Can anybody tell me if they have finished the race and what their handicap was.There is a production cruiser class in the race. I competed in a Prelude 10 years age and finished in the middle of the field on a handicap of 125. I wondered if it was worth doing in a Seahawk, but it does depend on getting a favourable handicap.
regards Malcolm Martins
Greg and I did the race in 2009 and I believe we were the first Seahawk to finish. A full report of the race can be found at
It was Gregs 3rd attempt but first successful one. I can remember various issues over the handicap and am sure Greg will explain that further shortly.
Indeed, Ian points you at the report of my only successful completion of the 3RR. On that page you'll see "Related pages" links there to reports of my 2006 and 2008 races as well.
It would appear that you did indeed take part in the race many years ago, as I don't recognise a handicap of 125 at all. These days handicap vary from around -27 to +26. At least, those were the max/min values for the 2009 race and they followed a similar pattern for the other two races I took part in. The figures are percentages of some nominal median time for completing the race.
The whole notion of a fair handicapping system for the Three Rivers Race is, of course, a complete nonsense. This is not a race taking place in open water, with all boats starting at the same time so differences of wind and tide can be largely discounted and where a Portsmouth Yardstick might make some sense.
I gather that once upon a time the start time was related to the tide in that year. That might have made a fair handicap a little more viable. These days with vastly more boats taking part, typically in the order of 140, starts for the different classes take place over an hour an a half from 11:00am, regardless of the tide. If you then set tide alongside the variability of wind strength and direction over the period of the start and very significant impact of the trees around Horning on different heights of rig, you can see that there can never be a single handicap for any class of boat that can be sustained from one year to the next.
Next, consider the nature of the course, and the expected time to traverse the river to the three vital points, Ant mouth, Fleet Dyke and Thurne Mouth, where the skipper selects a route. The fastest boats can be expected to reach these at completely different states of tide. Within any class and any one year there may be an ideal route for that boat, but this will almost certainly be different for a boat an hour behind. Then think about a boat two hours behind at the first of these decision points, which is highly likely given the order that the various classes start - with the slowest boats last. Now add in the further impact of neap and spring tides from one year to the next and you can see that the idea of a fixed handicap from one year to the next has no validity at all. All the handicaps do is add a huge amount of luck to the "corrected time" that decides a boat's position in the results.
Over the years the race has lost some of its original purpose which was to test skipper's local knowledge on tides and sailing skills in variable wind conditions. In the early days race starts were frequently in the late afternoon. Now the fast boats easily finish in daylight. That means they take part in a radically different race to the slow boats that usually get caught in flat calm conditions for several hours in the middle of the night - something that is not a consideration for the fast boats these days.
Leaving aside principle, there are the incomprehensible decisions. In my time they rated both SeaHawk and Prelude at +21, while the a Sailfish was rated slower at +23 and a Pegasus 700 at +10. (I've never seen a Pegasus on the Broads that I couldn't beat hands down. They may have a taller mast to catch wind from above the trees, but their large genoas, short booms, and high freeboard seem to make them diabolical things to tack on both tree-lined and narrow rivers). I don't know whether SeaHawk skippers should protest or feel complemented on their skill.
My only finish took place in a year when 110 of 138 starters achieved a finish. My first race took place in a year when I believe it was less than 30% achieved a finish and that was because many faster boats were left unable to proceed in becalmed conditions after the tide turned some 5 hours later than predicted (That kind of thing just doesn't happen on open coastal waters! You have to ask for those who escaped being becalmed how much was luck and how much was good local knowledge that led to the decision to take a different route)
So what is the point of this... Don't even consider taking part in the race if you expect to manage a finish. I suspect you've got less than a 1 in 10 chance of achieving that - partly because the organisers cancel or stop the race or delay the start when conditions that would allow a SeaHawk to finish are deemed too dangerous for the faster boats - and to be fair there have been dis-masting, major collisions and sinkings in some of the stronger winded races.
The only sensible way to approach the race for a SeaHawk skipper is to consider it a cruise in company. There is plenty of friendly banter with crews you pass, especially overnight. Night time can be a challenge when there's little moon and low cloud, though the orange glow of Great Yarmouth street lights used to help a bit. When there is some moonlight, distinguishing the reed lined bank of the lower Bure from the shadows of those reeds can make decisions on when to tack tricky. Approaching Acle Bridge on a fast ebb with little steerage way can be "exciting" too!
The one race I completed was a high wind year - though Ian would deny it as we encountered plenty of supposedly faster boats stationary behind trees on the lower Bure while we had timed things right and were making good progress on the ebb tide down to the mark, with just enough wind to keep the sails filled.
If you want a "race" then ignore your official position (after corrected time is allowed for) and compare your elapsed time with that of those you considered rivals on the start line. You'll be surprised how many of the boats you expect to do better than you come in as "RTD" or "DFN". In 2009 I came in 92 (Elapsed time: 20hr 47mn 40sc) that compared with 68 (Elapsed time: 19hr 12mn 18sc) for the Prelude I had raced in both previous attempts. I was very happy with that.
I agree with you about expecting to finish. A member of my club entered his boat several times without finishing. I entered in 2004 and finished about 8.30 a.m. but was stuck on the intake of Horning waterworks half and hour when Ynot passed me on the opposite side of the river. My friend Chris won the production class in 2012 in his drop keel Prelude. He has been given 124 handicap now,but persuaded the committee to give him a better handicap the year he won, I believe 126.
I have sailed Seahawk, Sailfish, Skipper 17, Swift 18, Valiant 18, river cruiser and Pegasus 700. As the Seahawk is heavier than the Sailfish and with a smaller sail area this should be accounted for in the handicap. The Sailfish is very hairy when winds are strong. The Pegasus 700 has various handicaps depending on rig. The one I sailed was fractional rig with small jib and large main and a winged fin keel.
This would be about 110.
I think you have done very well to finish the race which always favours the faster boats who can finish before the usual overnight drop in the wind.
That's the way I saw it.
In the years I took part all the boats in the final start were listed as "Sailing Cruisers" except for two listed as "Sailfish" and, in 2009, there was one "Cornish Shrimper".
Goodness alone knows why my SeaHawk was rated 23 in 2006, but by 2008, my next race, was rated 21 which it retained for 2009, while the Sailfish stayed at 23 throughout. (The Cornish Shrimper handicap was 20.)
I just put it down to having better than usual overnight winds, but not so strong they cancelled the race.
It would seem that the committee that took over after Colin Facey retired have revised the handicap system to avoid negative numbers. Given the figures you're telling me about it looks as if the handicaps are now based on 100% rather than 0%, so craft like Thames A-Raters presumably now attract a handicap of 73 instead of -27?
I just put it down to having better than usual overnight winds, but not so strong they cancelled the race.
I think it was down to the first use of a genoa - had we kept it up for the entire race we would have finished hours earlier ;-)
In reply to this post by GregSeaHawk
I found the paperwork for my Three River Race today and the handicap for my Prelude was 121 i.e. +21 as you said. We tend to state the handicaps in Norfolk in this way but now in other areas they work on fractions of a thousand instead of hundred. I am going to getting a Seahawk soon, when the trailer is made roadworthy and I hope you have time to use yours again soon. It was a member of my club who managed to persuade the 3 R committee to give him 125(+25) on his Prelude 2 years ago and he won.
There's still much to do on the new house, so things are not looking promising for getting Just 17 back in the water this year.
Your post prompted me to do some research. I couldn't believe that a Prelude had won the 3RR. Now reading earlier in the topic I see that you meant what was traditionally the "Sailing Cruiser" class (re-named "Production Cruiser" in 2014), not the race overall. However, the results I came up with prove interesting...
In the list below they are formatted:
Winning Boat Class (Name and position of highest placed Sailing Cruiser / number of finishers)
2014: Thames A Rater (Gemima 7/45)
2013: Norfolk Punt (Gemima 32/64)
2012: Thames A Rater (The Batch 58/79)
2011: Yare and Bure OD (Gemima 52/82)
2010: Norfolk Punt (Gemima 74/138)
2009: Yeoman (Y Knot 68/110)
2008: Reedling (Chimaera 61/100)
2007: Norfolk Punt (-/48)
2006: Norfolk Punt (Y Knot 14/37)
2005: Norfolk Punt (Chimaera 38/84)
This seems to suggest that the Norfolk Punt handicap is too generous, but it is the Sailing/Production Cruiser class I was more interested in and there it seems that three boats dominate. I forget the names of the classes of Gemima and Chimaera, but I know Y Knot is a Prelude and you tell me The Batch is as well.
The 2007 results are listed as far as 48, stopping 3.5 hours short of the 24 hour limit, but there are some years where no boat is listed as completing the course after around 17 hours so it seems that no Sailing Cruiser completed the race in that year, although Gemima and Y Knot are listed as starters. As consistent class winners in other years you must conclude that there was something unusual about the conditions in that year.
Initially, I thought that 2014, with a similar low number of finishers also had no Sailing Cruiser finish, but now I see I was misled as I searched for "Sailing Cruiser" in the results list, missing Gimima, now known as a "Production Cruiser". Nevertheless, I suspect that given the small number of finishers, there were similar unusual conditions in those two years and in 2014 Gemima's skipper just happened to pick a route that allowed a finish. Do you recall if there was there something similar about the conditions in those two years?
The other stand out figure from these results is 2006. That was the first year I took part and the year when most of the fleet got stuck at Stracey when the tide turned some 5 hours after the time most tide tables had predicted, and only about 30% of entrants managed a finish, so that would account for the unusually high position for any boat that did achieve a finish.
However, as a whole, the figures are remarkably consistent and seem to show that Sailing Cruisers never get beyond half way up the finishers.
If you do have such a small number of consistent winners within the Sailing/Production Cruiser class, that is a strong argument for suggesting that those boats have skilled crews and that suggests that if they were being handicapped fairly they would be regularly placed amongst the overall race winners and not around the middle of the fleet.
It seems there is work to be done to give any cabin boat a reasonable chance of being declared overall winners of the Three Rivers Race.
I am sorry I do not remember what happened in those years. There was a year when the race was aborted for safety reasons. Many boats were damaged. Perhaps it was one of those.
In reply to this post by Stationerystill
This years production cruiser class of the 3 Rivers Race was won by a Sailfish again with a 125 handicap.
They are lighter than a Seahawk, longer by a foot and have approx 40% more sail area than a Seahawk.
I cannot understand why they get such a favourable handicap compared with other production yachts especially as they have won this class several times.
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