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Old Gaffers Race on the Thames

Greenwich Yacht Club invites East Coast Gaffers to race with them again on Sunday 9 April, 2023. For many OGA members, the Thames is associated primarily with its barges. More than a dozen trusts, owners and volunteers ensure that a small fleet of barges and spritsails continue plying the lower Thames, offering day trips and eagerly contesting the annual barge races from Gravesend and the Swale. However, the Thames is also home to a growing fleet of smaller gaff-rigged boats.

To celebrate this and encourage more OGA members to consider a trip to the capital, the first annual Thames Old Gaffers race was held in June, 2022. Sailing east of the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Ferry, the Thames gently widens, allowing for great sailing. Boats tackled stiff, variable winds as they raced from Greenwich Yacht Club downriver and back. On adjusted times, Martin Sewell’s ‘Lili’ a single-handed Heard 23’, came in first, just ten minutes ahead of ‘Rose Bud’ Tim Goodingham’s steel-hulled replica Falmouth Quay Punt.’Blue Moon’ and ‘Tallula’ closely followed them. All four leading vessels are regular participants in races and cruises held at Greenwich Yacht Club.

After the success of the 2022 inaugural Old Gaffers Race on the Thames, Greenwich Yacht Club invites all Gaffers to join next year’s Old Gaffers Race on Sunday, 9 April, 2023. The planned course is from Garrison Point in the Medway to Greenwich Yacht Club, followed by dinner in our clubhouse within walking distance of the O2 Arena. There are swift bus and underground links to the city centre from the Yacht Club. Participating boats are welcome to stay on GYC’s pontoon or trot moorings free of charge before heading back downriver.

East Coast Gaffers may remember the French yawl ‘Gwenili’, sold to a new owner in Greece, 2019. She is pictured here on the Thames, captured by Bob Aylott just before she left the UK for Thessaloniki. ‘Onward of Ito’ was recently rescued by Martin Goodrich and brought up to Greenwich from the Isle of Wight. ‘Ro an Mor’ used to be moored at Wrabness on the River Stour, participating in may EC Gaffers events.

Photo credits: Stefan Oloffs and Bob Aylott
Words: David Styals