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Team Racing at Tamesis

image of enterprise dinghies before a race start

Serpentine Cup

This annual event is a must for team racers. Two boat team racing means lots of work, tacking and gybing all the time. The way each race is won is "last boat loses", ie. it doesn't matter being first, it is essential that if one of your team is last, the other must do all they can to hinder the opposition and let his/her teammate through.

Ten teams compete, all from clubs on the Thames, including Ranelagh, Upper Thames, Arial (the BBC) etc. Tamesis is up past Strawberry hill, near Kingston.

Corinthians contest once again

Saturday 29 March 2008, 10:00 start

A race officer harrying you on to the water because the forecast is for gales is not the most auspicious start to a team-racing event, but at the end of March we were in the midst of low after low bringing snorter after snorter.

In fact, although the conditions were gusty at Tamesis Club – up-river from us on the non-tidal Thames at Teddington – there were several other factors that were irking the LCSC team of Alan Beaney and Jess Holly in one boat and Rhys Triffitt crewed by Simon Hills in the other. The first was that Hills and Triffitt had never sailed together and were, in any case, both Laser sailors, the second that the team had either little or no experience in Merlin Rockets, third that team tactics had amounted to: "Morning, Alan, looks like the wind’s getting up."

And so this was the situation for the first race of the Serpentine Cup, a team-racing event open to all the Thames clubs. Unfortunately, only five two-boat teams had entered this year, two from the host club, with teams from Hampton and Thames and a disappointing no-show from Minima.

The first race, against the hugely experienced Tamesis Two, with David Vines and Phil Plumtree the two helms, went... well, pretty badly. Despite sailing on a tide that puts the piffling Tammy current into shade, the flow of water eastwards was still rather stronger than we bargained for, and although Alan Jess were up there to do battle, they couldn’t hold up the boats for the other boat to join the fight.

Next up were the other home club team, and this time there was a real battle fought in the first half of the race, with first Alan, then Rhys, then Alan, sticking themselves in front of the opposition to let the team boats through. Alas, in the end, however, we could possibly have gone with a little speed, and when Rhys and Simon were shunted the wrong side of the buoy, the Corinthians again had to concede.

In an increasing wind, though, everything went rather better in race three against Hampton, and with resolute helming, slightly better co-ordination in the boat by the two Laser sailors and some great tactical sailing from Alan, so victory at last came to the Corinthians.

Time ashore followed to watch other clubs battle it out, and we were feeling pretty confident for our last race against Thames. Alas, they weren’t. A couple of capsizes in the ever-building wind meant that they decided to concede their race against us, but, with effectively two wins and two defeats, we were placed equal third with Hampton.

All of us then stood on the shore to witness the race-off between the two host club teams, and it was fast, furious and dramatic, with the on-the-water-umpires having to watch every move as the two teams swapped places. Eventually this thrilling final was won by Tamesis One, and the cup again stayed with the host club, who had won it in the three previous years.

We should have another go next time, though. The Corinthian team definitely thought they were beatable. The racing was terrific fun, and wouldn’t it be good to win it next year and bring our Thames neighbours down to Hammersmith Reach for some competition on the tide?

Simon Hills

Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 14 May 2008