Yachting Sporting Traditions


Yachting

A look at the 80-year-old 'river' class yachts that are part of a long sailing tradition on Strangford Lough and the cut and thrust of summer racing on Strangford Lough.


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Transcript


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Some people have got a stressful job

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and they go out for the race to get rid of that tension

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that they might have had.

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I think when I race, I get tension!

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Lay over!

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You're not just racing against other competitors.

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You're racing against elements.

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It gives me a thrill. Bit like a fix!

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When you're sailing well, things are humming,

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it just feels like the wee boat's on wheels at times.

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My father worked on boats throughout the country

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and around the Lough in different areas of the Lough

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and, indeed, down here.

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The boatyard was founded here in the early '30s,

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and when we were born into it,

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it was a great playground for us.

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So it's still going on as a family tradition.

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Myself and my brothers grew up with the yard here and the boats.

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We all own a boat of some sort.

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I own number eight, Laragh,

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and it hadn't been sailed for a number of years.

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It was getting in bad repair.

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Been lying.

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And we got it, brought it back to the yard and restored it.

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It's working with your hands with wood.

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As a tradition here, it was wooden boats in our childhood.

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Fibreglass was coming into it in the late '60s, early '70s.

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A lot of them are considered that they're not boats at all!

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I enjoy working on it.

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I enjoy getting it really how it should look.

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It's really looking well.

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I enjoy racing it.

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I mean, you're not out there just for a wee sail about.

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You're enjoying that, the scenery, the surroundings,

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but you're there to race.

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And racing is something that you have in your blood

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and you can't shake that off.

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There's always a friendly rivalry,

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but in the water, when you're racing,

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those feelings just sometimes go out the window.

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It's more intense competition nearly, against the brothers.

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There's a thing called brotherly love.

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But I'm telling you,

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it doesn't stretch very far sometimes in the water.

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Now, obviously the competitive spirit comes out of it first,

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let me tell you!

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Quite a lot of the rivers were based in the boatyards during the winter.

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We always worked at them as we got older.

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At the time, you think, "Those are nice-looking boats, nice lines,

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"nice character about it."

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Looking at the way the rivers were built,

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I remember my father saying, "Those are well-built boats."

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When someone with his expertise says they're well-built boats,

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you take heed of that.

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You get a bond with the actual boat.

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Because of the way it's built and the pride you have in it,

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it's not something that you can replace.

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You can't go down to the shelf and buy a new one.

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These are boats that almost live and breathe.

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I love the rivers, because they talk to you.

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As a boat, they talk to you.

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When you have your sails set correctly,

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you can hear the creaks and the groans in the rigging, in the mast,

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in the very fibre of the boat

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that tells you that that is what she wants to be doing.

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The boat has a character,

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and that character, that interaction,

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is two people having a conversation together.

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A very good start.

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There's some very, very nice prizes to be won.

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I think that's one of the things that people again race for.

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A really nice one is the cigar box.

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It dates back to the '20s.

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It was raced for by a class before the rivers.

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But they died away, soled away, whatever.

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It's a really treasured prize for anybody winning it.

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Each time you win the trophy, the owner and the boat,

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their names are on it,

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so you look back years and see how well each one has done.

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There's pride in that as well,

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because you know if you win a race at the regatta,

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your name's gonna be on that for ever.

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And it's nice to look back. There's a real sense of history in that.

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Two minutes.

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Righto!

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Yacht racing is a very competitive sport.

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There's a lot of cut and thrust in it.

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Oh, my God! They're late.

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I enjoy it because of the skill involved,

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the concentration, the unpredictability of it.

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One of the most important things

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in the kind of racing which we do in Strangford is making a good start.

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Once a boat is in the lead, it generally speaking has an advantage.

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In a race, you're trying to gain every advantage you can

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from the starting line,

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position your boat at the start.

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The boats are all moving, there's no stop,

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and then suddenly, bang, the gun goes and everybody moves off.

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Look up!

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Jib. Fly the jib. Fly the sails.

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Nice one.

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I'm very competitive, I'm afraid, I am.

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Not in a bullish way.

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Everybody has to sail within the rules.

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But you have to have a sort of controlled aggression,

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you have to have a will to want to win.

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Very important they don't get an overlap on us at the mark.

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Right, folks.

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Spinnaker down.

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OK, guys.

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-He has got an overlap on us.

-Whoa!

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Whoa! Whoa!

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Did they touch?

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-Did they?

-I don't know.

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Sailing's very polite. Racing's a different story.

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Everybody says it's cut-throat out on the water.

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It really is cut-throat.

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-..We might have to!

-Ease! Ease! Ease!

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A few near experiences!

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OK, it's going to be a close race.

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There is a very strong rivalry in the racing,

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but there has to be a fellowship as well.

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You have to trust the other competitors.

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Because there's a lot of weight and power behind those boats.

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It's like a chess game in the water.

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You're trying to position your boat into certain areas

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where there's more wind, a bit less tide maybe,

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a bit more tide if it's to your advantage.

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The wind's gone up a bit and there's a nasty rain squall

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coming in over Killyleagh.

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-Main OK?

-Yeah.

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It's pretty dire at the moment. There's no wind.

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These guys have a breeze up here. We're in nothing.

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This rain is killing everything.

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We just have to wait and see what happens.

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Any breeze coming in, I hope those guys don't make too much on us.

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There's nothing we can do but sit and wait.

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Kenny is completely becalmed.

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-It's not over yet.

-It's not over yet!

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Going up. You'll have to come in.

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Why are you trying to devil me?!

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SHOUTS INDISTINCTLY

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Stop sitting in my wind!

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You've no claim or I'd have married you.

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Kenny's coming up.

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This is hyper!

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No, I was complaining to the Blue Glen that he was taking my wind.

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No-one was challenging him

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and I was trying to get the lead in the river class.

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I suppose I really should have kept my mouth shut.

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-Poke her up.

-BANG!

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Well sailed.

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Well done, man.

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At the end of each race, all the boats cheer the winner.

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Hip hooray! Hip hooray !Hip hooray!

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On the water there, it's a battle,

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but once it's over, anything that happened is forgotten about.

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You can't force kids to do something.

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If they take it nice and easy out for a wee evening sail

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and they get the feel of the boat, and if they want to pick it up,

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they'll adapt to that very well.

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For a child, helming a river, I'm sure, is some feat

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and something for them to remember.

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The river I have means a lot to me, I must say.

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It would be hard to part with it.

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I enjoy racing it,

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and hopefully I'll pass it on to my family, my kids.

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You can imagine the pride my father had

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when Kenny and I did well in racing.

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Some day, we might be blessed with the same thing, you know,

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with our kids coming in and saying, "That's good.

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"You got a win tonight."

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Owning a river is, to me, quite important.

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I'm an owner of a bit of wood and lead and canvas.

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But I'm only an owner for a while.

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And when you own a yacht that's 84 years old,

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you have a feeling sometimes you're just a steward there for a time,

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looking after a lovely bit of property.

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As time goes on, you realise that these boats are lent to us.

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If the kids come up afterwards when we're long gone,

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if these boats are still sailing about,

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that would be an achievement and something to give you pride,

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thinking that that will happen in the future,

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they're gonna be sailed by people who still care for them.

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The owners are now custodians.

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And I think that when you look at a river,

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you have to look at your time in the river

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and then your time to part with a river

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and someone else's time in a river.

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I would like to think that the rivers will see their 100 years.

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I don't think I'll be there, but I still would love to see them

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or love to be able to attend the dinner on their 100th anniversary.

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