Thames flier


Look at the height of them rigs!
 

Look at the height of them rigs!

We look at Ulva, the latest Thames A-rater to get the full rebuild from Ossie Stewart and his team
Dotted around the world there are examples of classes purpose-built for the location they sail in. On the Swiss and Italian lakes for example you get ultra lightweight boats with unfeasible sail plans. Turn the clock back by more than 100 years and in Victorian Great Britain a new class of boat was born specifically tailored to sail out of Thames Sailing Club at Surbiton in the shadow of Henry VIII's palace at Hampton Court. Like the boats that have evolved on the Swiss lakes so the Thames A-Rater was conceived to race on a narrow stretch of the Thames with reasonably high banks either side. Thus these three man boats have evolved with abnormally tall rigs and shallow draft to allow them closer to the river banks to stem the tide. The original rule for the Thames A-Rater was conceived in 1888 to allow club boats on London's great river to compete against each other at the Upper Thames Sailing Club's Bourne End Week, first held the previous year in celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. At the turn of the century and into Edwardian times Bourne End Week held rank in the aristocracy's social diary alongside Henley and Cowes Week. Competitors began to get serious with the Thames A-Rater when in 1893 Queen Victoria presented a trophy, subsequently known now as the Queen's Cup, for the top A-Rater. Thames Sailing Club, home of the A-Rater, is close to Kingston-upon-Thames, home to historically one of the UK's most prominent aircraft builders - Hawker, subsequently Hawker Siddeley - and during the first part of the 20th century the class attracted several aircraft designers. Most notable of these was Sir Tom Sopwith's genius engineer Fred Sigrist, who during the 1920s and 30s campaigned the A-Raters Viva and Caprice. As a result the

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