Swale Smack & Barge Match, 29 July 2023

Medway and Swale boaters are welcome to watch the race from the sidelines.

NOTE: the Swale Match is for traditional sailing craft (principally sailing barges and smacks) and is not to be confused with the Swale Regatta which is for sailing yachts.

Admiral’s Cruise, 1 & 2 July 2023

The Mayor of Medway (previously Rochester) has been officially the Admiral of the River since ancient times. After a couple of years’ break for Covid, the Admiral’s annual cruise organised by Rochester Cruising Club (est 1905) in conjunction with Medway Council (est 1998) and the Rochester Oyster & Floating Fishery (est 1729) will resume over the weekend of 1st and 2nd July. The beating of the bounds is to confirm the existence of ROFF and will involve a cruise up river on the Saturday to the southern boundary of their jurisdiction at the Hawkwood Stone and quite possibly meeting up with the Mayors of Maidstone and Tonbridge & Malling on their cruise down river from the non-tidal Medway. Our little flotilla will then return to Rochester for refreshments and celebrations in the clubhouse.

On the Sunday , the cruise will head downstream from Rochester for a wreath laying ceremony at HMS Bulwark, with the Sea Cadets and a piper playing a lament, before heading into the Swale for a lunchtime stop at Queenborough Harbour.

The river will be busy. It would appear that Medway YC have a dinghy regatta for the Kent Schools Sailing Association on the Sunday as well. We hope to be joined by Peel Ports harbourmaster’s launch, the RNLI, Medway Towns Sea Cadets, the Maritime Volunteer Service, City of London Port Health Authority and we may even get a water spray salute by one of the Svitzer fire tugs based at Sheerness. The historic tug Kent will be going into Stangate to provide a mooring for those unable to go into Queenborough due to limited availability of moorings. On departing Queenborough those taking part in the cruise will be returning to Rochester to take part in a sunset ceremony, again with the piper. Hopefully we will have at least thirty vessels taking part and the weather forecast is even looking good.

All participants have been asked to avoid the exclusion zone near the gas terminal. Peel Ports will get very grumpy indeed with transgressors, you have been warned.

As the convoy passes each club or marina our gunner and bugler will sound a salute on behalf of the Admiral. If your club or marina is on the route between the Hawkwood Stone and Sheerness you should have received a letter by email inviting you to receive and return a salute. If you haven’t received this please let us know by email to info@msba.org.uk.

Thanks to Fred Trice for the above. You can find an article by Fred about the 2018 Admiral’s Cruise here.

Swale Regatta, 8+9 July

This friendly racing regatta is a great opportunity for sailors to experience racing without the stress of a highly competitive environment. The regatta is completely free and takes place over two days along the Swale and Medway Rivers. The event starts in the Swale near Harty Ferry and finishes on the Medway River.

For full details go to www.swaleregatta.co.uk/

Sail on Blue Mermaid in the Medway Barge Match, 27 May

TSB Blue Mermaid

Sea-Change Sailing Trust is a charity that takes young people and vulnerable adults on life-skills-building residential voyages on board our Thames sailing barge Blue Mermaid.  We like to enter Blue Mermaid in the annual series of historic Thames sailing barge races (or matches) that take place around the east coast each year. On these occasions only, we invite a small group of up to 8 paying guests aboard for an overnight stay onboard and participation in the race. The funds raised on these occasions help to support the work of the charity. No previous sailing experience is necessary, and as we have a race crew of our own onboard, guests may either participate in sailing the barge, or find a place that is out of the way of the action, and just spectate. Racing can get pretty exciting with the winner taking home the coveted Match Pennant, and the race points count towards the annual award of Champion Barge. The cost of an overnight berth, an evening meal before the match, and a place onboard for the race itself is £160 per person.

Medway Marathon open event, Sat 6 Aug

Medway Yacht Club extends a warm invitation to dinghy and dayboat sailors. The Medway Marathon has provided a yearly challenge for the dinghy and dayboat sailor for over half a century. This year the event will be held this year as part of the Great British Sailing Challenge. The 26 mile course takes competitors through the sweeping main estuary reaches of the Medway River and into the mysterious creeks bisecting wading flats of abundant birdlife. The tides and differing points of sail nature of the challenges the sailors endurance tactics and seamanship. Support and safety however is second to none with guard boats and safety ribs stationed along the course. Come along and spend a Saturday doing something very different.

Key information and access to entry of the race is available on https://www.medwayyachtclub.com/medway-marathon/

Brief facts:

  • Venue: Medway Yacht Club, Lower Upnor, Rochester, Kent ME2 4XB.
  • Entries close: Thursday 04/08/22 5:00pm.
  • Great Lakes handicap applies.
  • Storage: Boats will be inside the secure MYC compound
  • Launching: All tide winch assisted slipway,
  • Camping: Free if you wish to arrive Friday. Contact the office on 01634 718399 to book a space.
  • Food: Clubhouse open Friday Evening serving a fish and chip supper(Booking is required) and Saturday from 07:30h for breakfast, plus tea/coffee with cake and bar snacks throughout the day.
  • Contact:  office on 01634 718399 or email office@medwayyachtclub.com

Golden Anniversary for the Swale Match, 25 June

Report by Kentish Sail Association. Photos by Seamus Masters.

Back in 1972, a few keen traditional boat sailors from north Kent organised a race for Essex smacks and Thames barges in the river Swale; fifty years on the event prospers and is now one of the largest annual gatherings of traditional boats on the East Coast. Last Saturday witnessed some thirty-five craft racing out of the Swale in a brisk sou’westerly to compete in the 22-mile race off the north Kent shore; the brown sails, set against the eastern horizon, made for a fine sight and a great day’s racing was enjoyed in the calm waters of a weather shore.

It had been blowing pretty hard the day before and that had deterred a few of the smaller boats from heading south from the Essex rivers for the race. But the engineless Thames barge Edme arrived in the Swale for the first time since 2019, and the smack Hyacinth and bawley Gladys made it down from Pin Mill. The ADC was another smack that had been absent for a number of years so her arrival was much to be welcomed.

Edme went on to win the bowsprit class and the BMM Western trophy for the fastest elapsed time around the course, while ADC was the first smack home. The Faversham-based Repertor won the staysail class and Centaur the restricted staysail class. Nightfall was first home of the gaffers over 25 feet, and Fifi sailed home alone to take line honours in the gaffers under 25 ft, the rest of that class having retired in the teeth of the squally conditions. It’s always good to welcome a small fleet of Dutch barges, and this year Johanna, Nooit  Volmaakt and Albatros sailed a shortened course and added a touch of stately elegance to the affair.

Fifty years on from that first Swale match it’s clear that the traditional boat scene thrives. Despite the rising costs, the declining interest in our maritime history and the inevitable toll of the years on old wooden boats, an active and enthusiastic core of owners, crew, shipwrights and skilled craftsmen keep a remarkable fleet of traditional craft alive and active around our coasts. The Swale Smack & Sailing Barge Match is just one of many races and events that take place each year but it’s certainly one of the most significant on East Coast and it looks set for another fifty years.