Swallows & Amazons - Open Boat Event - Small Boats Magazine
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Swallows & Amazons – Open Boat Event

June 7 - June 9

Photo of OGA boats

Our premier open boat event for everyone, now in its 25th year! Join us once again at the Walton & Frinton Yacht Club to race around the Island, and explore the backwaters.

This year we are extending the event to three days. High tides are: Friday 13:08, Saturday 13:51, Sunday 14:51. Sailing will start on the Friday for those that can make it, with a race round Horsey Island on Saturday, weather permitting. On the Friday or Sunday, again weather permitting, we might creep up Bramble Creek to say a quiet hello to the seals. Join on Thursday evening to make the most of the three days!

To mark our 25th year, Tessa Hodgkinson has written a lovely history and description of the event as it has evolved over the years:

The annual Swallows and Amazons Race is a delightful celebration of the diversity found in small Gaffers, the sailing adventures of the Walker & Blackett children, the wonderful back drop of the Walton Backwaters and of course, the ever forgiving, ever clinging Essex mud.

It all started some 35 years ago when Jon Wainwright and Brian Hammett started a “race around the island” for the smaller boats and dinghies at the Shotley Classic Boat Festival in 1989. It proved very popular with all the open boats and even some smaller cruisers, so eventually it broke away to form its own weekend event. The title of the weekend seemed an obvious choice, paying homage to Arthur Ransome and his inspirational books about the youngsters, delighting in their adventures and their freedom with their small gaffers in these very waters.

In the early 2000s we were regularly hosting 40 to 50 small boats at Swallows and Amazons, it was often the largest East Coast event. The boats were a wonderful collection, including real classics over 100yrs old, ex fishing boats including Lune whammels, winkle brigs, smacks boats, barge boats, whalers, also racing dinghies, 1920s one designs, dinghies and self-built boats, and they came from all over England and Wales in a spirit of goodwill and fun.

Saturday was race around Horsey Island, launch as soon as there is water and try to get back before the mud reappears. There were always adventures and spills, dinghies full of families and dogs, some definitely had pirates aboard, some pausing to seal watch and others offering tows to those becalmed without an outboard and needing a helping hand home.

Being a race, of course, there are prizes, but having such an eclectic fleet, handicapping is virtually impossible, so we made many classes, many prizes and a rule that each boat could only be awarded one prize, to share them around as much as possible and encourage all.

Sunday is fun day (just in case the race was not fun enough) we have had dinghy treasure hunts, sail in company to a picnic spot, visit the actual Swallow Island (by landowner invitation), seal trips and exploration into the furthest, shallowest backwaters.

As the years have gone by Swallows and Amazons has reduced in size, but the spirit of fun and inclusivity remains, prizes for all and never more than one each. There is an increasing fleet of east coast smacks boats that regularly support the event and all small gaffers and assorted classics are very welcome. Come by sea or land, enjoy the secret waters and friendly pirates, watch out for seals and mastodons … they can all be found here.


Old Gaffers Association


Walton and Frinton Yacht Club
Mill Ln
Walton on the Naze, England CO14 8PF United Kingdom
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