Three Rivers

Three Rivers

A fun overnight race for all shapes and sizes of sail boat taking in the rivers Ant, Bure and Thurne

There is a very well known sailing event that takes place every year on the Norfolk Broads, come rain or shine The Three Rivers Race. It encompasses three rivers, the Ant, the Thurne and the Bure and two Broads, South Walsham and Hickling.

It is well worth finding a on the bank along the course and watch these keen sailors and competitiors rapidly lowering their masts, shooting the bridges and once safely the other side re-hoisting the masts and sailing on as if nothing had disturbed them at all! Sometimes there is a bit of a pile up and chaos when too many of the boats arrive at a bridge at the same time!!!  Great fun to watch but remember to block the children's ears from time to time!!!

As each one comes and goes, I mentally congratulate all who take part as I remember back many years ago when I took part. 

Two days previously to the start of the race, over a pint or two, a good friend who was a seasoned Rivers race man, asked if we would like to crew him in the race. Not being of sound mind because of several bottles of grog, we said we would love to! We missed the gleam in his eye - little did we know!

Come the big day, we tottered onto the white boat, a 20 foot open sailing boat with no facilities, our racing machine for the next however many hours and stowed our many layers of clothing, waterproofs, egg and bacon sarnies, thermos flasks etc and made ready for departure. The wind was fresh and steady and the sun shining. Before setting off, I did venture a most important question to our skipper – what do we do about a loo? The short reply was – Use the bucket! My husband thought this hilarious!

Not going to happen thought I! I prayed for a heavy wind so we would finish in just a few hours.  I reasoned that if I did not drink anything and kept all thoughts of full bladders out of my mind then perhaps I would make it to the finish, dignity intact!

We set off without incident, creaming along before a fresh breeze with the sun blazing down enjoying the wonderful wildlife to be seen along the riverbanks and all was well in my world.

As the sun gradually sank below the horizon, a chilly river mist descended and the wind disappeared. We were freezing and damp despite all our layers of clothing and waterproofs, our only real burst of activity was negotiating the bridges, dropping the mast and heaving it up again when through the arches which gave us a spurt of adrenalin and warmed us up.

Hot soup, tea and coffee were eagerly consumed – not by me – and the lads occasionally stood on the aft deck and … whistled. I put my fingers in my ears to avoid hearing the sound of the tinkling music!

Come daybreak with the wind was not playing the game at all, we found ourselves slowly tacking back and forth across the river making very little headway against the outgoing tide and I could bear it no more, I was about to burst and I whispered to my captain that I needed a potty stop.

He whispered back something about a bucket and vehemently denied that he was joking! I insisted that he either put me on the bank or I would have an accident which would not be pleasant for any of us! Reluctantly he put me ashore on the next tack, hissing as he left me stranded that I would have to run and catch the boat up or else!

Needless to say I had been deposited on the most densely nettled part of the river bank and by the time I had battled with the layers of trousers and waterproofs, stamped an large enough area of nettles down to accommodate, the wind had picked up and changed direction and the white boat was disappearing into the morning mist at an alarming rate!

I set off at a gallop, heaving my trousers and waterproof bottoms up as I went. Spurred on by the shouts of “Hurry up, shift yourself, I was gaining on them slowly but then oh no ….there was a dirty big ditch blocking my path, too wide to jump! I yelled for them to come back, half expecting them to say “You stay there and we’ll pick you up on the way back” however and with a great deal of huffing and muttering about ‘flipping woman’ and ‘losing places’, the boat turned back and picked me up.

Silence reigned and no eye contact was made so feeling very chastened, I resolved to sit very still and quiet in the boat for the remainder of the race, but it is very hard thing to do when tender parts of you are nettled and you can’t scratch!

However more torture was to befall us, ghosting along feeling really hungry and thirsty, having consumed our soggy bacon sarnies and cold tea in the very small hours of the morning, we met a sailing cruiser and fellow competitor drifting gently along in the opposite direction. Once we had passed, we ran into their slipstream and the most glorious smells of fresh coffee and bacon hit our senses! For two ticks we would have turned round and begged a hot drink and a bacon butty off them, but our skipper sat firm, the race had to go on….

We eventually crossed the finish line, heaved ourselves stiffly out of the boat and collapsed in the long grass in the warm sun and slept.

With racing finished and we had downed the requisite bottles of beer, the guys had time to reflect on how we had done over the last 15 hours whilst watching me wriggle about trying to scratch without being noticed. They did see the funny side and took great pleasure in my discomfort, which I might add, took sometime to get better. I resolved there and then never to do the Three Rivers again unless it was in a sailing cruiser with a loo, a kettle and a stove!  

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