"What a privilege it is to race a yacht into Central London", said one of the race officers as the second Thames Trafalgar Race came to an end against a backdrop of the Old Naval College, Greenwich and the Painted Hall.
The two day stage race, organised jointly between Erith YC and Little Ship Club was a resounding success both ashore and afloat. Being held as close as possible to Trafalgar Day (allowing for tide times on the Thames) Leg 1 started at Blackwall Reach and turned at the Black Shelf Buoy for the A fleet, whilst the B fleet had a shorter route turning at Greenhithe.
Little Ship Club President and round-the-world-sailor, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said:
"The second Thames Trafalgar Race provided a fantastic spectacle on the Thames and enjoyable yacht racing on an interesting course. It's so unusual to see nearly 30 boats sailing and racing on our capital river and thanks to the support of St Katharine Docks, with the special two week berthing deal, we were able to attract boats from far and wide. The Little Ship Club and Erith Yacht Club have worked closely together to bring this race to the Thames.
"It is a tremendous privilege to honour the Battle of Trafalgar with a yacht race which finishes with historic Greenwich as its backdrop – a fitting way to commemorate Lord Nelson, one of Britain's greatest sailors."
With a fair breeze which resulted in gusty conditions as the fleet headed past the O2 and Canary Wharf there was a mix of reefing strategies. In the A fleet with eight yachts competing, it was close racing all the way for the Irene (Medway YC) and Gran Panjandrum (Erith YC). Irene had chosen not to reef and looked to be paying the penalty of rounding up in the early stages, losing ground to GP which was flying a small mainsail.
Through the Thames Barrier neutral zone, with Barrier timings provided by White Viking (thank you Frank, Graham, Nathalie and Norman) and Sir Claude Inglis (thank you Neil, Hunter, Alick and Richard) and the wind settled as the river widened towards Erith. Under the QE2 bridge and to the turn and Irene had just edged ahead of GP by the turn. With the tide against the yachts as they headed back to the finish line at Erith, those with a reliable depth sounder and good local knowledge hugged the shore to keep out of the tide. The skipper of Irene could have stretched out to pat the seals basking on the mudflats and the lightening wind meant she edged clear of GP to take line honours and win Day 1 of the racing with just a 3 second lead.
The B fleet had all but caught the larger boats on the line, thanks to their shorter course and some great sailing from skippers and crews. There were 16 boats in the B fleet ranging including Lili, the Greenwich YC yawl, sailed with smooth, single-handed competence by Martin Sewell into first place for the B fleet on Day 1.
With all boats home and moored up by 1600 on Saturday afternoon, it was ashore, dinner and festivities to celebrate and remember Trafalgar at Erith Yacht Club.
Day 2 was an early start for the whole fleet at 0800 to ensure finishing off Greenwich before the tide turned and to allow safe access back through the lock at St Katharine Docks. With heavy rain beating on the coach roofs before 0700 it was touch and go there would be enough light to start racing. But the clouds cleared and by the finish the sun had come out.
In the A fleet it was again close racing between Irene and Gran Panjandrum for the overall prize – with 3 seconds to spare no-one could be complacent. Little Ship Club's Vice Commodore Sail and Power, Jill Moffatt, jumped on board Irene to replace a missing crew member and they edged themselves slowly and surely away from GP as they headed towards the Thames Barrier. Over confidence at the O2 led to an unexpected 360 degree turn for Irene but she was well ahead of the fleet by then and crossed the line ahead of Gran Panjandrum.
It was a great weekend of racing and all thanks go to the race officers and volunteers from the two host clubs who put on a spectacular weekend of sailing on the Thames.
Prize-giving will be held at the Little Ship Club, Bell Wharf Lane, EC4R 3TB on Friday 24 October, 8pm with a buffet supper to follow. As last year there will be serious and not-so-serious prizes. Book your supper tickets here.
Thames Trafalgar Race A Class overall result
A Class overall result
1. Irene (4.31.40)
2. Gran Panjandrum (4.34.09)
3. Surfeit (5.05.36)
4. Nimbus (5.09.33)
5. Bakaruda (5.21.23)
6. Fairtrade (5.33.15)
7. Avventura (5.50.59)
8. Hara (6.41.12)
- Line honours Saturday Irene
- Line honours Sunday Irene
Thames Trafalgar Race B Class overall result
- Line honours Saturday Caroline V
- Line honours Sunday Petite Fleur