The Swale Match: a Celebration of Traditional Sail

Report by Julian Mannering

Last Saturday witnessed the 48th annual Swale Smack & Sailing Barge Match and the magnificent sight of some thirty traditional vessels racing in the River Swale off Faversham and Whitstable. The organisers, the Kentish Sail Association, were delighted that, having had to cancel the event for two years due to gales and the pandemic, they were finally able to fire the starting cannon for the 22-mile race out into the Thames estuary and back to the finishing line off Faversham Creek.

Strong winds on the Friday had prevented some entrants arriving from Essex, but there were plenty of vessels to make a great spectacle. The newly-built Thames barge Blue Mermaid was one of the few craft to make it over from Essex and she went on to win the Bowsprit Class. A good turnout of Kent barges – Repertor, Orinoco, Marjorie, Niagra, Edith May and the beautifully restored Cambria ­– had a fine day’s racing with Repertor winning the Staysail Barge Class, and Cambria the Restricted Class. There were prizes for other craft with the smack William & Mary, the smack yacht Bird of Dawning, the large gaffer Almita and the small gaffer Fifi all taking line honours in their classes.

The Swale also welcomed two traditional Dutch sailing vessels, Albatros and Johanna, the Humber keel Selby Ellen,and Lilian, the beautiful gentleman’s motor yacht, built in Stockholm in 1916, which this year acted as the Committee Boat and added another layer of old-time elegance to the day.

The Swale Match is the largest such traditional boat event on the East Coast, possibly in the country, and offers a vital celebration of these beautiful craft that still play a part around our coast and in our maritime story.

Isle of Sheppey Round The Island Race, 5 Sept 2021

  •  40-mile clockwise circumnavigation of the Isle Of Sheppey
    in north Kent organised by IOS Sailing Club
  • The UK’s longest annual dinghy, cat & board race!
  • Established since 1959 as an endurance event
  • Open to all classes of dinghy, catamaran & sailboard
  • Sea, river & estuary sailing with tidal conditions
  • In popular years 100-300 competitors have taken part
  • Every competitor successfully completing the course receives a circumnavigation certificate signed by the Commodore
  • SailRacer Live GPS Tracking
  • Part of the2021 Allen Endurance Series

Please note: the race will be limited to 50 boats, pre-entry online will only be accepted beforehand due to covid restrictions and numbers in IOSSC club house. Please refer to web site www.iossc.org.uk

Swale Regatta 2021 was great success

First Knight and Summer Breeze. Photo John Irvine.

Nigel Stevens writes, “The Swale Regatta is a long standing local event traditionally held over three days, starting on a Friday in the Swale off Harty Ferry, and finishing in the Medway on the Sunday. It caters not just for regular racers but also especially for cruisers who would just like to give sailing with others a go. The Covid restrictions saw last year’s event cancelled but this year fifteen boats from various Medway and Swale clubs managed to get together for the regatta.” See Nigel’s full report below…

Swale Regatta, 25-27 June 2021

Nigel Stevens writes: The plan this year is very much a do what we can approach given the way Covid has dominated much of our lives for the past year or so.  Despite the formal documents (below) we are really trying to keep the fun spirit of the regatta alive so would really encourage entrants from nervous first time “racers” as well as perhaps the more seasoned skippers.  If people approach it with the attitude that it is long weekend of cruising in company then they hopefully won’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately the Swale Regatta website has crashed and we haven’t been able to get it back in time, so all entrants are asked to drop me an email at Nigelstevens8071@hotmail.co.uk with some basic details and I can get back to them as necessary.

Swale Barge Match, Sat 31 July

David Pollock of the Kentish Sail Association writes: After 2 years’ cancellations, we’re hoping for a third time lucky and invite you to take part in the Match on 31 July 2021.  The Swale Match was established by Laurie Tester, Lena Reekie, Hugh Perks and others in 1973, as a festival of all manner of traditional sailing craft on the East Coast.  The assembled fleet usually comprises not only Thames sailing barges, smacks and bawleys in several categories, but also a variety of gaffers, classic and bermudan yachts, as well as Dutch barges, Baltic traders and historic powered craft.  This provides a magnificent spectacle on the water both for participants and for onlookers.

Swale Match 1982

Last year we introduced a new Open class last year, for non-traditional or unconventional craft, subject to interest.  We also held a match race for the Small Open Gaffers class on the Saturday after the scheduled Match, which was very well supported. 

Both at anchor in the Swale and on land at Hollowshore, crews and supporters come together for prize-giving and entertainment.  As well as Testers’ Boatyard, furnished for the weekend with food and drink stalls and live music, the shore venue also includes the fabled Shipwright’s Arms, supplying cask ales and food. The weekend starts on Friday afternoon, the Match is on Saturday and the homeward voyage is usually undertaken on the Sunday, but you can stay longer!

For further information and to register interest, please contact David Pollock at kentishsail@gmail.com, or phone 07831 200018

SB Raybel is recruiting

Thames Sailing Barge Raybel, moored at Milton Creek in Sittingbourne, is recruiting:

Assistant/Trainee Shipwright Full Time 
With restoration work now underway we are looking for someone to join the shipwright team. A rare opportunity to work with a credited national expert on barge restoration, learn heritage skills, and contribute to the regeneration of Sittingbourne and Swale Heritage.  
More details at http://adobe.ly/3ejJo3U

Artist in Residence £3600 based on 2 days a month of heritage-based  community arts activities.
Applications sought from artists living, working, or with a strong connection to Swale. Timescale  April  2021 until December 2022. 
More details at https://tinyurl.com/hfruzhca 

Socially  Engaged  Artist Mentorship 10 working days over a year. 
An opportunity to work alongside Salford  Makers, a highly  experienced arts collective, commissioned to deliver a programme of heritage-based arts engagement during 2021. Would suit an early career artist living, working, or with a strong connection to Swale.
More details at https://tinyurl.com/3mwm6k3w

New signage for PWCs

This is a sample of one of the new signs designed in partnership with the Personal Watercraft Partnership (PWP) and local authorities. The signs will be set up at known launching sites for jet skis (PWCs). Most PWC users are responsible boaters but an irresponsible minority spoil it for everyone else and will be liable to prosecution. Peel Ports will increase the number of patrols using a harbour launch or RIB, including holidays, weekends, and during heatwaves. The patrol personnel will be equipped with body cams.

Speed limits

This chart shows the zones where there are speed limits, yellow for 6 knots and red for 8 knots. The purple zone from Cuxton to Wouldham is where members of the Kent Boat and Ski club have exclusive permission to water ski.

Latest Heritage Harbour: Queenborough and Milton Creek

Queenborough Creek

The historic Queenborough Harbour is to be linked with Milton Creek. At Queenborough, the harbour trust is improving mooring facilities for Thames sailing barges.

Lloyds Wharf, in Milton Creek, is home to the Raybel Charters project. There is also a magnificent new building which will house the reborn Dolphin Barge Museum. An inaugural meeting is to be held shortly.

Milton Creek and SB Raybel

Kingsferry Bridge Closures (updated)

Network Rail have informed Peel Ports about planned maintenance taking place on Kingsferry Bridge from 26 November to 3 December 2020. The work will involve a 6 hour lockdown of all electrical power and will cause disruption from approximately LW-3hrs to LW +3hrs (see below).

Between the times stated on the dates below bridge lifts will not be possible:
26.11.2020 – 13:00 – 19:00
27.11.2020 – 13:30 – 19:30
30.11.2020 – 14:50 – 22:30
01.12.2020 – 16:30 – 22:30
02.12.2020 – 17:30 – 23:30
03.12.2020 – 18:00 – 00:00

And more:

14.12.2020 – 14:00 – 20:00 LW Sheerness – 18:18
15.12.2020 – 14:30 – 22:30 LW Sheerness – 19:04
16.12.2020 – 15:30 – 21:30 LW Sheerness – 19:47
17.12.2020 – 16:30 – 22:30 LW Sheerness – 20:27