Arthur Drummond Downes

in
1908 Olympic Gold Medal winning yachtsman
olympic_ poster_1908_drummond_downes.jpg

Dr Arthur Drummond Downes was born on 23rd February 1883 in Kelvinside, the youngest of five sons of a wealthy Glasgow paper manufacturer.

Arthur was a member of the 1908 Olympic Gold Medal winning team in the 12 metre Class in the Yacht Hera. At the 1908 Summer Olympics four sailing events were contested - London had the honour of holding the first Olympic regatta. Three were held from July 27 to July 29 1908 on the Solent, whilst the 12 metre class contested its races on August 11th to the 12th on the River Clyde.

The Clyde is the birthplace of 12metre yacht sailing and Olympic racing. Created upon the cradles of the renowned Scottish yacht designers and boat builders, William Fife, Alfred Mylne and Glen Coats, the original and foremost 12 metre yachts were raced across the waters between Largs, Helensburgh and Hunters Quay.

There were no foreign entries for the 12 metre class but the event did have a certain international flavor as Charles MacIver’s 'Mouchette' was crewed exclusively by Englishmen from Merseyside, and the crew of the 'Hera' were all Scotsmen from the Royal Clyde Yacht Club. The club was formed in 1856 as the Clyde Model Yacht Club, it boasted around 1,000 members and 400 yachts by the time of the Olympics. Rather than take both boats all the way to Cowes, where the rest of the Olympic races were held, it was agreed to hold the 12-metre class races on the River Clyde and thus it became the only Olympic event ever to be held in Scotland.

Only two races were needed to decide the event, as on home waters, the sailors of the Hera convincingly won the first two heats and took the title, although in the second race the Hera was somewhat fortunate in that Mouchette's start was partially blocked by an anchored steam yacht, named Hebe, which gave the Clyde boat an early advantage. The third race scheduled for 13 August was cancelled.

The Hera herself had a long career of sailing after her Olympic triumph, until, rather sadly, she disappeared off the coast of Argentina in 1950.

There can be no doubt that the success of the Hera and the Royal Clyde Yacht Club laid the foundations for continued Scottish success in the sport throughout the next century,and Helensburgh has more than contributed to overall GB success with Michael McIntyre winning Gold in 1998 and Stephen 'Sparky' Park leading the 2008 Beijing Olympic Sailining Team.

Dr.Arthur Downes was a member of the Royal Clyde Yacht Club and crewed aboard Thomas Glen-Coats’ entry the 'Hera' that won the 12-metre class at the 1908 Olympics. Two weeks before winning his Olympic gold medal, Downes had qualified as a doctor at Glasgow University and after spending five years at Kelvinside he practiced in Helensburgh for more than 40 years.

Dr. Arthur Downes died on September 12th 1956 in Helensburgh.