A classic Battle of the Fleets  


Five teams took to the water at Queen Mary for Saturday’s infamous Battle of the Fleets. Historically sailed between sailors from the highly competitive and gong-festooned Laser fleet, and the biggest RS400 fleet in the Galaxy, according to their fleet captain. True to form however, the Laser’s were off pot-hunting at a Masters event Elsewhere, leaving the RS400 team pouting slightly at the blatant cowardice of their clearly intimidated opposition.

Luckily, help was at hand, and another four crews from various clubs near the M25 (King George, Fishers Green, our very own Saturday Club) assembled looking for some asymmetric action. Unfortunately since these J80’s were fitted with symmetric kites all were to be disappointed – particularly the bowmen who were looking forward to a nice relaxing time. A vote was then taken on whether the big floppy thing at the front was a) legal b) desirable. The vote was bravely carried by a narrow majority, despite a punchy-looking gust or two maxing out at Beaufort Force 1 every ten minutes or so. For the record many subsequently repented having not really realised that a wineglass was a much MUCH better thing when accompanied by wine, rather than twisted around the forestay in a glass half empty kind of way.

Six races were due, and racing duly got underway, to the surprise of most crews who were in an advanced state of mental undress when the start hooter sounded. A two lap, windward leeward course was designed, with a spreader leg designed to prevent carnage at the windward mark. The intergalactic RS400 entry materialised at the windward mark just ahead of boats 6 and 7, and proceeded to hoist spinnaker and pull away from the pursuing masses, almost as if they knew what they were doing. A visual effect that was strongly contradicted by volume and content of the crew’s “conversation”, however this clearly didn’t slow them down and boat 4 took race one by a comfortable margin. Second race, and a more normal contested start line resulted in what is technically called a bun fight. By the windward mark boats 8, 6 and 7 featured strongly. Boat 7 secured second place, with 6 close behind – all the more impressive for their steadfast refusal to hoist a spinnaker, however boat 4 managed to take the race, again using that spinnaker thing. Last race before lunch and the start line was getting decidedly claustrophobic, luckily the starting gun put paid to that, and boats 4,6 and 7 secured the podium. A short break for a traditional three course lunch (sandwich, packet of crisps, chocolate), deliverood by RIB, a nice treat for dinghy sailors not used to such pampering.

Race 4 started splendidly, continued haphazardly, and was ignominiously re-started due to a resurgence of advanced glassiness, which went down well with 4/5ths of the fleet. Luckily the wind filled in again shortly afterwards, and the rerun resulted in much the same suspects as with the pre-lunch races.

Race 5 brought the previously unstoppable RS400 entry tumbling to earth, rounding the windward mark in last place, with 7 leading the pack, however some misfortunes on other boats allowed them to claw back to 2nd by the finish.

Last race of the day started promptly by the Royal Thames race team, led to absolutely no upsets, everyone finishing in a very pleasant force 2 with bright sunshine, having completed a great day on the water, with only limited shouting, very well run racing courtesy of the Royal Thames, and having made many new friends. A great event.


Howard Farbrother

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