History of the OGA

In 2013, the OGA celebrated its 50th anniversary with a Round Britain Challenge (RBC) culminating in a 'grand gathering of gaffers' attended by over 200 boats and 1,000 skippers, crews and their families in Cowes, Isle of Wight. The anniversary celebrations were a resounding success and the OGA sets out on its next 50 years full of optimism for a bright future. Browse the Festival Programme here.

In 2014, 70 vessels took part in the Netherlands OGA 10th Anniversary 'Cross Country Tour', racing and cruising from Wemeldinge to Den Helder. Browse the archive for both these celebrations on 'Sailing by'.

The first ever ‘Old Gaffers’ race was held on the Solent in 1959, with just 13 boats. A similar race was held on the East Coast of England in 1963. The growing success of these early races, open to gaff rig boats, led to the formation of the OGA as a national association at the Little Ship Club, Maldon, Essex in 1963. Set up to preserve our distinctive traditional rig, in the early days this entailed rescuing or preserving some lovely old boats. Now, gaff rigged boats are being built again, some using traditional methods, whilst others use more modern materials based on traditional lines. There are even new designs emerging, continuing to develop the gaff rig. With the current love of all things ‘retro’, gaffers are becoming more popular than ever.

Origins of the OGA burgee

The origins of the burgee design have been raised over the years. John Clarke describes it in a letter he wrote to the OGA Newsletter, Gaffers Log, in 1993:

"I can give you a definitive and accurate answer as it was decided at the inaugural [as it turned out] meeting of the OGA at Southgate Hotel in Winchester attended by myself, MC Richardson and the late Alex Rangabe on one cold evening in 1957 to organise the first race for the Old Gaffers. The emblem is a pitchfork as traditionally used in rural England by a country rustic or 'Old Gaffer'. A delicate and enigmatic play on words attractive at the time to all three of us."

Mike Richardson took up the tale in another letter in a subsequent Log.

"A little later, after we sent a letter to Yachting Monthly, inviting interested owners to compete in the first race, this [the burgee] appeared under the title 'Old Gaffers Race'. Hitherto I do not think any of the triumvirate regarded themselves or their vessels as being 'old'. But 'Old Gaffers' had a good wholesome sound and it soon caught on. So long live the pitchfork. You can make of it what you will - like your boat."