Royal Thames Yacht Club Trophy
Sunday April 27
The following day, the wind was still southerly, Force 3-4. While Robbie (the Race Officer) and his assistant (Penny Evans) did their best to chivvy the dinghies to launch early the difficulty in rigging the dinghies during some pretty fierce gusts, and hesitation by the nervous, delayed the start. Eventually, nine dinghies started.
The Royal Thames YC Trophy is a pursuit race which requires the sailors to sail for 85 minutes. The Enterprises start first and the Lasers follow three minutes later. At the finish the Race Officer stops the race from the safety boat and the positions of the dinghies at that time determines their final positions.
The Enterprises got off to a ragged start with some dinghy crews hiked out on a beat while others sat desperately trying to find the wind, which appeared to be coming from every direction possible, or not at all. The gusts were so fierce that the dinghies often stalled on the beat and Liz St Clair and Beverley Beech never got further than the particularly windy patch downstream of the island. They resolved to return to the Club, but having sailed into a nice quiet patch decided that perhaps the wind had now abated and they would give it another go. Having returned almost to their former position they were again hit by some violent gusts and decided that discretion was the better part of valour and returned to the pontoon. In the meantime, the Lasers had started and Angela Boyhan sailed into a flat patch close to Hammersmith terrace , eventually got going again, and then after being battered by severe gusts decided to return to the club as well, only to be foiled in this attempt by a spectacular death roll and capsize on the run near the island. Exhausted, she retreated to the side for a rest before eventually righting the boat and returning to base.
The dinghies were required to sail to No8 buoy close to Barnes Bridge and, as the wind was southerly, they had an exciting run back to the corner. Keith Hawkins made life interesting for Clive Kitson at the front of the fleet – by briefly taking the lead before a gust did for him. He produced a spectacular death roll and total inversion which providing the walkers on the bank with much merriment. To ensure that everyone got value for money he repeated the trick a little later - but battled through to the finishing line.
Ed Best and Nigel Hadaway originally intended to compete against each other in Lasers but, as all the decent Lasers had been snapped up they quickly swapped to sailing together in an Enterprise. And what a fine decision it was!
Their choice of sailing gear for a chilly day and threats of rain was sartorial rather than appropriate. Nigel, used to sailing in much warmer climes, dressed in a fleece, offshore kit and enormous ocean boots and Ed wore shorts and T-shirt. They made an interesting sight. But, as a result, they were both DETERMINED not to capsize - Nigel would sink like a stone and Ed would freeze to death. Brrr.
All that preamble was just an excuse to explain why they appeared to be trying to compete for the SLOWEST boat on the water award. They were sailing for comfort and not speed but it was far from comfortable. Gusts aplenty kept them on their toes and they had a number of very interesting moments. The sight of a couple of six foot blokes being thrown about in a 14 foot dinghy as it careened out of control was very amusing for the observers, but Nigel was fantastic and called every gust with great timing and superb anticipation. If only Ed had been listening they would have made a great team.
Upwind legs were exciting with great sighs of relief as they got through each tack while all around them dinghies were capsizing but their combination of height, weight, and an instinct for survival kept them upright. Once they got down to Number 8 they were in the thick of it and looking forward to gybing round for the leg back to Number 1. Once again, completely out of control, they managed to round the mark by the skin of their teeth. And then they started to relax - running with the wind while everything settled down, manic grins appeared and they started talking again - until they got into the gusts and were off again. Up on the plane, boat starts to wobble violently, crew dive desperately for opposite sides of the boat and just manage to survive.
Arriving ashore, Ed commented: ‘We have never been so pleased to see a shortened race flag in our lives. We were slow, our sail trim was appalling and we were soaked - But WHAT A SAIL! ‘
Their tactic (or was that instinct?) of avoiding capsizing at all costs paid off. To their surprise and delight they claimed a medal position (3rd) - thanks to the sportsmanship of Keith Hawkins who, having briefly led the fleet, retired as a result of rounding No8 the wrong way.
Jeremy Whiting and Catherine O’Sullivan staggered ashore shattered, having capsized three times, but, nonetheless, achieved second place, shortly followed by an equally tired Peter Hallett.
Kerstin Exner and Angela Boyhan retired before reaching No8. Chris Crosland and Peter Druce retired due to gear failure. The safety boat driven by Charles Frater ably assisted by Gareth Llewellyn and Clair Willis had their work cut out assisting capsized dinghies.
Normally, a pursuit race will be run for 85 minutes, no matter what. However, the sailing committee representatives felt that the crews were becoming extremely exhausted and as the fleet was now well spread out they would stop the race once the leader, Clive Kitson, rounded No1 buoy for the second time. The explanation for this decision by our Rear Commodore Sailing, Andre Gareh, at the presentation was met with a roar of approval. The bar buzzed afterwards with everyone having a story to tell and everyone had thrills aplenty.
Results - Royal Thames Yacht Club Trophy
Clive Kitson Illigitimus 1st
Jeremy Whiting and Catherine O’Sullivan Telegraph 2nd
Nigel Hadaway and Ed Best Times 3rd
Peter Hallett Light Blue 4th
Chris Crosland and Peter Druce Flute Retired
Keith Hawkins Sunday Sport Retired
Kerstin Exner Meltemi Retired
Angela Boyhan 152406 Retired
Liz St Clair and Beverley Beech Guinness Retired
Race Officer: Robbie Robertson and Penny Evans
Safety Boat: Charles Frater, Gareth Llewellyn and Clair Willis
Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, May 2008