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River Cruiser open meeting 2024 at Norfolk Punt Club

by Alastair Drew 14 Jun 11:19 BST 8-9 June 2024

The River Cruisers of the Norfolk Broads have a fascinating history, with today's yachts being largely made up from survivors of a post Victorian leisure industry all the way through to very recent built custom racers, using modern materials and rig designs.

To be in class, boats are required to ensure (amongst others) that they are designed specifically and exclusively for the Broads, have an aft cockpit, cabin and mast mounted on a tabernacle with forepeak to allow the mast to be lowered. The lowering of mast of course important for navigating through the bridges of the Broads.

12 River Cruisers were required to lower masts to travel under Ludham Bridge for the River Cruiser Open held on Barton Broad on the 8th and 9th of June, hosted by the Norfolk Punt Club. With one local boat joining them, 13 boats took to the start line on the Saturday. With rain clouds circling, the wind for the first race was fickle, starting with a f2-3 south westerly before turning north westerly and during a rain shower dropping to very little.

Ladybird (13 - Ben Knights) won the fast fleet race, starting ahead of Melinda (217 - Paul Howes) and staying out in front. These two boats being significantly ahead of the rest of the fleet. For the slower handicaps, racing was much tighter, with 4 boats finishing in under a minute of each other on corrected time. Sylkie (295 - Robert Graveling) pipped Mystery (218 - Matt Ford) and Pickle (429 - Philip Montague).

Luckily for the organising committee, the clouds parted just before the second race and a wonderful steady breeze filled in from the north west, basking the Broad in sunshine. With a course change made, racing was much closer with many boats changing places during the race. In the fast fleet, Melinda this time pipped Ladybird, with Jessie May (262 - Sally Dugdale) third. Sylkie again won the slower fleet, with Sprite (290 - Mark Elson) finishing second and Mystery third.

On Sunday, a brisk F3 gusting F4 westerly wind welcomed the competitors to the second day of racing. The gusts were enough for around a third of the fleet to put a reef in.

The Bermudan rigs appear to fair better on Sunday with Ladybird finishing a minute ahead of Jessie May in the fast fleet, with Pippa (24 -Geoff Angell) finishing in 3rd.

For the slower fleet, Pickle perfected a port flyer, staying ahead of the fleet for almost the whole race (despite being the slowest boat on handicap) and finished first. Sylkie finished second and Sprite third.

With almost identical conditions for the forth and final race, the finishes were very similar to the third. For the fast fleet Jessie May this time pipping Ladybird, Pippa again third. The slow fleet was again won by Pickle, with Sprite a very close second and Alchemy (348 - Richard Smith) just 3 seconds back in third.

3 from 4 races counted:
The Moonshadow's knob trophy for the slow fleet was won by Sylkie with Pickle and Sprite close runners up.
The Barton Broad Cruiser Challenge Cup was won by Ladybird from Jessie May and Melinda.
The Achievement Trophy (Cruisers faster than a handicap of -1 eligible) was won by Ladybird and the combined result
White Horse Trophy was won by Ladybird from Pickle and Jessie May.

Thanks go to all competitors who made the journey up to the Norfolk Punt Club, the safety boat crew, tea crew and officers of the day, who at one point numbered 9, with a whole host of under 12s getting well involved in running the starts and finishes.

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