Nov 25

Campell 7 – Tom’s report

Sunday 21st November.

The first emotion I felt when I looked at Windguru on Sunday morning was envy … 12 gusting to 20 Knots with a 0° wind direction. A “True Northerly.” Wind conditions such as these do not get much better for our little stretch of the river for sailing or racing for that matter.

A square course with wind aplenty and lots of tacking upwind, and gybing downwind.  And a glorious reach leg.   9° Centigrade temperature  … not bad. Moments of melancholy and tiny feelings of rage ensued and passed quickly. Very emotional times.  I jot it all down in the note pad for the monthly Zoom call with the analyst.  You see, it was not 48 hours previously, after bumping into our very positive and comprehensive Club Secretary Jane S-H on the towpath in front of London Rowing Club, that I actually volunteered for the duty for this Sunday.  There was a last minute vacancy it seems.   I had been M.I.A. on the duty front as the wife and I had been marooned in sunny Southern California for the previous year due to, well due to it was really sunny.  But why didn’t I dodge Jane for another weekend? (note to all: she will catch up with you eventually) … then I could take part in these wonderful reindeer games as well today.  Checkup-from-the-neck-up and off to the club, 20 minutes fashionably late of course, to pay the piper.

There I met up with the safety boat team of Bora D. and his son Poyraz (who for a young lad of 8 years old was very up to speed nautically-wise … he knew all the lingo)  This eventually allowed me take a 15 minute cat nap when young Baris took over helming and spotting duties during the race. You might as well start young!  Dad was no slouch either.  You could tell, cause he was kitted out with some nice “big boat” gear.   I am not talking that Gill type stuff but the top level Musto kit.  It may sound like a strange remark, but my wife has been in the fashion/apparel business for 30 years, so if I don’t know a brand of clothing … it sounds like I have not been listening all this time.  I can’t have that.  Anyway, Baris knew his boating stuff as well as a keen big boat guy, sailing in Cowes mostly, so I just breathed a sigh of relief and thought “thank god somebody knows what they’re doing on our boat today.”  On to the sailing.

Sara, Commodore of Vice became the RO on the spot, relieving Henry Cook, the designated Race Officer to grab his Laser in search of planing opportunities.  Sara pretended to listen to my race course ideas, I pretended to listen to hers, and finally we  both said “lets go talk to Renato.”  All  Bora, Poyraz and I needed was the lap count, turned out to be 6 (good call Sara!) the course layout, triangle.

We immediately fired up the SB and off we went to create magic.  On shore the breeze was as advertised 12 knots true and gusts that were getting close to 20 knots. A bit windier out on the water.  But it was right down the pike, so wind was abundant throughout the the river.   Gusts were rolling down mid-span of Hammersmith Bridge and billowing out all the way past Craven Cottage and the club at a good clip.  True wind was up to maybe 15-16 knots steady, prompting a quixotic look on Jakob’s face.  Renato’s antennae were up, and he asked pointedly “are you going to change to a 4.7?”   It would have been a feat of rigging as race time was fast approaching, and they were both ready to go with Radial sails,  currently luffing mightily on the towpath.  So Jakob abstained from the switch, but if he did, I think Renato would have matched.  The race was already well on!  The bank in front of the club was littered with about 10 boats, the solo class was represented by Peter M. (much to the chagrin of the 7 lasers that were ready to go). The showstopper of our crafts launching was Andrew M.’s  Merlin with a dark blue hull.  At least it was my first time seeing it go out.   Sleek looking craft, with a UV protected Mylar main sail with a lovely grey hue. The sail looked quite crisp as well. Great to see a Merlin out on the water for SBSC, and our only double hander of the day.

The top mark was set on the Surrey bank right below the red “Tea Rose Buoy”  directly across the river from the remnants of the Crabtree Wharf, in the “shadow” of the former Harrod’s Furniture Depository.  What a nice name for a buoy though, “Tea Rose.” Back in the day sailing in New York City on the Hudson, we would pass marks called “I want your bike and wallet buoy” or “how about we fit you with a pair of concrete galoshes buoy.”  Such endearing names here, I hope it is not taken for granted.

Anyway, all marks set, the reach mark on the North bank,  far enough away from the wall to bail out at the last second to the Crabtree Pub if things got too intense and a cheeky pint was required.  There is a slipway there in front of the pub, and it has been done before … trust me.  Anyway,  it looked like a good angle between the two wind ward marks for a screaming reach with room to go up or down.  The leeward mark was set above the red rowing mark, the Barn Elms Buoy, just North of our slip way, so a long run with some gybes; at least one had to happen to cross the river. And off they went to race six laps all to starboard with a mini sausage lap included  round the top wind ward  marks for extra thrills, one included for every lap before heading to bottom mark.

The race got going and it actually was a bit lighter wind wise to begin with, but that did not last long. Everyone looked very good tacking up the South bank mostly but entering the middle of the river occasionally to grab a gust but staying to the left as the current is much more favorable, and there was  plenty of breeze there.  And then when going downwind, hugging the North bank before finding a lane to reach or gybe to the bottom mark, mostly dictated by avoiding a 20 plus knot gusts that continued to build though out the day. The whole river was covered with wind of various strengths, depending on the gust. The reach leg looked liked all boats planed a few times, maybe more, and was manageable for most of the race.

Jakob led to the first mark and first lap with Renato very close behind and Henry C right there in the mix.  Eventually it was Jakob and Renato swapping lead changes and having a match race for about an hour.  So amazing they clocked sub 10 minute laps while the next laser radial that usually hangs with them was going in 13 minute turns. Hmmm.  Quite possibly they were creating a combined apparent wind that propelled them forward?  It was quite a duel to say the least, with Jakob finally getting some space in front on the penultimate lap, but the “reach of joy” became his ‘mare.  Wipe out after a huge gust came barrelling down the middle of the course and Jakob in the middle of the reach.  Enough for him to round up and end up in the water.  He recovered quickly, but for the sake of the story, he was never the same racer … and Renato caught him up on the next lap and led my a mere couple of boats at the finish.

I guess the theme of the day, and lord knows I’m looking for it as much a you are right now, is that every Southbank boat afforded themselves very well.  Not one boat needed safety boat help (I wish that was true of the Ranelagh boats we helped out who shared our course … not a problen at all they will always help us … but they had one person manning their safety boat which seemed a bit skint,  and quite a few of their boats needed assistance and towing).

Shouts out to John B. and his newly purchased and christened laser who went over a “couple of times” but never thought about going in. A nod to Don Henderson, esteemed member who sold his laser to John B. for the pursuits of powder and a very serious yodeling habit in Chamonix.  Don, we miss you, please leave a message on the club voice mail that is never checked. We will check it for you!  Also Ellie, who shouted out she wanted to sail more laps.  OK. Gotta love it.  Peter M. and his solo, who sailed great, and maybe rumoured to be the  possible winner of this race (how … I don’t know … it’s just a rumour).  Peter did a dry capsize very close to the Embankment wall but recovered in no time.  And to Andrew M. and Hannah on the Merlin that never steered away from the middle of the course and the gusts at any point and always looked quite stealth under sail.  And everyone who kitted up went out for a sail and had some fun.  The finish times are posted at the club, on the club website and on the WhatsApp group.

Winter is coming.  Let’s hope the next windy Northerly is too.

Tom Glockner.