Sainsburys great idea


Supermarkets have long been bashed by the green lobby as eco ogres, but now one leading chain has come up with the enlightened idea of re-supplying its stores by sea instead of by road. They are to use motor barges to re-stock their stores along the banks of the River Thames. But why stop there? Why not have a fleet of sailing barges picking up goods from ships at Tilbury and then delivering them all round East Anglia and the South Coast?

I have sat boring folks in my local pub about the return of the Thames spritsail barge, for decades. Now it looks as though Sainsburys could make my dream come true. The spritsail rig is the marine world’s best kept global secret: vessels up to and over 100 feet in length can be operated by a man and a boy because the vast acreage of sail does not have to be hoisted: it’s already up there, held in place by the diagonally affixed sprit. The crew simply set or stow the sail by pulling it in and out like a giant curtain.

The efficiency of this rig meant it lasted 200 years. At the turn of the last century there were more than 2,000 sailing barges delivering goods – some of them were hoys which specifically delivered groceries. A barge can easily load 200 tons – a freight which would take four juggernauts off the road. So, Lord Sainsbury, if you need any consultation on this fascinating project. Call me on 020314 84865.