A real cause

The future of the Thames A Rater, together with other river sporting activities, is under serious threat following the submission of a planning application to develop the Thames on the site of the A Rater’s historic racing course in Surbiton, south west London.

Kingston Council has received a planning application to build 64 homes and a 92 berth marina on a site adjacent to the Thames. In the river, the development includes a lock gate, a ferry landing station and residential moorings which will lead to increased motor boat traffic, congestion and navigational conflicts; rendering a large part of the river unsafe and unsuitable for all river sports, particularly sailing, condemning the A Raters to history.

Thames Sailing Club was founded in Surbiton in 1870 and is Britain’s oldest river sailing club. It is also home of the Thames A-Rater, a unique and beautiful class of sailing boat renowned for their 43 ft masts; specifically designed to catch the light river breezes. Many of the A-Raters sailed at the Club today are over 100 years old but have been updated with carbon rigs and mylar sails and are now sailed alongside a variety of smaller high performance dinghies.

The location for the club was carefully selected in Victorian times to take advantage of the prevailing south westerly wind on the straight stretch of river immediately upstream of the clubhouse. The historic racing area, now targeted for development, provides the ideal racing course layout comprising an upwind first leg and a downwind homeward run.

This part of the river is as important to the sport of sailing as Brooklands, Silverstone and Brands Hatch are to motor racing.

Today Thames Sailing Club is an active, growing, affordable and successful family sports club. It is also an official Royal Yacht Association Training Centre. Indeed, Thames played a key role in the development of the RYA sailing scheme. The Club is run by volunteers and each year large numbers of adults and children of all ages and backgrounds are introduced to and trained in the sport of sailing on the River Thames in Surbiton.

Thames Sailing Club has united with neighbouring river sports organisations to oppose the river-related aspects of the development. The ‘River Thames Sports Alliance’ has now been formed between all the river sports clubs (rowing, sailing, skiffing etc) to safeguard the future of water sports on the River Thames, to oppose developments that threaten local river sporting organisations and to promote greater participation in river sports.
The Alliance is growing rapidly and includes:

Thames Sailing Club – Surbiton
Minima Yacht Club – Kingston
Dittons Skiff and Punting Club – Thames Ditton
Tamesis Club – Teddington
Upper Thames Sailing Club – Bourne End
Kingston University Sailing Club
Kingston Grammar School Veterans Rowing Club
Kingston Rowing Club
Tiffin School.

The Planning application is due to be decided in January 2012 by Kingston Council. The River Thames Sports Alliance is appealing to all sailors to help safeguard the future of river sports by writing / emailing Kingston Council, to register your support for the River Thames Sports Alliance and to object to the proposed marina, lock, ferry landing station and residential moorings. Please send an e-mail to voice your opinion.

Please quote Planning Reference: 11/16502. Closing date is 14th November, but the Council has confirmed they will accept late letters of objection.To find out more about the details of the River Thames Sports Alliance’s objections, please visit this site. Photo by Mark Laity.