A little insight into the origins of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club
Amateurs Only Rule
First Olympic Gold
Outbreak of War
Defeated George V
A new One Design Class
Michael Foley and the RB's Art Deco Murals
The War Years
Landing Training by RN
The Wartime Administration
St. Matthew Cup
Quick Revival After War
Enter Synthetic Sails
Yacht Designers, Builders and a World Champion
HISTORY and living memory both confirm the yachtmans long-held belief that the Easter weekend, whenever it falls, is rarely the ideal time to start the sailing season. All too often the weather is stormy and yacht racing dangerous and uncomfortable. But there are exceptions and it was surely a good omen for the future of the newly opened BURNHAM YACHT CLUB that one such occurred on Easter Saturday, April 13, 1895.
The London Weather Centre reports winds 24 on a 0 to 12 scale. It was undoubtedly chilly as the winds were East and North-East, but nonetheless attractive sailing weather. The map supplied by the Centre is marked somewhat cold, barometer slowly rising along the East coast. So, in these very pleasant conditions the Club got under way but, before entering upon an account of its activities, one must take a little time to examine the background against which it came into being.
Before the advent of the railway, Burnham was an isolated community almost wholly dependent upon the river for its livelihood and transportation. Agriculture was one of the main areas of employment but getting the crops to market could be a very precarious business. For example, the crop from the cherry orchards could reach the London markets in mint condition in favourable winds but a becalment of any long duration or an unexpected storm and the cherries rotted in the holds, causing the loss of a whole years work. Even other more durable crops could be lost in very adverse weather conditions.
Fishing and commercial traffic dominated the river and pleasure sailing was confined to a steam yacht owned by Charles Auger and the 44 ton yawl, WILLOW WREN, owned by Phillip Patmore, the Clubs first Commodore, with perhaps an occasional visit from exploring cruisers.
Although the tidal Crouch is an ideal sailing river and Burnham within easy striking distance of London, neither was readily accessible before the arrival of the Great Eastern Railways link between Liverpool Street and Southminster, in July 1889. This brought very rapid change to the area. Burnham's potential as a yachting centre was almost immediately recognised and both the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and the London Sailing Club established branches in the town in 1893. But cruiser sailors were still not satisfied. They evidently felt the need for a local club, with no outside branches, to provide handicap races for cruisers of assorted tonnage and a social centre for their owners. Alas, all but a few bedraggled and water-stained records were lost as a result of the disastrous fire in the Club house in February 1973, and if the discussions which certainly preceded the realisation of their venture were ever recorded, or the subject of correspondence, no fragment remains today to assist this narrative. But the dream came true and the Memorandum and Articles of Association were signed on this day, March 18, 1895, by:
F. Woodhouse 6 Grays Inn, London, W. C. Solicitor
Chester Jones 1 Paper Buildings, Temple, E. C. Barrister
Alfred W. Lush 1 Paper Buildings, Temple, E. C. Barrister
Eugene de Pellas Broad Street Avenue, E. C. Merchant
J. B. Richmond Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex Merchant
R. B. Robinson 69 Cow Cross Street, E. C. Merchant
R. H. Robinson Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex Medical Practitioner
The signatures of the first three were witnessed by E. J. Morell, clerk to Mr. Chester Jones and those of the last three by T. Featherstone Smith, Accountant, Broad Street Avenue, E.C. The Club was launched as a limited liability company, with a capital of 400 made up of four hundred single shares of 1 each. No member could hold more than one share and no share could be held in more than one name. For income the Club relied upon an annual subscription of one guinea per member and an entrance fee, also of a guinea.
The aim of the venture, laid out in a long legal paragraph containing many clauses, in the Memorandum of Association, is to provide a club, severally referred to as a Yachting and Social Club and a Sailing and Social Club. One clause within another clause states and the encouragement of sailing and other sports by the giving of prizes or otherwise amongst gentlemen amateurs.
Eugene de Pellas, an Italian merchant living in England, was credited by one journalist with being the driving force behind the formation of the Club. Certainly he was a very keen worker and so highly thought of by his colleagues that they based the Clubs first burgee on the Italian flag in his honour. His reward for his effort was short-lived. For three years he carried the thankless job of Honorary Secretary and frequently acted as officer of the day, but then ill health.
Although the Club was still young, tradition and character were already being formed. On May 10 Yachting World reported that the Club was indebted to the generosity of its Vice-Commodore, Mr Percy Sainsbury for the donation of a handsome clock and~barometer to be hung in the clubhouse and that the Rear-Commodore, Dr. Robinson had intimated his intention of presenting a challenge cup to be raced for in August. At the same time, the Burnham-on-Crouch and Dengie Hundred Review reported that Mr. L. R. Higgins had made a present of a pianoforte which adds not a little to the enjoyment of the musical evenings which form such a delightful feature of club life. After such a long passage of time the piano no longer exists and the cup was won outright at a later date but the barometer hangs in the Club library. Through nearly a century of cleaning the inscription is almost worn away, but it is possible to decipher the date and Percy Sainsburys name; in my opinion enough to authenticate it. The fate of the clock is unknown. There are three clocks in the Club but none bears a presentation plaque. The writer goes on to say the anchorage in Burnham is beginning to wear a lively appearance as the season advances. The yachts on station on Saturday night included MERRYTHOUGHT, LURLINE, PENGUIN, CONSUELO, VALENTINE, SHEILA, NONA, FIFA, EDITH, CIRCE, FIGARO, CORONA, ILKA, and the Commodores vessel, WILLOW WREN is still on her mooring at the Ferry and we are fortunate indeed that the graceful WILLOW WREN is still on her mooring, though not the same one. Having spent her life on the river in various guises, she was recently lovingly restored by two young people, but the full story belongs to a later period.
Amateurs Only Rule
In October controversy arose over the B.Y.C. rule that only amateurs shall steer in races. Mr. George Pratts LURLINE was disqualified during a race in August because his ignorance of the rule led him to leave his tiller to Mr. Barker, his experienced captain, as was his wont. The following week NONA, belonging to Percy Sainsbury and L.R. Higgins, was steered by J. B. Richmond, an oyster merchant, without disqualification.
The nonsensical nature of this anomalous rule was pointed out by the yachting editor of The Field, who described Mr. Richmond as an oyster merchant who has worked the river all his life but who, as a member of the club, ranks as an amateur. He developed his theme with the comment that a man who has got his living on the water all his life and is the master of a smack cannot steer in a yacht race as an amateur!. Mr. Pratt threatened to resign. There is no further mention of LURLINE for some years so he may have carried out his threat but, as he died about eighteen months later, it is possible that ill-health accounted for her disappearance. Be that as it may, the rule was later rescinded.
First Olympic Gold
Although devoted cruiser men, the Founding Fathers would doubtless have been proud of the new 6 metre class, born of the universal adoption of the new International Yacht Racing Rules. It was in DORMY, a member of the class, that G. U. Laws (renowned for his helmsmanship as well as his designs) won the first Olympic Gold Medal in me annals of the Club. The instant success of this splendid class had filled the order books of British boatyards and there were many scattered around the Continent and Scandinavia but the Olympic dates clashed with the Ostend Regatta so, unfortunately, the only 6 metres available to put in an appearance at the Olympic meeting at Ryde were two British, one French, one Belgian and one Swedish, making five boats in all. The British entries were DORMY, owned by T. D. McMeekin, designed and helmed by G. U. Laws, and SIBINDI, owned by J. W. Leuchers, designed by A. Mylne (it is not recorded who was at the helm). T. D. McMeekin, writing in the September issue of The Yachting and Boating Monthly, described the event as the three most wearisome races in which I have ever participated. What he describes as the flukiest of winds meant that it required no less than 33/4 hours to cover a twelve mile course. It was fortunate that each day a true wind of moderate force blew up somewhere around the East Measured Mile Buoy and allowed some exciting finishes. DORMY was the overall winner and received a Svres vase, presented by the President of the French Republic to the British Olympic Council; a gilt medal to T. D. McMeekin, owner; Olympic Gold Medal to G. U. Laws, helmsman and two Olympic Silver Medals to the crew, (Major C. W. H. Chrichton and T. D. McMeekin).
Outbreak of War
The season of 1914 was brutally curtailed by the declaration of war on the eve of Cowes Week. Many owners and paid hands belonged to the Royal Naval Reserve and those who didn't hastened to volunteer. For the paid hands and their families this represented a great pecuniary sacrifice as they were just going into the most lucrative part of the season. Early in the war, the R.Y.A. gave its blessing to limited local racing but, although many yachtsmen were either too old to join the services or in reserved Government occupations they had severe qualms of conscience about indulging in a luxury sport whilst others were at the Front.
Some of the larger yachts were used by the Navy, requisitioned or on voluntary loan. Others were laid up as there were no paid hands available. In any case, only the innermost reaches of waterways and estuaries were, to some extent, safe. The Crouch, for example, was mined just below the junction with the Roach (BURNHAM & NEIGHBOURHOOD H.L.S.). Further out, greater dangers lurked and movement was restricted to those with permits. Mr. J. W. Booths CATERAN was in commission and, from her visitors log, we learn that he made her available to the Southend and District Automobile Club for the entertainment of parties of servicemen from the various military hospitals in Southend. This continued until she was sold for use as a houseboat in February, 1918, and must have been a source of great pleasure to men from as far afield as Canada and Australia. Otherwise, yachting on the Crouch had virtually ceased and it reflects great credit upon the committee, some of whom were now in uniform, and the Board of Directors, that in spite of wartime restrictions and shortages, the Club remained viable and the premises were kept in a good state of repair.
Income was reduced by the waiving of subscriptions for members on active service, the loss of racing fees and an increase in the cost of living. Some revenue from bar receipts came from officers of the Army and Navy stationed in the district, who used the Club as an unofficial mess, but this was limited by lack of supplies. Even shortfalls in the bar takings over the years, probably from inefficiency rather than dishonesty, were taken in their stride. The bar stewards portion of the Stewards Fund was withheld to make up some of the deficit, a somewhat high-handed proceeding at a time when staff were at a premium. The war ended in November, 1918, but it was some time before serving members, their number sadly depleted, returned home. Much had changed but, thanks to the devotion of those left at home, the Club was still there, ready and waiting to arrange more seasons of racing when the boats were taken out of moth balls and returned to the river.
Defeated George V
With King George V himself at the helm, BRITANNIA lost to VELSHEDA in a close finish. When the King appeared to be less than delighted, Boy OConnor ventured to ask an equerry if there was any he could make amends. The swift reply was returned ... You could always emigrate. This was taken in good part.
BRITANNIA was then 41 years old, and like many of his generation the sailor King had a deep affection for this boat. When a group of yachtsmen asked whether they could present him with a new boat on his Silver Jubilee in 1935, the King refused. As long as I live he replied, I will never own any yacht other than BRITANNIA. Within a year he was dead, and afterwards BRITANNIA was towed into deep water south of the Isle of Wight and sunk according to the Kings instructions.
A new One Design Class
During the years 1930 to 1935 the ex 24 ft. Class, all from 30 to 40 years old, continued to race from the Club, although gradually waning. By 1932 there were only four entered in Burnham Week. In 1936 there was none.
As the strength of the ex 24s faded, thought was given to finding yet another class. In July 1932 there was a proposal to adopt Stars, and other alternatives were considered. The final choice was between the X One Design Class, well established on the South Coast, and a new design by Norman Dallimore (Dally).
Dally's design was chosen and was bought by the the Club, with an agreement for a royalty to the designer of 1 guinea per boat from members and 3 guineas from non-members. Building commenced immediately at King and Sons.
They were transom sterned Bermudan sloops 20 ft. long overall and about 17 ft. on the waterline, with 6 8 beam and 3 3 draft. They were fairly heavy boats with an iron ballast keel on a long fin. Stan King, one of the Waterfronts well known characters, who died in 1985, worked on most of them. He said it was his job to plank up the starboard side, certainly of all the even numbers. The jib was on a roller and was rigged so that it could be pulled round to server as a spinnaker, a common system at the time, which is shown clearly in the photo. The roller could also be used for reefing, but the result was not very satisfactory. The cost of the complete boat was about 120. It was possible to distinguish between the Burnham and the Brightlingsea boats by a very slight difference in the line of the sheer.
By the end of the year nine boats had been ordered:
RB 1 Georgie Porgie Mrs. Graham Straker
RB 2 Red Jacket Messrs. Robinson and Herring
RB 3 Lavender Lady F. B. Pitcher (chartered free to Norman Wilkinson & Dick Thorpe)
RB 4 The Weevil F. Percy Lickfold
RB 5 Belinda Capt. and Mrs. Kyffin
RB 6 Annette Mrs. Mary Abrahams
RB 7 Vaurnine Cecil Gatti
RB 8 Phalarope Mr. and Mrs. Hardy Barrett
RB 9 Whimbrel Miss Colleen Foley
On March 25, 1933 all were ready, with Percy Lickfold elected as Class Captain. The first eight were afloat, with WHIMBREL waiting under Kings crane for the formal launching by Lady Rasch. The lunch which followed was said to be the best attended ever to have been held at the Club, with 120 present. In the afternoon, the first race was held, all boats finishing within 5 minutes on this historic occasion.
Michael Foley and the RB's Art Deco Murals
In 1934 a young member was commissioned by the Club to paint murals on the wall of the Red Bar (Snakepit), Michael was only 22 at the time but he managed to capture the vibrant social life of the Club at the time for all to see in the future. In October 2009 Geoffrey Taunton Collins gathered together many of pieces of Michael Foley's work for an exhibition at the Royal Burnham Yacht Club. Together with Nicholas Usherwood he put together a catalogue of the exhibition which can be seen here. Michael Foley 2009 Exhibition Catalogue
Michael Foley was born in London in 1912, he was educated at Ampleforth School, before going to the Central School of Art and Design tp study under John Skeaping. In 1940 he volunteered for the R.N.V.R and saw active service aboard a minesweaper until his death off the Coast of Corsica in 1943.
The War Years
By the day war was declared, Sunday, September 3, 1939, Burnham Week had been cancelled, but the River was still full of yachts. I had recently got engaged to the prettiest girl and the best crew in the Club, Commodore Horace Pitchers daughter Peggy, and we listened to the radio at 11 o'clock when Neville Chamberlain told us that we were at war. Then, among a handful of other yachts we went for a sail down the River in Felise half expecting to see German aircraft before we got to the Roach. What were our thoughts?Relief, Fear, Anti-climax, or just a nice day for a sail?
Surprisingly, the Club continued to run very much as usual. There had been an approach from the Training Ship Exmouth for boys to be evacuated to the Club, but this was resisted because of possible requirements of the armed forces. In fact, soon afterwards the Royal Corinthian accommodated the Exmouth boys for a year or so. The premises of the Corinthian and Crouch were closed to members early on. The Burnham was fortunate, and was able to offer facilities to them. In October 1939 honorary membership was extended to their members as a temporary measure. Then in February 1940, Corinthian members were invited to apply for membership without proposer and seconder, but in April they were all made Honorary members on payment by the club of 31lOs. The Crouch were also made hon. members and the United Hospitals were offered cadet membership.
In the early part of the 1940 summer, sailing was still going on, although there was a boom near the Mouth of the River below which yachts were not allowed. The R.B.O.D. and R.C.O.D. classes were racing, and as late as May 24 the Sailing Committee was appointed. Throughout the war, between the lines of the minute book, can be read an absolute refusal to accept that the Club could be prevented from continuing at least on a social basis.
The evacuation from Dunkirk was completed on June 4and it was not until just before this that all boats were laid up, except for a few requisitioned by the Services.
On August 4, 1940 it was recorded that the ladies dining room was to be used as a Naval Officers Mess and that the Admiralty would have the use of two small rooms. These were two of the cabins under what was then the ballroom. Kit Deacon, the Clubs steward was put into uniform to serve as steward for the officers mess.
This Naval presence was very small and was part of H.M.S. Pembroke IV, (Chatham Barracks.) It administered the personnel appointed to take over the M.L.s which were being built at Kings.
There can be little doubt that all through the requisitioning, the Navy treated our premises much more kindly than did those occupying the Corinthian. Other transient forces were invited to use the Club, not always with such happy results, and in Oct. 40 an Emergency General Meeting was called to consider the large amount of money owing to the Club by the officers of 8 Commando.In August 1940 Commodore, Glynn Terrell, altered and furnished, at his own expense,two rooms which he rented for 20 a year. Then he presented the furniture to the Club. This might have been a happy arrangement, but the bickering over what belonged to the Commodore and what to the Club was not ended until 1946, when the Hon.Solicitor was asked to negotiate.
Two of the flats on the ground floor under the ballroom and cabins were owned by Mrs. Pitcher. Negotiations for the Club to buy these were the cause of a row between the Commodore and the current Hon. Solicitor, Joseph Wylie Patterson, extending over a long period. Eventually they were bought for 700 in March 1946.
On November 2, 1940 The Committee resolved that as far as possible the Club should get back to normal, both dining rooms being used. This was when the Blitz on Britain was in full swing, the Italians had occupied a large part of Egypt, and Germany had just invaded Rumania and Greece.
In October 1941 a decision on using the Cocktail bar permanently and closing the Gloster Lounge was deferred until the situation was more stable. In June the Germans had attacked Russia and in December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour.
During 1941/2 the River was being patrolled by No. 2 Motor Boat Company of the R.A.S.C.. These boats were requisitioned yachts but there is no record that any of them belonged to R.B. members.
At the A.G.M. in December 1942 a program of post-war racing was approved, though a member (Gurth Kimber) did ask whether it was realised that the war might last another four years. In June 1942 Rommel had reached El Alamein, probably one of the lowest points of the war, and in October he was pushed back again giving grounds for a glimmer of optimism. Also, in June, Lieut. Peter Watkinson Roberts was elected an Hon. Life Member in recognition of the award to him of the Victoria Cross for an operation in a submarine of which he was First Lieutenant.
Landing Training by RN
By this time the Navy had taken more of the premises but were working amicably with the Club, and in March 1943 Capt. Dane the Commanding Officer, was co-opted to the general committee (and the Naval Officers were Hon. Members of the Club). A program of painting the non-requisitioned buildings was going forward, and in August it was decided to fit a roof to the Gloster Lounge, until then it had had the temporary canvas awning which had been fitted in 1935.
In September 1943 the whole of the clubhouse was requisitioned, and Capt. Dane gave the explanation that this was because the Customs refused to have civilians on premises where rum and tobacco were issued from bond.
On November 8 the Naval establishment at Burnham was commissioned as H.M.S. St. Matthew, a mine Depot, still under Capt. Danes command. Although it was described in the Navy List as a mine depot, it is clear that it was a training centre for landing craft, of which there were two flotillas. Each flotilla had five R.N.V.R. officers and about 40 ratings, their duties being to train Royal Marines and Army units in landing techniques.
The early friendship with Capt. Dane and the Navy continued and the tables were turned when members were invited to consider themselves Hon. Members of the naval mess in their own Clubhouse. Our members were also given Hon. membership of the Burnham Constitutional Club, the Burnham Sailing Club and the West Mersea Yacht Club.
This was the year when the allied armies were fighting their way through North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
During 1944 only three committee meetings were held. These were mainly concerned with wrangling over the rules and the election of officers, described later. Meanwhile the Allies had landed in Normandy and buzz-bombs were falling on southern England.
Early in 1945 the possibility of de-requisitioning was being considered. In February a joint Sailing Committee for the clubs in Burnham came to life. At the end of June there were discussions with the Corinthian about giving races for their classes if we were ready first. At the end of October H.M.S. St. Matthew was paid off and the men's side of the Club was reopened, ladies being allowed to use the men's dining room in addition to the Gloster Lounge. On the opening day, October 27, they were even allowed to use the bar and smoking room. In November, the piece of land adjoining the car park was bought for 125. War in Europe had ended on May 8: the first atom bomb was dropped on August 6, and the Japanese capitulated on September 2.
During their tenure of the Clubhouse, the Admiralty had made some alterations. The ballroom was divided into cabins or cubicles, and the ladies dining room (or Officers Mess) was enlarged by taking in the cabins nearest the front. On the car park by the High Street, Nissen huts were erected for use as a sick bay. All these alterations were used satisfactorily for many years.
The Wartime Administration
While it might seem that the Club was carrying on fairly well through the war, it. was not without a good deal of internal strife. All the Flag Officers had resigned at the A.G.M. in May 1940 to take up various war commitments. Glynn Terrell was elected Commodore, Cecil Dormer Vice and Brian Neal, owner of the R.B.O.D. JADE was Rear. In December 1941, on Dormers retirement, Neal became Vice and Warwick Smith was again Rear. Glynn had had a short period as Vice Commodore in 1936 which ended in a row.
In keeping the Club running during the next 4~/2 years, as Commodore, Glynn Terrell achieved some success and would have liked to continue for a further period. He had a very high handed manner and inevitably fell out with a number of members, notably Joe Wylie Patterson and Bo Booth. He made various attempts to vary the rule limiting Flag Officers term of office to three years, and ignored it anyway. At a remarkable A.G.M. in December 1943, he claimed that in 1936 the Extraordinary General Meeting had not been properly conducted: there had been no substantive motion and therefore the amendment bringing in the three year rule was not valid. He may well have been right; this was the meeting of which the minutes were so unclear.
Early in 1941
Hartley Straker supported by the three Vice-Presidents, had indicated that he did not wish to continue in office, and did not think that the Club needed a President and Vice Presidents. Although a proposal to alter the Articles to this effect was not carried, his wishes were reflected in the appointments of the next four years.
Nov. 1941 Commodore Glyn Terrell
Vice Commodore Brian Neal
No other officers.
Dec. 1942 Commodore Glynn Terrell (first elected
and Dec. 1943 May 1940 i.e. 41 years)
Vice Commodore Brian Neal
Rear Commodore Warwick Smith
Dec. 1944 Commodore John Serrell Watts
President Hartley Straker
Vice Presidents F. B. Pitcher, Stephen Herring,
The meeting was adjourned until:
Feb. 1945 Vice Commodore C. C. Booth
Rear Commodore Dr. L. H. B. (Ben) Light
Hon. Solicitor J. Wylie Patterson
John Watts was very conscious of the fact that he was a comparatively recent member and never had been a yachtsman. He had done valuable work during the war years and took over from Glynn Terrell at what must have been a difficult time. He insisted on standing down as soon as the war was over, leaving the A.G.M. in December 1945 to appoint a new team to return the Club to norma! peacetime activity. His methodical legal mind remained a source of strength on the Committee.
St. Matthew Cup
In the first week of January 1946, before the Service finally left Burnham, representatives of the Royal Navy. Royal Marines and WRENS handed to the Burnham Council a perpetual Challenge trophy, the St. Matthew Cup, for an interclub team race between the three Yacht Clubs and the Sailing Club under arrangements to be made by The Joint Yacht Clubs Sailing Committee which functions during Burnham Week. There was some confusion during 1946 on how the race should be organised and managed. Nevertheless a date immediately after Burnham Week was chosen for the race. One is left with the impression that everybody was very relieved when the weather that day was such that there was no question of any sailing! Consequently there was no race in 1946.
In March 1947 the Burnham Sailing Club offered to place boats of the Clubs new 16 foot One Design Class at the disposal of the Council for the Cup race. The Council called a meeting of four Clubs in July and it was agreed that each Club would provide four of its One Design Class boats, one to be sailed by each Club; that each Club should enter four crews, one to sail each class of boat: that no crew should sail their own boat, that there should be a draw for boats; that the race should be annual; and that it should be managed by each Club in turn. The 1947 race was sailed immediately after Burnham Week and was won by the Burnham Sailing Club. The format was continued in future years and in about 1950 the United Hospitals Sailing Club joined in so that there were five boats of each Clubs (lass and five crews per Club, one to sail each Class of boat.
The most successful Club between 1947 - 60 was the Burnham Sailing Club, but we won in 1955 and 1957. The 1955 victory was surprising when the finishing places were added up the RBYC was fourth, but the St. Matthew Cup has always been a great arena for protests and when all had been heard we were first! There must be a lesson to be learned from this result!
Quick Revival After War
After VE Day the thoughts of many yachtsmen, who were not otherwise engaged overseas, turned to sailing and it was reported in the local press on 28th July 1945 that some optimistic owners on the Crouch are beginning to fit out and on August 11th the Admiralty announced:
''... after 21 August 1945 sailing and rowing in craft up to two tons will be permitted anywhere in the Rivers Crouch and Roach, subject to the condition that a wide berth must be given to all landing craft whether moored or underway...''
This date was pre-empted by a small group at Creeksea who organised a miniature regatta on August 5 and 6 for three RBODs, IRENE, ONYX and TETELA. The ringleader was P. Sabel and among the helmsmen/crews were several well known Burnham names, including Horace Pitcher, Norman Dallimore and Bob Crewe. The course Tideways Hard Creeksea Fairway Canewdon (twice round).
VJ Day finally dawned on August 14, 1945 and on August 18 the Burnham Sailing Clubs Wednesday evening races returned with 20 starters in two classes, the RBODs were racing again.
The men's side of the Club reopened on Saturday, October 27 and all the Clubs premises were de-requisitioned just before Christmas. On December 15, 1945 an Annual General Meeting was held and the Committee charged with returning the Club to normal was elected:
President: Hartley Straker
Vice Presidents: F. B. Pitcher, Stephen Herring and Glyn Terrell
Commodore: C. C. Booth
Vice Commodore: C. Marley
Rear Commodore: Dr. L. H. B. tight
Hon. Sailing Secretary: John Booth
Enter Synthetic Sails
Changes to the boats and rig were few in the 1946 - 60 period; two worthy of mention are, firstly, the adoption of a new headsail arrangement during 1949 when the roller furling foresail was removed and, secondly, the acceptance of synthetic sails in 1958. In that year cotton sails were still well to the fore on many occasions but, it was said, the general view was that terylene was superior! In the late 1940s 1012 boats started most weekends and in Burnham Week this went up to 1213. The racing was very keen and the 1,2 and 3 flags were spread over a number of boats. In 1949 for example 12 boats won flags. However JADE and ARIEI, were always prominent.
There was some very heavy weather early in the 1950 season and C.M. McPherson drowned when HALLOWEEN (RB 5) sank running out of the R. Roach on an especially rough day. The Class and the Club suffered another sad loss in the same year with the death of Mary Abrahams.
In 1953 the United Hospitals bought GERALDINE (RB 14) as a Club boat and sailed her in the Class. Racing was still extremely keen but the Sold hands appeared to have the flags under control. In the 1953 season, for example, ten boats were among the flag winners. ARIEL and JADE were in the leading group but had, this time, to give way to Clyde Cooper sailing AQUAMARINE (RB 15). In Burnham Week these positions were reversed, but this was Sidney Sabins last season with ARIEL, bringing to an end a wonderful run of sailing.
Lt. Cmdr. A. E. (Bert) Clark was elected Captain of the Class in 1954, and Norman Robertson, the owner of BLUE JACKET (RB 4), was elected Commodore of the Club and his vice Commodore, Lord Waleran sailed ARIEL. Norman appropriately led the fleet in the second half seasons points, the first half season having been won by JADE.
Norman Wilkinson who, pre-war, had sailed LAVENDER LADY (RB 3) very successfully until he left the Class to buy one of the Club's first Dragons, returned to the Class in 1956 with WHIMBREL (RB 9). The racing that year was again extremely close. ten boats sharing the flags. The overall winner was again JADE whose main competitors were VAURNINE (Bert Clark), QUARTZ (RB 13) (Peter Harvey, AOUAMARINE (Clyde Cooper) and WHIMBREL (Norman Wilkinson).
In 1957 the Class increased to 18 boats which was a post-war record Bert Clark finally came good and swept the board in VAURNINE but the turnouts were rather disappointing. Among the new owners was the RNVR Sailing Club with RAE (RB 19) as a club boat.
1958 was the Silver Jubilee of the Class, Wilkie was elected Class Captain and the number of boats on the race card went up to 19. VAURNINE was not fitted out until during the season but with the Burnham Week Cup within her grasp lost it in the last race to Wilkie in WHIMBREL.
In 1959 Nim Crowther (BELINDA RB 5) was elected Class Captain and Clyde Cooper, now in ANNETTE, had a very successful season.
1960, despite rather poor weather, was again a very successful season and not infrequently the maximum fleet of 19 boats started. JADE won rather less than her usual quota of races. Frank Berry in GANNET (RB 3), after being runner up to Bert Clark in VAURNINE for the seasons trophy, carried off Burnham Week, with JADE as runner up. In team racing the Class driven, no doubt, by Nim were very successful winning all the matches at home except that against Oxford which was drawn, and after many years absence the Magnus Cup came back to Burnham after a good days racing and excellent hospitality at the Essex Yacht Club at Leigh. An innovation was a team race against the RCODs which was won. On that note we will leave the RBODs and turn to another form of team racing.
In the midst of all the activity over new classes there was a proposal to start a class for the cadets and in the spring of 1959 Commodore A. L. W. (Leslie) Stevens circulated parents but had a rather poor response. However, at a meeting in the Clubhouse on July 18, 1959, with the Commodore in the Chair, it was decided to adopt the West Wight Scow as a Class for Cadet members of the Club. Two parents, L. R. Billinghurst and L. C. Rowe, were elected Class Secretaries and charged with arranging a start during the current season. They found that because of other events it would not be possible to introduce a program until after Burnham Week. Races were then conducted on two successive Saturday mornings under a set of rules drawn up by the Secretaries and approved by the Commodore. The races attracted, respectively, five and four starters; both were won by Clare Rowe in CARLISON. and Michael Worthington in GEHENNA was second on each occasion.
As a result of this preliminary work the Class were able to get away to a good start in 1960. The Class ACM was held in January and the following were elected:
Class Captain David Booth
Vice-Captain Michael Worthington
Rear-Captain Clare Rowe
Class Secretary Paddy Booth (David's father)
Seamanship Examiner Ellis Jacob
Class activities were arranged for Wednesday and Saturday mornings during the school holidays and it was decided not to arrange any activities during Otter or Burnham Weeks.
The program contained seven ordinary sailing races and a special seamanship race for a trophy presented by the Commodore. This was won by David Booth and places for the other races well distributed between him, Michael Worthington, Nicky Perren, Dare Rowe and Harry Bird, There was also a cruise, in company with the Commodore, to Cliff Reach for a swim and picnic lunch, and an afternoon regatta of rowing and swimming races. The closing event was a team race between cadets and parents in which 12 boats took part. The parents were resoundingly beaten but were able to cry Foul because, despite an elaborate arrangement to ensure an equitable distribution of boats between the two teams, it was subsequently found that no fewer than five of the six cadet helmsmen were sailing their own boats!
During the season the number of cadets taking part grew from 24 to 30 and the number of boats from 12 to 14. It was discovered that the cadet numbers had grown until they exceeded those authorised by the Articles of Association and it was decided that cadets up to the age of 16 would only be accepted if they had a parent who was a full member.
Yacht Designers, Builders and a World Champion
Put as succinctly as possible: our designers, builders and a World Champion were Alan Buchanan and Guy Thompson; Kings, Petticrows, Priors and Stebbings, Tucker Browns; and Dick Pitcher.
Alan Buchanan came to Burnham in 1952, and was responsible for many successful designs. He won the EAORA Championship in 1955 with his design, Priors built, 7 ton racer TAEPING. A 38ft 10 tonner TAITSING followed in 1961, which was most successful on the East Coast up to 19656.
Sir Maurice Laing had an S tonner CORUS built by Stebbings. then VASHTI, an 11 ton masthead sloop, built by Priors. This class proved to he very successful one winning the Sydney/Hobart race in 1962. He had another yacht built by Priors for the first Admirals Cup called HEPHZIBAH.
Meanwhile Ron Amey, to whom racing on two wheels was more usual, had his first NORYEMA, designed by Alan, built by Priors. She was an orthodox low foretriangle sloop of 12 tons, some two feet longer than VASHTI. She was very successful and Ron had NORYEMA II built. So started his extraordinary story of international successes with NORYEMAS coming along steadily but that is another story.
Other boats designed and built for RBYC members were CORE BUS for Cyril Sweett, AELFWYN, a Saxon 10 ton masthead sloop spawned by YEOMAN I! out of VASHTI, and OTHONA for the Stanleys. EASTER and BARBICAN for Bernard Hayman (of Yachting World)
The Earl of St. Germans had CHOUETTE a 6 ton East Anglian built by Kings, then CHOUETTE II, a powerful transom sterner built by Priors and then CHOVETTE Ill, a 24 ton 48ft. yawl built by Kings. When a firm of naval architects is commissioned to design three yachts, one after the other, for the same owner, it says much for the satisfaction each design must have given.
Between 1955 and 1965 Burnham was a busy place with all yards working to capacity building wooden boats, while between 1960 and 1965 the RBYC. in particular, had a strong ocean racing fleet, most of them Burnham built boats.
Alan Buchanan, always very helpful, made a great contribution to the Burnham scene while he was here. A successful racer himself he produced designs of international repute and, moreover, he introduced such successful owners as Ron Amey. Maurice Laing and Bob Watson to the RBYC.
Guy Thompson believed from his early (lays that he got best results from designing and testing models, 1 to the foot, and then building the yachts because he found that the yacht had the same behaviour as the model, and he saved thousands of pounds in avoiding, thereby, building a yacht which was a failure. He was cheerful company, always ready to try a new design but if things went wrong, it could be difficult.
In the post war years he was convinced that in RORC racing two outstanding features made a yacht fast and safe at sea; the less a yacht pitches the better she goes to windward and a yacht needs to steer easily down wind in a blow: and that, at the time, the front runners were becoming two fine in the ends and the rudder was getting too far forward.
Guy decided to design a yacht with fin and skeg profile. When he sailed a model to this design against the conventional one, he found it sailed faster and straighter. He sailed these models on open water and observed them, over miles, from his motor dinghy.
So CALLIOPE VII1. a cruising yacht was built in 1956. one of the first offshore boats with fin and skeg. CALLIOPE IX followed in 1958. Both boats proved extremely successful. Dick Pitcher crewed in them and out of this, the association between designer and racer became close indeed.
Dick raced successfully in dinghys from 1949. Up to the Flying Dutchman in 1965 when he became World Champion, following this in 1966 by becoming North American Champion. He was Endeavour Trophy winner, hut his dinghy sailing was never at the expense of going ~off-shore and in 1965 he approached Guy Thompson and asked him to design a cruiser, with five berths, with a good speed potential yet sea kindly and safe in all conditions. LOA 24 feet was decided on, models were made and tested and GOOSANDER was born.
She had a very successful season racing in EAORA events in 1967, showing a good balance between cruising and racing qualities. Based on this success, the design went into production as the T24 in 1968 with separate fin and rudder and skeg right aft. Phil Herring, Gerry Lilley and John James became owners.
A year later. Guy Thompson designed in conjunction with Dick Pitcher. WILLIWAW 31 feet LOA, the first British designed and built Half Ton Cup Boat with trim tab and bustle superficially resembling the T24 yet very different and she went into production as the T31.
WILLIWAW in her first season's EAO Racing won Class III points with a clean sweep and the Round the Isle of Wight Race Division 7 but when shipped to Sandhamn for the ton Cup, a disappointing 12th place led her to eventual sale in Scandinavia.
When all is said and done this Class is the most important of all for the Club and its future. It provides for initial experience on the water with proper instruction accenting on safety, on and in the river, sailing and racing tactics. It provides for our succession. Its success is dependent as much on the members in charge as on the young members and here the Club has been most fortunately served.
Duncan Waugh was Class Secretary for two years after Paddy Booth's three years in charge from June 1961. When Duncan departed for New Zealand, Wendy Wagstaff took over for four years, June McFarlane for a year then came Geoff and Tro Rowarth who had five years before departing to New Zealand leaving it all to Walter and Ronnie McKinlay. To all these dedicated seniors, class secretaries and cadet officers, the Club is much indebted.
1961 was a most successful season with numbers increasing from 30 cadets in 14 Scows to 38 cadets in 18. In the prize winners were Michael Worthington, Nicky Perren, George Winder, Clare Rowe, Diana Booth, Elizabeth Law, David Hall, David Booth, Alison Waugh and Mike Derry with Nick Prior in CRUMPET.
Instruction in swimming, rowing and sailing took up four days in the Regatta Week with the accent on swimming.
In 1962 Harry Bird and Brian Berry joined the winners but there was a big exodus at the end of the season as our cadets grew older. In 1963 Richard Barnes and Piers Bierne were prize winners.
In 1964 there was talk of a more exciting craft which could be sailed by cadets of 15 and over. Several dinghies were test sailed and criticised. 1965 saw a fall in the number of helmsmen as expected. Only 4 were qualified and agreement was reached with the Corinthian Otters to hold some joint races. Cups were awarded by each club for the two series. Piers Bierne for the RBYC won our cup, Sara Goodman of the Otters won theirs.
When Duncan Waugh left for New Zealand in mid 1966 Lady (Joan) Worthington ''held the for'' until the end of the season when Wendy Wagstaff took over the secretaryship.
After much nail biting and lengthy discussion, the 1967 Racing program for the R B Cadets was finally drawn up with the Corinthian
Otters, it being agreed that all races would be joint and all trophies and Otter Week racing open to both Clubs. Chris Noakes, David Melville, Paul Fleming (who was later to die tragically), Jennie Bird were very successful there were 17 Scows racing. John Gilpin joined in August and won the Junior Boys' Points.
1968 was a much happier season stemming from the continuing inspired leadership of Wendy and David Wagstaff and the enthusiasm of the Class Captain Chris Noak's. 12 Scows were in the class with a waiting list for another 4 boats. Stuart Galloway (PENNY) and John Gilpin (PIP) took honours.
Tremendous enthusiasm is the only description for 1969 with a good tempered tussle between the leading helmsmen, of whom John Gilpin swept the board. The R B fleet of Scows increased to 17 at the end of the season, the terrific success of R B Scow Week being largely due to Dr. Bill and Shirley Gilpin. The Cadets meeting place was the ''Snake Pit'' which had been very well organised by Tim and Cathy Herring for a number of years. This year, the ''younger'' generation, Nicky Prior, abetted by Harry Bird, took over.
David and Wendy Wagstaff left Burnham at the end of 1969 on this high note. Wendy had taken over just after there had been a sudden loss of senior members as happens from time to time and had at once injected life, energy and enthusiasm into this important class. She maintained this attitude for these three years. It was most infectious and permeated the whole class. The Class and the Club have very good reason to be very grateful to her for such personal efforts. Wendy returned to Burnham and took over the secretaryship again at the end of 1983.
Geoffrey Rowarth agreed to become Cadet Officer from 1971, the interregnum being covered by June McFarlane. Paddy Booth agreed to look after the introduction of the Mirror dinghy to the Cadet class.
The situation in 1971 was that Corinthian Otters would sail Cadets and Scows and R B Cadets would sail Mirrors and Scows. Six Mirrors were racing as well as 22 Scows, in the R B fleet the team race against the Otters receiving full national press coverage. It so happened that two Cadets were rescued by a Club member, the Prime Minister in his Yacht MORNING CLOUD after they had capsized ''in rough seas off the Essex coast'' otherwise known as Burnham Fairway.
The 1972 season started in boisterous style with enough breeze to make it Caroline Methven's fourth time out as a Mirror crew before she realised that capsizing was neither obligatory nor inevitable! All Scows were now sailing with their new jibs and there were 20 in use.
A novelty was the appearance of a completely new all fibreglass version of the Scow from a local builder. As, on test, this sturdy little craft proved to be slightly faster on all points, it was not possible to accept individual Burnham Scows into the fleet. 44 boats took part in Regatta Week, a record, as was an instance in Otter Week, when 12 year old Stephen Herring completed the single handed race together with a red mullet which had just jumped into his Scow. This fish was also looking surprised!
There were now over 90 RB Cadets under 18, most of them active for a least part of the season, and the list of elected officers and committee members started to show an inclination to the distaff side. This situation meant that the rule denying full membership of the Royal Burnham to the ladies might come under pressure in the near future.
Two new Scows belonging to Charles Pitcher and Justin Tooth were launched in 1973 while the Mirror fleet grew to 12. Jackie Rowarth, Chris Booth, Piers Symes and the Galloway twins took honours. Kelvin Aqua, our friendly ''next door'' chandlers, presented a cup for the crew who tried hardest during both race weeks. Thomas and Rodger Goodman won it in 1972: Annalisa Young and Emma Stokes this year. One ''bon mot'' came from a protest meeting ''I was passing him when he luffed me, so I hit him''.
Two more new Scows joined the fleet the next year but Mirrors, now numbering 19, outnumbered the Scows, and of the fifteen Cadets (boats) five belonged to the R B Cadets, Nick Wood being most successful. Membership now exceeded 100 with newcomers proving to be every bit as promising as the more experienced ones and more swimming, rowing and helming certificates were awarded than ever before. 1975 Cadet Week reached a new peak 115 competitors in 20 Mirrors, 15 Scows and 14 Cadet dinghies.
Over the season, John Waples, Stephen and Andrew Herring, Louise Soloway, Jeremy Polturak were successful in Scows. Nick Wood likewise in Cadet dinghies and Piers Symes, Nick Hunter-Blair and Chris Booth in Mirrors.
And on this highnote Geoff Rowarth and his family ''took off'' for New Zealand handing over to Walter McKinlay.