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The English Raid.


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Part 1, the raid assembles.  

Anybody who was at Barton Turf this afternoon may have witnessed the launching of a motley collection of small(ish) boats, some 19 in all, who will, over the next 4 days, be sailing and rowing their way around a significant part of the northern broads.  Later in the afternoon the crews assembled at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club, Wroxham, for a few beers, dinner, and the issuing of instructions for the first day of the raid.


If you're on Barton in the morning (Tuesday 6th August) expect to see this motley crew making their way from the staithe to the broad, racing around the broad by sail, and later some racing by oar, prior to the entire fleet sailing/rowing down the Ant and Bure, and up the Thurne to Womack, where they will moor overnight at Hunters Yard.  The boats range in size from a little Mirror Dinghy, to a New Bedford Whaleboat, a vessel almost 30 foot in length, needing a crew of 8 to handle her safely.  Expect to see her heading down the Ant with eight oars flashing in the water.  Boats have travelled from Cornwall, Scotland and the Netherlands to join the raid, though there are a handful of local, Norfolk, boats taking part too.


Look out for the raiders, they should all be flying a long, white, pennant with a red cross and the raid logo.


Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some photos to post.

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Part 2, the raiders set sail.


What a motley crew.  A more disparate collection of boats it would be hard to imagine.  The sailing race around Barton was won, unsurprisingly by a local boat a YBOD. They'd probably have come second if not for the fact that the crew of the Norfolk Punt were late out of bed and missed the first lap of the race.  The rowing race proved a close run thing between the six oars of the New Bedford Whaleboat, (one person to each oar) and the four oars of the skiff, (one person to two oars).  Everybody else was left in their wake as they battled to the line - a photo finish with the result still to be announced.

Oh so slowly, in very light winds, the fleet sailed (or rowed) down the Ant to How Hill for a lunch stop.  If you were in one of the many cruisers which were backed up by all the tacking that was going on, our apologies, but we hope you enjoyed the spectacle.  Onward to Ludham and once through the bridge the wind freshened and the fleet became more spread out, and of course, once on to the Bure and the Thurne there was a lot more space.  Eventually we all safely made it to Hunters Yard to moor overnight ... with only one casualty, the poor chap who capsized his Mirror Dinghy.  The 40+ raiders enjoyed a fine carvery meal at the Kings Head, Ludham, washed down with plenty of fine ale.


It all starts again tomorrow morning when we leave Hunter's Yard at around 9.30 to head up to Potter Heigham and on to the Pleasure Boat at Hickling in the search for more beer.







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Part 3 Onward to Hickling 


The day dawned a little overcast, but the winds had strengthened.  Around 10.00am the raiders set sail from Hunters at Womack, and turned left up the Thurne.  For many of the raiders this was their first experience of the Broads and its rivers, and when you're sitting in a 10 foot dinghy with three of the latest 45 foot motorcruisers bearing down on you it must be quite an intimidating experience.  Nonetheless, all made it safely up to Potter Heigham, tacking all the way, and then of course it was masts down to pass through Potter Bridge - a challenge all of its own.  Masts raised again, and once the Potter bungalows were behind us, most of us flew up the Thurne, past Martham boatyard and into Candle Dyke.  The Whaleboat, with it's great flag flying (this boat participated in the Jubilee pageant on the Thames, and also was involved in an event connected to the Olympics) showed a tremendous turn of speed, and the crew were adept at using their oars to accelerate the tack.  Even the YBOD ( the 'White Boat') struggled to keep pace.  Lunch was taken on the moorings to the left of  the dyke, just after the entrance to Meadow Dyke, and after lunch the fleet scatttered across Hickling Broad, sails and flags flying.  I'm sorry I didn't manage to get any pictures of the sailing - the wind was strong and it was all hands to the sheets.  


At the end of the day the fleet moored in the Pleasure Boat dyke ... never mind the BA recommending double mooring - some of us were tripled!  The offerings of the Pleasure Boat were fully indulged in, and they'd kindly laid on the Muddy Broad Blues Band to play for us ... well maybe we just happened to be there on their regular night :grin:    


Managed to get a few pictures in the dyke.  Tomorrow we turn and head back to Womack.






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Well I go home to my cottage in North Norfolk  :grin: .  Some of the raiders sleep on their boats (very cosy - they're very small boats).  Some are camping locally, at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club at Wroxham, some have rented cottages.  The raid is really well organised.  Each day we meet at NBYC and are ferried by minibus to the boats.  We sail for the day, moor up, hit the pub, and then get ferried back to Wroxham (except those who have chosen to sleep on their boats)

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Part 4.  Return to Womack.


The day dawned with a fierce heat at Hickling.  The raid organiser announced there would be a race on Hickling Broad to begin the day.  The more competitive amongst us immediately began rigging sails.  Some of us (including yours truly) noticed (i) the almost complete absence of wind, and (ii) that the Pleasureboat had opened and was serving coffee.  My excuse was that my boat was on the inside, with two moored outside of me ... and since I couldn't move until they did, and they were having coffee ...


Eventually we were all on the water, and the latecomers tried to suppress smug grins as the wind suddenly arrived, from behind us, and we rapidly overhauled the early starters.  Across the Broad and along the dyke, and a left turn into Meadow Dyke.  Hard work, the wind was against us all the way, and oars and paddles became necessary.  Eventually the fleet emerged onto Horsey Mere, and the wind had strengthened.  Nineteen sailing boats blatted up and down, to and fro.  Nobody else except a couple of kayaks and a couple of small dayboats was on the water as we ducked an dived behind each others sterns, and lots of unofficial, undeclared, private races took place.  Eventually we all headed into Horsey Dyke for lunch, and Stuart at the NT hut almost ran out of ice creams!


Back on to the Mere, and heading for the dyke.  This time the wind was on our side, coming off the sea, and we blatted along.  The handful of dayboats coming the other way ducked into the reeds appearing shocked at what was coming their way.  Out onto Heigham Sound and the wind strengthened yet again; this was great sailing, heeled over as we again raced unofficially (who had the fastest boat)?  Onwards to Potter, masts down for the bridge, and raised again.  By now the river was largely empty, most big boats had moored for the evening, but the wind was perfect for us.


Some of you motor boat folks, I know from experience, are a little surprised to see a sailing boat flying down the left hand side of the river, hugging the reeds (surely we drive on the right?)  There's a special wind that lifts off the land, just at the very edge of the river, and fills our sails and speeds us up.  Those of us that understand this wind will stay as close to the bank as we can, our gunwhales brushing against the reeds, even if we are technically on the wrong side.  We won't leave our station, we'll stay tucked in as close as we can, so just steer round us, there's plenty of room.


Eventually we reached Womack, and Hunters Yard once again ...the Kings Head beckons - there's a pint of Broadside waiting for me  cheersbar







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Part Five.  The Final Push.


As the raiders gathered on the final morning the rain was falling heavily, and there was some reluctance to uncover the boats.  However, in the big Norfolk skies a few chinks of blue could be seen, splitting open the black clouds, and so we got to work.  Drifting out of Hunter's Yard, sails were quickly raised, head to wind on Womack, and soon we were tacking towards the Thurne.  The wind was precocious, but long port tacks and short starboard ones slowly took us down the Thurne against the tide.  Slowly the fleet split up as the faster boats reached Thurne Mouth and headed up the Bure, now with the tide running in their favour.  As the tide began to help, so did the wind, strengthening a little, and the skies also began to clear.  Good sailing was had past St. Benets and the mouth of the Ant, but then we reached the dreaded trees.  The White Boat and the Broads Yacht, with their high gunter rigs, still managed to catch a little wind from above the trees. The massive sail of the Whaleboat, coupled with the power of six oars saw them disappear in the distance. The smaller boats downed sail and resorted to oars alone as we made our way past Ranworth Dyke and slowly on to Cockshoot Dyke to moor for lunch.


After Cockshoot came the challenge of Horning.  There's little wind with all the buildings lining the river, there are hordes of motor cruisers slowly manoeuvring, looking for a mooring by a pub, or trying to leave one, and then as we turned Swan Corner we encountered the final day of Horning Week, one of the Broads oldest and busiest sailing regattas.


A huge fleet of Rebel One Designs, White Boats, and River Cruisers were running towards us, pursued by the youngsters in their Lasers, Toppers and Oppies.  Horning Sailing Club had posted big boards along the river to advise motor cruisers of the regatta, and to ask them to keep well over to the starboard bank, looking downriver) where they would be out of the way, because the racers had been told to tack short on that side to leave clearance.  However, nobody had told the motor boat skippers that not every sailing boat they might meet was involved in the racing, and that these boats had not received the race instruction to stay away from that bank.  Add to this the fact that many of the raiders were still under oar, and a rowed boat is a lot wider than a sailed boat.  Result - carnage.  No actual collisions, but a few "full and frank exchanges of opinion" were heard!


Eventually we were beyond the upriver mark and n quieter waters, and slowly we pushed on, to arrive to the welcoming wide open expanse of Wroxham Broad under blue skies, with puffy white clouds billowing and signalling a fair wind of about force 3 - ideal for a few hours of gentle sailing all over the broad before, with some considerable reluctance, boats were moored, or pulled out of the water on to their trailers, and the raid was over  ... almost.


I can't tell you much about the formal dinner at NBYC, except that it was rather splendid, but I can tell you that Woodforde's Sundew is a damn fine beer for a warm August evening, and we did our damndest to drink the club dry!






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