Ovens (Bill Smart) Race – Sunday 11 October 2020

Weather: Sunny, later clouds and some rain

Wind: NW, force 2-3 occ 4

Course: EYC to Ovens Buoy (starboard) back to EYC

Sunday was initially chilly as we waited outside the clubhouse for the briefing. The detailed briefing, delivered with sarcasm and humour in unequal measure, was accompanied by a handout to assist skippers with the race do’s and don’ts, highlighting river traffic &c to keep everyone safe.

Colin started the race with efficiency, so it was BST rather than EYCT that race started: 11am sharp. The wind at this point naturally died and with it being down wind saw most of the yachts poling their genoas out. Gigi decided to deploy the asymmetric spinnaker, only to have to convert it to a conventional (if badly shaped), as the wind shifted aft, in order to build up speed and keep up with the bigger boats.

The fleet began to split into two groups as they travelled down Long Reach, ensuring that being on the south side (as per PLA Byelaws) the dredger could pass north of us without incident. The larger boats took advantage of their bigger sail area in St Clements and began to pull away. The wind filled and died and shifted as the yachts passed down Gravesend Reach. Again, the next ship to pass did so without cause for concern, as the yachts remained on the south side, passing the delights of Northfleet and Gravesend (who would have thought it was a seaside resort 100 years ago!!??).

With Hara, Cassie and Hera around the buoy, Gigi managed to sneak in before Marlin to earn some bragging rights, before Marlin’s larger sail area kicked in and she began to pull away upwind as the returning yachts now sailed close-hauled up the north side.

As the slower boats were rounding the buoy a cruise ship arrived for berthing at the Tilbury Ro-Ro. Incisor discovered her battery was flat so warned London VTS who then, with Bolero’s assistance controlled the situation with where yachts should be to allow the ship to dock. To add to the situation a tanker was on its way down and so the yachts, now mostly on the south side had to keep very close in to avoid the two tugs and the tanker as it passed down Gravesend Reach at Northfleet. After this there was no river traffic until the dredger passed upriver at about 4pm, past EYC.

The fickle wind and the general slackness of the tide created a challenging race, as sails were manipulated, tacking decisions made in order to make best use of what there was. It was a hard fought 5 to 6 hours on the water, but everyone made it back and it was nice to have a moment of reflection in the Bar afterwards – the obligatory face covering and social distancing not detracting from the day.

Thank you to Colin for starting the race and taking most of the times, and Mick and Linda for taking the final times for us. Well done to everyone for the race. And a grateful thank you to Mary for the bar being open and to Ron, Jim, and Dan for some ‘beyond the call of duty’ catering.

Below are the results. Please bear in mind that most of your boats have Byron Handicaps that are historically allocated for your yacht or found on the Byron website as a close match to your boat (if none provided). Any complaints should be put in writing and then thrown in the bin – unless there is a major error… J Hurt pride does not count… but a period of self reflection is always good for the soul and can improve our sailing expertise :-D

One last reminder: Can members not race with their Red Ensigns flying. It’s bad etiquette and generally indicates that you are not racing or have retired… The race organisers let it go this time…

RESULTS CORRECTED: 13 October 2020 - Roger's Byron Handicap has been emailed through as 1035.

Corrected time
Boat Skipper Handicap Hrs Mins Secs Position
Marlin Nick P 1055 4 35 42 1
Gigi Paul G 1116 4 41 46 2
Hera Roger 1035 4 57 44 3
Hara Richard B 928 4 59 50 4
Cassie Malcolm T 965 5 6 15 5
Bolero Sara T 1065 5 12 8 6
Lady Verl John M 1017 5 20 42 7
C’est La Vie Don M 1095 5 29 49 8
Incisor Dave W 1139 DNF 10=
White Glide John R Unknown DNF 10=