Tideway Races

1964 Tideway Race to the Tower of London Tideway races have long been a feature of the racing programme for many years. Depending on river traffic, tides and wind conditions the turning mark is getting dropped close to Battersea Power Station, Big Ben or the whole fleet may actually go ashore on Tower Beach for a picnic.
The three key challenges of Tideway Races are to not hit a bridge with the mast, to not hit the ground with the centre board and to not hit another boat in what the Port of London Authority (PLA) describes the busiest waterway in the UK.

With regards to bridges, there are 19 between Putney and the Tower of London. Under most of them the wind either completely drops, becomes a run or a beat. The only way to get through in safety is to align the centre of the arch, to ease the sheets and then let the tide do the rest. No surprise then that Tideway Races are timed so that the turning mark is reached at slack water, just before the flood tide starts to come back in.

Competitors getting ready for the 60th Anniversary Merlin Tideway Race (2006)

With regards to the second challenge, centre boards hitting the ground, a good warning are large gravel banks on the shore which can extend far into the river bed. Lifting rudders are highly recommended, too.

Finally, avoiding traffic is essential, in particular when meeting high speed commuter ferries in Central London. Competitors in Tideway Races typically carry a paddle to help avoid obstacles even when the wind drops. Of course it is absolutely essential to understand the navigational rules and bylaws relevant for the Thames!

In 2012, the club hosted the Jack Holt Centenary Tideway Race, exclusively for sailing dinghies built or designed by Jack Holt. Many beautifully restored wooden dinghies from the 1940s and 1950s attended, including Mirrors, Merlins, Enterprises, Solos, Cadets, GP14s and many other. A full race report can be found on the YachtsAndYachting website

Invitation for the Centenary Tideway Race in 1989

In 2006, Ranelagh was the obvious starting point for the 60th Anniversary Tideway Regatta of the Merlin Rocket Class. In 1946, Jack Holt had built the first ever Merlin, called Kate, for a syndicate of Ranelagh sailors. Nick Price filmed the race from the start in Putney to the turning mark in front of Westminster. A detailed race report and more photos can be found on the website of the Merlin Rocket Association.

On 9 September 1989, Ranelagh celebrated its Centenary Birthday with a grand Tideway Race to the Tower of London. Exactly 100 boats participated with classes restricted to Merlins, N12, Enterprises, Lasers and Fireflies.

Further back, major Tideway Races had been organised for the Silver Jubilee in 1977 and before that in 1964.