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Bart's Bash - a view from the middle of the fleet!

posted 22 Sep 2014, 08:39 by Sailing Secretary
How fitting, that in our patch anyway, a sail in memory of a great young racing sailor should be held in the best wind we have had all year.
The day dawned bright and clear and whoa, nice breeze . . . down at Minima Steve and Kathy Collins were there early of course, meeting and greeting and making coffee for people and organising things like the warning regatta boards ready on the course to be ignored by passing river traffic.

Outside a passing northerly was laying down at least force 3, but straight up and down the reach in solid chunks rather than the gusts we get from crosswinds.

Activity all over the dinghy park, Merlins, Solos, Argos, Lasers, and everyone getting out in reasonable order, with Kathy now in the racebox taking a profoundly sensible attitude to the start time.

Capsizes starting immediately, but you couldn’t call it a nasty wind. Just the odd Laser going over.

There was a good feeling when the massive contingent from Thames streamed down to the start, nearly half of the 26 starters.
And the start itself was pretty orderly: apart from anything else the sheer number of sails on the water pretty well killed the wind for a moment.

From my carefully chosen vantage point mid fleet, we tacked down to the first upwind mark, where there was a certain amount of kerfuffle, and it was just a question of picking your way round through the crowd and then settling down to what promised to be a long and interesting run to the very top mark near Raven’s Ait.

This was even more interesting because there were of course leeward boats, boom to boom across the river, all of them able to demand rights off their windward neighbours and some of them foolish enough to do so in the hope of competitive advantage. I guess Bart with his famous will to win would have approved, but personally a more sociable approach more enjoyable.

At last the top mark got closer and the fleet began to close up, and as they turned across the wind they accelerated to their fastest point of sailing, hoping to funnel round the mark like the F1 cars going round the first corner at Monaco. The leaders whipped round and headed up the first beat. There were squeals and shouts for water as the pack accelerated and closed up, and then an almighty crash as Mr Wilkey’s Solo upended itself smack in front of me. Talk about a grandstand view, this was a superzoom close up. Nothing on the screen except Solo. There was no time to think, just shove the tiller over, bounce off, and wow escape still the right way up, looking back on the joyous schemozzle which ensued. The traffic was such that the safety launch had difficulty even working along the bank, Rob Mayley crying ‘Obstruction, Obstruction,’ to encourage helms to go round rather than through him. But by the time he got there Wilkey was back up and on his way, unabashed but not unbashed. But then it was Bart’s Bash, and we had a wind like San Francisco Bay.

After such early excitement there were happily few further dramas, although the capsizes continued. It was not a good day to find the mainsheet had tied itself round your leg as the Richmond Belle bore down on you. It was a very good day for a sail though, and one which was made more fun by the amazing variety of boats and helms on the water. Young and old, fast and slow, good and bad: it was a day for everyone to enjoy.
 
John Forbes
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