Battersea bend allowed the finish line to be set mid way between the Battersea and Albert bridges. Renato emerged from under Battersea bridge on a fast gusty run first followed very closely by Jakob. However, disaster struck for Jakob 10m from the finish with a capsize to windward. The current pushed him away from the line allowing Alan and Henry to plane to the finish past Jakob, showing him how it’s done. Peter in the solo, having sailed a very commendable leg sneaking up on the fleet from behind, crossed the line a mere ten seconds after Jakob. Tom and Patrick in a radial brought up the rear having suffered for longer than the others in the adverse tide.
Jakob got the best start on the second leg at the strongly favoured pin end. He built this into a cable’s length lead by Wandsworth railway bridge, the rest of the fleet in a single posse with no clear leader behind. The rich appeared to be getting richer as the leader powered upwind fully hiked out on Wandsworth reach whilst the trailing boats languished as painted ships on a painted sea. But you should not count eggs until they are in the pudding.
Until this point the fleet had sailed on the outside of the bend on the south bank, presumably to maximise the tidal advantage, but Renato was the first to tack out into the mid stream. The others were initially reluctant to follow this seemingly counter intuitive move, but it seemed to produce a small gain.
Rounding the bend under Wandsworth road bridge, an increasingly vicious beat to windward developed with wind against tide – there was quite some chop! Renato gained on Jakob hand-over-fist during the course of this beat which saw all sailors working hard, managing gusts of over 20 knots. Slightly further back, a close race seemed to be developing between Henry, Alan and Peter (I’m sure we saw a few capsizes here – afterwards Henry insisted that he was soaked only from spray).
Unwilling to make life easy for himself, Jakob capsized again between the Putney bridges giving Renato a passing lane. From here, Renato crossed the line first, closely followed by Jakob. Alan, Henry and Peter followed in quick succession. Tom failed to get the supernova to ignite upwind but the fact that he kept its enormous sail dry is pretty impressive given the conditions. Patrick fought a strong rearguard action for what was only his second downriver adventure.
All in all, a jolly good day’s racing; the helms all stepped ashore tired but grinning.
James Channer.