60th Anniversary Tideway

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11 June

South Bank Sailing Club

Event Type

11th June 2016 at Southbank SC

Arriving at Southbank Sailing Club for the Enterprise 60th Anniversary Tideway Race, the first question was – which way does the race go? With a very light breeze, occasionally dropping to nothing, and then deciding to change direction, the only way is with the tide, and suddenly the race direction is obvious.

The race briefing includes some excellent advice on starting technique – you can paddle to keep yourself behind the line, or launch from the bank at the start of the race, drop anchor or hitch a lift on a passing boat, but once the start bell is rung, it’s drifting with style – or so we thought.

The race travels with the tide for as far as it can get before the tide changes, then turns around and a second start takes place. The combined time of the first and second legs is added together to get your aggregated time, and race position.

When the five-minute gun goes there were a number of techniques to ensure there was no one over the line. It quickly became evident that drifting with style was not the order of the day as the lightest of zephyrs were evident and making some significant difference to perforce of the 33 enterprises on the start line.

Roll tacking was the order of the day, but the real gains were from coaxing the most from the little breeze that appeared before Putney Bridge and spread the fleet past the exact spot where the Enterprise was designed and built by Jack Holt at his workshop in 1955. From the start it was Peter Jackson from Silverwing who pulled away and led the fleet for almost an hour, down to the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. Ian McGregor from Lensbury SC and John Allen from BCYC battled it out for second with Allen pulling away to catch up with Jackson around Battersea, when the heavens opened and the rain bought some much needed breeze. Coming into the finish, an impressive lead was eaten away by the following bunch and there was eight seconds between the first four boats to finish, with McGregor pipping Allen by a second, from a very unlucky Jackson in third, a second ahead of Roger Bennett from Silver Wing in fourth place, and Charlie Adams from WYLC in fifth.

The front of the fleet were able to land on the shore of the Thames and watch in the rain as the rest of the fleet crossed the line with the last of the tide, all within ten minutes of the leaders.

It took no more than fifteen minutes for the Thames to become slack and the sequence for the return race to begin. As the gun started the fleet, it was the south shore where the tide had turned first, and Bennett shot away followed by a collection of the usual suspects. Meanwhile on the North Shore, Allen close tacked with Dave Beaney from Wembley SC to try and keep up with the favoured southern shore. The technique was definitely a continuous trimming of the sails and playing a game of Tide or Wind when it came to positioning on the river. Generally, wind was the winner as the flow strengthened and the race continued and a group of ten boats pulled away from the fleet and swapped places all the way up the river back to Putney.

It was getting pretty intense as the finish approached, with the lead changing places amongst the top few boats. As the bell rang it was Kevin Edwards from Horning SC who won the second leg, by a really impressive six seconds (they all count) from Roger Bennett and Ian McGregor in third, Dave Beanie in fourth and Charlie Adams in fifth.

With Race positions not counting for anything in the overall results, the timings were crucial to the overall result. Each leg was about an hour for the leaders, but at the prize giving, with the combined times for the two legs, the difference between first and third was declared as six seconds, with Roger and Sheron Bennett of Silverwing SC taking the teapot trophy from Iain and Jo McGregor in second, who also took the over sixty prize, With Peter Jackson and Flow Tanner in third place.

Southbank Sailing Club provided an excellent tea – with beer – all included in the modest entry fee and the race was declared a magnificent success, a unique opportunity to sail on the Thames. Great thanks to Southbank Sailing Club for organising this special race, and especially the safety crews who shepherded the fleet and the excellent PRO who finished the race with perfect timing for everyone to be sailing with the tide at all times. Looking forward to next year.

Report by Johnny Allen

See results table here