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57th Navigators & General Three Rivers Race

by Holly Hancock 5 Jun 2017 07:59 BST 3-4 June 2017

The 57th annual Navigators & General Three Rivers Race took place over the weekend of 3rd-4th June, hosted by Horning Sailing Club. As the 85 starters listened to the briefing, the key questions on everyone's mind were how long the race was going to be and whether the wind was going to last overnight?

With warm sunshine and a light breeze, there were pleasant conditions for the competitors undertaking the approx. 50 mile inland endurance race, a test of seamanship which would take them under the medieval bridge at Potter Heigham to Hickling Broad, under Acle Bridge to a turning buoy at the Stracey Windpump, onto South Walsham Broad and along the Ant to Ludham Bridge, completing the course in whichever order the crews felt would be most beneficial for the wind and tide conditions.

With the tide predicted to change at Acle in the early afternoon, all but five competitors opted to sail to Acle first, with many of the faster boats also completing both the Ludham Bridge and South Walsham legs first. As the winds dropped during the afternoon, with many competitors also fighting the tide, it was set to be a lengthy night for participants, however, winds picked up after dusk, this meant good progress in the moonlight conditions. That was, until boats started gathering on a tree covered bend just beyond Horning Church. The first few boats made it through with relatively little problems, however once a few struggled to make it around the corner in the sheltered spot against the tide, it soon become a frustration.

With originally several Punts stranded and some of the fastest sailing cruisers, described by one of the sailors as 'Punt City', they were gradually joined by more and more competitors, with only one or two breaking free every hour or so. With some sailors stuck there for six hours or more, it became a real leveller, with all types and sizes of craft in the mix, and resulted in the majority of the fleet rafting up there.

As the sun rose the winds picked up, however to little avail until the tide turned to take competitors home, with finishers coming thick and fast – the galley serving over 200 breakfasts in an hour at around 8.30am! With the last boats back by 10am this provided some of the most mixed results in the race seen in recent years.

First home and first overall in a little over eight hours was Paul Browning helming Thames A Rater "Osprey" crewed by Graham Bartholom and Justin Dunn, his second win, having previously won in 2014, ahead of James Dugdale, crewed by Henry Harston and Martin Thompson sailing another Rater "Bonito", one of the few who had opted to sail straight to Hickling, and showing that there was ultimately very little difference in the routes taken this year. Third overall were Richard Whitefoot and Giles Bradford sailing Norfolk Punt "Comet2, ahead of another Rater, "Lady Jane" sailed by Nick Fribbens, crewed by Matt Kyte and Kevin Pearson some five hours ahead of the next finisher.

Completing the top ten was last year's winner, Martin Hunter sailing Merlin Rocket "Quiver", Peter Bainbridge helming Yarmouth One Design "Helen", Kevin Edwards helming Norfolk Dinghy "Minnie", despite having been almost sunk due to a sailing cruiser dragging their stern under the water close to the Stracey Windpump, the River Cruisers of Chris Bunn and Clive Richardson, sailing Skylark and Ladybird respectively, with production cruiser Aslan helmed by Jeremy Nunns in his first Three Rivers Race tenth. Some of those which were at the bottleneck early but not lucky enough to get through earlier were severely affected in the results, such as Richie Dugdale's Zingara who had been neck and neck with Skylark up to that point, but finished 51st on handicap, this also happened with the Norfolk Punts, with the exception of Comet, they all finished 52nd or later.

The bridges provided their usual share of excitement, with huge crowds gathering on Potter Heigham and Acle Bridge to celebrate (or commiserate) with competitors on their lowering and raising. As always, several shot the bridge in spectacular fashion, with some leaving it to the last moment possible to drop their rig, much to the delight of spectators! At one point there was a 2-way meeting under Potter Heigham Bridge, with a Cruiser and Rater trying to get through in opposite directions at the same time, only to be joined by another Cruiser and a Rebel, miraculously all making it through relatively unscathed!

The race saw several new, younger competitors take part in their first, including three Fireflys from the University of East Anglia Sailing Club, whilst the team of William Penny (17), Christopher Willis (17) and Henry Whipp (16) persisted to finish in 21st place, in the process raising funds and awareness for the Dystonia Society and Horning Sailing Club Training Centre, to date raising £1250.

Despite the challenging conditions, the race only saw 12 retirements, and finished with a good-humoured attitude, truly showing the spirit of the race, a test of seamanship.

Overall Results: (top ten)

1. Osprey – Thames A Rater (P Browning/G Batholomew/J Dunn)
2. Bonito – Thames A Rater (J Dugdale/H Harston/M Thompson)
3. Comet – Norfolk Punt (R Whitefoot/G Bradford)
4. Lady Jane – Thames A Rater (N Fribbens/M Kyte/K Pearson)
5. Quiver – Merlin Rocket (M Hunter/M Herman)
6. Helen – Yarmouth One Design (P Bainbridge/T Howard/B Bainbridge)
7. Minnie – Norfolk One Design (K Edwards/M Smethurst)
8. Skylark – River Cruiser (C Bunn/N Tansley/M Ford/J Ford)
9. Ladybird – River Cruiser (C Richardson/N Spanton/J Everson/J Balding/C Tuckett)
10. Aslan – Production Cruiser (J Nunns/S Didsbury/R Nunns/J Didsbury)

Trophy Winners 2017:

  • Three Rivers Trophy & New Three Rivers Trophy (overall, handicap) – Osprey (Paul Browning)
  • Bosuns Call A (dinghy handicap under 12%) – Osprey (Paul Browning)
  • Bosuns Call B (dinghy handicap 12% and over) – Minnie (Kevin Edwards)
  • Elias Trophy (fastest River Cruiser 12% and over, handicap) – Vacuna (Simon Bryan)
  • Melody Trophy (River Cruiser handicap) – Skylark (Chris Bunn)
  • Peter Cumming Tankard (first non-HSC member) – Osprey (Paul Browning)
  • Puffin Trophy (halfdecker, handicap) – Helen (Peter Bainbridge)
  • Trudi Memorial (first HSC member) – Minnie (Kevin Edwards)
  • Mora Cruiser (River Cruiser fastest passage) – Skylark (Chris Bunn)
  • Night Light Trophy (first Wayfarer) – Moonshadow (Tony Lewis)
  • Howes Trophy (first YBOD) – The Miller (Flip Foulds)
  • Stanley Facey Memorial (fastest passage) – Osprey (Paul Browning)
  • Ivybank Jug (first Yeoman) – result pending
  • NBYCo Trophy (first Hire Cruiser) – Zoe (Will Loram)
  • Jubilee Cup for Rebel OD (first Rebel) – Rebel Breeze (Tracey McMahon)
  • Charles Hickling Memorial (highest placed average age over 55) – Osprey (Paul Browning)
  • Navigators & General Trophy (highest placed in first Three Rivers Race) – Aslan (Jeremy Nunns)
  • Navigators & General Team Trophy (first team) – Mario's Team
  • Green Ginger Cup (first Production Cruiser, handicap) – Aslan (Jeremy Nunns)
  • BeWILDerwod Challenge Cup (highest placed helm in open boat 25 years of age and under) – Bonito (James Dugdale)
  • Lysander Cup (last boat to finish, elapsed time over 20 hours) – Dawn (James McDonald Liegeois)
  • Wildgoose Cup (first female helm) – The Miller (Flip Foulds)
  • Reedling Fiftieth Anniversary Trophy (first Reedling) – Jaws (Stuart Bailey)
  • Coffee Pot Trophy (first Norfolk Punt) – Comet (Richard Whitefoot)
Full results and trophy list will shortly be available on HSC's website,

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