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!
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!”
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. In 1986, Harold became the first non-American to win the Congressional Cup. In the America's Cup Cudmore was heavily involved in several British campaigns during the 1980s and was the head coach of the 1992 winning campaign America3 and coach for the all-women's campaign in 1995.
Between 1977 and 1993, Harold Cudmore took part in seven editions of the Admiral’s Cup. Racing for Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany. In 1989, Harold Cudmore was the mastermind ashore for the victorious British team. To this day, Harold travels the world racing in a wide variety of inshore and offshore events. His amazing abilities as a yachtsman are only matched by his talent for storytelling!
“The Jameson Whiskey picture has become a bit of an icon,” says photographer Rick Tomlinson. “I took the shot at the 1987 Irish Admiral’s Cup trials off Howth. It was blowing hard and I was taken out to photograph the racing in a small 4 meter Avon RIB.
“It was impossible to take pictures from the RIB, so with just minutes to go before the start I was transferred to the committee boat. I went straight up onto the fly bridge and put the camera to my eye - immediately Jameson Whiskey was hit by a big gust. As the main was eased, the leeward runner caught and pinned the boom in, resulting in the knock down. It was only over for a second or two, but as I had the camera to my eye, I instinctively pressed the shutter release. When I looked astern I saw that the RIB I had just got out of had capsized, but the driver was safely sitting on top of it!
“I seemed to catch Jameson tripping up a few times around that time….”
More about Rick Tomlinson Rick Tomlinson made his name capturing the Southern Ocean at its most treacherous from the decks of various yachts in the Whitbread Round the World Race. He started with freelance pictures published in Yachting World and Seahorse from Drum in 1985, and finished his 4 Race Whitbread career with a commission from National Geographic onboard Team EF.
Born in 1958, Rick grew up on the Isle of Man, where he established a serious interest in sailing, spending much of his time on the water racing dinghies, dreaming of one day competing in the Whitbread Race. Rick's enthusiasm for photography began whilst he was boatbuilding and sailing, particularly with his friend Nick Keig, who campaigned the Three Legs of Mann and VSD multihulls. Veteran yachting photographers Alistair Black and Christian Fevrier came to photograph the boat, inspiring Rick into the world of professional yachting photography.
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.
Ian Walker has won Olympic Silver for Great Britain as both helm and crew, and in different boats! Walker has competed in two America’s Cup’s including skipper and helm of GBR Challenge. Three consecutive Volvo Ocean Race campaigns concluded with Ian Walker becoming the first British skipper to win the race, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Louay Habib interviews Ian Walker for an hour-long show featuring pictures, videos and stories from a fascinating career.
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."
About 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.
Brad Butterworth will be lifting the lid on fascinating stories from the America’s Cup, Steinlager II and a special feature on Rambler 88 in the 9th edition of the RORC Time Over Distance Lockdown series of interviews.
Brad Butterworth has competed in seven editions of the America’s Cup in the afterguard, winning the America’s Cup four times in succession. Butterworth’s winning streak of 16 consecutive races is unequalled. Butterworth was watch captain for Peter Blake’s Steinlager II, winning all six legs of the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race. In recent year’s Butterworth has been tactician on George David’s Maxi Rambler 88, taking line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Middle Sea Race, and both line honours and the race record for the RORC Caribbean 600.
Louay Habib interviews Brad Butterworth for an hour-long show featuring: pictures, videos and stories from a phenomenal career. Tune in on Friday 29 May 1700 BST on Youtube
“This was an Incredible day,” recalls award-winning photographer, Carlo Borlenghi of Alinghi’s transportation across the Alps in 2009 for the 2010 America’s Cup campaign. “This day was one of the most interesting and strange shooting days that I’ve ever experienced.
“The rule for the America’s Cup in this period was that you had to build the boat in your own country, so Alinghi had to be transported from Geneva over the top of the Alps to Genoa - by helicopter! It was impossible to haul the 30m boat and mast by truck. There were four helicopters used for this trip: One flew in front of the convoy to check the weather, a second bigger one carried the mast (62 metres, 203 ft), a third ‘chopper’ transported the boat, and the last one with myself and Joe Jones, the cameraman to shoot and film the transfer of the boat.
“It was amazing because we had to cross two mountain passes and then made a stop to refuel. There was a huge crowd and all the traffic came to a standstill around the airport roads, and people were in the grounds watching. It was a really unique experience because I’ve never seen anything like this. I was really lucky to be the official photographer for Alinghi at that time. It was just luck and an amazing experience,” says Borlenghi whose images capture a unique perspective of the nautical world.
About Carlo Borlenghi Carlo Borlenghi was born in 1956 in Bellano on Lake Como, Italy where he still lives today. He started his photographic career following local regattas and since then has become a world-famous photographer working for Rolex nautical events, the America’s Cup and much, much more.
Sam Davies first big adventure was as part of Tracy Edwards crew for the 1998 Jules Verne Record attempt. Ahead of the record, the catamaran Royal Sun Alliance was dismasted in the Southern Ocean. It took 16 days with no outside assistance to make landfall.
In the 2008-09 Vendee Globe, Davies’ IMOCA 60 Roxy was the third to finish in just over 95 days - the only women to complete the race faster is Dame Ellen MacArthur. The 2012-13 Vendee Globe ended in sadness with her yacht Savéol dismasting in an Atlantic gale.
Sam Davies was the skipper of Team SCA in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race, the first all-female team for 10 years to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race and the first for 25 years to win a leg of the race. Sam Davies currently campaigns the IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur and has her eyes set on the next Vendee Globe.
Sam was born into a seafaring family in Portsmouth, England. Her grandfather was a submarine commander. She took her first steps on her parents’ boat. Since 2012, Sam has lived in Brittany, France. She is engaged to French sailor Romain Attanasio and has one son, Ruben.
The live interview with Louay Habib will include all stories from Vendee Globe campaigns, the Volvo Ocean Race and even a Jules Verne attempt. RORC Facebook page Friday 22nd May 1700hrs or the Time Over Distance feed on the club website.
Exceptional weather conditions resulted in the 2014 edition of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race becoming an astonishing record-breaking edition!
Sidney Gavignet's MOD 70, Musandam - Oman Sail completed the non-stop 1804nm race in just over 3 days and 3 hours in one of the RORC’s most tactically challenging offshore races. The race set an unprecedented five new world records due to an intense low pressure system settling over northern UK and making the race a downwind ride for the faster boats. Photographer, Rick Tomlinson captured all the action at the start:-
“From 10 days out during the run-up to the start, the forecast had been for very strong south westerly winds. The options were to delay the start or change the direction of the race and a few days before the start in Cowes, RORC changed the direction to anticlockwise round Britain. I always look forward to shooting from a helicopter - even now I still get a real kick out of it - and I knew this was going to be a good one!
“There was a great mix of boats that year, including a MOD70, the Volvo 65s, Open 60, Class 40s etc. The only way to keep up with these boats and be able to shoot is from a helicopter. Just seeing a MOD70 or a VOR65 ‘sending it’ from a heli is an awesome experience.
“With budget retrains we only had a limited amount of flying time and within an hour of the start, the leading boats were already past Selsey Bill. It was with some reluctance that I gave the call to the heli pilot to start heading back, and to photograph the slower boats during our return to Cowes,” recalls RORC event photographer, Rick Tomlinson.
Ian ‘Soapy’ Moore hails from Northern Ireland but has lived in Cowes, Isle of Wight for many years. As a navigator, Ian has a highly impressive record with big event wins literally running off the page: Volvo Ocean Race, Transatlantic Race, Rolex Sydney Hobart, Newport Bermuda Race, RORC Caribbean 600, Transpac, Rolex Middle Sea Race, Rolex Giraglia, HK Vietnam Race, and Round Ireland.
One big overall win has eluded Ian Moore - in nine attempts at the Rolex Fastnet Race Moore’s team has made the podium twice but failed to win the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s flagship race. Ian is fascinated by the Rolex Fastnet Race and is a leading expert on offshore racing tactics and strategy. He analyses the new route, giving expert advice on the nuances of the famous offshore classic scheduled to start on August 8th, 2021.
The live interview with Louay Habib will include stories, pictures and the 2021 Rolex Fastnet course. RORC Facebook page Friday 15th May 1700hrs or the Time Over Distance feed on the club website.
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.