Four days of festivities are set to begin

In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Old Gaffers Association, 215 gaff
rigged vessels and 1,000-plus crew are gathering in Cowes for four
days of fun.

The celebrations begin tomorrow, Thursday 15 August, and will culminate in what is thought to
be the largest gaffers race ever held this Saturday 17 August.

Boats are coming from the UK, Netherlands,
France and Belgium to take part in this historic event.

The vessels arriving
span 150 years of gaff rig designs, from working and ex-working boats of the late 1800s, gentleman’s yachts
and through to modern gaffers
such as Cornish Crabbers and replica Falmouth working boats.

Ten are recorded on the National
Register of Historic Vessels making them a significant part of the UK’s
maritime heritage.

As part of the celebrations, a group of 20 gaffers have
completed a 2,000 mile circumnavigation of the UK in the run up to the Cowes event.

Dan Shaw, president of the Solent Gaffers Association who are hosting the event in the
Cowes Yacht Haven and Shepherd’s Wharf said: ‘We are thrilled
with the commitment shown to the 50th anniversary event, this is going to be an
outstanding opportunity to appreciate gaff rigged vessels, to see them in
action and to celebrate with those who care for them.

‘We are looking forward to
welcoming our fellow gaffers to Cowes for the party.’

Jessica Warren,
Solent Gaffers Association secretary added: ‘We believe this to be the greatest
gathering of gaffers ever.

‘In this jubilee year the OGA is fundraising for the
RNLI and a letter of prayer and good wishes to crews of the RNLI
Lifeboats and crews of our Old Gaffers fleet has been sent by the Dean of Canterbury, Robert

‘The letter will arrive in Cowes, carried on the gaff cutter ‘Emanuel’.’

With 129 boats
racing in the Solent on Saturday, there will be opportunities to see the
fleet from the Esplanade.

  • The Old Gaffers Association (OGA) was formed in
    1963 and comprises groups around the UK, Ireland and Internationally.

  • Racing
    will commence 11.00 am on Saturday 17 August – weather permitting.
    The starting line will be from the Island Sailing Club line in Cowes. The finishing
    will be at the JOG finish line off Egypt point. Vessels will then proceed past
    the Royal Squadron and return to the marinas.
  • It is hoped the race will make history as
    the largest race fleet for gaff rig vessels.

Pictures: Credited to Jessica Warren and Derrick Thorrington.