Teddington’s historic Skiff Club relaunch one of its oldest boats after extensive restoration

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The world’s oldest Skiff Club has recently relaunched one if its first-ever made boats after extensive restoration.

Teddington’s Skiff Club was founded in 1895 and is based on the bank of the River Thames, on the non-tidal waters between Teddington Lock and Kingston.

The club was the first of its kind to be devoted to skiff racing. Skiffing refers to the sporting and leisure activity of rowing (or more correctly ‘sculling’) a Thames skiff.

A Thames skiff is a traditional hand crafted, clinker-built wooden craft of a design, based on Thames wherries, which were operated by ‘Watermen’ as a water taxi service in London, and have been seen on the River Thames and other waterways in England and other countries for nearly 200 years.

Skiffs have fixed rather than sliding seats, and the blades are held in thole pins at the side of the boat rather than in outriggers.

The blades are made of wood with leather collars and traditional spoons. Pressure is applied by the feet against an adjustable wooden plate known as a ‘stretcher board’. Skiffs are usually ‘Singles’ with one sculler, or ‘Doubles’ with two scullers (one behind each other) and a coxswain.

Shortly after Teddington’s Skiff Club was founded in 1895, the club commissioned the first boats built as a matched set to ensure fair racing, a set of three double skiffs in 1897, followed soon after by three singles. The boats were built by R J Turk of Kingston, whose boathouse on Lower Ham Road was also the Club’s first home.

Over the past ten years, all of the Skiff Club boats have had extensive work carried out to maximise their life expectancy.

All restoration work has been carried out by boat builders Stanley and Thomas in Windsor, and the official re-launch of their latest skiff on the 25th June marks the end of their project.

The latest restored boat was named after G.J Davies, one of the club’s founders and Captain of the Club in most years from 1903 to 1920. He was also the first Secretary of the Skiff Racing Association (founded 1901) a post he held for 33 years.

R J Turk’s company is now run by his great grandson, also Richard. The Skiff Club was pleased that Richard was able to attend the re-launch, together with his cousin, another Richard! All are pictured above, with R J Turk’s great grandson closest to the camera.

The Skiff Club continues to welcome new members who want an alternative way of staying fit and healthy on the river.

For those wanting to test themselves in a competitive manner, there are also opportunities to join the team for local regattas.


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