River Cruiser: Waif (2010)
Posted by Malcolm Duffield, 18th June 2010
The Race 2010
The crew arrive to pick me up bright and early, well - 8 o’clock, and we then collect the Bosun complete with vitals. It’s off to Horning to uncover Waif and then get to the briefing. Well when I say ‘off to’ what I meant was back home to collect my complete change of clothing which I had managed not to put in the transport!
We are welcomed by Waif’s host and soon the cover is off and everything we need is stored. No gas ring means no chilli then this year. Hot water is provided by various flasks. Carol, our host tells us she is once again providing us with hot bacon and sausage rolls whilst we wait for the start. Into Horning for the briefing, and more importantly to register and collect the 2 shirts ordered. When we have checked in, a holdall in red to celebrate the 50th race is given to us. Myles, First Mate decides that he does like the shirt and decides to buy one. They don’t have the size (large) so a swap with Bosun is agreed. The briefing was its usual mixture of fun and laughter. Colin is stepping down but that’s ok as his daughter is carrying on with the committee. As helpful as ever we are told the lower Bure mark will be “somewhere below Acle”. Bosun reminds me it is a 24 hour race and it is not necessary to try and pass everything in sight in 5 minutes.
The sun is out, the sky is blue and the only apparent wind is as a result of last night’s curry. Back to base and as promised there is bacon, sausages and onion to put into rolls together with coffee and orange squash. We wait and watch many of the starts before getting underway with 15 mins to our start. This year we had a definite plan for the race. We were in the last start so no one to baulk us in the X zone, well, apart from the veterans of course.
In our start are 2 of EACC members Rag Doll and Bishy Barnybee. 10 mins then the 5 so into the X zone we speed (well it is all relative as we were reaching). Did not get the start we wanted as we were in the wrong place. But not so much of a wrong place as Bishy! One of the racers is out of control going upstream and shouts he has no steerage. There is a collision and the port winch of Bishy disappears into the Bure. “Oh dear that is a shame” I hear her crew say. “Never mind we understand that you are new to this and we are sorry we got in your way.”
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Waif zooms round the corner and then slows down completely. There are many calls for water and starboard, followed by plaintiff cries of “we have no way!!” With some gentle holding off we manage to get clear of some of the fleet as we go along The Street. At one time my bosun tells me although we are close to a tree we should be all right. He was almost right but we managed to sail through. There are no further incidents for us until we are getting towards the waterworks. Bosun reports a tree is close; getting closer and then the gaff decides to tangle itself in the branches. “I told you”..... need I say more! After a few minutes we manage to untangle ourselves and take a fairly large twig hostage, and we kept it until we lowered for the first bridge. Many admiring glances were given together with a lot of smug ones and knowing ones. Still it seemed to help balance the boat.
As we get past Cockshoot we notice sail No 50 - Vacuna (We retired from the 3RR having had a bump with Vacuna only 3 hours into the race), and wonder what sort of reception there will be if we catch her up. We eventually catch her and both crews were able to have a pleasant chat. They admired Waif’s new bowsprit, which I told them was 9” longer, and we admired Vacuna’s new combing (apparently someone hit them last year, can’t think who). We meander past and decide to do both Ant and South Walsham on the way out. Good move as both were quiet. I offer the helm to either of my crew for the Ant and they politely decline, murmurings of narrow, last year, bow sprits other boats. So I helmed on. As we approached the Ant mark we saw a boat in the Horning bank with 2 very large hire cruisers making their way towards it. First Mate kills the speed as we were on a run and the boats cleared the turning area, so round we go. On the way back down Vacuna is seen coming towards us. This year we gave each other a respectful distance and as she passes us her skipper says “I count this as an achievement.” We agree. As we go along there are many people I know and say hello to, including the photographers.
I had calculated that we should get to Thurne mouth by 16.40 giving us 2.5 hours of tide to Potter. We get to the mouth at 16.15-ish giving us even more tide for Potter. We notice that most, well everyone in front of us has raced away to Potter. Logic therefore dictated that this is the best way to go.
We turned and called our race number to the Guard ship who told us they had us down as retired, we assured them we had not and that we are carrying on, this was a theme repeated at almost every guard ship. As we head past Oby on the way to Acle we wonder why we are the only ones on the river heading downstream (other than those early starters who had done the Lower mark first) and it feels like a solo race for us. I keep reminding the Bosun that it is a 24 hour race. Acle Bridge arrives and there is plenty of space available for us to drop the sails and mast and paddle through. Somewhat surprisingly the mark is in fact at Stokesby rather than Stracey/ Pontiac/ whatever the name of the Chinese restaurant was, which is where we thought it would be. We round the mark and off we head back upstream. This solo sailing has some attractions although none of them were in my boat.
Back up through Acle bridge and off to Potter we go. As we turn onto the Thurne the world and his mother are coming back downstream. We pass a boat at Thurne and the shout goes up “Charlie why is Malcolm going the other way to everybody else?” causing much laughter, later on above Potter bridge we also wondered why. Through the bridges - again no traffic - and the wind drops to almost nothing, but we manage to creep along very, very, very slowly. First Mate gets a kip, or was that before Potter? and then Bosun does the same. There was little wind and what there was, was in front of us. Then First Mate who is helming (had to get Hy’s Mill out of his system) says “Hang on wind has changed direction we’re now on a run.” The main is pushed out and then the wind came back with a vengeance, Waif started to motor and we were soon at the mouth of Kendal/ Candle Dyke. At one point we considered a reef as although the wind was not too strong it was quite dark still. On the eel catchers reach the helm took a close look at the reeds, and it took a couple of minute or so to get off again. Bosun remained asleep.
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Into Heigham sound, no problems, I did not know what all the fuss was about. Guard ship, ‘we have you down as retired!’ No we have not and we wish to finish. Are we the last? No there is one more still to come. Onto Hickling and it was close hauled all the way over. As we get near the mark I take over the helm as First Mate is the chief token putter in. All marks are to starboard - First Mate gives advice about approaching the mark, which as it turns out was good advice. So having missed the mark I approach again, close but no cigar, or even a token in the bin. I go round the mark and sail off, turn and come back to the mark turning so the token could be put in and away we go. Having taken about 4 hours to get to Martham we took about an hour, if that, to get across Hickling and back onto the Thurne. Back through the bridges (Bosun awake by now) sail up and it’s time to head home.
We pass my brother’s bungalow and he decides to come out and take some pic’s. Now I can honestly say there are some things which should not be allowed out at 6.00 in the morning and my brother half dressed is one of them. Even his son (First Mate) could not look. The wind has dropped quite a lot but there is enough to keep us moving along. We meander down to Thurne Mouth and spot some boats on their way up from Acle. “Race on” shouts Bosun. I thought it was a 24 hour race so no need to rush. However the thought of getting back before them was too good to ignore, so we now start to concentrate on getting the best speed out of Waif. We then caught up some others and about 6 of us jockeyed for places all the way back to the finish.
There were several changes of places and towards the end some tactics came into play. We just got home ahead of Renown and a couple of others. Just over 19 hours, our best time so far. The crew enjoyed the race and are up for it again next year, if we get an invite. Waif was put on her mooring and put to bed. We signed back in, got our badge of honour and most importantly breakfast, which once again was very good and satisfying. A big thank you to all the organisers, the people who manned the guard ships and safety boats, the other boats for keeping out of our way, and for the fellowship of other competitors who like ourselves are unlikely to ever win but enter just to get round in one piece.
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