Norfolk Broads

I did my first sailing in the Scottish lochs in my fathers dinghy, but really only got started Sailing when I bought an Enterprise dinghy Clod in the Norfolk Broads in about 1990.

I kept the boat at Horning and sailed with Horning Sailing Club during the summer months and Snowflakes Sailing club during the winter months. Strangely there was more interest in dinghy sailing during the winter months as boats came in from other clubs in the Broads that didn't have a winter season.

After a couple of years I progressed to a 20ft Yeoman keelboat Sea Breeze. It was both much drier and more fun as there were more people interested in racing Yeomans.

The main sailing at Horning was up and down the river between the Swan pub and Little Hoveton Broad. Occasionally we also did some sailing on the broad itself and of course the downriver races which typically started near the Horning waterworks and went down to the Thurne Lion pub. None of the boats had engines so you often relied on the rescue boat "Reaper" for a tow to the start line at the southern end of the village.

For me though, the absolute highlights of the sailing year, were the Barton Broad regatta which was held over a weekend and the legendary 3 Rivers Race.

The 3 Rivers race is held in early June and competitors have a maximum of 24 hours to complete a 50 mile course which takes in the Bure, Thurne and Ant rivers and both South Walsham and Hickling Broads.

What makes the Race special is not just tacking in confined spaces with lots of other yachts, but also that you need to lower the mast four times to get under low bridges on the course.

If you like to see some crashes in your sport, Potter Heigham bridge is the pace to spectate from. To look good for the crowd you try to "shoot" the bridge by lowering the mast at the last moment before frantically paddling under the bridge. Sometime boats don't get their mast down in time or boats going upstream meet boats coming downstream, often with a strong current to really mix things up!

 

The wind drops in the evening too and there can still be a bit of tidal current at play, very noticeable down towards Stokesby and up to Hickling Broad, which makes progress all but impossible.

Unless you are blessed by doing the race on the fastest boats you are going to be up all night too. I have been so tired on this race that I have had hallucinations of boats coming out of the fog and even ran aground for some minutes without realising we were no longer moving.

The first time I did the race was a crew on a friends Yeoman. Subsequently I did it on my own boat with either one or two crew. Its a challenging race and I think I ran out of time the first couple of times I attempted the race. One one year though I was first Yeoman home, but was never in contention for any of the prizes. Just finishing the race is its own reward!

 

I continued to sail at Horning until about 1998, when I moved to Berkshire and took the boat down to Queen Mary Sailing Club, west of London. The procedure for dry sailing and launching the boats at Queen Mary was a little cumbersome so I only sailed on the reservoir a couple of times.