At last, after almost 18 months, we have finally been able to run a race again (the Downriver is run on behalf of the RCC). With the 2020 racing programme written off due to the Covid-19 pandemic and still under some restrictions, this was a pared down, socially restricted version of our normal event. No formally encouraged meeting in the pub at Somerleyton on Friday evening and, sadly, no barbecue after the race at BASC.
In order not to be seen to be encouraging everyone to congregate beforehand, the start line this year was positioned halfway between Somerleyton and Oulton Dyke, with a downriver leg against the tide (but, happily, with the wind) to Black Mill – that really obvious tall chimney by the river – before running upriver to Beccles. We had a good tide too, with the river flooding for the entire race.
The start boat, Egret, was in position good and early, but was soon joined by Corsair, Vixen and other competitors, who nosed into the reeds, until about half an hour before the start opened, when a flurry of activity began. Soon, many of the ten entrants were reaching up and down, getting a feel for the conditions and, perhaps, practising their starts.
Seven were off within ten minutes of the gate opening at 10.30, but Marigold and Melinda both decided to leave it a little later and Vixen were too busy drinking Bucks Fizz to be in any hurry. All were off in good time, though, running and reaching against the tide to the turning point. The later starters met the earlier entrants tacking back towards the start line, but with an otherwise empty river and plenty of space to manoeuvre, this presented no great challenge.
Unhappily, a misunderstanding with a motor cruiser left Marigold with nowhere to go but up the bank, soon after gybing at the turn, but the other nine yachts enjoyed their free wind sail up to Beccles in some long-awaited sunshine.
Some of the results were tight, with only two seconds between our newest member, Morning Calm, in fourth place and Melinda in fifth. Only 44 seconds divided first and second place too, with Corsair (taking part in her last race under Joe Farrow’s ownership) narrowly missing out to Mels Farrar and her team on Farthing. Wandering Rose, with numerous crew on board, took the third place spot, as a reward for her journey round from the northern rivers.
With most boats departing from the finish at Beccles Sailing Club while the results were being calculated, the trophy was handed over to the delighted winners without an audience, making it very Covid-safe!