Sonata Racing 24th September

It was a quiet day in Lower Upnor. The weak autumnal sun shone down on the Medway Yacht club and the five gallant Sonata crews as they mentally prepared for the contest. The early swallows had already departed for warmer climes and despite the balmy weather on the yacht club terrace, the forecast was for a chilly northerly wind, force 4 gusting 5, and a more than even chance of rain. Adding to the sense of foreboding, the signal was given that lifejackets were mandatory.

The contest was going to be a difficult one: Course 29, down to 18 with loops at the beginning and end and a strong outgoing tide for those who managed the return journey. Despite concerns (and some mutterings) that the 12 mile course with variable winds could seriously reduce after race drinks, the challenge was bravely accepted.

As 1300 hours approached, the crews abandoned their mental preparation of beer, butties and cake and made their way aboard their finely tuned racing machines. As the boats circled the start line, a sole remaining Spitfire flew overhead on its way back to Biggin Hill, reminding the crews of the magnitude of their challenge.

At 1350 hours the crews commenced their mission. Despite the variable winds but aware that the promised force 4 was not yet upon them, all crews bravely launched their spinnakers. Keeping to the south side of the Home Reach, all of the boats made a good start. However by the end of the straight, Watersong had taken the lead, demonstrating her national credentials, followed closely by Skipper, Blue Tac, Screwloose and Cry Havoc. Spinnakers were dropped at 29 as the boats returned to 30A and once more set off down river to the end of Long Reach and the target of 18. Although heavy rain clouds appeared over Nor Marsh and Gillingham, the fleet pressed on and were lucky to suffer only a brief shower.

Heading almost directly into the, largely northerly wind, the boats crossed from Folly Point to Darnet Fort with Watersong still ahead and making a close pass around Darnett. Along Long Reach, while Blue Tac sailed up inside Skipper, Watersong went further up into the tide and came down on 18 under spinnaker just as Blue Tac rounded, making a thrillingly close rounding of 18 by both boats together, as witnessed from Skipper, which had just dropped behind.

Sailing back up from 20 towards MYA1, the first three boats kept close to the south shore, taking the most direct route. From Skipper we watched Watersong drop their spinnaker and head out into the stream having apparently touched the mud. Blue Tac in turn, touched, dropped the spinnaker and headed out. We were then surprised to touch ground ourselves and rapidly had to drop the spinnaker and head into the river under genoa.

All of the boats continued in the same positions with Watersong just ahead of Blue Tac, Skipper dropping slightly, followed by Screwloose and Cry Havoc dropping some way behind.

Despite some heavy gusts which threatened to broach the spinnaker carrying boats on a few occasions, the wind, which had generally stayed at force 3, once again dropped on the Home Reach. This made the final return to Upnor Line exciting. All boats kept to the boatyard side, out of the tide. Having doggedly followed Watersong for most of the course, Blue Tac gained the lead. However the light and fickle winds allowed Watersong to regain the lead at the last minute while Skipper, followed by Screwloose closed up on the front boats.

With the first four boats home, Cry Havoc came down the Home Reach to complete the fleet.

A surprisingly early  finish, just after 1600 hours, allowed plenty of time to reconvene on the terrace and reflect over what had turned out to be a pleasant sail for the time of year.

Final results, with all boats making it home undamaged:


Blue Tac



Cry Havoc