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The sailing farmer of Woolmers

The fourth Thomas Archer of the farming property Woolmers at Longford was a member of the Tamar Yacht Club for more than 50 years.

Thomas Cathcart Archer, usually referred to as “T. C.” or Tom, was born in 1862 and like his father, Thomas Chalmers Archer, was interested in boating from an early age.

Tom Archer acquired his first yacht, Leisure Hour, in 1880 and was 22 when he was elected vice-commodore of the Tamar Yacht Club in 1884.

He had the 42-foot steam yacht Ione built in Launceston in 1887 for estuary and coastal cruising.

However, it was his racing yachts -- America (in a syndicate), Sao and Bouncer -- for which Tom Archer became best known.

America, built by A. E. (Ned) Jack at his Trevallyn boatyard, was 30 feet long and fitted with a centerboard for the shoal waters of the Tamar. The accommodation was sparse and there was no motor.

The America was launched in October 1895 and taken to Hobart shortly after, on a horse drawn dray, to challenge the top boats on the Derwent. Other trips to Hobart were made with America transported by train and as deck cargo.

With T. C. Archer at the helm, America won numerous regattas and the intrastate Challenge Cup in 1898. It dominated racing on the Tamar River for a decade. His yacht Sao is still sailing on the Tamar.

Tom Archer supported the Tamar Yacht Club in others way. When the club decided to build a clubhouse at its Park Street boatyard in 1891, he made a substantial donation towards the cost of its construction.

He was elected Commodore of the club in 1895 and served in the position for eight years. After he announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 1902 the club presented him with an elaborate photo album in appreciation.

The album, prepared by talented Launceston graphic artist William Fletcher, comprises more than 300 photos of Tom Archer’s yachts and motor launches, yacht racing and yacht club social events between 1895 and 1902.

The album is now part of the comprehensive Thomas Archer collection at Woolmers Estate.

After standing down as Commodore, Tom Archer was patron of the Tamar Yacht Club until his death in 1934 and when his yacht racing days ended he continue to cruise the Tamar in his motor yacht Ione.

Ione was destroyed in the great flood of 1929 but Tom Archer had a replacement built and Ione II was a familiar sight on the Tamar right up to the 1980s.

(Published in the Sunday Examiner on 21 October 2018 as part of the Launceston Historical Society series)

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