The Rowhedge Smack Race was started in about 1880 and was sailed until 1914. There is a 1911 photograph of two smacks, Elise and Ellen, neck and neck, finishing in the narrow River Colne and a chequered flag about to go down for the winner.
The Rowhedge race was revived in 1965 and sailed until 1972, then restarted again in 2000. In 2012 the race was split into two races to attract the faster smacks. The first race was out in the estuary and the second race was from Bateman’s Tower, near the Colne entrance, up to Rowhedge to arrive at high water.
This June nine smacks took part and My Alice just finished first in the Up River Race to receive the chequered flag, slightly ahead of the 42ft Maria.
The Hythe Quay, Maldon is only empty for one day a year when all the barges sail or motor about five miles down the river to Osea Island to the start of the Blackwater Barge Match and the Smack Race. Paul Winter’s 42ft smack Maria was the first to reach the turning mark at the Wallet- Spitway buoy in a light northerly wind and became the winning smack on reaching Osea Island again. My Alice and John Brett’s Iris Mary, which is kept beautifully traditional, with a tarred hull, followed her. As a motor smack at Tollesbury the Iris Mary, was dredging oysters until 1985 and the last smack dredging commercially was Southerly Frost’s Varuna and Richard Patterson has had her rebuilt and plans to get her back under sail.