Cambria under way once more

Hundreds of people turned out this weekend to watch the Thames Sailing Barge Match, which included a new entry: Cambria, the last vessel to trade without an engine in the United Kingdom and northern Europe.

The 92ft coasting barge, which once carried freights from the Humber to to Exe and all ports in-between on both sides of the North Sea and the English Channel, has been completely rebuilt by master shipwright, Tim Goldsack, only her bottom is original.

And when she appeared for the first time since her £1.4 million, three-year restoration she took bystanders’ breath away. ‘My God she’s the most beautiful sailing vessel in England,’ one bystander enthused as the 13 barges prepared to enter the race which was first held in 1863, making it the longest running, racing event for traditional craft in the world.

Also watching from the motor vessel, Havengore, herself a unique vessel: she carried the body of Sir Winston Churchill up the River Thames for his state funeral in 1965, was Michael Everard CBE, whose grandfather, Will, built the Cambria in 1906.

Alongside him was Roy Stanbrook, one of the Port of London harbourmasters, whose organisation has supported the Cambria Trust, a charity which owns the barge. The trust are to use the barge – which still has no engine -for sail training and educational purposes, thus preserving the vessel and introducing her to a new audience who will be taught how she traded under sail alone.

Operating as a floating classroom, Cambria will moor at a variety of locations throughout the Thames, Medway and Swale estuaries, offering environmental training and education in social and economic history for school children.

Young people and apprentices will take part in sail training and associated activities. The trust will also operate the Cambria as a floating museum interpreting the history of London River.

She was skippered by Richard Titchenor in Saturday’s race which saw her leave every other barge in all classes several miles astern in the North-West breeze which took the barges from Gravesend round a buoy in the Thames Estuary and back.

Her 5,000 square feet of mainsail,topsail,foresail,mizzen, jib and jib topsail was set on her mainmast,topmast, mulie mizzen mast and 35ft bowsprit by traditional rigger and bargemaster Mark Boyle, who was praised by Michael Everard for getting her details just right.

See Dick Durham’s blog