Royal Ocean Racing Club Ltd.
20 St James's Place, London, SW1A 1NN | +44 (0) 20 7493 2248

Through the Lens – James Mitchell

James Mitchell is an award winning, internationally published British photographer based in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. He specialises in photographing the world's leading sports brands and athletes, but also covers commercial, documentary, editorial, action, adventure & sport photography all over the globe.

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Through the Lens – Beken of Cowes

Thomas Sopwith’s J-Class Endeavour in 1935 © Beken of Cowes
Beken of Cowes Over 130 years of sailing photography - from 1880s to 2015
Kenneth Beken is the last in the line of three generations of Marine Photographers known as Beken of Cowes. His grandfather Frank arrived on the Isle of Wight in 1888 and was immediately captivated by the grand yachts that sailed the Solent waters outside his bedroom window. Frank readily admitted he couldn’t paint, so he set about using the cameras available at that time. He soon realised that they were not practical at sea, so he invented his own box camera using twin lenses and a shutter fired by a rubber ball held in his teeth! His sailing portraits were so good that yachtsmen, including King George V on Britannia would study his daily results to see where they were going wrong!

rsz beken frank 14837 2sFrank Beken © Beken of Cowes

Frank’s son Keith followed on from the mid 1930s in time for the J-Class and Big Boat era. After a brief spell captaining an Air Sea Rescue boat during WWII, he saw the company through the post war years with the introduction of ocean racing & IOR. Not content with just Cowes and the Solent, he started travelling to international regattas on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, increasing the scope of the Beken archives from traditional sepia monochrome studies into modern colour photography. He earned his ‘Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society’ in 1951 and the ‘Royal Warrant’ from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Keith’s son Kenneth started photographing afloat in 1970 and for over 45 years would be seen in his Boston Whaler capturing the sailing scene. Ken reckons the best of times were those earlier years of IOR when designers were more experimental, enabling him to capture some ‘interesting’ studies! It was a 7-days-a week job, very reliant on the weather. Black Solent skies meant you were frantically busy shooting before the inevitable rains came.

He travelled to worldwide regattas with his trusty Hasselblad cameras; from hanging out of helicopters shooting powerboats off Key West, to America’s Cup 12-metres off Perth, and swimming in shark-infested Hawaiian waters shooting windsurfers with underwater  Nikonos. Although his own boat has never let him down, he hasn’t always been so lucky on other craft. A leaking speedboat very nearly sank underneath him in Sardinia (when he had to use his own camera bag as a makeshift bailer), and  he survived a light aircraft crash landing in Antigua (when it lost all power over the water!)

He does remember though being struck by lightning during the Swan Europeans off Cowes in 2005: “On seeing ominous approaching black skies and bearing in mind I was standing on top of 50 gallons of high octane fuel, I made for a moored coaster and stopped in her lee thinking lightning would strike it first. It did, but the bolt shot through my boat too, up my arm, flinging my mobile phone to the deck!”

rsz dihard 8346632sDihard © Beken of Cowes

In 1991 I realised that 2001 would mark not only my 50th Birthday, but also the 150th Anniversary of the 1851 America’s Cup. I wrote to the Royal Yacht Squadron suggesting a re-run of the original £100 Round the Island Race. (Note it’s 100-Pounds. An RYS member told me “Guineas are for horses, Pounds are for yachts.”) The resulting regatta (and birthday treat) was truly memorable!

rsz velsheda 0115048The magnificent J-Class yacht Velsheda was built in 1933 and rebuilt in 1996 © Beken of Cowes

Sadly, with the proliferation of digital cameras making everyone a ‘photographer’, the Solent and the commercial market had become so crowded that marine photography had, for the Bekens, become commercially untenable and they stopped photography afloat. However, with close-on 1 million images in their amazing historical archives, there’s plenty to keep them busy…    

Beken of Cowes - web: 16 Birmingham Road, Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7BH, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1983-297 311  - Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.    

Time Over Distance Volume 11: Harold Cudmore

The 11th edition of the RORC Time Over Distance Series will be with the Harold Cudmore who hails from Cork, Ireland. In the 1970s Cudmore was one of the first sailors to travel the world to compete at international yachting events, especially match racing.

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Time Over Distance Volume 10: Ian Walker

The 10th edition of the RORC Time Over Distance Series will be with Ian Walker, re-living tragedy and triumph in the Olympics, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. Since 2017 Ian has been the Director of Racing for the RYA, Ian shares his thoughts on the shape of sailing post-lockdown.

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Through the Lens - Kurt Arrigo

Kurt Arrigo won the Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image of the Year for this epic shot of superyacht Nilaya, showing the reflection of the island of Capri on her hull at twilight: "This picture was taken during the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race”, explains Kurt. "The weather had been bad all day, but the sun suddenly came out for a short while. We were leaving the area but I asked the pilot of the helicopter to fly back briefly over the leading boat; that's when I took this photograph."

kurt arrigo yriy12 portraitAbout Kurt Arrigo

Growing up in Malta surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Kurt Arrigo’s lifelong passions for the ocean and photography developed from a young age. Merging his spirit of adventure with his passion for sailing and scuba diving, he quickly gained a reputation as a distinguished underwater and marine photographer.

A commission to document the 1992 America’s Cup catapulted him onto the global stage, and heralded the start of a path that would see Kurt also become one of the world’s most eminent yachting and sports photographers.

From the Mediterranean to the Galapagos, to the Himalayas, remote South Pacific, and icy waters of Norway, Kurt’s majestic images capture the world’s natural beauty from above and below the ocean’s surface. As a commercial photographer, he is in his element documenting international sporting events and working for prestigious global brands and clients. With a career in visual storytelling spanning over 30 years, Kurt’s professional accolades include the title of official photographer for Rolex Yachting Events covering yearly events for the past 18 years, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the Rolex Fastnet Race, TP World Championships, Maxi Worlds and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Kurt’s passion for underwater photography won him the honour of his underwater images being featured on the walls of the Rolex Oscars Green Room for the 2019 Perpetual Planet Campaign. Kurt remains based in Malta, where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He spends his leisure time diving, sailing, biking, running and swimming, and supports charitable organisations focused on marine conservation.

More at:

RORC Office Locations Map
Royal Ocean Racing Club
(General Enquiries, Membership, House)

20 St James's Place

 +44 (0) 20 7493 2248
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
Royal Ocean Racing Club
(Racing Enquiries)

82 High Street
Isle of Wight
PO31 7AJ

 +44 (0) 1983 295 144
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
RORC Cowes Clubhouse

The Parade
Isle of Wight
PO31 7QU

 +44 (0) 1983 293581
 +44 (0) 20 7493 5252
RORC Rating Office
(Seahorse Rating Ltd)

Seahorse Building, Bath Road
Lymington, Hampshire
SO41 3SE

 +44 (0) 1590 677030
 +44 (0) 1590 679478

Royal Ocean Racing Club - since 1925

The RORC was founded in 1925 to encourage long distance yacht racing and the design, building and navigation of sailing vessels in which speed and seaworthiness are combined. Today the club encourages ocean, long distance and other forms of yacht racing and yachting activity.