River Champs 2006

Bourne End Week - a personal view

Having reviewed all available weather forecasts (rain Saturday, no rain Sunday to Tuesday!), taking into account that I intended to camp in 'sin city', and knowing that I could qualify by sailing on three of the four days (this is the only bit of the sailing instructions that I got right), my crew for the week, Sophie Morton, and I decided to sail at Parkstone on Saturday afternoon and travel to Bourne End Sunday morning.

Apparently they had very light winds and two not very interesting races on the river. In Poole harbour the Merlins started off in 20 to 25 Kts of wind. Halfway to the first mark a big black cloud produced a squall of 30 kts plus. As Sophie only weighs 8 stone we could only just hold the boat upright with all sails flapping! The Race Officer wisely called a halt to proceedings at this point and we all sailed back under jib surfing the waves, except Graham Scroggie, who carried on racing the course. He claimed after that he was testing his new hip!

Hulls of all shapes and sizes arrive at UTSC


Arrive at Bourne End, get across the railway line find a spot to rig and take a moment to look at the sailing venue. It looked a lot bigger in the aerial pic on the UTSC web site; in fact the start line area is smaller that our launching ramp and exit water from the yacht heaven at Parkstone. The start line was suitable for a max of 5 boats not the 21 boats entered! The morning race proved the point, Pat Blake was hit by about 4 boats with 15 seconds to go leaving him stopped dead in the water at the go. I managed to get a cracking start, gained a clear lead and rounded the wrong first mark! Ended 4th!! Before the afternoon race made sure that I understood the mark system. Got to 2nd place and tried to finish on the start line passing the wrong side of the turning mark which was also the finish mark. A shout from another Merlin informed me of my error. 4th again! Moral - read sailing instructions!

Social - The Cocktail Party

1830 Starting gun fired
1831 Enter Cocktail Party Marquee pay six quid to ladies at entrance
1832+ Not sure what happened but apparently drank lots of G&Ts and Pimms

Monday morning - Not feeling too good!

Wind now blowing across river. Local experts explain that the wind will blow across the river above the trees and try to blow up and down river below the trees. They were not wrong. Learn very quickly how to sail along bank with a flapping jib and only to tack if the jib is nearly aback. Roll tacking now much improved but no match to the old narrow boats! Managed a to get a 5th and a 4th place complete with a gust that filled the boat up about 100 yards from the finish and just managing to hold my place.

Social - Pimms!!!

Tuesday morning - Not feeling too good!

As I have to count all the races and having got a 4 good results I now must behave myself and not get an OCS! Morning race got into lead! Got two tacks wrong out of god knows how many on next leg….back to 4th! Afternoon Race, capsize with 7 minutes to start. Right boat, sail ashore, empty most of water from boat, get back on water just before the 4 minute gun, bail the rest out by I minute gun and make good start. Find myself at back of fleet! Sail back up to 3rd and get 3rd place overall!!!

Review of the event

Did more tacks in 3 days than a whole season at Parkstone.
Spinnakers are only used in extreme circumstances i.e. if the wind is actually likely to blow in one direction for more than 30 seconds.
Spent all day Thursday repairing damage to hull, centre board and rudder!
The members of Upper Thames SC made me feel very welcome and staged an excellent event. My crew for the event Sophie Morton had only ever sailed on the sea before this event and was really excellent!

And just in case you are wondering how a 'sea sailor' can do relatively well on a river I must admit to learning sail and race at Wembley SC!

Report: Bob O'Toole
Photos: Karen Collyer
See also:
    full results
    other photos

Close racing between young and old (the boats not the sailors!)