The BOD’s dominance of the Thursday night series continues with Mark White’s White Spirit, crewed by Dick Stephens and Mark Wilby, claiming victory in the fourth race in the series. Second place went to Alan Hick’s Storm Petrel with Craig and Jayne Bond crewing and fourth place overall and third BOD when to Fiona Brown, Sally Hare and Georgina White sailing Grethe. Mike Hempstead was also out in Gelasma with Ann and Ed Howson and rounded out the BOD fleet in fourth place.
As the crews arrived in the boat park a big squall was blowing through and the boats initially delayed launching for a few minutes while Race Officer Barry Newman evaluated the situation. Fortunately the forecast was for the wind to drop through the evening and in a short while the squall had gone through and the decision was made to sail. Although the wind never came up as strongly again and indeed went very light at times, it was none the less a tricky evening’s sailing as various storm cells and lines of rain rolled around the Thames Estuary making for extremely variable and shifty conditions.
Off the line White Spirit got the best start with Storm Petrel right next to her. As the gun went a second sound signal indicated a boat was OCS and since they were leading boat by a few feet White Spirit turned back to recross. What they hadn’t at that point realised was that Gelasma had had some issues and was not on the line at all, but half way down the creek and sailing back towards the start so was the boat the RC were identifying as OCS. White Spirit executed a smart return and restart but it put them back into the second row with Grethe who had been late to launch as was making a last minute dash to the line a few seconds late.
Unsurprisingly Storm Petrel was first to Gate with White Spirit and Grethe trading tacks behind as Gelasma made her way back to the line to start. The first leg was a mainly starboard tack beat out to Hills and with the ebb tide just starting to run there was a noticeable chop in the main channel. Theoretically sticking in the main channel with strongest tide should have paid, but with the breeze now well down it was hard going working through the chop and White Spirit made the smart move of going further over to the Mersea shore before flopping over for the long tack out. They might not have had as much tidal advantage but they certainly had less chop and it was to prove a major benefit as they stormed past first Grethe and then Storm Petrel.
As White Spirit and Storm Petrel fought it out for supremacy Grethe initially managed to hang onto their coat tails, but a fumbled rounding on the gybe at Big Buoy (Fi dropped the tiller and only missed hitting the buoy thanks to the quick thinking of her crew!) allowed the other two boats to race away and from that point forward they were on their own with Grethe never able to make up the lost ground.
As the final gun approached White Spirit and Storm Petrel were just rounding Hills on the second lap with a comfortable margin on the rest of the fleet, but Grethe was battling it out with various other boats for the overall placings. Fortunately conditions were absolutely perfect for the BOD and Grethe managed to grind in a couple of boats just before the final gun to take fourth overall and third BOD. After their late start Gelasma was never able to catch up with the main BOD group, but they had a wonderful sail and managed to finish in front of a number of the fleet.
One of the most wonderful things about the Thursday night series is sailing into the dusk on the Colne River which is home to some of the most stunning sunsets on the planet. Even on a squally evening they can be spectacular as you can see from Sally Hare’s fantastic photo above. Thanks also go to Sally for this lovely pic of young Georgina White celebrating Grethe’s third place in the BODs with a small glass of lemonade (nod nod wink wink)!
With a second place to add to a pair of firsts and a third, Storm Petrel currently has a nice overall lead in the Thursday night series. White Spirit is second BOD with Grethe third.