Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bloody Mary Handicap Race - 2015

There is nothing like this in entire world. In the middle of winter, 235 racing dinghies from most of the English classes, and based all around England, show up at a reservoir in West London to race a pursuit race. This year the breeze was on and Yachts and Yachting online has the story.

If you are like me and can watch dinghies planing this-way-and-that-way all day long on YouTube, you'll find this video of the 2015 Bloody Mary enjoyable. It's nice to see the 1960's vintage Fireball placing on top. They still have symmetrical spinnakers and seeing the crew manhandle the spinnaker pole onto the mast on the spinnaker sets reminds me of my crewing days. One can also glimpse the two new singlehanders, the RS Aero and the D-Zero making appearances at the leeward mark.

(I also noticed Steve Cockerill, head honcho of Rooster Sailing, who can have his pick of the latest, greatest sailing kit, sailing without gloves....Wassup with that!...Ouch!)

For a previous post on English winter sailing click here.


Tillerman said...

Those crazy English!

Tweezerman said...


Nutty for sailing in a good way. There is such a glorious tradition of dinghy racing in
England and the worse the weather the better they like it. I remember passing a pond. just acres big, in Welwyn Garden City. There was a least 20 racing dinghies filling every nook and cranny. No idea what the course was. This is not something you would see in the U.S.

Tillerman said...

This is true Tweezerman. My first sailing club was on one of those tiny little lakes - a gravel pit in fact - and we had about 20 boats out racing every weekend all year long. And there are ponds like that scattered all over the country.

Another big difference with the UK dinghy scene is the prevalence of handicap and pursuit racing. There might be a dozen different classes at the club but they all race together.

The Bloody Mary may well be the biggest pursuit race in the country. At that first club I mentioned we had a sort of strange combination of one design and pursuit, because only 4 classes were allowed, but we raced those 4 classes in pursuit races every weekend. I guess the restriction to 4 classes made the starting sequence easier to manage.

But the tradition of pursuit and handicap races means that it's very easy for new classes to get established. The new classes this year like the RS Aero and D-Zero can race handicap at their clubs and also participate in major events like the Bloody Mary. There is already an established series of events like this that the new classes can join.

Tillerman said...

I wonder if it was Welwyn Garden City Sailing Club that you saw. Certainly fits your description.

Looking on the map it would seem that their "lake" is actually just a wider section of the River Lea, and is only about 1000 feet long. I see from their website that one of their members did acquire an RS Aero this year and was able to race it in their pursuit races.

Tweezerman said...


That's the one. Thanks. Amazing how the photographs give the impression of a very much large body of water.

I see they also factor in a Personal Handicap factor. I wonder how that works? Is that a rolling handicap average of your results over the last "x" number of races. A very commendable idea.

Tillerman said...

Yes I saw that. My first club in the UK used to run a personal handicap regatta over several days of the Easter weekend (a 4 day holiday in the UK.) As I recall it was based on your performance in the regular races and your handicap was updated during the weekend. I think it was some kind of weighted average of performance in recent races and your previous handicap. I did do well in that one year when I was still a raw beginner.

The Optimist fleet at my second club also had some personal handicap series running in parallel with the regular scoring.

And we didn't have spreadsheets to do all the calculations and scoring in those days!

Dieharddinghysailor said...

Yeh, those guys are crazy - we used to do the Frostbite series on the Thames in British Moths (that was in the 50's), and I hardly ever got to sail on open water until I moved to Australia in 1965 and started sailing on Lake Illawarra - a 10 mile wide stretch of open water with those wonderful 30+ knot Southerlies that would come in unexpectedly after a steaming hot day and flatten the fleet amidst a flurry of white horses...! But in the UK, I sailed mostly on tiny lakes and narrow rivers. The idea of personal handicaps hadn't been thought of in those days.