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Sailing event comes to the Broads

PUBLISHED: 18:00 03 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:03 01 July 2010

A boat passes under Potter Heigham bridge during last year's Three Rivers Race. Photo: James Bass.

A boat passes under Potter Heigham bridge during last year's Three Rivers Race. Photo: James Bass.

For decades it has allowed sailors and landlubbers alike to take full advantage of some of Norfolk's most stunning inland waterways while testing the seamanship, navigation and endurance of competitors.

For decades it has allowed sailors and landlubbers alike to take full advantage of some of Norfolk's most stunning inland waterways while testing the seamanship, navigation and endurance of competitors.

The names of winners go down in Broadland folklore and the camaraderie built passes down generations and across social divides.

And this weekend, history, sport and miles of idyllic rivers will again be joined together in a milestone celebration of the annual Three Rivers Race, Europe's longest inland sailing race.

The race, parts of which can be viewed around the world thanks to a set of web cameras, celebrates its 50th anniversary with the largest number of entrants ever gathered for the gruelling 24 hour challenge.

Competitors will include several who sailed in the inaugural race of 1961, alongside others who will tackle the weaving Broads course of approximately 50 miles for the first time, taking in the Bure, Ant and Thurne.

The invitation only race is expected to feature more than 170 boats, several dozen more than normal, to mark the anniversary year.

There will also be a special veterans' mini event held for sailors of more advanced years, including those aged in their 80s.

And the winner of the first ever race, 73-year-old Hugh Tusting, will be taking part in the same boat, with the same crew and sailing the whole course.

The increased numbers of entries have caused an extra administrative burden, said organiser Colin Facey, but he said the resulting “enormous” amount of work was worthwhile to celebrate the special year.

Web cams will be operating at the start and finish at Horning Sailing Club, the mediaeval Potter Heigham bridge and Acle Bridge.

The race leaves Horning at 11am on Saturday, with each boat required to visit four checkpoints in any order - near Ludham Bridge, South Walsham Broad, Hickling Broad and a moveable marker between Stokesby and Six Mile House, which can be used to make the course longer or shorter according to weather conditions.

Mr Facey said: “It has taken months of organisation, but it will be a very special year and I hope as many people come and enjoy it as possible.”

Among the original 1961 competitors sailing this year will be David Hastings, who came up with the original idea for the race when he was secretary for Horning Sailing Club.

“It's quite amazing to think that an idea I had all those years ago is still going,” said Mr Hastings.

“It's a lot of fun both for participants and spectators, a genuine challenge in many different ways and I am very much looking forward to being part of a crew on the day.”

The festivities begin Friday at 3pm with a barbecue.

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