Tom Cunliffe

Yachting Journalist, Author, and World Sailor,

Tom Cunliffe

Tom Cunliffe is one of Britain’s leading writers on sailing and the sea. He was educated at a North of England grammar school and the University of Liverpool where he read law. In 1968, aged 21, he commenced a career in sailing which he has pursued ever since, working on vessels of all sizes from dinghies to large gaff schooners.

Starting as an uncertificated instructor in the South of France, he has served before the mast in small sailing ships, skippered yachts for private owners, raced offshore, been to sea as mate on a coasting merchant vessel and taught sailing, seamanship and navigation at every level. He is an RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Instructor Examiner and has worked as a consultant for the governing body of sailing in the United States.

In his own yachts he has cruised with family and friends to destinations as diverse as Brazil, Iceland, the Caribbean and Communist Russia. Specialising in vintage and classic craft, he has become a world authority on gaff rigs.

In 1986, he began writing about his subject and is now the author of 25 published books, including two ‘Best Book of the Sea’ award winners and various navigation texts which are standard works for yachtsmen. He is editor of The Shell Channel Pilot and is a columnist for Yachting Monthly, Yachting World (UK) and SAIL magazine (USA).

Tom Cunliffe skippered his own Edwardian pilot cutter for BBC1’s Island Race series, making 8 prime-time documentary programmes. He presented Discovery Channel’s popular series Boatyard, as well as pilotage features for Yachting TV. In Spring 2010 he headed up Boats that Built Britain, a maritime heritage series on BBC2 TV and he is currently filming a one-off programme about the River Trent for BBC1. He is technical commentator for BBC1 TV’s coverage of the Thames Jubilee Pageant in honour of Her Majesty the Queen.

After 40 years of owning wooden, traditional yachts he now goes to sea in his 44ft classic US-designed bermudan cutter. He lives with his wife in the New Forest where he rides a large motorcycle and cultivates roses.


Worldwide Classic Boat Show Presentation – Tom Cunliffe & Traditional Boats of Northern Europe: Master seaman and storyteller treats us to yarns about some of the amazing people and boats he’s come across in hi...


Guide Posts

My Favorite Rig and Why — The Gaff Rig, a Guide Post by Tom Cunliffe: The following is an excerpt from Tom Cunliffe’s forthcoming book The Complete Ocean Skipper, which will be publish...
Good Reads: A Recommendation by Tom Cunliffe: asked our guides to share their favorite books that should be in every boater’s library… NOTE: ...
Captain Bligh or Captain Pugwash?: Most of us would agree that boating is supposed to be fun and that we all want whoever comes along with us as crew to fe...