Tideway Race 2006 - Vintage Fleet

Vintage Merlins from all parts of the country gathered for the Tideway Race at Ranelagh. All ages were represented with many boats maintained in original condition. Amongst the oldest boats which all bore wooden masts were 111 Secret Water all the way from Aberdeen, and 6 Iska from Somerset, complete with original cotton sails, along with the prototype for the class, number 1 Kate.

The fleet assembled on the embankment at Ranelagh and there was much meeting of old friends and admiration of beautiful boats. The organisation was slick and after a briefing with many dire warnings of the dangers of the tidal Thames, the boats were launched and walked in procession up to the start area, starting after the newer boats. Sadly 522 Magician sprung a serious leak and was forced to retire before the start.

The wind was reassuringly light as the fleet tackled Putney Bridge with everyone taking great care to give plenty of height and space to avoid incidents.

Ranelagh Commodore Nick Price (2134 Mojo) set the early pace sticking to the Fulham shore followed closely by John Harris (1079 Passing Cloud) and Hywel Bowen-Perkins (2018 Krakatoa).

The vintage fleet spread out and hoisted spinnakers and by Wandsworth Bridge the leading group was joined by Phil Plumtree (1631 Splatter), Martin Hunter (1951 Melissa M), Richard Page (1222 Restless IV), Andrew Harris (1605 Omega), and Michael Hamilton (2663 Tyranosarus Rex). The group then sailed pretty much intact with the occasional individual break only to be reeled in tour de France style by the chasing pack.

The cleaner winds for the rearguard led to some catching up and the fleet was well up together by the time Bridge was reached and they started meeting the other fleets coming back against the strong tide’s final spurt. The leaders of the vintage fleet by this stage were well mixed with the group B boats.

Toward the end of the leg Phil Plumtree (1631) and John Harris (1079) sticking to the South Bank sailed into a clear lead, Phil Plumtree rounding the turning mark in first place.


The beat home brought out the best in the Vintage boats and their crew’s experience. Many took advantage of the wind shifts to gain places and overtake boats from the newer fleets. Many also found the shallows extended some way out from the banks, giving a testing time.

The first 10 minutes of the return beat saw an epic struggle against the tide, competitors in others fleets and the deceptively shallow water. As the tide slackened however, the first tentative tacks were made out into the middle of the river and some gains were made. Amongst these was Roger Devereux sailing the borrowed un-modernised 507 Sprite Full which was built in Jack Holt’s workshop just near Putney bridge and thus must have felt very at home. Roger realised that the tide had turned in the centre of Lambeth Bridge but was back eddying through the sides against the fleet and thus taking the centre arch gained him some 20 places! At this stage after an early tussle with John Harris, Phil Plumtree was to establish a nice lead followed by John Harris, Nick Price, Richard Page, Hywel Bowen-Perkins, Michael Hamilton and Andrew Harris.

The beat back to Putney saw the vintage fleet continue their march through the B fleet and begin to overtake the tail enders from the A fleet. By Wandsworth Bridge Andrew Harris had pulled through to 2nd place behind Phil Plumtree, with Michael Hamilton, John Harris and Richard Page in hot pursuit.

After the long and steady beat the conditions had become more variable by Putney Bridge with the slightest gust decisive, and many being caught out. Phil Plumtree trying to protect his position sailed high under the Putney Embankment allowing Andrew Harris to sail beneath him taking advantage of a serendipitous starboard gybe which took him all the way to the line and first place, Phil Plumtree in 2nd and Michael Hamilton in 3rd.

The rest of the vintage fleet came home in groups which had tussled up river gaining places, only for the wind to die as they reached Putney Bridge, leaving the organisers the onerous task of sorting the finishing order for groups of eight and ten boats finishing in a drifting line together.

The final results saw the overall top ten places dominated by the Vintage fleet who had impressed all with their ability. Everyone agreed it had been an excellent race and praised the organisers for heir efficient management of the eighty boat race and all looked forward to the next Tideway Race, whenever it may be.

Report: Pat Jones
See also:
    full results (PDF file)
    corrected vintage results (PDF file)
    more photos
    Richard Gaunt's photos for sale

1st 1605 Andrew Harris and Sara Warren
2nd 1079 John Harris and Duncan Bell
3rd 1222 Richard Page and Lizzy Page