It was a great achievement to gather 16 barges for the Thames Match on Saturday. It would always have been a special occasion as the 150th anniversary of the first match, but was made more special – and more poignant – by the sudden death at the end of last year of Mark Boyle who had re-started the matches in the 1990s and done so much to drive them forward. All credit then to the Committee who picked up the reins, (oh dear, we are into horse metaphors now!), and provided such a special 2013 match. Not least, mention must be made of Richard Walsh, our own SSBR Vice Chairman, who stepped in as Match Secretary.
The weather was lovely for spectators and those taking part, but the lack of wind at the start caused big problems. This year the match finished at Erith rather than Gravesend and the winners of the three classes were:-
Coasting Class – Cambria
Champion Staysail Class – Niagara
Champion Bowsprit Class – Edme
SSBR Committee member and Cambria Trust Secretary, Dave Brooks, has published an excellent report of the match on the Cambria website. As he says, he had defected for the weekend to Lady Daphne, but he can’t resist watching out for Cambria! Here’s the link to the report on the Cambria Blog. The splendid picture was taken by Dave Brooks.
Here’s the poster for the 2013 Thames Barge Match. The match is special for two reasons. First, it is the 150th anniversary match, the first being held in 1863. Second, it is entitled The Mark Boyle Memorial Thames Sailing Barge Match in memory of Mark who revived the event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day in 1995, had been its driving force ever since, and whose sudden death at the age of 55, just before Christmas, shocked and saddened the sailing barge community.
So, let’s make sure the match has a great turnout of followers and shore watchers to make it even more special. Incidentally, SSBR’s own Vice Chairman, Richard Walsh, has become Acting Secretary of the Match and taken on the task of running the 2013 event.
The sailing barge world was stunned by the recent news of the death at age 55 of Capt Mark Boyle, the organising secretary of the Thames Sailing Barge Match, since it was revived by him to celebrate the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day in 1995.
Mark’s love of sailing barges was kindled by the gift of a model kit when he was a child. He built the model and was later taken to Maldon, Essex to see the real thing. To his disappointment he realised that his model was full of inaccuracies, and on returning home he set about putting it right!
Mark was a gifted historian with a wealth of knowledge on subjects as diverse as sailing barges and the Spanish Peninsular War. He was also a talented author, writing articles for magazines about the sailing barges and his experiences afloat, having ‘gone to sea’ in his teens in the coasting trade aboard ex. ‘sailormen’ by then trading under power alone. Through later years he crewed aboard the charter and hospitality barges that plied the coast, gaining his Sailing Barge Master’s ticket in 1987.
Not content with working aboard the last of the trading barges, Mark developed his shipwrighting skills which have left their mark on many of the genre. These include the Cabby, Dawn and, most recently, the magnificently restored Cambria to which he applied his talent and satisfied his barge preservation aspirations at the same time. He recognised that for the restoration movement to have lasting relevance, it is equally important to preserve the environment of the sailing barge. Sadly, the wharves and bargeyards have fallen prey to much questionable re-development, but Mark realised the equal importance of the ‘on the water’ activities, and saw an opportunity to contest the Championship of the London River again through the conduit of a revived Thames Sailing Barge Match.
The enormity of the task before him in restoring this, the original barge match, to its rightful place in the sailing barge calendar would have scuppered many a capable organiser. In the wake of the success of the 1995 race, there was an appetite for more. Mark sought out the families which had played their part 100 and more years ago, with the result that the iconic names of sailing barge owners Everard, Clarabut and Goldsmith became associated with the Match once again. The outcome of his effort and commitment is evidenced by the current series being the longest ever continuous revival of the race since its founding by Henry Dodd in 1863.
The sailing barge fraternity has lost one of its stalwart supporters and his passing will have a significant impact in many ways. The Thames Match committee has met and decided to continue with the organising of this year’s event, the 150th anniversary of the first, which will take place on Saturday 13th July and be known as The Mark Boyle Memorial Thames Sailing Barge Match in honour of his vision and dedication to a sailing contest almost as old as the America’s Cup.
(This tribute to Mark Boyle was written by Richard Walsh, who is Acting Match Secretary for this year’s Thames Match. It is reproduced from the Thames Barge Match website, where the photograph of Mark also appears.)
We have been advised that Mark Boyle’s funeral will be on Thursday 10 January, at 2.40pm, at Barham Crematorium near Canterbury, (postcode CT4 6QU).
It is Christine’s wish that anyone who wants to come and share in this non-religious celebration of Mark’s life will be welcome. It will be followed by a gathering at Whitstable Yacht Club.