Broads racer

We look at one of the UK's fastest flat water racers - the Norfolk Punt
'Tea Rota added' may be the latest breaking news on the Norfolk Punt website, but what is ostensibly the Sunday morning play thing of the local gentry belies a boat that on flat water is one of the UK's quickest dinghies. "The only faster monohull dinghy types are the 49er or the Thames A-Rater when the wind is light. We are bit faster than RS800s, but if we tried to race them in Hayling Bay we’d sink and they’d carry on…" succinctly summaries owner Peter Bainbridge, who admits that he is fairly new to the class, having only been 'punting' for the last 12 years... The Norfolk Punt is unusual in having a canoe stern that belies its 19th century origins as 'the gun punt' - a workboat on board which broadsmen used to lie on their bellies and creep through the reeds hunting and effectively decimating wildfowl using a 6-7ft long gun mounted on board. "You had a blunderbuss that you fired off the bow of the boat to kill the ducks," explains Bainbridge. "But the recoil from the gun was so great that if you had a transom the punt sank. So they put a bow on the back to allow for the recoil. That has remained one of the class rules." Sadly the gun - potentially useful at the weather mark - has long since gone but many other of the punt's features in addition to the canoe stern remain such as the negligible freeboard and the flat bottom hull that gave punts of old the reputation of being able to 'float on dew'. Sailing Punts have been racing on the Norfolk Broads for around 100 years... At present the class has two sets of hull measurement rules - one for chine hulls, the other 'open' - with