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Horse races at sea aboard the RMS Oronsay

Horse races at sea aboard the RMS Oronsay

Horseracing was popular on liners and cruise ships during the 20th Century.

Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

Gala horse racing night on board the RMS Oransay in the 1960s.

The following is from a young man’s diary who sailed with his parents First Class from San Francisco to London via the Suez on board the RMS Oransay in the 1960s.

Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

Passengers place their bets.

A NIGHT AT THE RACES

Tonight, there is the gala event: The “Pacific Winding Race Meeting.”

Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

Program for the races at sea.

  • On other ships, horse racing was a common pastime, but on the RMS Oronsay, it happens only twice during our seven weeks. “This has always been considered one of the highlights of the voyage” emphasizes Today’s Events.
Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

There they go!

  • The large glass-enclosed, but open-roofed, Arena, forward on the Stadium Deck is the locale. Most ships use a simple six-horse field and then roll a half-dozen dice. Oronsay is far more complicated.
Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

The jockeys and players.

  • Skill is vital. Horses are bought in advance and the owner; usually, a husband chooses the jockey that is often his wife.
Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

The race is on and there’s a silver cup for the winner.

  • The wooden thoroughbreds are pulled the length of the Arena by way of a large fishing reel held by the jockey, hence the name “Winding Race Meeting.”
Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

Dinner Dance and Luncheon on the Oronsay.

  • Several turns will only move a jockey’s horse a few inches, and it is easy to get the line twisted causing a falter.

Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

First Class on the Oronsay.

  • My Father is the starter for each race. There are five races and then one grand finale featuring the winners.
Michael l grace, rms oronsay, P&O Orient Lines, cruise, 1960s, retro, cruising, first class, liners, cruise ships, horse racing at sea

From California to London. Another world. Another time. When getting there was half the fun. 

  • The horses are named, for example, “Stung” by Bee out of Hive, “Old Story” by Motor Car out of Petrol, “Blondie” by Bleach out of Bottle.

The list goes on.

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