In 1949, three Thames Cruiser Clubs namely, the British Motor Yacht Club, the Thames Motor Cruising Club (now the Thames Motor Yacht Club) and the Upper Thames Motor Boat Club (now the Upper Thames Motor Yacht Club), joined forces to campaign for the abolition of individual lock charges by the Thames Conservancy. Thus the Association of Thames Motor Boat Clubs (ATMBC) was born under the Chairmanship of J R "Nobby" Pearce. It was later to be renamed the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs (ATYC).
The aim of the Association is to "promote and to protect the interest of the private boat owner".
"Nobby" Pearce remained at the helm for the following, incredible, 34 years. He became a Thames Conservator and was awarded the OBE for his services to the Thames.
In the following 9 years E H "Harry" Fountain led the Association until he retired in 1991, when Mark Warner was elected to take his place. Mark held the chair for 12 years until his death in May 2003. In October 2003 Colin Rennie JP was elected, following Colin’s death in 2006 Chris Turner was elected and served until he retired in March 2012 when Mike Shefras MBE was elected.
From its small beginnings, the Association grew from the original three founder Clubs to embrace some fifty member Clubs, stretching from Lechlade, almost at the source of the river Thames, to the Estuary around Southend. A number of Clubs on the canal and river network around London also came into membership.
Over the years the Association has grown in stature. It has negotiated with the original Thames Conservancy and as regulatory bodies changed, with the Thames Water Authority, the National Rivers Authority, the Environment Agency, British Waterways and the Port of London Authority.
The Association is affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association where, with its almost 100000 members, it plays an independent yet valuable role, always acting on behalf of Thames yachtsmen on a National and International level.
Today the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs continues to promote and protect the interests of the members of the Clubs forming the Association and strives constantly to safeguard and improve life on the Thames. It works with the River Thames Alliance and the River Users Groups, all of which share a common love of the river, and together represent all interests.
Each year, the Association holds three open meetings for representatives of its member Clubs and an AGM. Two formal events are also held during the year: in Spring, a splendid Dinner and Dance, with some 200 members and guests, and during the August Bank Holiday the Annual Rally and Boat Handling Competition which take place at a venue on the Thames. Over the years ATYC has developed a three year pattern of excellent venues: Kingston-upon-Thames, the West India Dock in the Port of London and Henley-on-Thames. These gives an equal opportunity for all member Clubs up and down the Thames to participate in a rally in their area.
An important part of the Annual Rally is the Boat Handling Competition which is designed to encourage safer and competent use of motorised craft from cruisers and narrowboats to dinghies. ATYC does not lose sight of the need to encourage and educate members and their children in the pleasures of boating, and especially how to behave safely and considerately on the water.
Participating craft and their crew, all from member Clubs, compete for the many trophies.
The inexperienced newcomer is especially encouraged, and two cups are reserved for a skipper and crew who have never taken part in an ATYC competition before. This year awards are to be made to crews who have all attained the age of 60 years.
The whole competition is made up of four practical tests. Each test has two judges who are experienced skippers themselves. They view the tests through the most critical eyes, watching for not only a smart performance but for good and safe boat handling techniques.
In 2011 the ATYC published the “Thames Boating Certificate Log Book”, a comprehensive guide to boat handling on the Thames. Since then a number of members of associated clubs have qualified as instructors for the Inland Waterways Certificate.
The ATYC is a thriving community of clubs, boat owners and families enjoying the River Thames to the full.