Harker’s Yard Winter Series 2017-18

Harker’s Yard Winter Series 2017-18

We row all year round and the winter season is the main racing season for the Club’s Harker’s Gig William Rose.

The race series comprises nine events between October and February each with races for men’s, women’s and mixed crews so twenty seven races in total.

2017-18 was our second winter series since William Rose was purchased with the aid of a Sport England Lottery Fund grant in October 2017. This year there was a total of 16 Gigs competing in the series and the racing was extremely competitive.

Once again we took part in every race, we did not come last in any race and we had a lot of fun along the way.

At the end of our second Winter Series William Rose and Crews finished 8th in the women’s, 11th in the men’s and 7th in the mixed – giving us 9th place overall out of 16 Gigs (ahead of the 10th Gig by 18 points).

This is the story of the series (with the last event first!)

Sunday 18 February

 The last event of the Harker’s Yard Winter Series, this time at West Mersea and with some actual sunshine, although still a fair amount of wind and chop. The racing was tough and close with mass starts for all races and there was no time to take photographs.

The William Rose Crews on the day finished 7th in the women’s, 9th in the men’s and 6th in the mixed.

Sunday 4 February

 We took William Rose to Maldon for the penultimate event in the Harker’s Yard winter Series. Maldon is one of the few places with even more mud than Manningtree and tides that are just as extreme. With five minutes to go before the start of the first race there was not enough water to launch the Gigs that had not been craned in. Eventually race control relented and put the start off by ten minutes, but it was still a mad rush to launch, row away and start the race.

Another cold day, but at least it did not snow or rain during the racing. The two by two time trial format is not our favourite, and the wind and tide made for some tough conditions. However, at the end of the day the William Rose women’s crew came home in 10th place, the men in 9th and the mixed in 6th, keeping us in 9th place overall with one event to go.

Sunday 21 January

Race seven in the Harker’s Yard Winter Series, this time at Burnham on Crouch. The weather forecast had not been great, but the conditions on the day were truly horrible! Freezing cold, raining, sleeting and snowing during the racing, all of the rowers deserved a prize simply for agreeing to get in the Gigs rather than staying in the nice warm club house! This event truly pushed the boundaries of “we do this for fun” into “explain to me again why we do this!”.

However, we rowed all of the races with the women’s crew coming home in ninth place in the women’s, twelth in the men’s and 6th in the mixed – putting us in 9th place overall with two events still to go.

Our first race of 2018 was due to be the sixth round of the Harker’s Yard winter series hosted by Marconi Sailing Club on 7 January – unfortunately forecast storm force northerly winds meant that the organisers had to cancel the event for safety reasons on the 5 January. In the event the forecasts were well made and cancellation was a good call.

Sunday 17 December

The weather was freezing cold and overcast as we left Manningtree, and we arrived at Brightlingsea to find sea fog firmly in place and showing no signs of shifting. It looked as if the planned mass start racing would be replaced by timetrials in the creek (not our favourite model!). However, at the last moment the organisers decided that condititions were improving enough to give it a go. It was still freezing cold and the visibility for the women’s race was pretty poor. However the William Rose Crews had a good day, coming home 11th in the women’s (being crashed in to at a mark did not help but we felt that we had had a good row), 7th the the mixed and amazing 6th in the men;s (up from 14th in race one).

Sunday 3rd December

 Once again we were off racing, this time for the fourth event in the winter series hosted by Stone Sailing Club. The previous year’s event at Stone had seen strong on shore winds, freezing cold conditions, and choppy sea – all the conditions that suit us best. This year was much calmer by comparison. Launching from the Beach is always interesting – judging how far you can go before the water comes inside your waders.

The tide was running strongly and made for very different conditions in each of the three races and for some very tricky starts and negotiations round marks. Once again we had some fun and games with Gigs that seemed to think they could pick their own course regardless of boats ahead of them – but we emerged more or less unscathed. At the end of the day we finished 8th in the women’s, 10th the men’s and 10th in the mixed and back to 10th overall in the league after four events.

Sunday 19th November

 Rowing on a very tidal estuary becomes more difficult with the end of BST. So our next outing was the next race event, this time hosted by Brightlingsea Community Sailing Club. This was a very different race to the previous one at Rowhedge with hotly contested mass starts from Batemans Tower (complicated by strong tides) and a short run down to the first mark.

After some hotly contested racing, including some tussles with rival Gigs who thought that they should be entitled to row through us William Rose finished seventh in the womens’, thirteenth in the men’s and fifth in the mixed. Amazingly that left us 8th overall in the league at the end of the day.

Sunday 5th November

 The second of this year’s Harker’s Yard Winter Race series – this time hosted by Rowhedge Coastal Rowing Club on an individual time trial format with boats starting a minute apart. The access to the water at Rowhedge is tricky and we had a previous unhappy experience there with the Gig which no-one was keen to repeat. So we decided that we would take William Rose to Brightlingsea and then tow her down to Rowhedge and back. It turned into rather an adventure but we made it safely there and back in the end. None of the William Rose Crews really like the time trial format and we tend to do best when the water is rough, the races are longer and we are racing other boats rather than ourselves. However we will have to perfect the format if we want to keep our place or move up the ranks!

The crews rowed hard but although we were closer to the winning pace than in the previous round the competition was close and we were a bit disappointed with our results. At the end of the day we were 9th in the women’s, 15 in the men’s and 13th in the mixed – meaning that we finished the day 11th in the league two events in.

Sunday 22 October


The Club’s turn to host the first of this year’s Harker’s Yard winter series events at Manningtree, the first time we had done so.

Storm Brian made life difficult for us as we watched the weather forecast anxiously all week fearing that we would have to cancel the event for safety reasons. In the end we decided on the 21st to go ahead with the event as the wind forecast was for strong and gusty winds but from the West, meaning that racing would be tough but we could safely launch and retrieve Gigs from the relative shelter of the beach.

On the day the racing was indeed tough but fifteen Gigs turned up and raced, and the beach was unusually crowded for October with spectators also watching from the Walls – getting the winter racing season off to a great start.

As our home event the William Rose Crews were organising and running the day, and rowing had to be squeezed in alongside beach marshalling, getting boats in and out of the water, cooking and serving food and starting and finishing races.

Our crews included a number of rowers racing for the first time, and at least one rower who had never rowed the Gig before! However, at the end of the day we had made a good start. William Rose came home 6th in the women’s, 14th in the men’s and 7th in the mixed with an overall placing of ninth.

And Some History – Harker’s Yard Series 2016-17

Stour Sailing Club Rowers are taking part in the winter series of races for Harker’s Yard Gigs. Our target for the first few races is to compete in all of the races, not do anything too embarrassing, have fun, and not finish last – so far we have been meeting our target!

Sunday 26th February

William Rose and crews took an hour and a half journey to Marconi Sailing Club for the ninth and last race in the 2016-17 winter series.  In contrast to Maldon there was no mud, but plenty of concrete (on balance we prefer just a bit of mud!).  There was however once again a very nice pontoon and a magnificent club house – the advantage of not being in a town location.

The conditions were a bit warmer than of late, but with a SW wind whipping up the waves and a strong tide which turned before the last race, meaning that the conditions were very different for each of the three races.

We had a series of hard rows over the three races – but what can we say except we ‘saved the best ’till last’. With the help of some brilliant tactical coxing making the best of the conditions (and of course some brilliant rowing as well) William Rose finished 3rd in the women’s, 6th in the men’s and 5th in the mixed. Overall the Stour Sailing Club finished 3rd overall on the day. A great end to our first ever winter series.

The overall results of the series (across all of the nine races) put William Rose 8th in the women’s; 8th in the mixed, 10th in the men’s and 9th overall.  Each Team now has the opportunity to discard the results of a men’s, women’s and mixed race that they have competed in, finished and not been disqualified from (Stour Sailing Club competed in all of them, and picked up no penalties along the way).  We will find out the overall results at the prize giving on Saturday.

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Third place overall on the day – felt like first!

Sunday 12th February

The eighth and penultimate race in the Winter Series took place on 12 February in Maldon, hosted by Maldon Coastal Rowing Club from the Little Ships Club.  After our extensive tour round venues on the East Coast we finally found a place with even more mud and less time on the tide than Manningtree!  They also have more East Coast Barges and plenty of pontoons though.

The weather was on the cold side, although thankfully the snow of the day before failed to make a repeat appearance.  The racing was keen, three races for women’s, men’s and mixed crews with the out leg a hard slog against the tide, and the return leg tide assisted.  The races were once again time trial style with pairs of Gigs racing each other with pairs starting at two minute intervals.

At the end of the day’s racing, our results (although not our best so far) were enough to keep Stour Sailing Club in 9th place in the league overall, 9th in the women’s competition, 7th in the mixed and 10th in the men’s.

The keen among you will spot the SSC Commodore Tim Goodwin in the Bow Seat for the men’s crew and Katie Goodwin in the Bow Seat for the women’s crew – both racing in William Rose for the first time.


maldon 12.02.17 women

Women’s Crew  

Maldon 12 02 17 men

 Men’s Crew   

  Maldon 12 feb 17 

  Mixed Crew

There is now only one more race in the winter series, which will be hosted by the Marconi Sailing Club on 26 February.

Sunday 29th January

Another race day and the seventh race in the Harker’s Yard Winter Series. This time the race was hosted by WivGigs at the Wivenhoe Sailing Club, and it was Stour Sailing Club’s turn to help with the timekeeping as well as competing in the races.

We decided to try out our borrowed oars (1990’s Sutton needle oars pinched from Lt Washington, and with lovely new leathers) in race conditions for the first time. It was difficult to tell whether they made the Gig faster, but they felt better to row with than the flat ‘training’ oars that we have used until now.

The racing was once again phased time trials with two Gigs stating at a time and with William Rose drawn against Tyrant, one of the leading Gigs in this year’s series and featuring SSC’s very own Sarah Howlett in the Tyrant women’s and mixed crews.

Racing along the river means exciting views  of the racing for spectators and it was great to have support there from family and friends.

Another set of good results for Stour Sailing Club in very close racing. Eleventh in the men’s and seventh in the women’s and mixed, keeping us in a very respectable ninth place in the league overall, eighth in the women’s  competition and seventh in the mixed with two races to go.

Wivenhoe 29 January 2017 (2)

William Rose Women’s Crew Racing Tyrant from RCRC

Sunday 15 January

The first race of 2017 and the sixth of the series took place in Burnham on Crouch, hosted by the Burnham on Crouch Coastal Rowing Club in the Royal Burham Yacht Club. For the first time in the winter series the weather lived up to its name, cold, rainy and occasionally sleeting. But at least the threatened snow did not materialise.

Once again the races were for Women’s, Men’s and Mixed crews, this time over a longer course and with a mass start. The Club had its best result in the series so far, 8th in the Women’s, 9th in the Men’s and 6th in the Mixed. Overall we remained 9th out of 15 Gigs in the series overall, with three more races to come.

With so much rain there were not many photographs taken on the day!

Burnham 15 January 2017

Our Cox demonstrating the standing up to see where you are going technique


Mixed and Women’s Crews in Action

Sunday 18 December

The fifth race day of the series and the last for 2016 took place in Brightlingsea.  The day before had been fog bound, and the journey over was also a little murky but luckily conditions at Brightlingsea were just a bit hazy and fine for rowing.

Once again fourteen of the current seventeen Gigs took part in some extremely close racing.  A mass start and a short run down to the first turning mark meant that there was no time for the field to spread out resulting in most of the Gigs trying to turn at the same time. The conditions for Coxes were challenging as the Gigs are each twenty four feet long and over twenty feet wide with their oars, and far from turning on a sixpence have a tendency to want to continue in a straight line.

Brightlingsea 18 Dec 2016

The William Rose Women’s crew had an epic battle with Defiance and beat them by a whisker over the line to take 7th place. The Mixed crew came home 8th and the men’s crew 9th. Overall William Rose is in 9th place in the league with four races to go – not at all bad for our first season!


Women's crew crossing the line 18 12

Women’s crew taking it to the line

Sunday 27 November

A cold and early start as we took William Rose to Stone Sailing Club at St Lawrence to take part in the fourth race meeting of the Harker’s Yard Winter Race Series. Fourteen of the current seventeen Harker’s Yard Gigs took part. Launching from the beach, and with a mass start rather than the more usual time trial format made for some exciting starts and racing, especially round the marks.

The races were a bit longer than usual over a triangular course of 2 miles or so in choppy and cold conditions. At the end of the day the results had William Rose at 11th in the women’s, 8th in the Mixed and a fantastic 5th in the men’s – moving us from tenth to ninth in the overall league so far – way to go crews!


Mass Start at Stone


After the Racing

Sunday 13 November

The day before had been miserable, pouring with rain and windy and we had had to cancel our planned Club Row. However the forecast for Sunday was better and so it proved as we set off for Mersea Island for the third leg of the Harker’s Yard Winter Race Series. The day was also Rememberance Sunday, with the two minute silence observed on the water. The event was hosted by Mersea Island Coastal Rowing Club at the Dabchicks Sailing Club. We had a good day for our third ever race event in a Harker’s Yard Gig. We were joined by Keith and Maria both in their first races for the Club, and Keith racing without having rowed in a Gig before. This time we competed in Pyefleet, trying to win the record for the crew rowing in a different Gig for each race! Fourteen Gigs took part and the Stour Sailing Club Teams came home 9th in the men’s and mixed and 8th in the women’s. Overall that kept us at tenth in the league for the time being – and still hoping to move up over the series.


Sunday 30 October

Second Race in the Harker’s Yard Winter Series and a trip to Rowhedge along with thirteen other Harker’s Yard Gigs. Sadly William Rose picked up some damage at launch which meant that we could not row her in the races. However the William Rose crews raced in Tyrant, gallantly lent to us by Rowhedge CRC for the occasion.

women's crew racing at Rowhedge

Across the three races (women’s, men’s and mixed) the crews did really well with the women coming home 8th out of 14, the men 12th and the mixed crew a brilliant 5th. The results placed us 11th out of 14 in the league so far, but only two points away from 8th.

Sunday 16 October 2016

The first of the winter series of Harker’s Yard Gig races and we were off to Brightlingsea along with twelve other Harker’s Yard Gigs. Our objective was to have fun, and if possible, not to come last. We succeeded on both counts.





Across the three races (men’s, women’s and mixed) we came home 11th out of 13 Gigs on the day. The women’s crew did really well, coming 7th out of 13 Gigs in a close competition. Video of the women’s crew crossing the finish line https://www.facebook.com/marcel.mcclarnon/videos/10210054397663911/

A good first time out with plenty of room to improve over the series.