Dave Brooks’ report on the 2017 Medway Barge Match:
The day didn’t get off to greatest start as the committee assembled on the Lady Hamilton the committee boat for the day. A radio message received and we were off too Gun Wharf to rescue a speedboat with engine failure. Time running out on us, it wasn’t the time for the speedboat owner to be handing us frayed bits of string to tow her with. A mooring line was quickly thrown to stricken speedboat and he was told to hang on tight as we made our way back to Chatham Maritime with speed boat bouncing in our wake.
Eventually we took up position on the line with a few minutes to spare before the first ten minute gun.
12 barges gathered off Gillingham Pier on the morning of June 3rd to contest the 109th Medway Barge Match.
9.30am Coasting Class consisting of the Cambria, Pudge and the Lady of the Lea. Skipper Ian Ruffles sailed the Cambria over the line first, something she has consistently failed at in all her previous barge matches, since her rebuild. She was followed by Pudge and then Lady of the Lea.
9.45am Staysail Class consisting of Edith May, Niagara, Repertor, Reminder and the Ironsides making a welcome return to the Medway Match and showing some of her previous form as she led the fleet away. Everybody on the committee boat donned their sunglasses as the Niagara’s bright yellow spars dazzled in the morning sunlight. Edith May followed then eventually Reminder and Repertor remembered they had also entered and made their way across the start line.
10.00am Bowsprit Class. Edme clearly trying to start off her season in style made a rare mistake and narrowly misjudged her dash for the line by a matter of seconds handing first over the start line to Mirosa. Edme turned back to start again and watched as Adieu and Marjorie cross before her second start.
From the committee boat perspective the outward leg was a nice sail. Cambria led the fleet out to the outer Mark whilst Edme was uncharacteristically playing catch up and Niagara were doing what she does well by picking off the barges.
Cambria had built up quite a lead to the outer mark and her approach was very good however there was still a strong ebb tide running. With some two hours to low water we settled down on the committee boat and enjoyed the spectacle as the fleet caught up. Adieu made a creditable effort to round the mark but narrowly failed. This was the theme until Edme followed by Mirosa and Ironsides made their approaches with less ebb resistance and were able to round and head for home.
Did you know there are seventeen severe scratches and thirty seven minor scratches on the Medway buoy? After staring at it for so long you get to know these things.
Eventually most of the fleet were round with Cambria followed by Lady of the Lea finally first round in the coasting class a considerable time after she reached it. With Edme now a considerable way off the committee boat had to leave Reminder and Pudge to time themselves round the outer Mark.
With the committee boat now heading to the front of the fleet we were treated to some excellent views as Edme and Mirosa played cat and mouse up the Medway until Edme was able to pull clear and then maintain her lead to win the bowsprit class. She was followed closely by Mirosa who in turn was followed by Adieu and Marjorie.
Ironsides due to her being able to get round the outer Mark early had quite a considerable lead over the Edith May and Niagara but during the course of the home leg both had made up quite considerable ground to suggest that it was going to be a very close finish. I have to confess I thought it was going to be between Ironsides and Niagara but Edith May was closest challenger. Both barges were going for it and sadly their was a coming together leaving both with no choice but to retire in sight of the finishing line. Niagara finished in first place and the plucky Reminder was second as Repertor had run aground earlier. Repertor used a kedge anchor to pull herself off the mud and finished the match in third place.
Cambria rounded off an impressive day by wining her sixth successive Coasting Class followed by Pudge who had a very good home leg and had made up a lot of ground and then Lady of the Lea.