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Merlin Rocket Down River race at Ranelagh Sailing Club

by Fran Gifford 19 Apr 2012 09:05 BST 15 April 2012

Eighteen Merlin Rockets were enticed to Putney by the prospect of a down river race into London in a forecast 15 knots with the sun shining. Well, there were 15 knots sometimes and the sun sometimes shone and we definitely raced down river under a lot of bridges. But there was also sometimes a lot more wind, sometimes a lot less and it also rained and hailed sometimes.

So the plan was to start at the club and take the ebbing tide down towards the area of Battersea Power Station, turn round and come back against the end of the ebb and then the start of the flood. The start was delayed to ensure there was enough mast clearance under Putney Bridge, and a rule was in place preventing use of spinnakers until clear of this, the lowest of all the bridges. But the tide didn’t start flooding until we were all back and enjoying a lovely chilli. So it was quite a long race. Well over two hours for most.

The results aren’t too important, the general feeling in the clubhouse afterwards was that it had been a fantastic race, sightseeing eight bridges (approximately), avoiding the numerous shallow areas, or not really avoiding them but hitting them quite hard. There were a few capsizes and plenty of fill-ups. The wind was gusty and often came from a minimum of three different directions at once.

The fleet at times appeared well spread but then came the bridges! A full concertina effect as the leaders struggled to fight the strong tide, having had to come into the middle of the river to go through the correct arch. While the tide was strong under the bridges, the wind doesn’t quite get all the way through, so sometimes you could get half way through only to drift back again.

David Vines and Fran Gifford led for most of the race, at one point overtaken by Andy Dalby and Andrea Ralph, but ultimately built a large enough lead that was too great for the fast approaching Mike Stephens and Jodok Gerber to reel in on the long leg home. MJ Gifford and Jon Ibbotson sailed a great race having not even bothered to take a spinnaker with them, to come 5th and Duncan Salmon appeared to be pretty much last before scooting through to 4th at some point...

Bring on more 'Down River' races was the popular consensus, and a big thanks to the Ranelagh committee for making it possible.


1st 3347 David Vines / Fran Gifford - Tamesis
2nd 1097 Mike Stephens / Jodok Gerber - Tamesis
3rd 370 Andy Dalby / Andrea Ralph - Hampton
4th 3702 Duncan Salmon / Harriet Salmon - Wembley
5th 3374 MJ Gifford / Jon Ibbotson - Ranelagh
6th 3058 Andy Harris / Abigail Croft - Tamesis
7th 3694 Alan Markham / Alice Markham - Upper Thames
8th 3682 Tony Johnson / Louise Johnson - Lymington
9th 3556 Alex Jones / Jack Deung - Cookham
10th 3697 Phil Dalby / James Wazzer - Hampton
11th 3555 Tim Harridge / Maria Gray - Hampton
12th 3682 John Steward / Nick Yannakoyorges - Fishers Green
13th 3422 Martin Wollny / Natalija Wollny - Ranelagh
14th 3106 Brian Clarke / James Hayward - Ranelagh
15th 2744 Michael Airey / Nick Wilson - Ranelagh
RTD 3073 Christopher Edwards / Una Hodgkins - Ranelagh
RTD Alan Broadbent / Amanda Cook - Wembley
RTD Colin Brockbank / Matilda Hewitt - Wembley

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