Tamesis Open 2005

Sondown Cup

Joe McLaughlin and Sarah Whittingham overcame strong opposition in a 24 boat fleet, with visitors from six clubs, to win the Sondown Cup in Pocket Rocket (3566) at the Tamesis Merlin open meeting on Sunday 16 October. Persistently careful, strategic sailing earned them a third, second and first in the three races, with the best two results counting for overall points.

The first race went to last year's winner, Hywel Bowen-Perkins, from Hampton SC, crewed by his son, Morgan, in The Holy Grail (3574), with John Harris and Margaret Stokes second in Passing Cloud (1079). Without a division into flights, there was substantial congestion on the start line and even heavier congestion at the first mark, where the ability to round first got the leaders into a clear wind that pushed them well ahead of the pack. The light to moderate easterly breeze was angled just enough to give an upriver beat in all three races but the unwary found themselves seriously de-powered in a succession of flat spots at the same time as nearby boats were attracting enough wind to surge speedily forward. Recalled premature starters found it hot work in the warm sunshine to make progress from the rear of the fleet.

Race Officer Will Henderson set the Lensbury mark further down river for the second race, held back to back with the first. Omega (1605), sailed by Andrew and Nim Harris, led Pocket Rocket and Wild Card (3656), sailed by Rob Wilder and Tom McLaughlin, on the reach downstream but by the time they had tacked upstream and negotiated the dogleg in front on the club lawn the positions were reversed. Wild Card won the race by a short head from Pocket Rocket, with Omega third and Passing Cloud fourth.

The congestion was equally severe in the afternoon race, this time with no dogleg, in which Omega again led away from the Canbury upstream mark, with Pocket Rocket second and Wild Card fourth. By the end of the first round, Wild Card had moved up to third. Pocket Rocket snatched the inside berth at Canbury and had built up a clear lead by the time she crossed the line. Omega finished second, Wild Card third, Bambusa (847). sailed by Berry Ritchie and Sue Harris, fourth and Passing Cloud fifth. Andrew Harris had to settle for the Elizabeth Bowl, the trophy for vintage Merlins, which he will have to reclaim from his father, John Harris, who won it last year. The meeting was also a River Thames Series event.

Report: John Dunkley
Photos: Richard Howells
See also - full results