Hampton Sailing Club ran open meetings for the Merlin Rocket class over the weekend of 7th & 8th October. Sailing was for the Vintage Wing on the Saturday and for the open Thames Series on the Sunday. All weekend we were blessed with quite extraordinary warm sunshine – T-shirt and shorts weather with light winds.
Saturday kicked off with the nine boat fleet launching after a short postponement into a light, largely south-westerly breeze. Two races were held before lunch as the forecast had suggested the wind would drop later in the day. The first lap of the windward leeward course was led by Phil Dalby and Livvy Bell sailing Livvy’s dad’s boat, Grace. As the fleet spread out Rob and Hattie Cage in Hullaballoo worked their way to the front, and stayed there to win, followed by Phil and Livvy, then Ollie Houseman and Egle Tumosa.
After a quick turnround, the second race started on the same downriver/upriver course in maybe a little more wind, though still a bit fitful. For this race, Rob and Hattie led from start to finish. There was some place changing behind, with Richard Parslow and Simon Girven in Splatter slipping from 3rd to finish in 5th again, with the same boats as before coming in 2nd and 3rd.
A cold buffet lunch followed with plenty of rehydration in the warm conditions. For the third race there was a little more wind and a little more consistency in the south-westerly direction. Again, Rob and Hattie led all the way round with Ollie and Egle in 2nd place. Behind them, Richard and Simon held 3rd place for three laps before Phil and Livvy slipped through to finish 3rd. Unsurprisingly the final results were Rob and Hattie first, Ollie and Egle 2nd and Phil and Livvy 3rd. In 4th overall was Stuart Jenkins with daughter Imogen sailing Cindy.
My race was spoilt by a quite frightening collision with a rowing eight which was doing a speed trial through our reach of the river. We were hit by the rowers going at full tilt, resulting in our boat, Shenandoah, being skewered by the bow of the eight crashing through the hull planking and half way through the centreboard case. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries to either me or my daughter Ellie nor to the young crew of the eight, but it took two rescue boats about 30 minutes to separate the boats.
There was our usual evening social with the curry provided by a local takeaway and kindly organised by Nicky Page.
On to the Sunday. The forecast was for extremely light winds all morning. This proved to be correct and therefore racing was postponed to allow the wind to fill in. Hoping for it to happen, a couple more visitors arrived from neighbouring Tamesis SC. At 12:10 we got afloat for a 12:15 start and as we launched the wind appeared. It remained however much lighter and more fitful than Saturday, sometimes enough to fill a spinnaker, sometimes not. Phil and Livvy made the best of the conditions, finding the fingers of wind running down the river, and led the first race, with Stuart Jenkins following them round, crewed by Nicola Scadden. There was quite a bit of place changing in the fleet behind before Ollie and Egle worked their way through to 3rd.
After a great lunch of meat or veg lasagne, we took to the water in just a little more breeze for race two which was led for four laps by Simon Girven with Richard Parslow crewing before Phil and Livvy got by to take the win, with Joe McLaughlin and Sean Roberts finishing 3rd. There was quite a game of snakes and ladders behind with the fleet quite closely bunched and many place changes.
Race 3 followed after a very short break in just a little more wind though still somewhat changeable in strength and direction. Rob and Hattie came through to win after being well down the fleet on the first lap. Joe and Sean finished 2nd after swapping places a couple of times with Phil and Livvy who came 3rd. There was excitement at the leeward mark in this race as Richard Page managed a bizarre capsize. Gybing into the mark he crossed the boat and pulled on the mainsheet to find the wind had completely disappeared and the boat tumbled over on top of him.
At the prizegiving Richard got a special mention and some goodies from our sponsors, Craftinsure, who generously supplied prizes for the first three places on both days.
So concluded a weekend of warm sunshine in which somewhat against expectations, three races were held on both days with enough wind to get us all round the course and keep us interested!
The next Vintage and Thames Series is a Downriver Race at Ranelagh Sailing Club on 21st October 2023.
Thank you Andrew Mills for the report.