Light airs meant slow and sometimes frustrating progress for the 34 yachts taking part in the third annual Thames Trafalgar Race which took place on the River Thames on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 October 2015.
The annual two day stage race saw a record number of entries in 2015 and an opportunity for spectators to get out on the water courtesy of a specially laid on MBNA Clipper which took them to the heart of the action.
With around 20 of the fleet taking advantage of a special berthing deal at St Katharine Docks, there were two locks full of eager competitors heading for the 0830 start. One yacht missed their 0600 lock due to battery problems so the start was delayed by 15 minutes to allow them to catch up.
With low visibility and barely a breath of wind, rowers on the Thames were enjoying the calm conditions whilst 34 yachts wanting to make progress from Greenwich to Erith were faced with an obstacle course dominated by the strength of the tide.
There were a few close encounters for some between large mooring buoys, moored lighters and the dredger Sand Falcon. The Thames Barrier section which is an obligatory 'engine on, sails flapping' part of the course was a welcome relief and a chance to make progress at last for many.
As the wind faded to zero knots and the tide waned many of the participants, around half of each fleet, were forced to retire. Three yachts, Lili, Scamp and Lady Verl were within 50 metres of the finishing line and eased their way back three times before finally having to admit defeat.
Ashore at Erith YC for the Thames Trafalgar dinner, competitors enjoyed a beautiful sunset, delicious food and speeches commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar. Richard Keen, one of the organising committee reminded guests that Nelson had sailed his fleet into Battle in three knots of wind and that the skippers and crews of the 2015 Thames Trafalgar Race had also prevailed against light airs.
Day 2 dawned with bright autumn sunshine and an 1130 start for the A fleet heading down towards the QE2 bridge of the Dartford Crossing. The B fleet start was scheduled for 1230 at which time there was no wind, barely any tide and it took around 40 minutes for the fleet to clear the line.
Luckily the breeze filled in just enough to give most boats a satisfying race. The various reaches and turns of the Thames providing upwind and downwind legs. Tacks had to be carefully judged to balance the strength of the tide and the momentum of the boats in the light airs.
The race finish was extended by an hour to allow most of the fleet to make the finish before 1700, the course being shortened slightly by moving the finish line from Cutty Sark to just off Morden Wharf.
1 Eclipse (Haven Ports YC)
2 Brave (Haven Ports YC)
3 Valkyrie (Medway YC)
1 Lodestar (Hooness YC)
2 Hot Pursuit (Erith YC)
3 Cirrus (Greenwich YC)
Line honours Saturday
A Class Eclipse (Haven Ports YC)
B Class Hot Pursuit (Erith YC)
Line honours Sunday
A Class Brave (Haven Ports YC)
B Class Petit Fleur (Medway YC)
Sir Robin Knox Johnston Trophy (Awarded to the yacht club with the highest placed three finishers)
1 Haven Ports YC
2 Erith YC
3 Greenwich YC
Visit the Thames Racing Flickr site to see photos of the weekend taken by Rune Bakken