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55th Navigators & General Three Rivers Race

by Holly Hancock 1 Jun 2015 13:10 BST 30-31 May 2015

The 55th Navigators & General Three Rivers Race, hosted by Horning Sailing Club on the Norfolk Broads, took place over the weekend of 30th and 31st May 2015, attracting 104 starters from near and far to compete in the event. The boats started the 24-hour endurance race from Horning on Saturday morning. It was then up to competitors to choose their route, whether to do the Ludham and South Walsham legs first, or to head to Acle or Potter Heigham, taking into account tides and wind conditions. Quite remarkably, not a single boat was over the line during any of the thirteen starts.

In true Three Rivers Race style, the day began with a pleasant breeze and warm sunshine before clouding over and, as forecast, the breeze steadily dropped during the afternoon to be flat calm by nightfall. Thankfully a moonlit night, the lull did not last long, and the winds gently picked up again ensuring that all the competitors were home somewhat unusually by 8am, despite a soaking as the rain came down in the early hours.

As always, the Race had its fair share of thrills and spills with a few surprises along the way as several key contenders were taken out early on with gear failure - notably Paul Howes sailing River Cruiser Melinda, which suffered a broken gaff after an incident at Ludham Bridge turning buoy, and Chris Bunn sailing Ladybird whose mast broke on Hickling Broad following a grounding in the mud. Lowering of masts at the bridges provided its usual entertainment for spectators, particularly at Potter Heigham where some managed to sail between the bridges, especially Martin Thompson sailing YBOD Dingy Skipper who shot the bridge spectacularly in both directions, later finishing in 5th place.

Despite an impressive dinghy turnout for the Race, including some ten Wayfarers, fifteen Norfolk Punts and three Thames A Raters, it was the year of the Cruisers, with first and second place going to Beth helmed by Glynn Howarth and Moonraker sailed by Chris Pank respectively, both starting in the Fast Cruisers start and finishing shortly before midnight. First time winner Beth was the first Cruiser to win since Matthew Thwaites sailing Storm in 1999, and marked the eighth time a Cruiser has won the Race in its history. Third was Yarmouth One Design Helen sailed by Peter Bainbridge.

With a good breeze forecast during the day, Race Officer George Whitefoot took the decision to place the turning marks close to the Clubhouse on Hickling Broad and beyond Stokesby at the Stracey Windpump, to allow participants to make the most of the conditions. This resulted in a distinct split in the routes taken by competitors, but it seems that those who opted to sail the Hickling leg first reaped the rewards, with the first ten competitors all having taken this route. With clear winds on the open stretches of water, it was a largely reaching and running course, although the wind swung 180 degrees during the afternoon, providing quite a sight as boats returning to Thurne mouth from both Acle and Potter Heigham were flying their spinnakers in opposite directions! In the trees however, it was a different story with Fleet Dyke at South Walsham resembling a mirror and boats rafted across the river, becalmed in the conditions.

The first boat home was Thames A Rater Lady Jane arriving back to the Clubhouse at just past 10pm, shortly followed by the Punts of Richard Whitefoot and Alastair Drew, who moved to 9th, 4th and 6th respectively in the overall results. Completing the top ten was Yare & Bure Chalkhill Blue in seventh place sailed by Peter Montague, Norfolk Punt Redwing helmed by Rupert Redington eighth and Yeoman Blue Ripple sailed by James Bunting tenth.

Competition was still intense further down the fleets, particularly where sailors took different routes, only establishing which had paid off close to the end of the Race, with eighty-six craft making it to the finish line. Two of the youngest competitors - young sailors Curtis Drew and Anna Bunn, both having come through Horning Sailing Club's Training programme - did well to complete the Race, each helming for the first time, in a Norfolk Punt & Yeoman, finishing in 53rd and 54th place respectively.

For more photographs of the events please see www.norfolkeventsphotography.co.uk/galleries/55th-three-rivers-race-2015

Full results can be found here and the list of trophy winners can be found here.

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