Lady Jane 2005
Thames A Rater: Lady Jane (2005)
Posted by Nick Fribbens, 9thMay, 2010
We arrived at Horning to find the Commodore sporting rather fetching head gear, which made him resemble a giraffe. This image was further enhanced when giraffe is translated into Swahili, as it becomes Twigga, most apt!
We got off to a flying start, leading all the other Raters round the first bend and probably for a good fifty metres after that! We passed the New Inn and the Ferry without much ado. Just outside Horning we came across the race’s first casualty. A Reedling keelboat was sunk. It had its kite up, but the halyard was cleated somewhere below the water. I later found out that the helmsman was the person that I had last sailed the Three Rivers with in 1968, in an enterprise. His crew was someone I had been at school with. I shall avoid naming Paul and Phil to cover their embarrassment.
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Ludham and South Walsham
We passed the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey and elected to do the two short legs to the Ludham and South Walsham first. Sailing down these narrow rivers was quite an ordeal, especially when faced with a resplendent broads cruiser, under full sail, tacking in the opposite direction with barely a boat’s width of navigable water available on either side of her. During the pre race banter Martin Hunter had kindly offered to show us whether to go to Hickling before going down to the Stacey Arms or vice versa, just follow me, were his fine words. The pub may have changed its name, but it remains the Stacey Arms to most of us. However, at Thurne Mouth there was no sign of Martin, or anyone else for that matter. We were on our own. The decision, based on local knowledge, tide tables and a cry of ‘We’re going left!’ from the back of the boat pointed us in the direction of Hickling Broad.
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Potter Heigham and Hickling
The first bridge, Potter Heigham was 'interesting' to say the least. We got hit by a huge squall as we prepared to drop the mast. The Norfolk punt behind us broached and capsized, our mast came down before we were ready and a bit faster than we wanted, i.e. totally uncontrolled. We were blown backwards towards the bridge, which can't be more than ten feet wide. This attempt failed, the burgee was lost! We then attempted to go through the bridge sideways. Again, this was unsuccessful. Kevin abandoned ship and stoically fended us off. We then moored, got our act together and retrieved Kevin. Our third attempt to get through the bridge, this time using the more traditional approach of bows first, was a success and we decided to adopt this as our preferred method of approach for all other bridges. After paddling between the bridges we moored to put the mast up and sort ourselves out. All was fine and we continued on our way to Hickling. The sail across Hickling broad was fantastic. I managed to miss the bucket I was supposed to drop the token in, due to excessive speed and poor eye hand bucket co ordination. I got all the others in though! On the way back through Potter Heigham we moored before dropping and raising the mast. This enabled us to do it in a controlled manner and each subsequent drop passed without incident.
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We only ran aground once, where Paul and I had to leap overboard into the reeds to shove us off. The rest of the race passed without incident and without a chance for us to eat or drink our way through our provisions, despite having Parmy on board. It was a cracking sail. We saw all sorts of wildlife; the highlight for me was seeing marsh harriers. We broke the eight hour barrier and even had time for a beer in the Swan. The pub has been refurbished since I was last in it and there was no sign of the Watney’s Red Barrel, thank goodness, that used to be on sale. Disappointingly, the Norwich Bitter and Norwich Mild were not on offer either.
We finished fifth on the water in less than 8hrs, finally placed 13th out of 102! Osprey took line honours and was fifth overall, well done that crew. Disaster struck on the way out of the sailing club. As we turned left the top of the mast hit the house opposite and turned right, before breaking, messing up the lighting board, blowing fuses in Kevin's car etc.
Crewed by Kevin Pearson, Paul Armitage and Nick Fribbens.
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