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First sail / swim of the season!

posted 5 Apr 2013, 00:25 by Graham Morley   [ updated 5 Apr 2013, 07:03 ]
After two weeks of false starts and non-starts the sailing season finally got underway on Easter Sunday, a fortnight behind schedule.

Conditions were miserable on Easter Sunday and pretty foul on the Monday, although with some entertaining moments.

Sunday's David Langley Commemoration trophy was won by Sel Shah, crewed by Ben Marshall in his boat Pooh, with the Solos taking second and third helmed by Alistair Banks and John Metzner respectively. Erica Bishop had a rare outing in a Solo, coming fourth. Sel won all three races.

I am told the wind was barely enough to get round, but cold enough to cause Steve Collins and Andy Cuckson to retire because their crews, new members Yeung Ho and Jay Ho (excuse spelling, can't read Steve's writing) were not comfortable.

It is encouraging to see Sel and Ali taking the honours -- makes a change from the usual suspects, one of whom of course, Ben Marshall, was selflessly crewing Sel to victory.

Most people are content with sailing one day out of two at Easter, but the irrepressible Ms Shah was back for more on Monday, which was no warmer but much windier.

The north-easter acquired a vicious gusty streak overnight which first claimed Paul Seamen who was solo in his Merlin, then upended John Wilkey's Merlin (crewed by Erica Bishop) and your correspondent's Enterprise more or less with the same puff.

This happened right in front of the club house, obviously for the benefit of spectators, and within yards of the finish line, and John and Erica managed to drift over in a capsized state to win the first race. I am sure there is something in the rules about this. Sadly the stream carried the Bald Eagle away before we could achieve the same result.

My crew Alex rather cleverly managed to clamber onto the centreboard and step from there directly onto the bank without getting much more than her ankles wet. Her helm was meanwhile regretting his lack of a wet or dry suit, although I can report that the Thames is probably a bit warmer than the air at present. Suspiciously warm, in fact.

The launch was with us instantly, manned by Graham Morley and Rob Mayley, who said something slightly hurtful about staying close to likely customers, which I affected to ignore.

While this was going on Sel and Ben were staying more or less upright, shipping a bit of water now and then, as was David Cane crewed by son Alex in their Enterprise Alannah. The third Ent, Andy Cuckson's Jackdaw (the boat formerly known as Frolic) had retired with a broken tiller extension ... probably missing her long-time owner Les Rowlandson. Tragically Sel and Ben finished prematurely, and were deemed to have retired, although this seems to have been a misunderstanding.

The second race started with just three boats, Sel and John Wilkey's two Merlins and the indomitable Alannah, and once again John Wilkey very considerately stacked his boat right opposite the clubhouse. It was a sort of whipsaw double-flick with a near-miss followed by a near-recovery which piled Red Admiral briskly into the bank and over, one of the better capsizes I have seen, certainly from the most comfortable vantage point ever, thanks to the new panoramic windows.

If one boat capsized then this would be decisive, so it became a contest where survival was more important than speed. In the event Sel won the race, after near constant excitements, and Alannah came in second despite spending quite long periods with the sails thrashing from side to side as the gusts shifted, which gave David the cup. It was pretty scary just to watch, and both plucky competitors got a well-earned round of applause from the capacity crowd, some of who actually dragged themselves down from the bar for the purpose.

And so begins 2013. Let us hope it warms up eventually.

Results:

David Langley Trophy (Sunday)
  1. Sel Sha and Ben Marshall - Merlin
  2. Ali Banks - Solo
  3. John Metzner - Solo
Gordon's Goblet (pursuit, Monday)
  1. David and Alex Cane - Enterprise
  2. Sel Shah and Ben Marshall

By John Forbes.
(Photos by Anne Mayley)