Time for our second Impala Safari – this time we’re off to the River Severn. Rob Hudson writes: ‘Thornbury Sailing Club is positioned right at the top of the Bristol Channel, a couple of miles north of the old Severn Bridge on the English side of the river. It is an area notorious for its tidal range (over 40 foot on springs), the speed of the tide, and the mud and sandbanks. Club sailing is possible a couple of hours either side of high water, and if cruisers go down channel they ride the tide, often into a vicious short chop against the prevailing south westerlies. Getting out of the Bristol Channel can be a slog!
The first Impala at the club was Romper (9605), bought by Bill Beere from Heybridge Basin on the East Coast in 2007. Bill is a great sailor, and with his previous boat, a J80, cleaned up most of the prizes at TSC and in the Channel from Cardiff north. This encouraged Gary Chapman and Jon Everett to buy Rocker (9586) in 2011 from the same club on the East Coast. They unashamedly bought Rocker with the sole intention of beating Romper in the TSC Frostbite series, which gets between 10 and 15 cruisers of various types racing between January and April. It took a while, but in year three Rocker won the series. In 2014 Rob Hudson put together a syndicate to buy Mercenary (9544) from Scotland, with the aim of beating Romper and now Rocker, and after three years managed to do so.All three TSC Impalas are fitted with outboards rather than Yanmar inboard engines. The racing is very close, but we couldn’t help wondering if we were as fast as other Impala fleets. There was one way to find out – go to the Nationals! So in 2016 we put together a team from all three crews and towed Rocker to Southampton to compete in the Nationals in Cowes. Rocker was repainted for the occasion and looked resplendent, but when we had a practise sail against Polly the day before the Nationals we were well off the pace. However, Bill helmed on day one, won the second race, and we were 3rd at the end of the day. Rob helmed on day two and we lay 4th overall. Gary helmed for the last two races on day three, and we finally finished 5th out of 14. It was a great experience, and particularly pleasing as the two foredeck crew had never sailed on an Impala before the first race. One of them, Tom Sully, has gone on to helm Vlad in the Hamble series and the Nationals.Hopefully Impalas will continue to play a part in TSC and Bristol Channel racing for many years to come, and the Mercenary syndicate still intends to make the Nationals one day! Bill is considering selling Romper, so if we can’t find another syndicate to buy her, there may well be a very fast Impala on the market soon.”