Three Rivers Race delay worth the wait
The aftermath of the storms took their toll when race controller Colin Facey took the brave but totally justified decision early on Saturday morning to postpone the start of the Navigators and General HSC Three Rivers Race by five hours to 4pm.
By that time the wind was expected to abate from the force five plus then prevailing to levels more amenable for safe and enjoyable sailing – and so it proved.
The changes involved re-jigging the safety boat arrangements and shortening the course, placing the Lower Bure Mark just upstream of Acle Bridge and moving the Hickling mark into Heigham Sound, leaving the spectator sport of watching the transit of Potter Heigham Bridge intact.
Competitors supported this decision, although Colin had to take some ribbing from veterans that it was a reversion to 'the good old days when the race always started in mid afternoon'.
Ultimately the start was postponed a further hour when the fleet got away, making good progress benefitting from the following wind and passing St Benets within the hour, and those who opted to go to Potter first were at the bridge after barely 100 minutes sailing.
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With Acle Bridge out of the equation Potter was the main area of attraction and there were plenty to witness the fun and games. Some earned merited praise for their approach, including veteran John Parker in his Punt, Ian Tims in the X1 and Peter Montague, who made a text book shooting in his YBOD, as did Chris Bunn and his team aboard Moonshadow.
On the other hand there were several who, despite the following wind, were over cautious, lowering well short and giving themselves extra work, notably Richard Parker who got into a terrible stew when his boom went broadside to the boat as he lowered, effectively stopping him and leaving him to drift stern first in the face of the strong tide.
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By sunset the wind had dropped to almost nothing at Horning, although there remained a light breeze at Potter and the more open areas, but several who stuck out the night ironically expressed wishes for more wind!
The end result saw some remarkably close finishes. Nick Fribbens, with Kevin Pension helming and Paul Armitage in their Rater Lady Jane, took the honours with a scintillating performance, sailing via Ludham, South Walsham and Acle. They punched the tide at almost every point except their return from Heigham Sound, when they flew down the Thurne, not repeating last year's capsize, to take five trophies and their first win, arriving home shortly after midnight to beat runner-up Chris Bunn and team aboard Moonshadow by 16 minutes.
The latter just missed out on his seventh win in five classes thanks to being tidebound on the final stages, but still gained three awards.
They came thick and fast thereafter, with the first 25 completing in under 12 hours corrected time, some separated by seconds rather than minutes. Peter Wilkins, in the large Wayfarer fleet, won the dinghies with minutes to spare from the X1 and the Norfolk.