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The oldest video footage of Thames A Raters

by Magnus Smith 19 May 12:00 BST
Upper Thames SC in the 1920s - Vagabond © British Pathé

Bourne End Week has been running since 1887, and now there is less than a week to the 2024 edition at Upper Thames SC. As this event includes the Thames A Rater National Championship, let us delve into the past, and round-up all the videos which show early racing in the Thames A Rater class.

The oldest footage we could find was from the Queen's Cup 1923. We can always rely on British Pathé to start things off! After some lugsail racing action, there is a wonderful shot of a Rater speeding along with a crew of only two. [Or have we made a mistake, and shown you a 'B' Rater?]

Three years later the wind looks a little lighter: Queen's Cup 1926. Some boats have a crew of three, here. More detail can be seen in the shots of rigging up on the jetties.

Queen's Cup 1929. The rig design is a long way from the high aspect ratio sails seen in recent years, but these are the tallest masts on the Thames even back then.

Now we move to the thirties: Bourne End Week 1933. Still no kicking straps! Instead, ties and yachting caps seem more important. An interesting use of the jib-boom can be clearly seen in the final 15 seconds of the footage.

Jumping ahead 15 years now, we see a change of venue too (though still on the River Thames), with Racing at Teddington, 1948. Finally we have sound! Though the commentator has better command of The Queen's English than any nautical terminology.

Our final video is as recent as the eighties, and shows a TV news segment from Surbiton: Thames A Raters at Thames SC. Jeremy Kearns and Geoffrey Bentley are interviewed, but our favourite quote is from earlier on: "Whilst it's accurate to describe them as dinghies, it's like calling caviar, 'fish eggs'."

What of the rest?

Do you know the location of any more Rater videos that show racing from the early years? We would love to share these with other sailors. You can submit video links to us for immediate review.

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