Southend-on-Sea Sailing Barge Match

52nd Southend Barge Match took place on Sunday August 28th 2016.

Starting times from 1000 hours

Also, there was a Sailing Barge Exhibition in the Royal Pavilion, Southend Pier 27th - 29th August. 10am - 6pm. Free entry.

Match report.

The forecast was for a strong south-westerly wind force 4-5 occasionally 6, and there seemed to be quite a few ‘occasions’ during the match.
The course consisted of an East to West start to windward, Sea Reach No4 North buoy to starboard, Pierhead buoy to Port, Leigh Low Way buoy to port, Sea Reach No 5 North Buoy to starboard, West Leigh Middle buoy to port, East Blyth buoy to starboard, West Leigh Middle to Port, Leigh Low Way to Port the finish West to East across the finishing line. The Slow staysail class were set a shorter course where they missed out East Blyth buoy and West Leigh Middle for the second time in the course above.

The Slow Staysail class was first away at 1000 with Lady of the Lea first across the start line, having sailed across that morning from Kent, and obviously were into the swing of things. Also sailing in this class was the Defiance, taking part in her first Barge Race. They got away a while later, perhaps needing a bit more time to get themselves organised. After crossing the start line they then tacked and set off for the Sea Reach No4 North buoy, the first mark of the course.

The Fast Staysail class was the second start at 1015 with the Melissa arriving at the start line just a little too soon, and having to tack away, allowing Niagara to time her approach and make a very fast start only 20 seconds after the ‘gun’. They both then tacked away towards Sea Reach number 4 North to follow after the Slow class barges - Lady of the Lea by this time being very close to rounding it.

The Bowsprit class was a much closer fought start, with Xylonite coming in closer to the pier whilst Adieu was making a fine approach closer to the buoy with Marjorie in hot pursuit behind her. Xylonite crossed the line first and managed to make the fastest start of the day 18s after the ‘gun’ with Adieu crossing only 11 seconds after her. Xylonite had to tack to avoid getting too close to the Pier, but could only make a short board in order to avoid hitting the start buoy and incur a penalty. In the meantime, Adieu was able to tack round the mark ahead of her and headed off to the next mark. Xylonite held on to the same tack whilst Marjorie crossed the start in order to attempt to get an upwind advantage when Marjorie tacked.

As the bowsprit barges made their way across the river towards the Sea Reach No4 North buoy we could already see Lady of the Lea making her way back towards the pier mark. This was the designated outer mark, and Lady of the Lea rounded in just over 36 mins from her starting ‘gun’. Close behind her Niagara rounded just over 3 minutes later with Melissa and Defiance following behind.

The bowsprit barges were having a close battle at this time, and all rounded the Pier mark within 2 minutes of each other. From this mark the barges came further inshore to round the Leigh Low Way buoy, and they turn across the river for the Sea Reach No. 5 buoy. At this stage there were different tactics coming into play, as some barges chose to tack away across the river towards the Kent shore to work up to the Sea Reach buoy, whilst others chose to continue along the Essex shore towards Leigh and time their tack across to the Sea Reach buoy for a later time. In the Slow staysail class Lady of the Lea was able to create a good lead over Defiance, Niagara a good lead over Melissa (and well ahead of the fleet at this stage), And Xylonite in the Bowsprit class. From the Sea Reach No 5 North buoy the barges then turned to the Essex shore and made for the West Leigh Middle Buoy. From our Pierhead vantage point it became more difficult to see exactly who was lading, and the exact positions relative to each other. The slow staysail class had been set a shorter course to allow them to turn from the West Leigh Middle buoy and head back for the finish line at the pier via the Leigh Low Way buoy. The other two classes had to head across the river from the West Leigh Middle buoy and round the East Blyth before turning back for the finish line via the West Leigh Middle, and Leigh Low way buoys.

At this time, a band of squalls appeared to move towards us through the fleet. Some barges had to drop topsails, and in the distance the top of Melissa’s topmast must have been obscured in the mist, as it looked to have disappeared and gave cause for concern that she might have suffered some damaged. We were relieved about a quarter of an hour later, when her topsail was again raised, so clearly no harm had occurred.

Lady of the Lea could now be seen making her way down-wind from the Leigh Low Way buoy, and later reported to have missed all the rain. She crossed the finishing line first just before 13.00. Niagara had been the first barge in the faster classes to head off for the East Blyth buoy, so we expected that perhaps she would be the next barge we would see heading back towards the pier. However, the next barge observed was the Xylonite running downwind to the Leigh Low Way, finishing 10 minutes behind Lady of the Lea. Niagara followed behind her to finish first in the Fast Staysail class about 14 minutes later. We then had a steady stream of barges completing the race all within an hour of each other.
The good strong breeze had enable the barges to make good way over the ebbing tide.

The prizegiving took place at 20.00 at the Naval and Military Club in Southend.

The Mayor, Councillor Judith McMahon was present to assist with the race starts, and presented the trophies.

David Renouf
Southend Barge Match Committee Chairman


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

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