(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

Text and photos: Sandy Miller

There was a tense finish in flukey winds for the Blackwater Smack & Barge Match, held on August 6, 2022, with the fastest smack over water, Martha II, disqualified for using sails not permitted by match rules.

(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

The match was first staged in 1962 as part of a revival campaign to strengthen the preservation of the Thames Sailing Barges.

The Maldon connection is much older though, with the famous Cooks Yard building and repairing barges since SB Dawn in 1894, and the awards night takes place on Hythe Quay, overlooking the barges who still live and work here all the year.

(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

This year’s event was tough, tense, exciting and frustrating with glorious sunshine but uncontrollable winds bringing the fleet together on arrival at Osea Island. Edme has just won over Blue Mermaid in the bowsprit class.

(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

Jim Dines, owner of Heritage Marine in Maldon, had launched his 1898 iron barge, the Wyvenhoe, the day before the match after a 4-year restoration and was both 1st at the start line and 1st at home in the senior staysail class.

The George Smeed is 1st in the staysail class.

(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

The smack race was also a very tense affair. The 1890 ADC smack, built by Aldous, helmed by Eloisa Rule, led for much of the race but was held up by dips in the light winds upriver. Of particular note is Lizzie Annie, the 1906 Maldon smack just 34ft and barred by Bob Fawkes, defending against the bigger smacks, eventually finishing 3rd.

(c) Sandy Miller Photography www.sandymiller.org

Another Maldon smack, Martha II, caught a flurry just off Osea Island to snatch line honors, but the winner’s pennant went to a deserving ADC after one of Martha’s sails was found to be non-compliant.