Old Gaffers growing in number on Solent


Sitting in front of me at the Warsash Sailing Club on Saturday night were more than 100 people all of whom regularly put their hands together to haul up a gaff. I was surprised to find so many sailors on the UK’s busiest yachting river revelling in the joys of gaff rig.

Until giving my talk about the East Coast to the Solent Old Gaffers Association, I had wrongly assumed that such enthusiasm was restricted mainly to the Thames Estuary.

But here were owners of Memory Class gaffers, converted smacks, Hillyards, Morecambe Bay prawners, and all manner of gaff-rigged boats. In fact such is the support for the rig in the Solent that my East Coast brethren had better watch out: their claim to be the inhabitants of the Last Stronghold of Sail: as author/historian Hervey Benham dubbed the Thames Estuary for its proliferation of working craft, face some healthy and growing competition on the South Coast, when it comes to the use of the gaff.