Competition between sailing bargemen has necessarily been intense from Victorian times, when Thames barge trading under sail and racing went hand in hand, and the fastest barge and the best skipper would battle to win the next freight.
It was in the late 1950s that the then 100-year-old activity of barge matches on the Thames finally ended, and so it was that, on 7th September 1962, the Pin Mill Sailing Club Regatta held a race for barges that were still rigged and in sailing condition. Seven barges crossed the starting line that day, and the winner, racing under the old Thames Match rules, was the Memory, followed closely by Spinaway C, and Ardeer. Following this match other East Coast rivers and ports were all developing their own matches, each with their own style and character, these included the Blackwater, Medway and at Southend.
The 10th Anniversary Pin Mill Match produced a record 24 entries, of which 22 lined up for the start making it possibly the largest number to take part in the Match. Which, each year is the product of months of effort by a wide range of local organisations and individuals, and is only made possible through the dedication and skill of the men who sail them, and those who work tirelessly to help conserve them.
The 50th anniversary Pin Mill Barge Match will take place on Saturday 25th June 2011 and will consist of 3 races, starting at 15-minute intervals between 09.30 and 10.00 from a start line a mile down river from Pin Mill opposite Clamp House, from where early risers will get the best view. Depending on the wind, a course will be chosen to take the barges out to sea, and back to the finish at Pin Mill. The barge that finishes her course in the fastest time is the Overall Winner and receives the coveted Red Pennant.
We are proud to help Pin Mill Sailing Club celebrate 50 years of the Pin Mill Barge Match out on the River Orwell with this special exhibition celebrating the last half century of matches.
The chart on the back wall of this display shows a typical course and suggests possible viewpoints to watch the Match.