Manningtree Rowing Festival 4 & 5 June 2016

On the 4 and 5 June local rowers from the Stour Sailing Club will be joined by boats and crews from many visiting clubs, continuing a long tradition of competitive rowing on the Stour Estuary.

On Saturday 4 June events will be based around Claydon Skiffs, the boats that we have been rowing at Manningtree since 2008.  The festival will coincide with the twenty fifth anniversary of their launch at Felixstowe, and we are celebrating their birthday by inviting local businesses and organisations to put up crews to race in the Skiffs. There will also be opportunities for more experienced crews to race.  HW is 12.10 and we will be on the water from around 11.

Sunday 5 June will see the famous 7+ mile race down to Wrabness and back, and is when the Club will be welcoming many different visiting Clubs and types of boat. The event focusses on traditional fixed seat rowing boats but sliding seat coastal rowing boats can participate. The participating boats will be very different in terms of weight, size and speed. There will be class prizes for the fastest in each category – but we will also operate the Great River Race Handicap for the fixed seat boats so that we can compete on an (almost!) level playing field. As with sailing therefore, the fastest boat over the course will not necessarily be the winner!  HW is 1pm and we will be on the water from around 11.

On both days the Club will be laying on breakfast from 8.30 (forget the shredded wheat – bacon butties are truly the breakfast of champions!), and our traditional tea and cakes in the marquee as well as hot food following the races and of course the hospitality of the Club Bar (Rowing is thirsty work and we all need lashings of ginger beer at the end)!

Updates will be posted on the Manningtree Rowing Festival facebook page:


Claydon Skiffs – twenty five years and going strong

Since 2008 Manningtree has been home to three Claydon Skiffs: Witchoar, Myrto and Lt Washington.  The Skiffs are based on traditional Thames working boats. Made of GRP they are twenty four foot long and their build weight when new was three hundred and eighty kilos. The Claydon Skiffs can brave almost any conditions although they are heavy to row and not built for speed.  Around 17 Skiffs were built in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and were part of popular phase of competitive fixed seat rowing where the Tug Boat companies of Gravesend and Felixstowe raced against each other, later joined by other crews.

Our rowing festival this year marks the twenty fifth anniversary of the launch of five local “Felixstowe” Claydon Skiffs.  The Boats were commissioned by the Alexandra and Felix Arc Companies at Felixstowe and the boatmen and shore staff of Harwich Haven Authority and were launched in May 1991.  The picture of the dedication of the Boats below is from the East Anglian Daily Times for the 29 May 1991. The Boats were launched with a bottle of brown ale apiece, honouring the tradition for working boats.

Five boats Felixstowe

The Boats were all named for local people: Cliff Marks, Russel Marsh, Alf Saunders, Gary John Gray, and Viscon.

In the early 1990’s the Claydon Skiffs were raced on the Deben and Orwell as well as off the shore at Clacton, Walton, Felixstowe and Harwich, with a Two Rivers Race from Ipswich to Mistley. As well as our local boats we hope that a number of other Claydon Skiffs and crews from Gravesend, Walton, Holbrook and further afield will join us at the event.

Gary John Gray, in particular had a stellar racing career. Rowed by the Felixarc crew she competed in a Great River Races, and in 1995 she and her crew won the Great River Race outright, as well as winning the Sea-B-Boats Trophy for Claydon Skiffs, and the four oared and veterans categories.

Yellow Rowers

The FelixArc Crew in Gary John Grey in the Great River Race

We hope that some of the Felixarc crew will come along to our rowing festival this year, and perhaps meet up with the 2015 winning Great River Race Crew from Gravesend who won the Sea B Boats Trophy for Claydon Skiffs in Russel Marsh.

Interestingly the Felixarc Crew called the boats “Clayton Skiffs”, although our copy of the plans for the boats call them “Claydon Skiffs” as does the Great River Race Trophy. Clearly they have gone by a number of aliases over their long career!

Twenty Five Years on – the New Kids on the Block

More recently there has been a real resurgence of traditional fixed seat rowing locally, based around the new “Harker’s Yard Gigs” which are traditional East Coast boats built by marine apprentices at the Pioneer Sailing Trust’s Harker’s Yard in Brightlingsea, ensuring that traditional wooden boat building skills are kept alive. The Harker’s Yard boats are cold moulded, and finished in bright racing colours. Compared with the Claydon Skiffs they are lighter, longer, sleeker and faster. In rough weather a Claydon Skiff with a good crew can give them a run for their money, but in still water the Gigs are much faster.

The first Harker’s Yard Gig “Velocity” was launched in March 2012 for the newly formed Brightlingsea Coastal Rowing Club.  Since then new clubs have been established in Brightlingsea, Wivenhoe, Rowhedge, Maldon and Mersea among others. Harker’s Yard are currently building Gigs numbered 17 and 18.  Some of the rowers from Manningtree have been “guesting” in the Harker’s Yard boats, racing over the winter 2015/16 series.

Stour Sailing Club – Get Rowing 2016

This year we have established Coastal Rowing as a Stour Sailing Club activity, and Harker’s Yard Gig number 17 has our name on it!  We will continue to row our much loved Claydon Skiffs, and the new Gig will allow Teams from the Club to compete in many more local races, especially over the winter months as part of the Harker’s Yard Series.

If you would like to get involved with rowing at the club send us an email at