EDP 2010

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Historical Information | ← Press Reports | EDP 2010

Entrants hope 50th race will be plain sailing
by Ed Foss (2010)

Reproduced courtesy of the Eastern Daily Press
Potter Heigham bridge hazard

For decades it has allowed sailors and landlubbers alike to take full advantage of some of Norfolk’s most stunning inland waterways while testing the seamanship, navigation and endurance of competitors.

The names of winners go down in Broadland folklore and the camaraderie built passes down generations and across social divides.

And this weekend, history, sport and miles of idyllic rivers will again be joined together in a milestone celebration of the annual Three Rivers Race, Europe’s longest inland sailing race.

The race, parts of which can be viewed around the world thanks to a set of web cameras, celebrates its 50th anniversary – with the largest number of entrants yet gathered for the gruelling 24 hour challenge.

Competitors will include several who sailed in the inaugural race alongside others who will tackle the weaving Broads course of approximately 50 miles for the first time, taking in the Bure, Ant and Thurne.

The invitation only race is expected to feature more than 170 boats, several dozen more than normal, to mark the anniversary year.

There will also be a special veterans’ mini event held for sailors of more advanced years, including those aged in their 80’s.

And the winter of the first ever race, 73 year old Hugh Tusting, will be taking part in the same boat, with the same crew and sailing the whole course.

The increased numbers of entries have caused an extra administrative burden, said organiser Colin Facey, but he said the resulting “enormous” amount of work was worthwhile to celebrate the special year.

Web cams will be operating at the start and finish at Horning Sailing Club, the mediaeval Potter Heigham bridge and Acle Bridge.

The race leaves Horning at 11am on Saturday, with each boat required to visit four checkpoints in any order – near Ludham Bridge, South Walsham Broad, Hickling Broad and a moveable market between Stokesby and Six Mile House, which can be used to make the course longer or shorter according to weather conditions.

Mr Facey admitted that he was always too terrified to check the weather forecast in advance, but had been told in passing by other people that it looked set to be a “lovely weekend”.

“If it is blowing an absolute hooley it’s a nightmare, and I don’t really want to know in advance”.

“I would rather wait until the day. It has taken months of organisation, but it will be a very special year and I hope as many people come and enjoy it as possible.”

Among the original competitors sailing this year will be David Hastings, who came up with the original idea for the race when he was secretary for Horning Sailing Club.

The original idea was to sail the Bure, Thurne and Waveney, but safety concerns led to the Waveney being removed from the plan and the Ant added.

“It’s quite amazing to think that an idea I had all those years ago is still going,” said Mr Hastings.

It’s a lot of fun, both for participants and spectators, a genuine challenge in many different ways and I am very much looking forward to being part of a crew on the day.”

Memories included a team of two ahead of him who fell asleep, only to rudely awoken when they hit Potter Heigham bridge, he said.

Boats of all classes, shapes and sizes from as far afield as Australia take part in the race using a handicap system.

There are 24 trophies up for grabs and about 100 volunteers are involved in running the race.

The race presents a challenge even to expert sailors, as participants battle low bridges and strong tides, and fight exhaustion from the distance sailed.

A major task for competitors is to use their tactical skills to decide in which order they will complete the course, using tide and wind to maximum effect.

The festivities begin tomorrow at 3pm with a barbecue.

On Saturday, a staged start sees boats leaving at five minute intervals.

Colin Facey
Race course

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