Southend-on-Sea Sailing Barge Match

54th Southend Barge Match took place on Sunday August 27th 2017.

Light hearted review by Officer of the Day - Dick Durham, presented at the prizegiving

The day started predictably enough, Floyd Mayweather beat Conor McGregor, a rumour went round that the council were going to waive Southend Barge Match Committee’s £275 fee for using the Pier to stage the highest attended event in the summer calendar.

And the sun rose over Never-Never Land.

Predictability is what the committee chairman David Renouf and I tried to factor in while deciding a course for the excellent turn out of seven magnificent sailing vessels in the Thames Estuary. And as the train clattered down the pier those factors seemed as predictable as the Gods can supply: a light north-east to easterly wind, likely to fill in from a rising sea-breeze, a low water time just under an hour after the start and easing tides as we are coming off springs.

So what you got was based on that.

Knowing that it was a back and forth job, we hoped more across the tide than against it, we also set the outer start line mark close to the pier to give Mayor Cllr Fay Evans a spectacle. Some joker told me “Pity she can’t chop her Bentley Continental in for a Bedford Rascal and give the money to the match! But I can reveal - she drives and Audi A8 and what’s more it’s leased.

But as the flood started the pier was put on high alert after somebody spotted a ‘package lashed underneath the railway tracks’ and the bomb squad were called. Quite why an evacuation was ordered via the train remains a mystery of Pier protocol, but your committee gallantly took to the nearest oat and continued to monitor the race as best we could by squinting through the pier piles.

Yet, the bomb scare - while not factored in - caused us no problem, what did was that the wind did not fill in as much as we had reckoned while the tide ran harder than our fallibilities allowed for.
First to alert us to our miscalculations was Lady of the Lea who made a magnificent approach to the Pierhead marker, but then rounded it too wide and was swept away on the flood.

Marjorie, too, made an excellent approach and even rounded the mark, or at least part of her did before she too was swept away up river.

Lady of the Leeway, better known as Pudge, had watched the first two barges carefully, and sensibly held her course, allowing her boxy hull to apply lateral sailing to rounding the mark, but she too was swept away up river.

The last of the sailormen, also known as Cambria had trouble too but - using seamanlike judgement - anchored and waited for the flood to ease.

By now we realised that the proximity of the pier from a barge’s deck seemed daunting more so than it did in reverse and so David Tore out in the tender to shift the marker buoy further offshore.

Adieu and Niagara gave us their usual thrilling sail pasts…and I have news…one of the crew of Niagara is a young fella about to build a half size barge - based on Niagara’s lines. SO please take note Lady Mayor, there will one day be a second smaller class of barges racing to give you and tour citizens twice the spectacle. So if you wanna get rid of your Audi A8 I’m happy to act as chauffeur as long as you don’t mind riding in a Skoda.

But today. Today belonged to the English Diastatic Malt Extract company and their barge, also known as DME. As factors go that was predictable.
Well done to you all!

David Renouf
Southend Barge Match Committee Chairman


Many thanks to everyone for their contributions to this exciting event.
Thanks to Christopher Tourle for photographs

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