The immediate future of the Thames Traditional Boat Rally has been secured after strong support from boaters.

There had been question marks over the future of the event - the largest of its kind in Europe - after several leading members of the organising committee indicated they were standing down.

This year's event was cancelled because of the waterlogged state of the show site at Henley following the winter floods.

But a packed meeting at Penton Hook Marina backed the idea of the rally continuing and volunteers came forward to help form a new committee.

Tony Goodhead who is standing down as chairman said: "We are absolutely delighted with the support we received for the future of the Trad Rally.

"There was great enthusiasm at the meeting and the event will now continue with new blood adding to existing members of the committee."

Twenty people volunteered to help run the rally of whom up to 10 are epected to join the new committee which will meet next month to decide on the future form and direction of the rally. Results of a questionnaire circulated over the past few weeks will be considered before details of next year's event are announced.

Among the questions the survey asked was if the rally should continue in its previous form, become more commercial or on a smaller scale; if it should continue at its present site at Fawley Meadows, Henley, or consider a move; and if admission prices for boats and day visitors should be increased.


Marketing Manager Robin Ford said overheads for the rally topped £67,000 which included essentials like security, power and site safety. Although typical income was some £70,000 a surplus was needed for years when there were problems or, as recently, cancellation. Fellow committee member Mike Phillips urged support saying: "No new committee, no rally."

The meeting heard boat-builders on the Thames had expressed strong support for its continuance. Others ideas from the survey included more audience participation, improved catering, more music, and a less exclusive catering area for Friends of the Rally.

Committee members address the Penton Hook audience on the future of the rally

Consensus was it should remain at Henley. There was a collective drawing-in-of-breath for a suggestion that some early fibreglass boats should be allowed to enter in what was labelled as a Spirit of Tradition class. Previously entry has been restricted to wooden and certain steel boats.

Many boat owners said they were happy to pay increased entry fees for boats, several pointing out that they have previously been well below the cost of visitor moorings in marinas.

Mr Ford, one of the organisers of the meeting, said: "I was delighted with the response we had both from the number of offers of help and the positive feedback from a packed audience: many of whom made helpful and worthwhile contributions to the discussions.

"I shows that The Trad Rally continues to have a very strong and enthusiastic following: not just from traditional  boat owners but regular visitors too.

Chairman Tony Goodhead and president Stuart Wilkinson who is also resigning are intially advising the new committee, both having been involved for many years.

Story dated October 1st 2014



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