|pastingSunday 13th May dawned light and bright on the Thames in Putney. The flurry of activity of the arrival of visiting Merlins for the second Thames Series event of the year, amongst multiple rowers genuinely embracing the lightness and brightness of the day could have been construed as disorderly chaos. |
It was an extremely mixed fleet of boats, with the river being graced by Kate (Merlin number 1) with her 25 foot mast attracting admiring onshore attention, and plenty of wide Winders taking their chances against the narrow ones.
With the Le Mans rules relaxed for the day's race, due to light wind and strong tide, most opted for pushing off from the shore with around one minute to go. Which proved to be sub-optimal. Guillaume Muscadet and James Hayward, went for the more conventional approach of sailing around in the vicinity of the start area during the sequence, and nailed the start in the very beautiful Diablo (Merlin number 214).
Diablo lead around mark one by the Crabtree pub, and there was just enough wind to hold station against the flood tide, and then scoot forwards every now and then, diminishing all thoughts of popping into the local hostelry. Diablo got swallowed up by the fleet, and spinnakers were eventually up and down in good Ranelagh fashion.
It was generally the case that whatever age of boat one was sailing, if you found a bit more pressure, or a bit less tide, or a bit more pressure and a bit less tide then you scooted forwards more than the others into a favourable position. A bit more pressure and a bit more tide proved precarious when the pressure vanished.
The key moment of the race occurred just after Kate (no 1) had briefly had more pressure and joined the leading bunch off the club line at the end of the first lap. Joe McLaughlin and Sean Roberts in Sublime (3724), gybed away to the wall, which somehow enabled them to get round the top mark and whizz off into a reasonably unassailable lead. Stuart and Imogen Jenkins (Luka 3560) and Pat and Jilly Blake (Why Ask 3740) also got round leaving the rest of the gang struggling. It was pretty unfair the way the wind seemed to blow for some people at just the right time.
Rounding Crabtree for the second and final time, Sublime held their lead in the middle of the river, having not enjoyed the proximity of Fulham Football Club on the previous lap, and John and Olivia Bell (Time and Tide 3652) closed the most enormous gap (pretty much the entire length of the race course) to take second from Pat and Jilly Blake, leaving a bereft Stuart and Imogen Jenkins in fourth and off the podium.
Una Winfield and Dennis Long snatched first Ranelagh boat from the jaws of Kate on the final leg, leaving Kate miles off the podium. But she was an absolute joy to sail, and super crew Alex Warren enjoyed the fact that pole uphaul/downhauls hadn't been invented back in the day, genuinely enjoying the extra challenges that this presented.
The all inclusive package of a Ranelagh open meeting, meant that everyone sat down to chilli with chorizo and rice, followed by brownies, washed down with local Fosters. The next Merlin open at Ranelagh is the downriver race on 28th October – not to be missed.
|1st – 3724, Sublime, Joe McLaughlin and Sean Roberts, Tamesis Club|
2nd – 3652, Time and Tide, John and Olivia Bell, Hampton SC
3rd – 3740, Why Ask, Pat and Jilly Blake, Cookham Reach SC
4th – 3560, Luka, Stuart and Imogen Jenkins, Hampton SC
5th – 3106, Eureka, Una Winfield and Dennis Long, Ranelagh SC
6th – 1, Kate, Frances Gifford and Alex Warren, Ranelagh SC
7th – 1633, Fever, Guillaume and Jeanne de Riberolles, Ranelagh SC
8th – 3062, Andrew and Adele Cameron-Douglas, South Bank SC
9th – 214, Diablo, Guillaume Mouscadet and James Hayward, Ranelagh SC
10th – 3073, Birthday Suit, Pierre Dunoyer and Marian Gazdik
DNS – 1993, Joker, Andrew and Tom Harris, Tamesis Club