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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

The oldest video footage of Gaff rig sailing

by Magnus Smith 9 Jun 12:00 BST
Thalia and Sophie at the Yarmouth Gaffers Regatta © Steve Mitchell

With the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival starting this Friday (14th June 2024) on the Isle of Wight, let us delve into the past, and round-up the best videos which show this type of rig, still loved today by many devotees.

The oldest footage featuring a gaff in use was also the very oldest video in our library (until we get informed of some older footage) and shows two J Class yachts somewhere in the Med. It's a silent clip, and not very long, but - as usual - British Pathé win the prize for oldest video; it's from the late 1910s!

The Girl On The Yacht features women sailing in 1930, which is really great to celebrate, albeit there were slightly sexist subtitles used. Shot off the Isle of Wight.

There is some much clearer footage than we normally see in The Red Trawlers Of Brixham. This is from the year 1933, with racing hosted by Royal Thames Yacht Club.

Classic Yacht Sailing in 1930s with Alfred Mylne shows the beautiful 'Thendara', though you will also note how Bermuda rigs are clearly overtaking the gaffers in numbers now.

We switch to smaller boats, briefly, here. Footage from sometimes in the 1930s at the West London Hospital Cup shows a mix of gaffers and International 14 dinghies.

Trawler racing off Brixham for The King George Cup comes from the year 1936. Look how difficult it is to tack that jib!

Time for small curved gaffs now! Or are we stretching the category too far? Watch Dutch barge racing in 1959 for leeboards and very odd bows too.

Continuing the European action, we next have Cutter racing at Kiel 1962. Skip the warship footage by going straight to 4m32s. There are some unusual German sail training vessels racing.

A whole TV programme from the eighties now! 'This England' was made by Granada and shows the Nobby Race, 1986 with Morecambe Bay Prawners / Mersey gaffers. (See also Part 2.)

What of the rest?

Do you know the location of any more videos showing gaff-rigged classes in 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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