For some, the Turkey Race weekend started a day early, on the Friday. Vixen left Reedham late morning to make her way up river, stopping off at Cantley on the way for a “swift one” with the crew of Seabird, who called in there to collect the club dory. By the time they departed, complete with takeaway lunch, Jessie May were also on their way upriver and the three boats arrived together at Surlingham Ferry, where White Rose, Pandora III and Retribution were already ensconced.
A pleasant afternoon in company was whiled away, followed by a slightly uproarious group meal for eleven in the pub. The rot set in when Wally was unable to make a choice between two main courses and made the mistake of saying he fancied both. Both was what he got, on one plate. When Tony gave Jean his sausage and she declared it rather filling, any remaining decorum was lost.
After a somewhat wild night on board (due to the half gale blowing, rather than any unseemly behaviour) and breakfast in the pub, decisions had to be made regarding the race. Officer of the day, Joe Farrow, disappeared upriver in the club dory and came back with the cautious view that a race might be possible. He went back upriver with the Commodore to get a second opinion and, eventually, they decided to drop a couple of buoys and offer a race. Contingency plans for a three-legged race were also made, just in case…
Conditions (a gusty force 6-7) were discussed and a potential course offered at the briefing, with an open ‘gate’ start for safety. Competitors were asked for a show of interest. Four of the seven skippers present raised their hands and we had a race on! There was then a frantic flurry of reefing and some interesting sail combinations paraded on the water for the entertainment of those not brave enough to race.
Pandora was first across the line, sporting a tiny new storm jib with her three reefs. The tack against the strong ebb was hard work, but as she pulled clear of the trees by the pub she began to make reasonable progress. May was next away, sporting the most sensible and balanced sail combination of all the competitors and, after untangling their jib sheets, they set off at a fine pace upriver. Rebecca, with the main also fully reefed, was rather unbalanced, as she only carries one (large) jib. This made tacking rather tricky, not helped by the exceedingly low tide, which meant she was also grounding at the end of some tacks. After a few twirls, they got some speed up and crossed the line.
Lucky Breeze was last away, also carrying her normal jib, but with one reef in the mainsail. This made her rather unbalanced, but after a little local difficulty, she finally got away too. Sadly, for the crew, she was a struggle to control and their race eventually ended in the middle of a reed bed.
Meanwhile, May was around the top mark and charging back on the run. Despite a rather heavy gybe at the corner (which had the club dory racing back to see if she was still on the water, rather than in the trees) she held things together and crossed the line while others were still struggling with the tack up to the mark. This produced an eventual winning margin of 20 minutes! Pandora rounded the buoy next, while Rebecca continued to struggle with the low water near the banks, but it turned into a close finish on paper, with only 9 seconds between them on corrected time. Rebecca took second place – a satisfactory reward after their long journey round from the northern rivers – with Pandora having to be content with third.
The usual excellent Christmas meal then followed, with many non-racing members joining in the fun. The table decoration competition produced some amazing and high quality entries, but the outstanding winner was Jean’s ‘Three ships sailing’ carousel. The small matter of the prizegiving (at which the Rhead family were presented with the most enormous turkey ever seen at any of our events) was followed by the well supported raffle. This went downhill rapidly when the first prize was won by the commodore and many subsequent ones by other committee members (past and present), to the increasing agitation of Tony Knights. His claims of the whole proceeding being a fix were drowned out by laughter when Tony falsely managed to convince many present that he had won the hamper. Meanwhile, the true winner – another ex committee member, ex commodore and our officer of the day, was quietly crying with laughter in the corner.