Flying Dutchman: Swallow (2009)
Posted by Roger Garner, 4th June, 2009
What can I say; with this my first 3 Rivers Race – it was a baptism under fire with sailing cruisers bashing into each other and me having to miss parts of boats floating along the river by the Abbey.
The day started with us provisioning our FD for three, and setting sail up river heading towards Horning sailing club. We had sailed down from Potter Heigham the day before and moored just outside the Ferry Boat Inn. My crew consisted of my daughter aged just 16, a work colleague and me.
On our arrival at Horning sailing club we were greeted with a mass of every conceivable type of sailing boat imaginable. We found a suitable mooring place and brought our boat up into wind sliding to a gentle stop along side a very nice sailing cruiser. Helping hands grabbed our side deck and lines passed across and secured.
By now time was moving on and I needed to get booked in before the deadline. Kate and I made our way ashore deck to deck. As it was our first time in the race we had no idea where we should go but help was at hand and some very nice people pointed us in the right direction.
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With Info pack in hand we made our way back to our boat, it was now time for the briefing so out with our note books and back we went to stand with the masses.
Once the briefing was concluded we all headed back to our individual crafts, now the mass exit began, within minute or two every sailing boat was making ready to get under way; some were hoisting sails while others choose to use their paddles to give each other some sea room before hoisting their sails. We chose the latter with so many sailing boats in such a confined area I felt we needed room to get the sails up. Once clear of the general mass of boats we hoisted our sails, went about and set sail up the river well clear of the X zone.
Our start time was 11.25am and we were the only Flying Dutchman in the class as we had been grouped with the Norfolk Punts. Water was of a premium with so many sailing boats milling around so as skipper I stated that I wanted to keep well out of the way by sailing further up river, however I was out voted and was persuaded to moor head into wind along the fare bank.
This was my first real mistake of the day as once we had lowered our sails we became immediately boxed in by other boats.
Our 11.25 start time was becoming ever closer, we needed to get out and quick, but at 11.15am we were still trapped. Now after some choice words of encouragement to my crew every effort was now being made to get us free and out into open water. Eventually we managed to get clear and with more words of encouragement my crew started to make ready for sail, Kate unfurled the jib and my work college started to hoist the mainsail however his efforts were in vain. On looking up to the top of the mast it all became so very clear, the top batten had become snagged under the spreader.
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In my mind I could imagine what others were thinking as the looked upon this scene of complete confusion, “They should never let people sail in a boat like that in something like this”.
At this point Kate and I changed roles, Kate took hold of the tiller and I went forward to see what I could do to help my work colleague with the mainsail. The start time for our class was rushing ever closer, with the FD brought back into wind and both of us working frantically we managed to get the mainsail fully hoisted and secured.
At that very moment the starting gun fired for our class start, we were 200 yards plus from the start of the x zone and all staring at each other as if we were rabbits caught in some headlights.
After what seemed like an age we all sprung into action, Kate dived forward to the starboard jib sheet position, I dived back to the tiller and my work colleague sat down quickly on the port deck.
The tiller was thrown over and we gathered way, we were off, not quite in the way I had envisaged but at least we were now heading in the right direction. We were now gaining speed quickly. We reached the X zone and to my surprise two Norfolk Punts were still there, we had a clear run right to the corner and headed down stream along what I understand is called the street.
Things started to settle down now and we had time to tidy the boat up, the sun was shining the wind was fair and all our previous problems were forgotten.
Everything was going well until our groups of boat were caught up by the sailing cruisers. They made an impressive sight with every stitch of canvas up. They were closing fast, in fact very fast as they managed to snatch every once of wind from above the trees. In a very short space of time they were up to us threading their way through the sailing dinghies.
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Just as we were about to change tack a very large sailing cruiser came charging by. The choices were either insist that I had right of way and hope I didn’t finish up with a boat that was made up of two parts or head for the reads. I chose the latter and with the words “Sorry” echoing in my ears we came to a sharp halt embedded in the bank. Fortunately we were able to extract ourselves with not to much effort. Off we went again but only for the same thing to happen to us again but this time our evasive escape manoeuvres were so drastic water came washing over the port side deck.
Once again we managed to extract ourselves from the bank but this time we were having a foot spare with the amount of water washing around in the bottom of the boat.
Due to the amount of water in the boat we decided that we would stop and sort things out as soon as we could. So once we had turned south and were heading down to Acle we pulled to the side and emptied the boat. A few fellow racers went by with concerned looks on their faces however that may of be due to that fact that all they could see was me laying face down on the front deck with my head stuck in the spinnaker slot. Once we had bailed all the water out we set off again heading south down to Acle.
We were doing fine until we run out of water at Stokesby on the bend. We got truly stuck on the mud and it took a lot of pushing and shoving to get us off.
I’ll remember not to cut the corner if I manage to get in next year.
We rounded the lower buoy and headed back up to Acle, It was at that point I started to have trouble with one of my crew. One member had become very tired and cold; we got the mast down and paddled through the bridge and re-rigged the mast.
We then headed up to Potter Heigham with the wind up our skirts and made good progress. However on hitting the holiday homes we slowed to a crawl. With the tide running against us we were hardly making any forward progress approximate time would be around 8.30.
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By this point my cold crew member decided he had had enough and a mutiny took place, The guard boat came looking and found us tied up to the bank. My daughter and I asked if we could carry on with only the two of us but we were told we must finish with the crew we started with. So that was that, I got towed up to Woods yard and myself and my daughter walked into the Potter Heigham village very down hearted as we had wanted to go on and knew we could of finished. It was a great day and we really enjoyed it. We will be back next year given the chance however this time with a different crew.
One thing I would like to say is well done to everyone who got round, it was a glorious day one myself and my daughter will remember for a very long time to come.
Every one we met was very friendly and helpful.
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