The first general meeting of the Yarmouth Sailing Club was held in The Wheatsheaf in Yarmouth on 30th October 1969, with 37 people attending. It was decided that there was a need to encourage sailing for local families and young people in the safe waters of the River Yar which was not being met by the Royal Solent Yacht Club. The two clubs remain complementary to each other and enjoy a harmonious relationship, with many people being members of both. At this first meeting, 5 people were asked to act as a steering committee. A lease on the old toll house on the Yar Bridge, which had last served as Yarmouth Customs House, was obtained. This building conveniently adjoined the public dinghy park.
On 29th November 1969 the County Press reported that there were now 70 members and that two meetings of the steering committee had been held and a competition launched for the design of a club burgee. A management committee was to be elected of 12 “practising and experienced water-men and -women”. Subscription was initially set at £3 a year with an entrance fee of £3. Cadet members paid £1 and junior members 50p. It was noted that the Founder Members’ entrance fees would be waived.
By July 1970 membership had risen to 125 adults and 50 juniors. One of the first rules was that children under 12 must be accompanied and that dogs were not allowed!
The club house was quite small and in 1973 working parties of members extended the building. This self-help tradition continues in the club today with members doing all the myriad of jobs that need to be tackled. However this extension did not solve the problem of crabs climbing up the soil pipe in the ladies’ loo and causing consternation to users! Membership by now had reached 200. There was a mixed fleet of wooden Scows, Mirrors, 505s and some second-hand Fireflies from the Cambridge University Cruising Club. Racing was held in the river for all classes and also in the Solent when the starting signal was a blast from a shotgun.
By 1981 the long-awaited new road bridge over the Yar was becoming a reality and the club was faced with the loss of its much-loved premises. The cost of the replacement building was £47,000, of which £29,500 was raised by the members, the remainder coming from the Sports Council and local Councils.
The current clubhouse was the subject of considerable planning and discussion. It stands on reclaimed land with much of the infill the contents of the rubbish collections of the West Wight. The building was prudently built on a raft of concrete. Over the years it has moved a little but has remained intact – apart from the plumbing attachments! Many members were involved in helping complete the clubhouse once the main construction was complete. The club seemed able to find, from within its membership, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, seamstresses, and lots of labourers. Many items were donated from furniture to bar fitments.
At last all was complete and Lord Mottistone, the then Governor of the Island, officially opened the new Yarmouth Sailing Club building in June 1986.
By now wooden Scows and Optimists had become the main classes, with Scows Week and Oppie Week strongly supported and Oppie Spring Training continuing to grow. The numbers of GRP Scows also increased along with Mirrors. In 1996 additional land was acquired to extend the dinghy park, soon filled with some 20 Picos.
All this growth highlighted the shortcomings in the storage and changing facilities in the clubhouse. Having additional members increased the money available and the bar always turned in a handsome profit, so the reserves built up. The club had paid off all its loans and made a successful bid to the Lottery in 2000 which funded 65% of work to extend and improve the changing facilities, including better disabled access, and to enlarge the kitchen, all at a cost of around £90,000 – almost double the original cost of the building, but it did almost double the ground floor space. At this time, with assistance from the Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners, the slipway used by the club was widened.
Plans for extending the club yet again were put forward and progressed well during 2014. These would give us a new room, primarily for training but which could also be used for other purposes, a much-needed large workshop/store, better facilities for storage of documents, enhanced toilet facilities and a high level race officers’ control box which would allow us a better view of the progress of boats on the river.
However, in September 2014 we received news that our application to Sport England for a grant of £75,000 had been turned down (although with a comment encouraging us to make a few tweaks and try again in the next round of applications). Just after that we had our first detailed report of the cost of our new venture. Having been working with an estimate of approx. £250,000, we found that the actual cost was likely to be more in the nature of £360,000, mainly due to the facts that our clubhouse is built on reclaimed land, part of it a rubbish dump, and that it is a very difficult site to access with large machinery. The Management Committee decided to call a halt to the project and evaluate possible alternatives.
It was decided that what we needed most was more storage space and a storage shed was built to the south-east of the clubhouse. This would hold all the equipment stored in lockers around the patio, in the Bosun’s Store, in the toilets, etc., making room for a small “office” in the clubhouse where we could store documents and have a club computer set up.
Currently the Management Committee is breathing new life into the project to grace the north wall of our clubhouse with an iconic tiled mural, which had been temporarily shelved for technical and financial reasons. The original prize-winning design has now been rendered, minus identifying symbols to avoid potential Planning issues, as a simplified 25 by 5 tile array. Our illustration shows how this attractive abstract mural, some five metres wide, will look.