Jamesia II 2011
River Cruiser: Jamesia II (2011)
Posted by Mat Gravener, 6th June, 2011
Well, what a three rivers race!
Predicted north easterly winds of 15mph seemed a little on the conservative side. After the usual jovialities at the briefing and catching up with friends and fellow competitors, Paul and I moored in the reeds at the start wondering whether to put a reef in on Jamesia II. One or two white boats, which is our nearest comparison, had a reef but others looked perfectly under control with full rig. We stuck the lot up and worked our way up to the start and were just a few seconds behind.
A steady reach and run out of Horning cheered on by the crowd saw us keeping up with our starters, although one or two were clearly a lot quicker, but we were holding our own and I was delighted with the boat. A tacking duel by Cockshoot dyke started separating boats and we thought we had some clear space hoping earlier starts were well clear. Jamesia kept up and overhauled one or two faster boats and when we cleared the waterworks corner were greeted with a river full of boats trying to tack on an awkward bend. We outpointed a heavily reefed White Wings, who ran aground, then somehow sneaked past all the boats and got clear. Spotted Perfect Lady 9 charging up behind us but they were held up with the others. Doug mentioned this to me at the finish!
We had some fickle wind on the last corner before the straight to Ant mouth but held off another river cruiser which came storming up behind us. He very kindly dropped below us as we decided to get the Ant leg out of the way. Some short tacking up the Ant then a brisk reach and we got to the mark at 1.40, things were looking good. The EACC crowd, along with Paul's family gave us a very loud reception as we rounded the mark and headed off back down wind. Met a number of boats tacking up and managed to get past them although it meant one or two gybes, and we started thinking about reefing.
Jamesia flew back along the Bure passing St Benets and another group of friends passing nice comments about her progress and looks. We started overhauling a small dayboat, who kindly slowed right down when we made our intentions clear of heading down Fleet Dyke. A whole fleet of boats were tacking out as we made our way down to South Walsham, the wind was rising and as we came round a bend the boat veered off towards a moored cruiser. Fortunately, the main was dumped quickly and we straighten up and cleared!
Down at the mark we lost our token which bounced out of the bucket! and went round to retrieve it, to be told by the guard ship not to worry, they had got our number so we were ok to carry on. It was good to see a number of friends and we even managed a conversation! After clearing the mark at 2.04 we ran into the reeds and put in two reefs! Horning Sailing club rescue boat appeared in about 30 seconds when we were in the reeds to check we were ok, so a big thanks to their efficiency. Good also to see Sue and Robin snapping away with their cameras, sorry the conversation was brief!
With just the main set, the jib had been rolled, we continued, still at a cracking pace, but now under full control back up Fleet Dyke and onto the Bure.
We saw a number of boats heading back to Horning having retired and one or two in the reeds, and I had doubts as to whether we should carry on or not.
A very controlled run and reach along the Bure to Thurne mouth, along with a tack and occasional reach up the Thurne to Potter showed that we could cope easily in these conditions. Tacking through Potter was interesting, we kept spilling wind so as not to catch up with other boats and cause mayhem, another boat came up behind us but had no room to pass, unfortunately they hit the port bank with a loud bang, flew across the river and tied alongside a bungalow, their tiller broken. From where we were we heard some expletives followed by an angry dog barking at this intrusion!
I’d spent a lot of time mulling over how best to lower the mast and would have liked to have shot through the bridges but due to conditions and the fact that the boom needs lifting out of the gooseneck we played safe and moored up. We did spend too much time messing about with this procedure but it paid off eventually. Paddling through Potter bridge was extremely hard work, even for the fitter member of the crew!
We now set sail and headed to Hickling. This was my main concern, having discovered, not just by myself, but also by people who had hired Jamesia, that on open water she does have a tendency to nosedive!!
We had an absolutely glorious sail to Hickling, but were saddened to see a half decker sunk just outside the channel in Candle Dyke with a broken mast. After flying along we fell into a hole at Deep Go Dyke and spent about 20 minutes trying to tack out, very frustrating! Once out we both sat the boat out and creamed across Hickling with just the two reefed main, the centre plate was lifted and we cut across the channel, after successfully depositing the token in the bucket at 6.25 and another brief conversation, this time with Liz on the lovely looking Water Rail, raced back across the broad, and touched the bottom just for a brief second. We were well impressed with a production Sailfish 18 which kept pace all the way there and back, and they made a much more successful bridge shooting than us.
Back at Potter we paddled through more successfully with the tide under us, then up with the rig and off again.
Another fast passage down to Acle, occasionally unfurling the jib but still with two reefs in the main. It was an incredible sail, one where I truly felt confident in our little boat, there was just one other boat behind us and nothing in front and we were loving the experience, the only sound being the water rushing past the forefoot. Suddenly as we passed EACC moorings loud shouts, cheers and waves came from the bank as our friends were enjoying an evening bbq.
On reaching Acle we spent, once again, too much time messing with the rig, and the little Sailfish behind us shot straight through and was away, very impressed, well done chaps!
We paddled through the bridge backwards, and of course, even this late, a mate just happened to be on the bridge to witness the incident! After setting sail again we headed off to Stokesby and were pleased that the mark was just a little downstream from the pub. We arrived at 9.17 in the evening and as we rounded were delighted to note the tide had turned and started pushing us back up river. A much better and organised bridge sequence followed, which of course was not witnessed!
We were now looking forward to the final leg back to Horning but it was now pitch black and some real concentration was needed. We reached the first stretch in company with a big river cruiser and all we could see was their sparkling bow wave and starboard navigation light, as we progressed they pulled ahead, but at Oby Mill, where the wind is blocked by the Mill they put in a tack whilst we reached passed them. The only sound from here to Thurne mouth was the constant hissing of the two boats rushing through the water. They overhauled us once more and we finally lost sight of each other.
My crew Paul, would like to apologise to one of the hire cruisers moored at Thurne mouth for shouting our race number to them, mistaking them for the guard ship! Once round the corner we starting making fabulous progress towards St Benets. Paul was initially giving instructions as to where the banks were as I sailed blind. It was very exciting stuff. Fortunately as we both know this stretch of the Bure well we stayed as near central as possible and talked through the various bends. A faint glow on the horizon helped with this navigation. We tacked, reached and ran at speed with no other boats in sight. Once amongst the trees near Ranworth, although we could hear the wind, progress slowed and a couple of boats caught up and went past. I decided to shake out the reefs which had immediate results, we caught up and overhauled a river cruiser, which had been in our start, and managed to hold them off all the way to the finish line.
We took turns on the helm, whilst the other shone the torch against the bank and occasionally at the burgee. When we got back to Horning the various riverside properties gave some light as we tacked up Horning Street, with the odd pinching along the bank to gain a larger gap between us and the boat behind. It felt rather strange crossing the finishing line at 1.03 in the morning, both of us in high spirits and looking forward to our breakfast!
Compared to other 3 rivers I’ve done this proved the most hard work, lack of onboard facilities and the concentration needed in the blustery conditions meant it was difficult to prepare hot food and drinks so we settled for snacks and soft drinks. It did turn chilly during the late evening and there was even a very light shower, only noticeable in the torch light but we kept warm and the cuddy certainly provided an efficient wind break.
All in all a fantastic experience and a big thank you to HSC and Sally (her first 3 rivers in charge) for organising a brilliant event, the other competitors, other river users for their full understanding of sailing boats hurtling past them, and all those lovely spectators with their very vocal encouragement (some hot chips at Potter would have been appreciated!) and to Paul for being great company and crew. Cheers Mat Gravener
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