Thanks to everyone who turned out for the inaugural Cruiser Class “King of the River” race.
The results are online here, and here’s a race report from Paul Goodman-Simpson (Reefer):
The wind and tide conditions for the King of the River race were favourable with a steady 15kts from the East, and a strong ebb tide taking the boats down towards Queenborough before turning at 12.45 or thereabouts to push the fleet home. No rain! Nine boats were on the MYC line for a keenly contested start which saw Reefer getting away first on the beat down heartbreak reach to be overhauled by Sulis who led the fleet out of Gillingham reach and past Folly point.
The ‘King of the River’ race consisted of five marks inside or at the entrance to various creeks on the Medway that could be taken in any order, and it was at buoy 23 that skippers made their first decisions on what was the best route. Sulis, Reefer, Xepha, and Burlesque rounded buoy 23 whilst others elected to sail on past. Some were less than fortunate. Hammy Nixon’s Valhalla suffered a serious steering malfunction with their rudder jammed hard to port causing them to go around in circles. Apparently the emergency tiller offered no relief, but thankfully they were assisted by Marguerite back to the club without too much damage to crew or the boat. Surfeit (Hunter 707) went hard aground by 23 and stayed there for a good few hours without food, booze or hot drinks on board.
Meanwhile the fleet split again as it headed down river. Sulis powered upwind to buoy 16 and charged into Half Acre Creek and onto Otterham Fairway, whilst Reefer and Eleison (Feeling 32) both chasing in pursuit, overcooked it and ran temporarily aground at Bishop Marsh on a falling tide, but managing to get off reasonably smartly. Most boats sailed past Half Acre Creek and on towards Bee Ness before heading further down river. From there many sailed on and into Queenborough before going into Stangate creek to round the red buoy to starboard. Reefer and Sulis opted to take Stangate on the way down to Queenborough with Sulis well ahead of the fleet, and Reefer being the last into the creek passing a procession of boats coming out the other way.
By 13:00 all the boats were heading back home towards Upnor, but not all had to sail the same course. Sulis led the fleet up river, and having previously rounded the buoy inside Stangate Creek was able to sail past and onto Bee Ness, whilst several others boats still had to divert to port and into the creek to round the mark, and then do the same at Half Acre Creek.
Burlesque was the first boat out of Half Acre and back into the fairway and a flooding tide chased by Xepha and Eleison with the breeze behind them. But since Eleison had still to round 23, the others opened up a healthy lead by having a shorter distance to sail. Meanwhile Reefer (Robber 3E) was last out of Queenborough being the only boat to have rounded all the marks on the way down river. For a while it looked as though the strategy hadn’t paid off, but by virtue of being able to sail a direct course back up river, and not having to drop and re-hoist their spinnaker in order to sail into Stangate or Half Acre, they had closed on the fleet by Kingsnorth power station and were back in contention.
By the time Sulis had taken line honours (3:37:52 elapsed) Burlesque was leading Xepha into Gillingham reach ahead of Eleison and Reefer. Fortunately, heartbreak reach didn’t live up to its name, with a strong tide and easterly breeze sending the boats quickly over the ground towards the line. Xepha (under spinnaker) managed to pass Burlesque to take second place on the water (3:55:32) with Burlesque crossing 26 seconds later to take third. Next across was Eleison (3:59:38) ahead of Reefer by 31 seconds. Suntrek (GK24) being the smallest boat in the fleet finished an hour and five minutes after line honours winner Sulis (Dehler 35) which is good going after roughly 24 nautical miles of sailing!
The overall winner on handicap was Reefer (3:23:53), with Sulis second (3:28:43) and Eleison in third (3:32:19). None of the first three boats sailed the same course to the five marks. Full results are here. The King of the River for 2016 is Reefer.