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House of Commons vs House of Lords sailing race on Thames

by Alice Driscoll 31 May 2016 17:42 BST 8 June 2016
Enterprise Tideway Race © Enterprise Association

Sails instead of speeches determine winner between House of Commons and House of Lords

Lords and MPs will be swapping their benches for boats as they take to the water on Wednesday 8 June for a charity sailing race. The House of Commons will compete against the House of Lords on the Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament in ten identical dinghies.

The House of Commons versus House of Lords sailing race is raising money and awareness for two sailing-related charities; the Westminster Boating Base, an independent charity that teaches dinghy sailing, powerboating, kayaking and canoeing to young people and adults, and Sail 4 Cancer, a respite charity for families affected by cancer.

Starting at 11.30 am on Wednesday 8 June and comprising three short races, the event will be contested in Enterprise dinghies. The Enterprise is a 4 metre two-person, two-sail dinghy which was originally designed and built on the Thames at Putney by Jack Holt.

The two teams of MPs and Lords will be competing against each other in three short races, organised by Westminster Boating Base which is also providing the essential safety cover required for the event to take place in this busy stretch of the river. The House of Commons boats (green) will race against the House of Lords boats (red). The team with the highest score after three races will win. The presentation to the winning team will take place on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament at 17.00.

It is particularly appropriate the Enterprise dinghies are being used for the races as 2016 marks the 60th anniversary of one of the world's most popular and affordable boats. There are now over 24,000 registered boats and the Enterprise continues to be sailed and raced worldwide. This competitive racing boat has been the breeding ground for many Olympic champions, past and present.

This event follows hotly on the heels of the ten day campaign called 'Push the Boat Out', organised by the Royal Yachting Association (the UK National Governing Body for sailing), which promoted participation in sailing through open days held at over 350 RYA affiliated sailing clubs and training centres across the country.

Hugh O'Byrne, Director of Westminster Boating Base, says: "As a charity which helps young people and adults develop through water sports activities on the Thames we are delighted to see members from both Houses of Parliament out sailing."

Mark Garnier, Member of Parliament for Wyre Forest, heads up the House of Commons Sailing Club and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sailing and Marine Business. Mark said: "Over 40 MPs took the opportunity to visit their local sailing club during the Push The Boat Out campaign, demonstrating the support for sailing within Parliament. Boating isn't an expensive sport and offers a sociable and relaxing activity for all. The House of Commons and House of Lords Sailing Clubs are pleased to launch this fantastic event and support two important charities, Westminster Boating Base and Sail4Cancer."

Sarah Treseder, Chief Executive of the RYA added: "The Enterprise dinghy has a strong and loyal following and we are delighted to help it celebrate its 60th birthday. As a sport, sailing offers a unique opportunity for men and women, people of widely varying ages, with or without disabilities, to compete together or against each other on equal terms and the Enterprise dinghy has played an important part in introducing people to sailing."

Sail 4 Cancer intends to take families affected by cancer on the Thames to experience sailing in the city as part of the charity's ongoing respite programme. Lizette Van Niekerk said "We are delighted to see sailing recognised at this level as a form of recreation for all. For the past 15 years our charity has been taking youngsters recovering from cancer and families affected by the disease out on the water for a day or weekend to help them get way from the stress of living with cancer. They tell us it is a wonderful stress reliever as they have the opportunity to spend quality time together as a family doing something adventurous and fun and creating lovely memories for an often uncertain future."