Friday, 15 November 2013

Claydon Skiffs (cont)

The next step in the colourful if obscure history of the Claydon skiff was the spread of the type to Gravesend, the town on the Thames where the Indian princess Pocahontas died.
Gravesend has a very long established regatta, first recorded as long ago as 1698. After the war, the Town Regatta Committee bought four traditional clinker-built, 21ft skiffs for racing, including the Long Ferry Race from Westminster to Gravesend. This punishing event retraced the route of a ferry granted exclusively to the watermen of Gravesend by Royal Charter in 1401. Winning boats were presented with decorated backboards (the backs of the passenger seat), several of which hang in local rowing clubs and pubs to this day.
The wooden boats eventually fell victim to time and were replaced by a number of Claydons, but by this time the name seems to have morphed to Clayton.
The hull was slightly different as well, and usually regarded as slower than the Felixstowe boats. For several years they had a slightly better handicap at the Great River Race but that seems have been eliminated these days.
According to the Gravesend RC website: 
The popularity of this type of rowing lives on, with crews of both sexes and all ages formed from local clubs and pubs. Today there is still much cross-over between the two types of rowing, with many Gravesend RC members competing in skiff events, and many skiff rowers continuing to train and race throughout the winter as members of the rowing club.
Gravesend brought one of their Claydons down to Langstone Regatta in 2009 and whopped us round the course, but it seems that most of the star rowers of that crew now row sliding seat coastal boats, and no Gravesend-based Claydons have been entered in the GRR for some time. A great pity - does anybody know what is happening to them?

(Photos from the Flickr stream of Paul Johnston)

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