Shooting – dropping the mast without stopping – is the smart way to go through a bridge. By William Loram
The bridges at Acle and Potter Heigham are the big obstacle parts of the Three Rivers Race. To shoot the bridges or tie up, drop the rig safely, paddle through to the other side to tie up and hoist, was a difficult decision for us rookies, new to the delights of the challenges of the race.
Potentially we could lose more time by mucking up shooting the bridges, than make sure that everything was done in good order, and with adequate caution.
The shake-out sail from Martham to Horning on the day before the race gave us a chance to acquaint ourselves with what made Zoe go and what made her stop in the water. But the route also took us through Potter Heigham so we could practice dropping the rig, and work out whether to shoot the bridges or not.
Having had a mid-river rig drop, we then had a timed run at taking it carefully, by tying up in front of the old railway bridge (the new road bridge), lowering the rig, paddling like mad under that one, and then also under the much lower medieval bridge. Tie up again, and then set sail. Whew! Twenty-five minutes.
So by the time it came to race day, we were resolved: shoot the bridges. So here’s the advised procedure to follow according to Andrew Curtis from Martham Boats:
1. Take topsail down
2. Take mainsail down
3. Shut the boom crutches in on the transom
4. Take a line round the mast shrouds and rigging and back the other side, to gather in the rig and ensure that there is no snagging on the rehoist
5. Take gaff jaws off the mast and put them to one side
6. Lower the jib right down
7. Take the forepeak hatch off
8. Open the mast gate by removing the pin, to allow the mast to come out of the tabernacle
9. One person on the forestay, and one on the cabin roof. Lower the mast down on the forestay gently into the boom crutch
10. As you let the mast down you pull the line in to keep all the rigging in
Reverse the procedure on the rehoist.
Of course in the heat of the race, it does not always go to plan. And you should not drop too far away from the bridge if you are facing a foul tide, as the paddling crew will have their work cut out.