Coniston Regatta 2013, 30th May to the 1st June

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The fourth Coniston Regatta 2013 runs from Thursday 30th May to the Saturday the 1st June, and everyone is invited – including traditional boat owners and their boats.

Organiser Greg Simpson has been in touch to say that among the boats booked in so far include a 1930s Peterborough canoe, a 1910s Thames sailing skiff, and numerous steam launches and model boats.

The events are based at the English Lake District home of Swallows & Amazons, Bank Ground Farm – which in the book is called Holly Howe and is the holiday home where the Swallows stayed each summer.

Attractions for boating enthusiasts and kids include exhibition stands presented by Windermere Steamboat Museum, Good Wood Boatbuilders, Patterson Boatworks and various other local craftsmen, and steam engines.

SY Gondola and Coniston Launch will be available for trips, there will be boats for hire and some boat owners attending the regatta will be offering sailing trips.

Children will enjoy a kids’ fishing competition and a miniature railway. The tea rooms open from 11am each day.

There are also a range of evening entertainments, including an outdoor screening of a film version of Swallows and Amazons.

J Class yachts racing at Falmouth – photos by Marcus Lewis



Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis wrote to say that he just had to send in these stunning photos of J Class yachts racing at Falmouth – and I’m very grateful he did.

They have a great feel of photos taken in the early part of the last century – it’s partly the J Class boats themselves, but it’s also something about the colour range.

Marcus took them on Thursday last week. He said Valsheda, Ranger, Rainbow and Lionheart were all charging along in a F3-4, and did three laps of a windward-leeward course with a charging reach to finish off Pendennis Castle.

Many thanks Marcus! There’s more information about the Falmouth regatta here.

Marcus runs a boat building and repair and restoration boat yard working on some lovely traditional craft, many of them local types, at Fowey in Cornwall. See his website here and click here for earlier posts at

Pathé newsreel films – including the ‘red boats’ of Brixham, boat building on the Thames, and making the Firefly dinghy

The British Pathé website has some charming bits and pieces of old film, not least this one of the Brixham sailing trawlers racing in a regatta more than 80 years ago.

From 1950, here’s a great old clip about a boat building family on the Thames. Listen carefully, and you’ll learn the secret of British worldwide boat building supremacy. Yes, ladies and gentleman Britain led the world in just about everything, or so we were always being told. I think we’re a little more realistic today…

Here’s a splendid four-minute piece outlining the three-layer hot-moulding process used by Fairey to manufacture the Firefly racing dinghy and others. I hadn’t realised that it was a vacuum process, but it’s well worth understanding. Who’s that in the boat at the end I wonder? They found some suitably entertaining weather for the filming.

Moving still further from traditional timber-based boat building is this jolly newsreel about making fibreglass boats in 1958 – a time when glass and polyester resin with still being touted as a wonder material.

Ahoy you Landlubbers is a not terribly informative report from the 1959 London Boat Show. The producer was clearly hell-bent on a subject that no doubt interested him rather than the boats.

‘We are now very much in the age of the motor boat. Diesel optional, girls essential,’ says the voiceover as the camera turns to a couple of models toying with a giant ball, and chatting with contemporary racing driver Mike Hawthorn – this was likely to have been just days before his death in a car crash on the 22nd January that year.

‘The Rolls-Royce of the boat show is the 10-berth 36ft Bevinda, the hull of which is the biggest single reinforced resin moulding in the world,’ continues the voice from another age. ‘Top speed more than 30 knots.’

Its top speed may have been comparable to many modern luxury motorboats of a similar length, but I bet it needed significantly smaller engines to reach it.