Posted by Mollie Howes, 27th May 2010
How it began
This year Horning Sailing Club will be celebrating the 50th year of the Three Rivers Race. It all began in 1960 when Eric Smith decided to present a trophy for a different type of race and left David Hastings to find one. David thought about this and came up with the idea of an endurance race lasting 24 hours to test the seamanship of members. The first race was sailed in 1961. As my family did not join the Club until 1969 I know very little of its earlier years.
An early recollection was in 1971 when, my son Paul, entered for the first time. He was in our Enterprise, Opel, and took 22½ hours to finish. It was one of those occasions with little wind as he finished in 7th place overall. While the race was progressing the rest of the family stayed in the Clubhouse and I assisted Jack Paul with the large log showing the positions of each craft with times of their visits at the various points. Bruce Elias was running and organising the race.
The radios were being run by the Territorial Army as an exercise. On one memorable occasion they had parked their land rover at Hickling on a special grassed area, known as hallowed ground, and the Club had to try to return it to its pristine condition.
The Territorials had carried out this duty for several years, but when they gave it up, around 1973, it left the Club in a muddle. When this happened we had a friend who worked for Pyes of Cambridge and he kindly got us some second hand ones and a radio channel from the Home Office for the Club to use. Another friend helped Derrick, my late husband, to check them, which they did annually and I am pleased to say both friends were given honorary membership of the Club.
At the same time Derrick took over the Hickling Broad position with his friend Peter, and I was on the radio in the Clubhouse. Hickling Broad Sailing Club (HBSC) kindly extended their pontoon for mooring, and left the Gent’s toilet open for their use.
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During his time there several incidents took place. One night a boat punctured the buoy and they had to find the floating tickets in the dark! On another occasion one of the cruisers caught his main sheet round one of the posts. The helm tried to release it and ended up hanging on to the post. His wife was left on the boat and had no idea how to helm. A member of HBSC came out to help, rescued the man and got him back on board.
I cannot remember when Carol Harmer took over the large log, but when her husband, Dick, was posted away Jill Stubbs kindly took over. When Bruce Elias moved away, Derrick took over running the event and did so for about 10 years, including the 25th one. When Derrick took over David Craig was the Handicapper. It used to amuse us as he kept a card index in an empty cigarette packet!
In those days the race did not start until about 3pm. This meant that all craft had to deal with night sailing and wind dropping at dusk.
One night a competitor managed to break his arm at Potter. The quickest way to get him to hospital was for the timekeeper to drive his car to fetch him. In the Clubhouse there was panic when we could see two boats coming in to finish. I had to leave the radio to friend Peter, dash upstairs as the Commodore was dozing in the back of the box. I finished them, wrote down the times, then had to go down to find out which two and who was first! Leaving the radio to Peter reminded me of the times this used to happen when I had a dog. I had to let her off the chain, play with her, then feed her and leave her indoors for the night. Someone would let her out the next morning.
There was also the time that a collision took place on the corner just after the start. This meant a Protest Committee had to be formed for a hearing which I believe took place the following Wednesday evening.
On another occasion there were three men in a boat. From memory the total age in the boat was around 150 years. They got into difficulties when trying to shoot Potter Bridge. I am not sure if this was also the time that one of them fell in. On returning to the Clubhouse a notice was displayed. It was happy birthday but the “ir” had been replaced by an “a”!
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Later Colin Facey took over running and organising the race. I think it was 2001 when the wind was so strong that Colin had to cancel it. Some boats had broken gear and one had sunk. I got a message that it was Paul who had sunk the Reedling on the straight before Horning Church.
Another highlight for me was in 2008 when my daughter, Sally did the race, this time using my Reedling, Onyx. I was watching for her to come back when someone told me if she arrived before 11pm she would have overtaken, on handicap, all those who had already finished. She made it with 5 minutes to spare. She eventually became the overall winner, the first lady ever to win the race.
Evolution and continuity
I must admit I was very sorry when Colin decided to alter the start time. Instead of a 3 or 4 pm start the race now begins much earlier thus the fast boats can return in daylight without having to contend with a dropping evening wind and no darkness or mist to contend with. I feel it has lost the seamanship which was the original idea.
One thing I must commend the Club over and that is that before the race starts all boats are checked for lights, clothing, food and drink. This has happened ever since I can remember. But this does not stop people at Potter Heigham dropping fish and chips into craft as well as more cans of beer. There used to be a cruiser with an optic fixed to the bulk head – no names. Back to checking – who needs a Health & Safety Act?
As a Committee Member of the Vintage Wooden Boat Association, I am pleased to say that many members sail this race and both the above mentioned boats are registered with the Association.
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