Well the weather most definitely did show up for a fantastic weekend’s racing for the Williwaw. The sun was shining and the wind was almost consistent for the Saturday when our two competitors took to the water to compete for the cup; defending champion Digger Harden onboard his J-92, JACKAL, and Lizzie Brown with a largely family crew onboard the Corby 25, SLIPSTREAM, very kindly lent by Neil Fulcher.
The first race got underway promptly at 10:00 with both boats firing off the start line with near second perfect starts, but after a few tacks it was ultimately Digger’s J-92 that showed prowess in the foul tide beat. By Pile House they had separated ahead and were the first to give a salute to the newly titled Rubber Ball (née Greenward).
Both boats continued fighting the tide all the way to Inner Crouch, where a slight misjudgement on lay lines caused the gap to close and both boats to round within touch of each other.
Two hoists followed that rivalled the golden age of the IACC, but the battle of Asymmetric v Symmetric proved to be the decider for this leg, with Slipstream being able to take the best line through the tide to Redward, with gibing on Jackal costing them some time.
Next followed a shorter beat up to Clarks with spinnakers being hastily packed and downwind gear being reset in anticipation of a speedy second hoist but… the mark was nowhere to be seen! After a bit of a chat between competitors, it was established the buoy has very kindly been moved half a mile, so we best keep going!
With the sneaky yellow fiend finally found, both boats rounded again for a smooth run with the last of the flood for the blast of the horn off the RB Club Line.
With just over two hours for lunch (civilised racing is the only way), both boats pulled up on the end of the pontoon for a bite to eat and a pint of refreshment. Our master of ceremonies, Sid Livingstone, took this opportunity to graciously present Digger Harden with the trophy for the previous year, so he could truly hold his title of defending champion.
The crowd cheered for the belated award, but distraction came shortly afterwards in the form of… flying? The youngest of the Brown clan took the opportunity to run home, grab a wetsuit and some foiling equipment, and very kindly our launch driver Malcolm offered a bit of on water assistance …
A beautiful sight of him popping up, overtaking the launch, then going straight over the front. Comments included, ‘Wow!’, ‘What’s that he’s on?’
And ‘There really is something wrong with him, isn’t there?’
With approximately half an hour to go, Arthur got the home sign and dashed back to the pontoon to strip off his wetsuit and jump back onboard SLIPSTREAM for race two of the day.
As the boats were eyeing up their transits, start mentalities took a much more conservative approach, as the Ebb had begun to rip, and a start in the channel only to be over would be extremely costly.
Both boats set off with Digger’s strong start to windward giving him immediate command of the beat, controlling every move of SLIPSTREAM all the way out the moorings.
Lizzie finally managed to break from his grasp as the boats took split strategies around Horse Shoal, but the split proved costly and once again JACKAL was able to be the first to salute Rubber Ball in this race too.
However, the Corby was not yet done, and with breeze increasing by just a few knots, she began to find another gear! Slowly chewing back the meters, the boats began to get back in touch coming up to Ron Pipe, where they found a fishing boat who appeared to have become deliberately entangled with the mark…
10 people shouting over ‘we’re racing here!’, probably made them jump only half as much as the flash of colour as the competitors vied for the most seamless hoist.
Once again the use of the Symmetric proved to be beneficial, as the foul tide run to Horse Shoal forced the J-92 to tack in and out of the tide, while the shallow line taken by Lizzie, to never let the echo sounder show over 0.3m, demonstrated that sailing fast on this river does require a level of fearlessness bordering on the unhinged.
As SLIPSTREAM reaped the benefits of this tide advantage, they slowly separated away from Digger, and a late cross from the safety of north shore shallows over to Horse Shoal buoy secured them a lead to round up for the second beat.
With tide now really pulling them along, a speedy pack of kites was really required, as both boats sought the kick out of the road to push them to Clarks to get underway with the final run and, most importantly, the race to the bar.
SLIPSTREAM was able to keep the lead and, after a healthy debate over north over south shore (which was proven to be the wrong decision when the Elite of the Hobday family made stellar gains going south), a quick cross over to run back to the line ultimately allowed SLIPSTREAM to cross within meters of the pontoon to claim their second victory of the day in true photo finish style.
A big thank you to everyone for coming out, particularly the Racebox team and the bar staff, Sid Livingstone and everyone on the water for making it a brilliant weekend.