Manning a Guard Ship 2016

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Historical Information | ← Organiser Notes | Manning a Guard Ship 2016


Manning a Guard Ship 2016

Posted by Queren, 29th June 2016

I know I'm not a competitor, but I'm not a spectator either so I've put in here with the organisers ....

I arrived at Hickling at about 08:30 gently manoeuvring my landrover 110 through their boat park with all the grace of a sailing cruiser in a log jam on the river. The difference being in reverse and no love taps ...

Then unloading, a surprisingly large amount of equipment including a long awkward buoy with basket, luckily one of my compatriots arrived just before the buoy needed moving.

Having got the Hickling committee boat out and loaded up we pulled it to the end of their pontoons before lowering and starting the engine. A quick survey of the newly dredged channel showed 4ft at the edges and more then 5ft for most of it, a great improvement over last year so we tied up to a red post await our guardship "Tumblehome" to arrive from Martham boats.

Half an hour later it appeared out of the mist. We arranged the radio aerial on a 5ft wooden pole (remember the depth checking) attached to a 12ft gaff from my keelboat to get the aerial up high. Much consternation as the radio appeared not to work, after much resetting of connectors and a change to the spare aerial, proper communication with Horning base station was achieved just after the 4th start.

We then settled into the boat, very nice It was too, diesel heating, hot and cold water, toilet/shower and USB charging all in a beautifully varnished interior.

It seemed a long time till we heard Julie's dulcet tones at Ludham Bridge Guardship reportiing the first boats. Not long after Jackie was reporting from South Walsham.

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We then waited for the count down as they passed Guardship 4 at Thurne mouth, Guardship 3 at Potter Heigham, Guardship 2 at Martham / turn for Hickling.

By that time reports were coming from almost all Guardships except lower Bure.

We then saw our first customer, race number 44, sail number 102 who rounded the buoy at 14:01:53.

Punt 102 nearing the finish

It was another 40 minutes before the next boat turned up Yeoman 14 race number 2 at 14:41:42. Another gap of 20 minutes and then sail number 16 race number 55 a Thames A rater passed at 15:00:00 - this boat was first home at roughly 19:58 ish.

Then the avalanche started - 33 boats in the next hour. By 16:34 half the surviving fleet had passed us..

I say surviving because throughout the race there was the odd retirement, maybe a dozen in all mostly through gear failure at the bridges, especially the Thames A Raters who lost half their fleet.

Yeomen at the start

After that the numbers slowed till 21:50 when we had a gap of nearly an hour this was mostly as we had seen almost all of the boats that had chosen Hickling as the first long leg and then switched to seeing those that had been to the lower Bure Guardship 6 first.

Just before the break, a Wayfarer gave the buoy a big love tap... putting many tags in the water and one of the flashing lights!!! Causing much consternation to the following boats as it floated away from the buoy, giving two flashing targets!!! We sent the rescue boat out on a tag and light hunt which was quite successful and they reattached the light before returning.

By 02:00 we were awaiting just 2 boats, cruiser sail number 44 race number 89 which rounded our mark at 02:22:16 and cruiser Zoe race number 85.

Zoe at South Walsham

A rescue boat from Martham went on the hunt and found her just up river of the bridges unable to get her mast up due to tangled rigging. This was eventually sorted and she continued past Guardship 2 into Candle Dyke, where she disappeared again. After some time she reappeared at Martham, having missed the tide, a large cruiser, on a small waterway she couldn't make forward progress and retired.

We sat out for another hour waiting for daylight before packing away, and heading back to Horning for breakfast at around 06:00, where we watched many boats trickle in.

I think this year's 3 Rivers Race had probably the least retirements for anything other than gear failure and one of the highest completion rates. Very successful...

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