River Blackwater was a truly magnificent
sight on Saturday 10th June, when 13 sailing
barges and 11 smacks took part in the 39th
Annual Sailing Barge Match. Some of the
vessels were local with the rest sailing
in from Kent, Suffolk and the London River,
and one, Ena, having just returned
from the celebrations at Dunkirk. They were
accompanied by numerous other barges, smacks
and traditional sailing craft who were there
to support and view the spectacle. The course
was set to the North West Knoll and back
with the first start being at 10.00 hours.
The wind was a light north-westerly and
so all the barges were able to run down
the river, booming out every stitch of canvas
that they possessed.
The first over the line in the Staysail
class was Repertor, skippered by
Adrian Mulville, who beat Wyvenhoe
sailed by Keith Golding by seconds,
and then came Phoenician with
Gordon Williamson (Willy) at
the wheel, and Pudge (Terry O'Sullivan).
Ena (Robert Deards), Gladys
(Gary Diddams), Reminder (Roger
Beckett) and Betula (Eddie
In the Bowsprit Class the fastest start
of the day was made by Portlight
skippered by Lawrance Tester.
Portlight was closely followed by
Mirosa (Peter Dodds), Xylonite
(Richard Titchner), Thistle (Steve
Polden) and Cabby (Gerard
The start for the Smacks was at 10.30 and
the five minute gun saw all 11 of them gilling
around the line, trying to get the fastest
start, which was achieved by Bob Fawkes
on Lizzie Annie closely followed
by Ian Wilson and Martha II.
The other smacks sailing were Charlotte
Ellen (James Bardrick and Souter
Harris), Ethel Alice (Barry
Tester), Gracie (Tony
Ryan), Alice & Florrie (Tony
Judd), Jacqueline (David Moss),
Primrose (Edwin Bracken),
Boadicea (Reuben Frost), Sunbeam
(John Minster), Hyacinth (Rupert
Marks) and Kate. All the smacks
quickly began to catch up with the barges
and brown sails could be seen completely
midday the wind had slowly died and backed
South Westerly, so the course was shortened
by the Officer of the Day, Ron Hall,
to a buoy laid just up river of the Bench
Head. All the vessels rounded the outer
mark in very close proximity. The fleet
tacked back up river in a freshening South
Westerly breeze allowing some exciting finishes.
The first barge home in the Bowsprit Class
was Xylonite, who completed the course
in 5 hours 49 minutes and 04 seconds closely
followed by Mirosa 2 minutes 42 seconds
later. Portlight came third in class
and then Cabby and Thistle.
Mirosa was also first round the outer
mark in the Bowsprit Class, and was deemed
to have made the best rounding.
In the Staysail Class, the first barge home
was Repertor, 2nd Wyvenhoe,
3rd Gladys, and 4th Ena. Repertor
was the fisrt round the outer mark in the
Staysail Class with Pudge just beating
Phoenician into 5th place followed
by Reminder and Betula.
Ethel Alice was the first Smack home,
completing the course in 4 hours 58 minutes
and 45 seconds, followed by Lizzie Annie
and Martha II. Then came Gracie,
Primrose, Hyacinth, Kate, Sunbeam, Boadicea
and Jacqueline, with Alice &
Florrie winning the Last Bell.
Visitors to the Hythe were treated to a
rare and traditional sight later in the
day, when 17 barges, and a large number
of smacks came back up river on the tide
and moored alongside.
To end the day, the Prize Giving and Race
Supper was held at the Swan Hotel.