Dave, that’s a very nice write-up.
As for shooting bridges, preparation is key;
I remember doing the Wayfarer passage race a good few years ago on a similar route. We were a long way behind the top racing boys but we did get a special mention for the best bridge shooting;
The wind was behind us and with some speed we approached under full sail. Fortunately it all came down in what looked like a controlled fashion a few metres before the bridge. We then somehow managed to get mast and sails back up in one go a similar distance from the other side. I think we gained about 10 places.
It does not always go so smoothly, usually just as you start to get a bit confident about bridge shooting. The Upper Thames has lots of bridges, I remember clouting a wooden footbridge so hard I thought I must have put a dent in the mast.
Also judging whether or not you need to lower the mast to get under a bridge can be tricky. Someone who will remain nameless attempted to get under one of the higher bridges on the Bristol city waterway by heeling the boat over a few degrees. But misjudged things and got badly stuck half way through. Fortunately we were behind so we lowered our mast.