River Aln Boat Club
FOLLOWING the frustrations of races cancelled due to thunderstorms and high winds, River Aln Boat Club was racing again on Sunday afternoon in fair conditions, warm and blessed with a light onshore breeze.
The winter starting point opposite the Ferryman’s Hut was selected by a short-handed race officiator and the scene was set for an interesting start to a four-lap race.
The sun brought out 11 eager competitors for the 4.15pm start. Firstly, singlehanded were Ted Lawson in the Wanderer, Ed Price in the Vago, Steve Ellaby in the Enterprise, Andrew Ackroyd in the Blaze, Tony Hambleton and Jonathan Wallis in Mirrors and The Treasurer in the Lark.
Crewed were Steve Anstee and The Commodore in Enterprises, Andrew Ternent in the ISO and John Young for his first race in the Leader.
The start line ran from the Ferryman’s Hut to a buoy mid-channel and it was directly upwind from there to the Ferryman’s Hut mark.
The tide was flooding fast and still at least an hour before high water, so navigable area was at a premium close to the line with eleven boats jockeying for position.
The start gun saw the ISO and two Steves away first, with the Vago and Blaze close behind.
The Lark was heading in the wrong direction but got away with the third Enterprise and the others followed at a respectable distance.
The ISO tacked up to round the upwind mark first, followed by the two Steves and bore away downwind for the West Bank mark which was hiding behind a moored fishing boat.
The flood carried the boats as much as the wind pushed them to the west side of the river, and some were lucky not to be set down to the wrong side of the mark.
The ISO began to pull out a slight lead over the following Enterprises, with Steve Ellaby having the faster ride through having less weight in the boat.
The Blaze and Vago followed with a good lead over the Enterprise and Lark. The turning mark at Pan Leazes allowed the boats to harden up and then beat up to the Pan Leases mark and complete the first half of the course.
The return downriver against the flood however was a little more tricky and all the boats started to struggle once around the Pan Leazes turning mark.
The wind was fickle and to beat against both it and the tide required the utmost concentration.
Each boat had its own stategy to try to keep out of as much tide as possible.
The ISO and Blaze kept mostly west, with the others trying a more easterly option.
At both extremes of the channel, there is a fine line between current avoidance and running aground.
Most boats suffered from both brakes on progress, but some had more serious issues of silent mutiny aboard to contend with as well.
The ISO held her lead, with Steve Ellaby leading the chasing pack.
The Lark gained places on the Blaze, Enterprise of Steve Anstee and Vago to round the Ferryman’s Hut mark in third place.
The others were faring less well, with the Wanderer, Mirrors and Leader well back, the field was unusually widely spread out.
The Vago caught the Lark again by the West Bank buoy and they raced together down to the Pan Leases marker, catching up on Steve Ellaby slowly but surely.
The Pan Leases beat saw the Lark pull ahead once more and the beat back to the start decided it.
The Lark pulled away and passed the Enterprise to be second over the start and (what became) the finishing line after a truncated race of only two steady laps.
Once the handicaps were taken into account, the Lark won followed by the brilliantly sailed Mirror of Johnathan Wallis, the ISO, Enterprise of Steve Ellaby, Vago, Enterprise of Steve Anstee, Blaze, Enterprise of the Commodore, Wanderer, Leader and Mirror of Tony Hambleton who retired before the end.
The light conditions were very difficult for the slower boats and much persistence to continue racing was shown.
The race followed on from a very successful club barbeque the previous afternoon, when a good few club members were out sailing as well and, hopefully, will be followed by a cruise in company towards Low Newton (weather permitting) over the tide starting at 9am on Saturday.
The next dinghy race will start at 5pm on July 17.