Thames Match 2023 – Prizes

Award forTrophyAwarded to
Champion Bowsprit  
First barge home FT Everard CupBlue Mermaid
Second placeAllied Mills CupMarjorie
Third placeRoyal Thames YC CupNiagara
First to outer mark (master)Fishmongers’ CupBlue Mermaid
Master of winning bargeHervey Benham Trophy (1/2 cup)Richard Titchener, Blue Mermaid
Champion Staysail  
First barge home          Shipowners’ Mutual CupRepertor
Second place               Tate & Lyle CupWyvenhoe
Third place                   Allied Mills Bowln/a
First to outer mark (master)Watermen’s Company ShieldGerard Swift, Wyvenhoe
Master of winning bargeJohn Kemp CupDavid Pollock, Repertor
Coasting Class  
First barge home Hays CupGladys
Second placeBlue Circle CupPudge
Third placeGravesham Rose Bowln/a
First to outer markPLA CupPudge
Master of winning bargeJim Uglow cup 1956Gary Diddams, Gladys
Handicap winnerGreene King Cupn/a
Open / Crew awards  
Master- fastest start of dayCapt. Richard Duke CupTony de Winton, Pudge
Master- fastest to markRobin Armstrong CupGerard Swift, Wyvenhoe
Master – fastest overallVeronica 1958 Cup (Chaffcutter)Richard Titchener, Blue Mermaid
Master- first barge homeReminder 1930 Cup (M Boyle)Richard Titchener, Blue Mermaid
Master-seamanship overallLondon and Rochester CupDavid Pollock, Repertor
Master-seamanship at starta second Uglow cupNo award
Master-seamanship at markMajestic 1894 rose bowlSimon Devonshire, Marjorie
MainsheetmanReminder 1934 cup (E&M Mainelli)Oli Evans, Blue Mermaid
Valued crewmanTony Ellis memorial cupRose Ravetz, Blue Mermaid
Young crew memberGill Yule CupSophia De Bont-Burgess, Marjorie
AchievementGold Belt  trophy (SSBR)Gladys, Allied Mills
Committee SupportRoy Stanbrook SalverJulian Cass, OOD 2002-present

Thames Match 2023 – 8 July 2023

Thames Match Report 2023

“Thames, Dover: wind cyclonic force 3 or less; sea state slight; weather showers perhaps thundery for a time; visibility good occasionally poor”.  The forecast for the 91st (Coronation) Thames Sailing Barge Match on Saturday 8 July was not particularly encouraging.  The early morning flat calm at Gravesend had given way to the lightest of southerlies just about giving steerage way to the eight barges mustering in the Lower Hope for the start. 

The start of the Coasting Class at 0800 saw Gladys, newly rebuilt at Gloucester, just stemming the tide until the breeze failed for a moment and she drifted inexorably over the line, stern first half a minute before the gun.  With no prospect of re-crossing, she took a time penalty and carried on.  Pudge, on the Kent shore, timed a good run at the line and crossed with all sails drawing two minutes after the gun.   The staysail barges at 0815 were a little more cautious but made a good job of it with Wyvenhoe, back at the Thames Match after a ten-year absence, crossing in just over two minutes with Repertor and Edith May five minutes later.  The three barges in the Bowsprit Class adopted different strategies.   The engineless Blue Mermaid anchored on the Kent shore close above the line to wait for the start, while Marjorie stayed fairly well upstream sailing to-and-fro.   Niagara went into the slacker water over Mucking Flats which made for an easier wait but she then had to claw off to windward to get around the Mucking 3 buoy limiting the northern end of the line.   All three plans worked well with Marjorie starting after three minutes and Blue Mermaid and Niagara after four.

Fortunately, there was enough wind for all the barges to avoid being set into the Thames Gateway berths. The three bowsprit barges were neck-and-neck entering Sea Reach but tactics differed as Marjorie and Niagara held up to windward on the Blyth while Blue Mermaid eased off to the north in search of the stronger tide.  By the time the barges had reached the Chapman the wind had dropped to almost nothing and the barges’ headings were all over the place as they sought to take advantage of each fickle puff. Wyvenhoe had worked out a useful lead over Repertor and Edith May but Pudge having drifted faster than Gladys still led the fleet.   The decision was taken to shorten the course and the Sea Reach 6 South buoy was chosen as the turning mark.

Wyvenhoe had slowly overtaken the coasters and was the first to reach the mark at 1028.  There was by now a light breeze from the north and with some ebb stream still running could not immediately start back but stood close-hauled across the tide toward the Essex shore.  Gladys was the first Coaster to the mark at 1034, followed by Edith May and Pudge.  But now something strange happened – the light breeze, still only about force 1, started to back into the west and slowly fill, giving an advantage to those reaching the mark later.   By the time Repertor got to the mark at 1101 she was able to round closely and start to make progress back upstream ahead of those that came before her who had drifted further east.  For the bowsprits the effect was even more pronounced and Blue Mermaid and the Bowsprit class led the fleet back up the river as the order of the fleet had been effectively reversed. When Marjorie was the last to round at 1119, the ebb had all but finished and she was able to make a tight rounding with smart sail changes.  

The light but now steady westerly wind gave the barges a long but straightforward turn to windward back up Sea Reach aided by the strengthening flood tide.  Passing the Chapman at midday Blue Mermaid, sailing beautifully, had worked out a significant lead which she held from then on.  Repertor was leading the staysails by a good margin but Wyvenhoe was slowly clawing back the ground lost at the outer mark.  Niagara and Marjorie were engaged in some close racing with Marjorie eventually pulling ahead.

Dark clouds over Gravesend and a flash of distant lightning reminded us of the forecast and by the time Blue Mermaid crossed the finishing line just before two o’clock it was raining gently.  Marjorie followed some fifteen minutes later followed shortly by Repertor and Niagara.   Edith May finished third in the staysail class, although she subsequently retired, while Gladys came home to beat Pudge in the coasters.  All barges finished within an hour of the leader and all had been smartly and safely handled with none of those incidents which might vex an officer of the day.

The prizegiving was held outdoors this year on the Clarendon lawn, the Three Daws not being available. Prizes were presented by Anne Stanbrook, widow of the late Roy Stanbrook, formerly a PLA harbourmaster, whose interest in and support of the Match had been instrumental in keeping it going.

First prize in the Bowsprit class, and being the fastest around the course this year’s Champion of the Thames, was again Blue Mermaid, master Richard Titchener.  Repertor won the Staysail class and Gladys the Coasting class. Tony de Winton of Pudge had made the fastest start of the day, the seamanship prize went to David Pollock of Repertor while Simon Devonshire of Marjorie was judged to have made the best rounding of the turning mark.  The Mainsheetman trophy was given to Oli Evans, and the Crew award to Rose Ravetz, both of Blue Mermaid whose crew had turned in yet another polished and professional performance.   Sophia De Bont-Burgess of Marjorie took the under-16 crew award.  The Gold Belt Trophy was awarded to Gladys on the successful completion of her major rebuild for the twenty-first century.

An additional prize was given this year by Richard Titchener and Hilary

Halajko of the Sea-Change sailing trust.  The Roy Stanbrook Salver is to be given for services in supporting the Thames Match Committee.  As officer of the day for some twenty years, I was delighted to be the first recipient of the award from Anne Stanbrook.  I very much hope that younger volunteers will come forward to take the Match on to another generation.

Thanks were expressed to those who had helped with organisation of the Match: to David Allsop and his team at the PLA, to John Hargreaves our timekeeper and to Dawn Franklyn for making winners pennants.

Next year’s Match is to be held on Saturday, 15 June 2024.   Do put the date in your diaries.

Julian Cass, Officer of the Day, 2023

Thames Match 2022 – 18 June

The 90th Thames Sailing Barge Match was sailed on Saturday, 18 June, at the end of a week of increasingly hot sunny weather and light southerly winds, culminating on Friday in the hottest day (and warmest night) of the year. Overnight the wind veered right round to north-easterly with the temperature plummeting and an increasingly cloudy sky. Just as last year a couple of late withdrawals reduced the number of starters, this time to six, the same number that had made it to the Medway Match a month earlier.

An excellent start in the Coasting class at 07:30 saw Thalatta lead Centaur over the line about half a minute after the gun with both sailing nicely close hauled. The sole entry in the staysail class, Repertor, found herself below the line at the ten-minute gun, had to motor back quickly upstream and then started in more leisurely fashion. The bowsprit class was more keenly contested. Niagara got to the line too early and turned back upstream on the starboard tack but the wind failed her and she inexorably drifted back stern first below the line before the gun. Meanwhile Blue Mermaid on starboard tack and Marjorie on port tack sailing down the Kent shore approached the line, both making excellent starts at good speed. Unfortunately, Blue Mermaid mistook the recall signal hoisted for Niagara as applying to her and bore away to re-start leaving Marjorie to lead the class away down the river five minutes ahead. Niagara hauled across to the slacker water over Mucking flats and gybed round No 3 buoy to cross the line correctly at 08:18. Particularly when considering the light wind and strong tide, it was impressive that four out of six barges had got away within a minute of their official start times.

There followed a gentle turn down Sea Reach with the ebb tide doing most of the work in a light breeze that was now blowing straight up the river. Blue Mermaid caught and passed Marjorie and was chasing after Repertor but the Coasters held on to their half hour head start with Centaur having passed Thalatta. Approaching Southend as the ebb tide slackened it was decided to shorten the course to the Sea Reach 4 North buoy as it was clear that the slower barges would struggle to make further progress against the young flood tide and an uncomfortable choppiness had built up as the breeze filled in. Centaur, smartly turned out, freshly antifouled and showing an unusual turn of speed, was the first to tack round the buoy at 10:05 shortly followed by Thalatta. At 10:30 Repertor, approaching the mark at the same time as Blue Mermaid, found herself short of space and had to execute a tight 360 degree gybe to round three minutes later at 10:33. Marjorie followed at 10:40 and Niagara at 11:00 just as the flood was beginning to run.

By the time Niagara had rounded the leading barges were almost out of sight on the return leg hastened on their way by a freshening easterly breeze. It was fortunate that the Sea Echo acting as this year’s committee boat had a good turn of speed for even at fifteen knots it took us until the London Gateway container terminal to catch Blue Mermaid which by then had overtaken all the slower barges to lead the fleet. A range of downwind sails were seen on the run up Sea Reach: Centaur set her staysail to windward up and down the mast Chubb Horlock style, Thalatta boomed out the foresail, Blue Mermaid squared off her enormous light weather headsail and Marjorie at one point had both a running sail and a huge flying jib filling. An interesting sight was the yacht barge Snark, now based in the West Country, but built in steel in Essex to the lines of the old British King and re-rigged with a modern interpretation of the spritsail barge tradition.

With a fair wind and a strong tide running the barges were soon back at Gravesend with Blue Mermaid crossing the finishing line first at 12:33 to win the Bowsprit class, followed by Thalatta at 12:38 the first in the Coasting class. The second bowsprit barge Marjorie crossed the line at 12:41 ahead of Centaur while Repertor just held off a late challenge from Niagara which had run back from Southend more quickly than any of the others. The barges finishing at speed and under full sail made a fine sight for those who had turned out to appreciate it.

In the evening after the traditional bangers-and-mash supper at the Three Daws, prizes were awarded by Christine Lawrence who for many years had played a key role in the organisation of the Match. First prize in the Bowsprit class and, being the fastest around the course, this year’s Champion of the Thames was Blue Mermaid, master Richard Titchener. Repertor duly collected the prize for the Staysail class and Thalatta won the Coasting class, with her master Cyril Varley collecting the prize for the day’s fastest start at 32 seconds.

In the open awards the seamanship prize went to Noddy Cardy sailing Niagara who had continued to sail a competitive race despite the initial setback. The Majestic Trophy for the best rounding of the mark as judged by Michael Mainelli was given to Centaur. Centaur also won the Gold Belt Trophy for her excellent and much improved performance: many of the bargemen present said that they had never seen her go so well as today. The award for best performing mainsheetman went to Jim Green of Blue Mermaid, that for a valued crew member to Tom Curtis of Thalatta and for a contribution by a young person to Sophie Burgess of Marjorie.

Thanks were expressed to those who had helped with organisation of the Match: to Tim McQuillan and his team at the PLA, to the Three Daws for hosting us, to Christine Lawrence for presenting the prizes, to Dawn Franklyn for making winners pennants at short notice, and particularly to Rachel deBont without whose enthusiasm, competence and sheer hard work we could not have run this year’s Match. 

Next year’s Match is to be held on Saturday, 8 July 2023. We look forward to seeing everyone again then.

Julian Cass
Officer of the Day, 2022



Thames Match 2021 – 14 August

The 89th Thames Sailing Barge Match was sailed on Saturdaym 14 August, rather later in the year than usual and with a year missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  In view of the continuing difficulties due to the virus a rather lower key event than usual was organised.  A couple of late withdrawals reduced the number of starters to seven but those who came were treated to a very pleasant day’s sailing with an initially light but serviceable west-south westerly breeze and a bright morning.

The only starter in the Coaster class at 0800 was Cambria.  Coming down to the line rather more quickly than anticipated she reduced sail in order to slow down but was swept over by the ebb tide and, unable to re-cross, accepted a time penalty and carried on.  In the staysail class Repertor made an exceptional start, managing to hold just above the line on the port tack and bearing away across as the gun went at 0815.  Niagara followed two minutes later and squared away flying a huge light headsail boomed out to weather.  The champion bowsprit class at 0830 was led away by Edith May with a flying start a minute after the gun followed by Marjorie, Adieu and Blue Mermaid.

A typical Thames Match run down Sea Reach in a light breeze was fairly uneventful. Niagara quickly overtook Repertor and eventually Cambria to establish a half mile lead.  In the bowsprit class Blue Mermaid kept to the north side of the channel where the tide runs perhaps a little more strongly and had passed Adieu and Edith May by the time the barges approached the turning mark, the course having been shortened to the Sea Reach No2 North buoy off the Shoebury shore.

The barges approached the mark in fairly close company, the fleet having closed up on the run down the river.   First to gybe around the buoy was Niagara at 1030 followed by Cambria six minutes later and Repertor at 1041.   Marjorie led Blue Mermaid into the turn but turning rather wide allowed Blue Mermaid close astern to turn inside her. Next round was Adieu, followed by Edith May at 1049, the whole fleet having rounded the mark within twenty minutes.   Some excellent roundings were seen but that which most impressed the committee was made by Cambria whose tight turn and smart sheeting in was particularly commendable for such a heavy vessel.

The committee had expected the barges to work back up the Essex shore and were surprised when Niagara started off with a long starboard tack toward Sheppey while Repertor seemed able to point almost for Southend.  However, it seemed to make little difference for when they crossed again half an hour later Niagara still held the lead.  The wind had increased a little and the bowsprit barges were generally setting smaller jib topsails going to windward.  Some drama ensued when Edith May’s bobstay arrangement failed at the stem and the bowsprit complete with two jibs flew up in the air to the steeved-up position with the flogging sails in danger of fouling the crosstrees.   Cool heads prevailed, however, and in about half an hour the chaos had been sorted out, and with the bowsprit restored to the horizontal position and with the jib topsail re-set on the stem-head she continued racing and caught up a good deal of the lost time.  Soon after, London VTS informed us that an ”ultra-large” container ship was inbound for Thames Gateway and would be swinging across virtually the full width of the river with its attendant tugs.   Most of the barges had passed before this happened but the tail-enders were squeezed over to the south shore where Adieu touched on the Blyth sand and, using her engine to get off, had to retire.

The first barge back to reach the finishing line off Gravesend was Niagara at 1436 followed five minutes later by Repertor which on the return leg had recovered some of her lost time.   Blue Mermaid was the first bowsprit home at 1445 some eighteen minutes ahead of Marjorie.   Edith May was only three minutes behind Marjorie, having made up almost all the time lost through her mishap. Adieu finished under power and Cambria completed the fleet, crossing at 1525.The barges made a fine sight finishing and later when rafted up on the Town pontoon.

After the usual Match supper at the Three Daws, prizes were awarded by Simon Cooper who had been watching the match from the committee boat X-Pilot as the guest of our chairman, Michael Everard.   First prize in the Champion Bowsprit class was awarded to Blue Mermaid.   The Champion Staysail class was won by Niagara.  Cambria took the prize for the Coasting class.   Niagara was fastest to the outer mark but Blue Mermaid the fastest around the whole course. The prize for the fastest start of the day went to Repertor.

In the open awards category, the overall seamanship award was made to Geoff Gransden of Edith May for the safe recovery from an awkward gear failure to continue racing competitively.  The Majestic Trophy for the best rounding of the mark as judged by Simon Cooper was awarded to Ian Ruffles of Cambria. The Gold Belt Trophy for achievement was awarded Iolo Brooks of Adieu for his efforts over many years to restore his barge to racing condition and for his ongoing support for this and other sailing barge matches.

In addition to those already mentioned, I would like to record the Committee’s thanks to David Allsop and his team at the PLA whose assistance has been invaluable, Alan and Martin Harmer of X-Pilot and to the staff of the Three Daws which for many years now has hosted the evening’s events so well.    Next year’s Match is to be held on Saturday 18 June 2022.   It will be the 90th Match and we hope that it will be well supported.

Julian Cass, Officer of the Day, 2021

The Timekeeper’s Report by John Hargreaves follows: