Southend-on-Sea Sailing Barge Match

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

Many thanks to all barges and crews that took part, and to those who helped make the Match a great success.

Match Report

We were pleased to have the following barges entered for this year’s race:
Adieu, Cambria, Edme, Lady of the Lea, Marjorie, Niagara and Pudge.
We decided to make a change from the expected division into classes, and have two classes, class A Bowsprit barges (Adieu, Cambria, Edme, Lady of the Lea and Marjorie) and class B Staysail barges (Niagara and Pudge). To try and balance according to potential performance we looked to provide a handicap for Lady of the Lea and Pudge, and decided to try and do it by sending them on a shorter course.
With variable light winds forecast and a strong flood tide for most of the race period, the first challenge was to set a suitable course, so to hold the barges up-tide as much as possible. The course set was:

Start Pierhead West to East
West Shoebury (S)
Mid Swatch (S)
Pierhead buoy (S) (Outer mark)
Mid Swatch (S)
Pierhead Buoy (S) (Finish West to East Lady of the Lea and Pudge)
Mid Swatch (S)
Finish West to East Pierhead buoy.

The Mayor of Southend-on-Sea Councillor Fay Evans was present for the start of the race, and sounded the horns with great enthusiasm.

The staysail barges started at 1000 with Niagara making a good approach, crossing the line 5 ½ mins after the start signal. Pudge misjudged her approach to the start line, and had to tack in closer to the pier to make her start 13 mins later. (Maybe she just wanted to get closer to the TV camera on the pier).

The bowsprit barges started at 1015 with Edme making the best start of the day 2 min 32 secs after the start signal, actually starting ahead of the Pudge in the staysail class. Adieu started second in this class 5 mins after the start with Lady of the Lea 2 minutes behind her. Cambria started 17 mins after the start with Marjorie tailing the field 7 minutes later.

In the meantime Niagara was making good progress down towards the West Shoebury buoy ahead of the fleet, but shortly after most barges had crossed the start line, the wind shifted more easterly, and the barges then had to tack towards the first mark.

Niagara rounded the West Shoebury buoy first and set off across the river towards the Mid Swatch buoy, with Edme chasing her.

We were able to watch most of the barges rounding the West Shoebury buoy, before getting instructions to evacuate the pier due to a security alert.

The committee took to the trot boat in order to be able to continue monitoring the race afloat, if necessary. Fortunately the alert was promptly dealt with, and we were able to return to our position on the pierhead, in time to watch the approach of the leading barges to the pierhead buoy - designated the outer mark at this part of the course.
Edme managed to pass Niagara and round the mark first, with Adieu following them closely. They all turned to sail back across the river, back to the Mid Swatch buoy, passing the mark within 8 minutes of each other.

Lady of the Lea was next to make the outer mark, but the flood tide was now running quite strongly now, and turning immediately after passing the buoy had to bear away to avoid hitting it, and failed to pass it at this attempt. She was taken further up river by the tide, and spent the rest of her time trying to tack back up to the mark again.

Marjorie was next to try to round the mark and again turned too soon after passing it, and being carried below it by the tide.

Having seen what had been happening, Pudge passed the mark, and held her course much longer before turning, which should have improved her chances of rounding the buoy, but again the tide was too strong, and she was carried past the buoy. Cambria to had trouble making the buoy, and eventually anchored between the pier and the Low Way buoy, to wait for the tide to decrease. The other barges battled on.

At this point the committee decided it might be best to move the buoy further away from the pier, and this was done by the trot boat.

This worked to help Marjorie round the mark 55 mins after the Adieu, but she then made good progress across the river chasing the other barges.

It became very difficult to work out from the pier how these barges were progressing against each other, as the tide was not helping them either.

Eventually Edme managed to round the Mid swatch buoy ahead of the other barges and headed back toward the pierhead. She was followed by the Marjorie who had managed to pass both the Niagara and Adieu on this leg of the course.

At this point it seemed possible that Edme might manage to sail back out on another leg to the Mid Swatch buoy and back to the pier, but unlikely any of the others would do so. Equally those that had not yet rounded the pier mark for the first time were unlikely to make the second leg of the course in time. It was therefore decided to finish the barges the next time they crossed the start finish line rather than make them sail until the official 1630 cut off time.

The handicapping system did not therefore work out, despite our best intentions, and no-one completed the full course.

Final positions were declared as follows:

Class A Bowsprit barges:
1st Edme
2nd Marjorie
3rd Adieu
4th Lady of the Lea
5th Cambria

Class B Staysail barges:
1st Niagara
2nd Pudge

First over the start line Edme
First barge to the outer mark Edme
The Committee awarded the trophy for overall merit to Pudge.

The Mayor of Southend-on-Sea Councillor Fay Evans resented the trophies at the Naval and Military Club.

Many thanks to all barges and crew for attending and taking part.
Thanks also to the staff of Southend Pier and the Southend RNLI lifeboat station who have been so helpful during the match and 3-day exhibition.

Next year’s event will take place on Sunday August 26th, details to be confirmed in due course. We look forward to seeing you all there.


Many thanks to everyone for their contributions to this exciting event.

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