Yeoman: Solitaire (2011)
Posted by Queren Stewart, 21st June, 2011
First, as many of you may know, the wind was 15+ reaching force 5 with small white tops on the longer fetches of water in clear air. Our crew age totalled 206 years between the three of us and one of the crew had only sailed in a Yeoman once before a couple of weeks ago when we broke the skeg and rudder on a hard underwater object (Thanks to Phil Betts (class builder)for the quick repairs).
We made a poor start close to the back of the 13 Yeomans, however in the puffs of wind coming over the trees and houses we got up to 2nd / 3rd place before we were out of the village mostly reaching/running, however by then the Barkers (Yeoman 5 Brandy Bottle) were already out in the lead.
Then next problems came on the church to waterworks straight, when as well as the rest of the Yeoman fleet sweeping down from behind, the Rebel class arrived from the next start, their huge gaff sails blocking the wind, there were various minor collisions I think, as they tried to drift though the gaps in the wind while the Yeomans had to put the odd tack in to avoid the shallows (not all successfully).
It was shortly after this we started seeing the odd retirement and several more boats reefing.
We escaped at this point leaving all but three Yeomans behind, when we then approached the river Ant, I believe the Y 5 did both legs, Y 70 did one and Y 167 plus ourselves Y 38 made straight for Potter Heigham, it is no coincidence that Y167 and ourselves made for the bridge first, they won the trophy for the fastest boat with a crew average age of over 55, we also wished to make Potter bridge with the tide!!
We then had a fairly uneventful sail to Potter Bridge however we got a massive tangle in the Main halyard and were overtaken By Y 70 at this point. Once sorted it was with the tide but very stiff row with two paddles and a quant to get though against the wind.
Sailing on was a pleasure, a stiff wind but mostly as a reach with just a few tacks once we had turned from the Thurne up towards Hickling Broad. Once on the broad it was definitely three people on one side with spray coming over top as we pounded through the waves caused by the other boats. After rounding the mark it was almost the same back again with slightly more running in it.
We passed under Potter bridge without incident and reached/ran to Acle Bridge; for this bridge we normally pass under without having to lower the A frame, however the lack of practice showed here as we had for forgotten to tell the third member of the crew to tie off the forestay halyard at this point……. So it came down on my head!!! It’s made of heavy gauge 1 ¼ inch stainless tube - Ouch...
While I was looking at stars we sailed on easily to Stokesby where the lower buoy had been placed, which was a surprise. It could have been further down to the full race length, probably adding only another half hour to the race. However I think the race Officials may have been wanting to get most back before the forecast increase in wind and before darkness.
Now it was the long way back to Acle and beyond, we were tacking rapidly all the way from Stokesby, with the small relief of Acle bridge (which passed safely) but we did have to paddle backward for a bit to free the backstay which had hooked onto something on the river bottom, then on to Thurne Mouth and it was on this stretch our age began to tell. Most tacks we could not get the jib in before we had to tack again and effectively were losing ground against all others on every tack. During this the Barkers (three young men in their low twenties I think) Y 5 passed us having done the two small legs we had still to do. We were very relieved to turn off the wind at Thurne mouth and head for the two small legs of the course. South Walsham passed without incident.
However just in front of us on the Ant up to Ludham Bridge was a beautiful wooden motor cruiser and in front of them was a very large sailing yacht in a very small river, so even with our difficulties we were catching up. The people on the cruiser realised what was happening and took down the cockpit cover so the helm could see what was happening and very carefully kept up behind the yacht and when we got close kept right over to let us through. It was very, very well executed manoeuvring with great consideration to us lunatic competitors, and if they read this I would like to thank them.
After that it was a run and reach home mostly, however with the final embarrassment of running aground at Swan corner right in front of the club!! That caused us to finish in 10 hours and 28 seconds. It would have been nice to break the 10 Hours, although this was by far our quickest time ever and when I left the club we were a Provisional 15th Place with just three Yeomans, as previously mentioned, in front of us. The Barkers won the Yeoman trophy coming 5th overall.
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