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Norfolk Punt Class Athene Cup 2022 at the Norfolk Punt Club

by Andrew Friend 13 Oct 2022 07:32 BST 8 October 2022

A high calibre fleet of multiple past, current and probable future class champions gathered at the mouth of the River Thurne on the Norfolk Broads for the 2022 Athene Cup.

Competitors who had travelled from as far afield as Geneva, London, and across East Anglia were met with a variable 6-15 knots of breeze and bright sunshine - perfect punt racing conditions!

The Athene cup throws a couple of challenges up when compared to traditional punt races held on the open water of Barton Broad, primarily the two (fairly) hard immovable objects either side of the racecourse coming in the form of riverbanks or reed-beds. Fortunately as noted by punt 98 Redwing's helm Rupert Redington there is the advantage on the rivers that you can't get confused by the course as its either one of two ways! With this in mind the fleet of 10 boats were briefed by race officers Val and Neville Kambatta.

Starting from the confluence of the rivers Thurne and Bure the fleet would sail upwind up the Bure to a turning mark near St Benets Abbey, then head downwind (with a few bends to make things interesting for those with larger spinnakers) turning left onto the river Thurne towards Potter Higham, then round another mark, back past the river junction and along the Bure the other way towards Acle to a final mark to then head back towards Thurne to finish. All marks taken to starboard, simple.

To keep things interesting for the race officers the positioning of the final 2 marks was to be variable depending on the speed of the boats with the aim of achieving a 2 hour race. With two trophies the Athene cup for overall winner on handicap and the Blackbird Trophy for fastest over the water the stage was set.

Following a clean start aced by the recently restored Razorbill the fleet engaged in a short tacking battle up the River Bure, first to find their rhythm were Comet closely followed by Blackbird and Goosander giving the crews a solid work out swinging wire to wire through the tacks. After completing more tacks that they had for the whole season in one leg Blackbird managed to break clear of Comet just before the first mark only in their excitement (or perhaps exhaustion) to capsize at the buoy letting Comet Goosander and Redwing through.

The following downwind leg demonstrated various sail configurations. The Norfolk Punt has a restricted upwind sail area, but unlimited downwind, some boats opting for masthead asymmetric spinnakers, others fractional symmetric spinnakers, along with more manageable size configurations.

Some of the more experienced river sailors chose to reconfigure their boats from their open water asymmetric set up to a traditional symmetric spinnaker arrangement, allowing greater flexibility when navigating the bends and sifting breeze. Capitalising on this were Comet and Redwing with their river set up symmetric kites able to sail a safe route following the bends while Blackbird and Goosander were left gybing and at times hanging on to their asymmetric sails.

After worrying the race officers with the speed of their return to the starting area the course length was extended. Comet and Blackbird spent the next legs trading places at the front while Redwing and Snow Goose broke clear of Goosander, Razorbill and Peregrine.

After two hours of racing Blackbird were the first to cross the line, winning the appropriately titled 'Blackbird Trophy', they were closely followed by Comet then Redwing next to cross the line.

After the handicaps had been applied Comet took the overall win and were awarded the Athene Cup for 2022 with Redwing in second and Goosander third. Special credit was given also to the team on Swallowtail who new to the boat completed the race without mishap and will certainly be ones to watch in the future.

Overall Results:

Athene Cup
1st 102 Comet - Richard Whitefoot and Paul Jarvey
2nd 98 Redwing - Rupert Redington And Cliff Haslam
3rd 89 Goosander - Alistair Drew and Mark Elson

Blackbird Trophy
74 Blackbird - Andrew and Robert Friend

PosBoat NameSail NoHelmCrewHandicapFinishElapsedCorrected
1Comet102Richard WhitefootPaul Jarvey908146.5155116069
2Redwing98Rupert RedingtonCliff Haslam908148655866151
3Goosander89Alastair DrewMark Elson95014.12.2658466153
4Blackbird74Andrew FriendRobert Friend880146.1954796226
5Goldeneye25Dick RoeKate Dulieu102314.21.2463846240
6Snow Goose96Jane ParkerKaren Armitage90814.10.3257326312
7Razorbill73Richard ParkerRobert Snelling89414.13.1258926590
8Wild Goose53John ParkerPaul Armitage90814.15.3860386649
9Peregrine86Noel BradshawBen Bradshaw88014.12.3858586656
10Swallowtail67Jack HollandGavin Smith90814.28.1767977485

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