Gaastra Friday Evening Series - Exceeding the Hamble River speed limit

The Club’s Sailing Secretary speeding up the Hamble River at eight knots
Phil Riley
Surpassing the Hamble River speed limit is not generally encouraged by the Royal Southern Yacht Club, but it garnered a round of applause from members lining the balcony at the finish of the latest Gaastra Friday Evening Racing event.

The celebration of the minor misdemeanour followed the winning performance of the J80 Boysterous, helmed by the Club's sailing secretary Natalie Gray.

'We were doing eight knots at times coming up the river,' Natalie confirmed. 'It's the fastest I've ever sailed on the Hamble - not that I'd condone anyone breaking the speed limit of course.’

'It was great to be able to finish in front of the club, a perfect end to a great race,' she added.

The finish line for the Friday evening short-course racing series - which is the transit between the Royal Southern's flagstaff and the green pile on the opposite side of the river to the Club - was included in the Sailing Instructions after agreement with the Hamble River Harbour Master. However, the race on June 14th was the first that wind and weather made it practicable to use.

The steady 12 knot south easterly breeze allowed race officer Nick Hollamby, assisted by Roger Harding, to set courses for National Handicap for Cruisers (NHC) and XOD classes that saw them heading back into the river after about an hour of racing.

Boysterous' impressive performance also saw the J80 take NHC as well as line honours, ahead of the quarter-tonner Bad Toad, which lost its spinnaker halyard at the half-way point, and classic day boat Cockleshell.

Simon Russell's Swallow took the XOD class ahead of Mos Fitzgerald's Kathleen and Gerry Golding's Pepper, though not before a start line drama. Heading for the committee boat end of the Bald Head line, Simon admitted that he and crew Hamish Calder had underestimated the strength of the tide.

As the evening light fades, there are some close finishes in front of the Royal Southern YC - 2013 Gaastra Friday Evening Series
Phil Riley

'We were early for the start with quite a bit of tide under us so we had to bail out,' he said. 'Fortunately the helmsman had it all under control and managed to avoid what could have been quite a nasty collision, but we got away with it.'

Hamish added: 'It was only when I put the helm down that I realised I wasn't going to make it and had to change our plans.'

After losing around 20 seconds, Swallow was able to cross the line and managed to get back on terms with the fleet and then ease ahead before heading in to the river.

'It was part two of the race coming up the river, and it was really nice to finish off the club,' said Simon. 'This was our first short-course race, but we love the idea of it. It's ideal for a Friday evening, a couple of hours on the water and a couple of beers afterwards. Fantastic. More people should do it.'

The appeal of a river finish was endorsed by Cockleshell's Jonty Sherwill. 'It was fun to finish this evening's race off the clubhouse under spinnaker and also good experience for 16 year-old Callum Weston who helmed the whole race. Callum finished his GCSE exams this morning so I thought it would be good R&R for him.'

As for the evolving nature of NHC and its results-driven handicapping, Jonty added: 'As the slow boat in the fleet we were the last one home and well beaten by the bigger boats in our class. But that's handicap racing and as someone remarked, under the NHC system, losing is ''an investment in the future''.

'To get the full measure of how well it can work we need a broader range of boats out sailing. If one looks at the RYA's Base List for NHC it's clear that the system is aimed at every type of keelboat and not just cruisers, as Portsmouth Yardstick did before it, and if the profile of current entrants to the Royal Southern series is typical of elsewhere then National Handicapping for Clubs might be a better handle for it.

'Either way what is important is that clubs like the Royal Southern continue to put on easy entry racing at times convenient for those with just enough time for a spin round the buoys and a beer at the bar.'

The Royal Southern's Gaastra Friday Evening Series continues until July 12th.

The Gaastra Friday Evening Series is open to everyone. There's no entry fee for members and it's only £10 for non-members. Those racing, their family and friends are all welcome in the Club Bar and can stay for supper in the River Room if they wish. It's a great way to kick-start your weekend!

Event website