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The Millennium Colne Smack and Barge Race
From the newsletter of the Colne Smack Preservation Society, Brightlingsea, Essex, UK


p 4

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Smacks and barges before the start trying hard to keep up-tide and up-wind [ what there was of it ] of the line which stretched across the River Colne from Bateman's Tower [ the starting bridge ] and a mark on East Mersea Stone on the opposite bank.

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Ethel Alice CK 476 brilliantly sailed by Barry Tester and his crew won the smack race again. She beat the course record in fresh winds last year and won in the light stuff this year so proving her dominant position in the fleet. Well done.

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The Harris smack Ellen CK 222 shaping up to round the mark off Clacton Pier with 2,500 sq.ft. of sail set. The jib tops'l ghoster really pulls well in the light stuff but is a topmast wrecker if the wind picks up.

¤- View from the tower - 9th September 2000 -¤
¤- Millennium Race Race day dawned hazy with either no wind at all or the lightest of airs from the north. So, it was, I felt, a brave decision of the officer of the day, Ron Hall, and the race committee to decide to set the full course.
The ebb set in on schedule at 09:55, not appearing to the tower party to run very hard by start time at 10:30. The smacks were understandably wary about getting too close to the line too early- “Dorothy” CK159 eventually just beating “Martha II” MN69 to be first over. Some of the smacks had decided to stay so far clear of the line that they had not crossed it by the time that the barges were starting at 11:00!
An exciting, down tide, drifting start took place between barges “Repertor” and “Ardwina”- “Repertor” being first over the line by a fluke – her anchor fluke, which, protruding over her bow, just gave her the edge!
A very light air then set in from the south. The scene, as the combined smack and barge fleets were tacking across each other off east Mersea stone, outlined against the hazy sun with no apparent horizon, was absolutely breathtaking. If the photographers present were able to capture the scene, we are in for some memorable photographs.
The southerly wind now increased slightly, much to the relief of the tower party – the fleet sorting themselves out as the faster craft drew clear – three smacks being seen to have drawn ahead on the reach round Colne Point towards Clacton pier.
The time seemed to pass quickly as we waited for the leaders to return, Sue Last, Tony Goldsmith and Myself being ably entertained by the priceless reminiscences of Dick Harman and Malcolm MacGregor whose powers of barge and smack recognition are of the greatest assistance on race day.
Four smacks were seen, running goose winged towards us, in Colne, these proved to be “Ethel-Alice” CK476, “Lizzie Annie” MN23, “Maria” CK21 and “Bona” LO178, the first Bawley home.
This was the order in which they finished, “Ethel-Alice” taking five hours, fifty-eight minutes and nineteen seconds to complete the twenty one mile and one cable course.
The closest finish in this group was that between “Maria” CK21 and “Bona” LO178, “Maria” coming third by twenty seven seconds, to “Bona’s” fourth place.
The closest finish in the race was that between “Hyacinth” CK256 and “Ellen” CK222, just fifteen seconds separating them.
Gradually the fleet finished – the setting sun giving more fabulous photographic opportunities with the anchored craft outlined in the glow of the Pyefleet. The intended prize giving time of 18:30 passed with two barges and three smacks still to come home.
The moon was peeping from behind a cloud as the last smack “Mary” CK252 was saluted with a final charge of two and a quarter drachms of black powder, at 19:20, fired through Sue Lasts’ fathers’ twelve bore. A quick dash was then made to the prize giving at the Colne Yacht Club, now re-scheduled for 19:30, where Jim Spencer made his usual super job of finishing the day off on a high note by tying all the loose ends together.
This year the prizes were presented by Peter Coupland, Brightlingsea’ recently retired harbour-master, who, in a brief speech, thanked the smack and barge crews’ present, for the many cups of tea (and strong liquids) which he had been served with over several years. He also congratulated the C.S.P.S. race committee for running the race, which had provided such a popular spectacle for Brightlingsea residents.
The prize giving ended with the draw for the excellent oil painting by local artist Steven Hazleton – being won by a Mr. Fearn of Long Melford.
So ended our Millennium Race celebrations – roll on the 2001 race, where do the years go to?
Brian Percival (Starting officer)
The CSPS wish to thank the Officers of the day and the race committee for a very well organised race, they never fail us. A special thanks to Brain Percival for this superb report on the race. A record turn out of smacks was also reported with 23 entering and 21 crossing the line. More pleasing to me was the turn out of Whitstable smacks and the CSPS wishes to encourage more of these fine smacks to come over for the race. I have suggested that a Whitstable cup should be presented for the first Whitstable smack home and the race committee is considering this for next years race.
It was also reported on the poor number of barges entering. 8 barges entered and 6 completed the course. The committee would like to know how we can encourage more barges to enter this race. In the past races up to 18 barges have entered the race and the decline is rather sad.
A new ‘Cock of the Colne’ bob has been made by David Patience for the first smack home. Made of brass and with red bunting for the flag it was a much admired trophy on the day.

Results and Prizes.


. 2001 © Roger Walker