Lady Jane 2010
Thames A Rater: Lady Jane (2010)
Posted by Nick Fribbens, 18thJune, 2010
Old habits die hard. Three weeks before the Three Rivers the top of our mast fell off in a bit of a blow. We were running dead downwind, preparing for a gybe when it broke just above the spreaders. The lower half stayed upright long enough for me to think that the forestay had gone and it was going to fall backwards onto us at some point. This it did with grace, causing no harm to the crew. Stewart Marine came to our rescue, despite Ossie being in France at the time. A sleeve, track and glue were ordered. Everything was going well, despite a delay or two until Ossie had a Goldilocks moment when the weather was too hot. He tried gluing the track on to the repaired mast with the temperature in the 30’s. The glue set in seconds and the track wasn’t straight! Off it came, new track ordered from Jamie, collected over a weekend and put on with a precision that we marvelled at in the cool of the morning.
Needless to say we had worked out our tide strategy earlier in the year, but our helmsman Kevin was called away again to get on with the day job of driving Miss Sally to a friend’s wedding. This time Miles accepted our offer to helm, so we had a crew of Parmy on jib, Miles on the tiller and me in the middle.
This was the fiftieth Three Rivers race and had an entry of 174 boats. This meant altering our pre race schedule this year so we could attend the celebratory Horning SC barbeque instead of our usual meal at Taps. Unfortunately Taps has closed so we will be looking for a new venue next year.
There were five raters this year, Spindrift crewed by Martin Hunter, Martin Collins with Mark Staite providing the weight, Osprey crewed by Paul, Justin and the Gurn, Tara crewed by big and little Frosties, accompanied by Karen, the local boat Bonito and ourselves in Lady Jane.
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Osprey had decided to include a new mast lower and raising apparatus, which meant that nobody had to go onto the foredeck to unhook the forestay. This was necessary as two years ago Bart had slipped off at Acle Bridge, much to our amusement. However, Bart wasn’t on board this year, but they obviously didn’t have complete faith in the nimbleness of the Gurn. Needless to say, we had always had such a system, despite our inherent agility.
The briefing had a cast of thousands, who were received with good humour. To name but a few, the race organiser, his wife, his daughter, a weather man, a sponsor, a broads authority man, a framed photograph … Apologies to anyone who I missed and a huge thanks to all for your hard work. Only at the very end did they reveal that they wouldn’t give us the one piece of information that we all were waiting for, that is where the lower Bure mark was!
We started after 99 other boats at 12.05 this year. Martin won the start and was able to create an instant lead in clear air as the other four raters battled it out on the beat through Horning. It wasn’t until we were clear of the village before the early order was settled, with Spindrift in the lead, Osprey hanging back in second, ourselves third, Bonito fourth with Tara just behind.
We did not decide whether to go up the Ant to Ludham or to South Walsham until we arrived at the Ant as we were worried about trying to get through all the traffic on these narrow waterways. Sprindrift went up the Ant, Osprey went straight on towards Thurne Mouth. We followed Sprindrift up the Ant and on to South Walsham. We could not have had a faster passage to these two turning marks with very few boats to cross or pass. Miles’ steering was masterful, so there was no way that I wasn’t going to get the token in the basket at South Walsham (Fleet Dyke).
Back on the Bure we headed down to Thurne. It was here that we had our first ornithological moment, an avocet took off and flew in front of us. We had decided to go North towards Hickling first. We dropped the mast with aplomb, well almost, our pulley system wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, but our inherent agility allowed me to hop onto the foredeck and sort it out. We shot the bridge, paddled like fury and were able to raise the mast while still moving. However, one of our grommets had come out, and the lower shroud followed suit. We dropped the mast again, replaced the shroud, raised the mast, hoisted the sail and set off to Hickling Broad.
This was not a popular choice! We were only the second boat to go under Potter Heigham bridges. We wondered if this was not such a good choice, only time would tell. We passed the boat in front of us, a punt crewed by a couple who we took to be an item, due to the helm telling his crew when to release the jib as they tacked in no uncertain terms. I wonder if they are still an item?
Our sail across Hickling Broad was idyllic. Being the first boat there we had the broad almost to ourselves. It was here we had a series of ornithological moments as we kept a sharp eye out for marsh harriers and must have seen at least half a dozen, or one very fast one flying in circles! We reached up to the buoy, deciding not to cut the corner as this would only save us a couple minutes and there was a risk of going aground. The beat back wasn’t so much fun. The channel is too narrow for the rater to build up sufficient speed to enable us to achieve our true pointing ability. The channel at Deep-Go dyke and Duck Broad were not well dredged and we had our centreboard dragging through the silt for most of this leg.
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As left Candle Dyke we crossed Osprey going the other way, then we crossed Spindrift just before we got to the bridges. Our natural agility was tested again as the pulley system snagged, but as usual we came through with flying colours, meaning, I didn’t fall off the boat! The tide was now against us and we had to wait to let a cruiser quant through the old bridge first. It was bigger than us and had more people on board. We raised our mast with the wind off the port quarter. This enabled us to make way under the jib alone, but this made hoisting the main sail a nightmare as it will not go up the track unless the boat is head to wind. Every time we turned to go head to wind a motor cruiser would pull out and force us to bear away. Try as we could we couldn’t raise the main until we were able to luff up properly.
We tacked against the tide all the way down to Acle. We dropped the mast expertly and paddled under the bridge and raised the mast. However, the wind and current took us backwards as we tried to raise the main. Fortunately we were able to moor, hoist the main and continue on our way without much trouble. We knew that the lower mark could not have been set too far down, given the position of where we crossed Spindrift and Osprey. We were grateful to see it as we rounded the corner at the Stokesby Arms, left the mark to starboard and headed home.
With the wind behind us and tide with us the last mast drop and raise went without incident as we shot the bridge. We were on our way home.
As we approached Thurne Mouth we saw Sprindrift’s sails and spinnaker above the marshes and we knew we couldn’t be too far behind. There was no sign of Osprey or the other raters. The wind began to die, but we kept moving and the guard boat at the Ant told us that we were the fourth boat to go past. On this stretch we had the delight of a marsh harrier flying a few feet from the boat, the sighting of a barn owl and a cuckoo in flight. Judging by how much noise the cuckoo made and how long it went on for we wished the barn owl would cut short his love song.
When we were less than an hour from home we were amazed to see Japonica 1 and 3 from Martham boatyard going towards Thurne Mouth! They were yet to reach Ranworth Dam. The occupant of a pleasure cruiser told us they had taken three hours to go about 400 metres. He had obviously had a busy afternoon himself!
As we approached Horning church we saw a punt in a hole in the wind front of us. Our taller rig enabled us to slip past him, but they had been sailing brilliantly and had made the right choices to be where he was. In fact he was deservedly the race winner.
We finished third on the water, behind Spindrift, who had beaten Osprey by a few seconds, and sixth overall. A creditable result.
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