The dinghy section was officialIy opened by Lord Halifax on 3rd August 1970. It was opened in the afternoon and named after the Honorary Commodore Robert Blyth who had been the motivator of the whole project. A dinner followed at the main club but my memory of this is a little vague, whether this is through memory loss or imbibing too heavily, I will leave you to decide.
This was not the beginning of the dinghy park which I believe was opened in a small way a few years previously. The first steps to form a dinghy section with its own committee were first passed by the General Committee on 18th February 1950 chaired by Commodore Robert Blyth. The following day the members who were chosen to be on the new committee met and so the project got off the ground.
I would like to thank Dr Neil Paveley for searching through the archives and finding detailed minutes. I never knew dinghy racing had been held from the harbour! John Rix confirmed this and has a photograph of him sailing a Bluebird class dinghy with his uncle. The other boats were mainly Flying I 0’s and I S’s with the odd lug sail wooden dinghies. John King and Mike Jackson were two other names John mentioned. One or two things stand out in the minutes – the expertise and knowledge of yacht racing being abridged to racing dinghies. The working out of the handicaps and the race entry fee of one shilling! So much for governments’ containing inflation! Around 1967/8 a lease was obtained from the ERYC for a piece of land at Wilsthorpe. There was nothing there but an old farmhouse and a crack leading down to the property. So everything got cracking and a committee under the captaincy of John Crawford started improving the place and gathering a few boats together. The road was a problem and John Rix, a Rear Commodore at the time, asked for main club members to offer loans and this raised £ 1500, a lot of money in those days. This money contributed to the road being built. A chap called Fred Ridley, a gravel pit owner carved out the slipway. At first cars were used to pull boats up the slipway but often got bogged in the sand. So it was back to manpower which probably curtailed one or two members’ life spans! Eventually Bert Richardson turned up with an ex-army Champ (similar to a Land Rover) which was used until we changed to using tractors.
At first there was a small menagerie of boats including a sprinkling of Enterprises, Mirrors, and a Bosun (favoured by the Royal Navy), homemade by Vin Goodwill made of bits and pieces, hence its name ‘Maid of Bitza’, and one Kestrel which was considered too complicated. Unbelievable!
The dinghy section really got going when the East Riding Sailing Club sailing from Barmston was wiped out by erosion and some of their members joined the RYYC. This didn’t happen overnight and nearly didn’t happen at all. I know this is supposed to be the history of the RYYC dinghies but the story of the ERSC is part of that history. It was a doomed club really. It was out of the protection of Flamborough Head and Smethwick Sands, leaving it vulnerable to strong easterly winds with high tides. But it thrived at Barmston for quite a while and was quite a successful sailing club with an Enterprise and Shearwater fleet. A lot of hard work went into building a club house, sea defences and a wooden catamaran used as a committee boat. All this was destroyed in one night by heavy seas whipped up by gale force winds. My memories of sailing at Barmston are keen racing followed often by a hairy ride to the beach. One Enterprise helmsman panicked and jumped overboard leaving a bruised, disgruntled crew, and the helmsman being hauled before the committee accused of cowardice!
Another memory that stands out in my mind was Paul Road (who later joined the RYYC) setting off from the beach on his Shearwater called ‘Fathers Folly’ with a black box containing his uncle’s ashes. On his return I queried the black patch on his mainsail which turned out to be Uncle George. Mrs Roach had thrown them windward!
It had a very strong Enterprise fleet, did very well in championships, especially the Northern known as the ‘Cock of the North’. The first catamaran was a wooden Shearwater (built by Prout Brothers) named ‘Pussyfoot’. She was owned by a chap called Ben Hutton, a blacksmith by trade and he had been a rear gunner during the war. He encouraged members to try out his cat, hoping that it would encourage them to start a fleet. This did gradually happen. Unfortunately Ben was hit by a bale of wool falling off a lorry, – not being able to sail he offered it to me for £ 100. Eventually I bought her sharing ownership with Mike Rhodes. I honestly think that ‘Pussyfoot’ kick-started cat sailing on the east coast. Mike and my wife Camille raced the cat and I continued with the Enterprise. Camille enjoyed cat sailing being fed up spending more time in the water than on it with me on the Enterprise! The Shearwater was chosen as a class together with the Enterprise.
The club decided to get rid of the old tank blocks after the committee boat was smashed to bits when coming in on a high tide and crashing into one. A platoon of territorial engineers under the command of Colonel lain Bryce (a life member of the RYYC) arrived with explosives and blew them up. lain did warn us that removing the blocks would leave us more vulnerable to erosion and he was proved right. It was decided to abandon Barmston, with some Enterprises going to Welton Water and the others, together with the Shearwater fleet going to the council compound on the south side of Bridlington at Belvedere.
One morning I received a call from a John Crawford who was a member of the RYYC and their Dinghy Captain. He was very annoyed we had taken our boats to the council compound in Bridlington and if we had thoughts about joining the RYYC and sailing from their dinghy park they would be rejected. I knew nothing about the RYYC and certainly did not know they had a dinghy section. His attitude really rattled me and I had a word with Ken Rhodes from Bridlington and whose brother-in-law happened to be Commodore of the RYYC! He arranged a meeting one Saturday morning. I explained to him our predicament and the reason for our move to the council compound. Realising how many boats and possible members we could contribute, he welcomed the possibility of our joining the RYYC. The outcome was the RYYC gained 14 Shearwaters and 6 Enterprises.
The new members were made welcome except for a few older members with some misgivings. Originally it was a very parochial set up, the members being mainly from Bridlington and the new members coming from the Hull area and the West Riding. Gradually there were no new and old members, only members. I and a few others were co-opted to the committee under the captaincy of John Crawford. John had a strong personality and was used to getting his own way in the committee. Things were changing with new members coming on to the committee and friction developed. Funnily it didn’t come from the new members but from some of the old. John resigned and I, for my sins, ended up Dinghy Captain. I was a little apprehensive about attending the General Committee of the main club being a new boy, but I was made welcome.
We also had a number of Mirror dinghies sailed by the junior members who had their own course. This was managed by dropping a buoy in the middle of the main course. A quite old couple started and finished the races using their own boat and went out in all weathers. It worked very well until one idiot put in a fatuous protest resulting in them resigning and taking their boat with them. There’s always one! Two Tornados were allowed into the club but only for pleasure, not racing. The Shearwaters went to the National Championships at Grafham Water, Holyhead and Whitstable. The weather was always awful with gale force winds. At Grafham thirteen masts were replaced in the first few days! At Holyhead we had to sail in the confines of the harbour, the seas outside being too rough. Whitstable was the worst, sailing in the Thames Estuary with a rough sea and coming in on a steep shingle beach. My cat survived the championship but was luffed by a car on the way home and written off.
The Shearwater was the first production racing catamaran in the world. Designed by Roland Francis Prout in 1954, the mark 3 was launched in 1956, wooden construction at first and later fiberglass. There are still a few around, some racing with spinnakers. The Enterprise was designed by Jack Holt and sponsored by the New Chronicle. He also designed the Mirror sponsored by the same newspaper The Enterprise was test sailed from Dover to Calais with much publicity to prove its durability, which proved successful. There are still blue sails to be seen on sailing waters in the UK.
I would like to thank Dr Neil Paveley for searching through the archives. John Rix for confirming dinghies racing in the harbour and other items of interest and Mike Rhodes – who followed me as Dinghy Captain, for the list of boats and owners.