Lady Jane 2014
Thames A Rater: Lady Jane (2014)
Posted by Nick Fribbens, 12thJune, 2014
The Thames A Raters returned to the Three Rivers Race with a vengeance after a year’s sabbatical, sailing on the Seine at the Yacht Club de l'Ile de France. Lady Jane had an unfamiliar look this year. There was a different helm, Rob Cage, who had won the race previously sailing Spindrift. Sel Shah, sailing her first Three Rivers race was our jib hand.
I’d reviewed the tides and worked out the route in February, which is unusually late for me. I had to battle with an ever changing crew as our usual helm, Kevin Pearson, had to attend a memorial service in France, while Paul Armitage was busy being a boat builder and finally finishing off a boat, ready for the season. Rob Pettit, Lady Jane’s jib hand dropped out Friday morning, when his father was suddenly taken into hospital. I got Lady Jane to Horning on Friday afternoon and managed to get the mast up and in the water before the rest of the crew arrived. Then it was time for a couple of beers in the Swan. I was disappointed that there was no Norfolk beer, but at least it was better than the Norwich Bitter and Norwich mild that they used to have on offer.
We had our usual Friday night dinner in the Bure River Cottage and it excelled as ever. There were meant to be a few of us, but the numbers kept oscillating between four and eleven. In the end there were six of us, although Sel neither ate nor drink! The other five were Tim Carpenter, Rob Cage, David Frost, Alison Frost and me. We were rudely interrupted by the Wings crew, but they left just as abruptly. I’m not sure why they came in and I’m not sure that they know either!
The Wings crew was Chris Kilsby, Adrian Mickleson and Chris Matin. Kingfisher had Martin Colin, Clive Hughes and Quentin Strauss on board while Karen Armitage joined David Frost and Tim Carpenter on Tara. Osprey had seasoned campaigners Paul Browning and Justin Dunn joined by Patrick Rayner.
Saturday brought light winds. As I was the only one who knew Lady Jane I had the responsibility of getting her ready and setting her up. This wasn’t helped by the Wings crew panicking beside us, and tying their fenders to us while slipping out. We slipped our moorings just before the five minute gun.
We won the start and managed to keep ahead of the other Raters as we glided through the village, passing numerous boats on the way. Kingfisher swapped places with us a couple of times before pulling away and Osprey went past as the reach/fetch turned into a bit of a beat. Kingfisher headed directly for Thurne Mouth while we followed Osprey up the Ant and then onto South Walsham Broad, followed by Wings and Tara.
Osprey had built up an impressive lead by the time they reached Thurne Mouth and headed north to Hickling. We saw Kingfisher’s sail as she went past Thurne mouth on her way to Hickling from Acle. We decided that we would head south to Acle with the ebb and hope that it wasn’t too strong on the way north to Hickling. The wind direction provided us with a broad reach down to Acle and a fetch back. In these light conditions a fetch is probably the fastest point of sailing, so game on! I was lucky enough to see the nose and tail of an otter as it dived out of our way and we saw two cranes high above. I had lost count of the harriers that we had seen. It’s fantastic that these birds are now a common sight on the broads.
The river down to Acle was devoid of traffic, but we made up for it as we passed Thurne Mouth. Our higher sails allowed us to use what little wind there was to wind our way through. There was one sticky moment when the river cruiser Zingara tacked in front of us and Rob elected to go behind her. Her speed out of the tack was slower than anticipated, well hoped for, and our bows looked like they were going to be buried in the reeds. However, Zingara sped up just enough for us to slip between her and the reeds with millimetres to spare.
Our drop at Potter Heigham was immaculate. We knew the sequence in which we released the ropes by rote, green, pink, black. We shot the bridge, pushed the mast up, hoisted the sails and sped off, if you can speed off in less than five knots of breeze. The river behind us was empty and we could only see a white boat ahead. We passed Osprey going in the opposite direction before we turned into Heigham sound. There was a cacophony of noise from the trees on the left hand bank which I assume was coming from a heronry.
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We passed Kingfisher going the opposite direction at the top of Heigham Sound and were told by the guard boat that the turning mark was by Hickling Broad Sailing club and it was taking each boat about 50 minutes to complete the round trip. The round trip was almost uneventful and took us 45 minutes. However, we did have a spectacular view of a third crane flying about 50 meters above the water. Sel remarked that it was symmetrical back to front and it could have been flying backwards for a lark. We didn’t see the lark….
The drop at Potter Heigham was not so good. Sel followed the colour code of ropes, green, pink then black, but the mast would not come completely down. She manfully held onto the bridge while Rob and I figured out what had gone wrong. The green had become re cleated. We undid this and the mast descended into its proper position and we began paddling. The hoist wasn’t smooth either. We got a shroud caught under the three legged stool that acts as out mast support, but this didn’t delay us too much. Mast up, sails hoisted and we headed for home.
As we approached South Walsham Broad we heard a bittern booming. I later learnt from Springwatch that there are only twenty booming bitterns in the UK. We saw Kingfisher’s sails as she emerged from South Walsham Broad and then they disappeared as she went up the Ant.
The wind was gradually dropping and the light was fading. We wouldn’t be home before closing time. It was hard to tell where the banks were and we used a torch to illuminate a jib tell-tale, although it’s hard to tack holding a torch. We only made contact with the reeds only once, which was a splendid effort.
We were going so slowly that we even got overtaken by a Yeoman that had retired and was paddling home. As we got into Horning village we could make out the dark sails of Wings way behind us. They were able to keep their boat moving whilst we struggled and they overtook us at the New Inn. We arrived home third, 45 minutes behind the winner, Osprey and a few minutes behind Wings. Well done Osprey! Patrick still hasn’t stopped smiling!
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