The first Southend barge match in 1964 had 10 barges (one of which was Edith May) and suitably, the same number turned out for the 50th.
50th Southend Barge Match
Weighing anchor Weighing anchor The first Southend barge match in 1964 had 10 barges (one of which was Edith May) and suitably, the same number turned out for the 50th. Edith May headed over in the early hours of Sunday morning looking to make amends for last year’s poor show where she clouted one of the marks and ultimately retired (Southend 2012) Joining her were Niagara, Reminder and Repertor in the Staysails, Adieu, Cambria, Decima and Marjorie in Bowsprits, and Lady of the Lea and Pudge in the Coasting Class. Niagara was leading the Championship comfortably at this point but Edith May was in a resurgent mood following her excellent result on the Swale. Bernie Sayer keeps his eye on Niagara Bernie Sayer keeps his eye on Niagara The wind was blowing strong NE and this was felt to be a fair breeze and conditions for the old girl. The course was West Shoebury (S), Nore Swatch (S), Southend Pier (P), West Nore Sand (S), West Leigh Middle (S) and finish. Starting west-east, Edith May got a flying start, 48 seconds after the gun, securing the first over the start line trophy for the third successive year and two valuable Championship points. Heading to the first mark, Edith May was not able to point straight to it, whilst Niagara, travelling fast and pointing high, made lots of ground and had passed by the time the barges reached the mark. Running out to the Kent shore, Edith May pulled away from the rest of the fleet, but could not keep up with Niagara. A good rounding of the Nore Swatch left Edith May about 1/4 mile behind Niagara. Edith May leads the fleet away Edith May leads the fleet away Suddenly, Niagara’s staysail began flogging – the tack had parted and so she had to drop it. Edith May instantly began making ground. Struggling to point straight to the mark, it became clear a tack would have to be made to reach it. Both barges winded around, with Edith May back with a sniff of the lead. On rounding the pier mark, Niagara bore away briefly before sharpening back up, allowing Edith May to retake the lead! Edith May sailed back to the Kent shore with a fair lead and knowing that a good rounding would go a long way to securing victory. With the tide not long after low water, there was hardly any depth the other side of it and a close rounding was essential. Unfortunately, the approach was not quite right, with the flood tide setting the barge on to the buoy – flash backs of the previous year’s cock up came to the forefront of everyone’s mind and the skipper held the barge back up for a moment to ensure she went clear. This left her wide of the mark and in the shallows. With her recently dropped leeboard now dragging along the bottom, she was slow to bear away and gybe, sending her well down wind. Niagara catching Niagara catches and passes Edith May Niagara catches and passes Edith May And then she begins to build a lead Niagara, who were well peeved at relinquishing their earlier lead, seized their opportunity. She got her approach right and performed a heavy gybe straight away, leaving her comfortably in the upwind position. The chase is on! The chase is on! With both barges fighting the flood tide it was still all to play for and Edith May tacked into the shallows to try and regain her lost ground. It was, unfortunately, in vain and the crew were left to rue their poor rounding of the West Nore Sand. Looking back, Edith May and Niagara had both performed exceptionally well, finishing well ahead of the following barges. Edith May hounds the Niagara Edith May hounds the Niagara (Yachting Monthly) There had been some great racing amongst the fleet and a good battle between Marjorie and Adieu in the Bowsprits, with the former coming out on top. Some of the fleet had enjoyed a slightly easier rounding of the outer mark at the pier, as Reminder fouled the buoy and dragged it up the Thames, leaving the following barges to sail clear! Edith May regains the lead Edith May regains the lead The strong breeze had resulted in a couple of unfortunate breakages in the fleet – Decima’s bowsprit caused her foredeck to buckle and so she shipped it, racing as staysail for the rest of the day. Pudge meanwhile, suffered a disintegrated crab winch and had to devise a new way of operating her leeboards using tackles. This innovation led to her being awarded the Seamanship trophy. It was a fantastic race and fitting for the 50th match. Well done to the Southend Committee for running a great match and we greatly look forward to next years match.