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Erith Yacht Club archives: lightning strikes 

Erith Yacht Club was formed in 1900 and this account comes from a race report from the archives, undated, but likely to be sometime in the early 1900s. ‘Faith’ was a 12 ton cutter, jointly owned by Drs Ganney and Williams. Ten yachts were racing on the lower Thames from Erith around the Ovens buoy to Gravesend, when disaster almost struck. 

The wind proved very variable. It got to ESE, but but half way down all the south went out of it, and it slapped round west, bringing a heavy thunderstorm with it. The lightning struck ‘Faith’ inflicting damage . . . those aboard must consider themselves fortunate in escaping injury. They were four in number; Ganney and Williams, Mr W.E. Nicoll (secretary of Woolwich Electricity Co.), and the steward. Dr.Ganney was at the helm, and the boat was going down on the port tack, when a sudden flash of lightning followed by a terrific burst of thunder, struck the mast, tearing the flag into shreds. It split the truck and the starboard topmast stay; then, passing down; it dislocated a tank containing 50 gallons of water and entering the cabin scorched the roof and walls, while some of the timber caught fire. Every piece of crockery in the small pantry was broken, and a number of eggs exploded ‘like torpedoes’. The content of the eggs bespattered the steward from head to foot, and he was completely knocked out of the cabin by the concussion caused by the lightning striking the boat. The fire was quickly put out. The occupants felt effects of the shock. It was at first thought that one of the Tilbury fort guns had fired on the yacht by accident.

Erith Yacht Club archives, c.1910