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A paper on the history of yacht clubs and their prospects now

Kukri

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Joined
23 Jul 2008
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12,171
Location
East coast UK. Mostly. Sometimes the Philippines
Sounds good ... but are you sure about that waiting list?

How to Join the Club
New Members Welcome
We are always looking for new members, at whatever level of sailing experience - including those who have never set foot in a boat before ! We are a friendly and inclusive club, with a fantastic Clubhouse and a busy calendar of social and sailing activities. Either call the Office or drop in to our Clubhouse to find out more.

http://www.royalharwichyachtclub.co.uk/club-information/join-the-club
For the Marina! (I know, because I am on it...)
 

Tomahawk

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5 Sep 2010
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15,754
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Where life is good
When we lived in Ramsgate we were members of the RTYC. Since crossing the water to Essex, we no longer need or want to be members of a sailing club.
 

Concerto

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16 Jul 2014
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2,453
Location
Sail on the Medway, Kent from Chatham Maritime Mar
Over the years I have been a member of a number of different yacht clubs. The over riding reason was where to moor a boat and the facilities ashore for winter storage. I am still a member of a yacht club, but last year I visited the premises once and this year, so far, not at all. The reason is I now keep my boat in a marina and the club is a 20 minute drive away, so I have no real reason to continue membership. I could join in with a race or cruise, but I never seem to remember in time to join in.

The club owns its premises and has a large number of swinging and fore and aft moorings at budget prices. They also have two scrubbing pads. As a club they are very friendly and encourage people to join without a boat. There are several boats that will assist them in getting used to the ropes, before they consider buying a boat. Everything is made as easy as possible, but membership is fairly static. New members seem to be replacing those who swallow the anchor. However on the Medway are a number of other clubs, whether they will all survive is still in the future.

Now days I spend a lot of time chatting with other owners at the marina or part of the Westerly Owners Association. Marina users find the walk on facility to be the most important factor, whereas a lot of WOA members find cheap moorings to be the most important feature. The only way forward is for a club to move to the marina and provide the missing social facilities. This will probably become the most important club on the river as it is following the needs of the changing type of boat owner.

Many marinas now have new breeds of boat owner that would never join a club. The floating holiday cottage that never leaves the marina is a growing category. Then there are the quiet live aboards who are technically breaching the marina terms and conditions, but provided they are not a nuisance, are tolerated to keep berthing fees rolling in.

So yachting is changing, along with clubs. Nothing is ever static. With so many yachts around our shores, the demand for new boats has reduced, partly by economic factors, but also from the choice of secondhand ones available. There are now a glut of very small yachts that are almost worthless as very few people want them. These now find the cheaper moorings or are never launched. This is a far bigger problem than the decline in clubs.
 

Neeves

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20 Nov 2011
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6,081
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Sydney, Australia.
I agree with much of what you say, maybe all :) Old yachts are real issue, worthless and cost infinitely more for the mooring (where they deny access to someone who wants to sail) and antifouling.
 

Fossil

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Joined
31 Oct 2012
Messages
146
Location
Paekakariki, New Zealand
True, but he does point out that participation in sailing overall seems to be dropping fast.

When hang gliding started becoming popular in the 1970s, the UK gliding movement treated hang gliders with a mixture of contempt and hostility. Ann Welch, who had been at the forefront of British Gliding since the 30s and who saw in hang gliding the same pioneer spirit she had known in the early days, was sacked as the British team manager and effectively expelled from the British Gliding Association for encouraging the BGA to include hang gliders. She later became president of the British Hanggliding Association. For gliding the results were pretty disastrous, and it has declined from a cheap mass-participation sport to a small one mainly for the retired and the wealthy. Of course other factors have been involved. Modern gliders can be fiendishly expensive (£150k including instruments, easily) and both gliders and pilots now come under EASA rules, which has greatly increased the complication since the BGA - rather ineptly - looked after everything.
Back in those days, I was very closely involved with the embryo British Hang Gliding Association and worked closely with Ann Welch (a truly great lady, indeed) as BHGA set up safety standards, instructional standards and fought for access to gliding sites - in many cases against the total opposition of the gliding clubs. Hang gliding has in fact declined in numbers of participants over the years and is less obvious on the sites, mostly because weather forecasting, glider performance and pilot abilities have improved to the point that hang glider pilots very rarely stick around after take-off, but head off on cross-country flights, sometimes of surprising length. Just like sailplanes do, in fact.

The real competition these days come from people flying parapentes (parachutes used for hill soaring) and even they are starting to use thermals, wave lift and sea breeze fronts to get away from the hills.

In principle though, the power of the gliding (sailplane) clubs came from the fact that due to the reliance on winching as a means of getting airborne, they controlled access to the take-off areas. Sailing clubs have never had that sort of power and control and are suffering as a result, except in areas where they own all the moorings. But, as has been noted, even that is eroding with the growth of marinas. I agree with JumbleDuck that what seems to be happening is a paradigm shift in sailing - you join a yacht club if you want to be social, or to race, but most cruising sailors don't.
 

Neeves

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20 Nov 2011
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6,081
Location
Sydney, Australia.
And apart from dinghies no-one can afford to race seriously in a keel boat today - though maybe that was always the case (emphasise on 'seriously') - excepting some of the classes for small yachts (and even they will empty your wallet quite quickly, Dragons, Etchells, J24
 

JumbleDuck

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8 Aug 2013
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21,189
Location
SW Scotland
Back in those days, I was very closely involved with the embryo British Hang Gliding Association and worked closely with Ann Welch (a truly great lady, indeed) as BHGA set up safety standards, instructional standards and fought for access to gliding sites - in many cases against the total opposition of the gliding clubs. Hang gliding has in fact declined in numbers of participants over the years and is less obvious on the sites, mostly because weather forecasting, glider performance and pilot abilities have improved to the point that hang glider pilots very rarely stick around after take-off, but head off on cross-country flights, sometimes of surprising length. Just like sailplanes do, in fact.

The real competition these days come from people flying parapentes (parachutes used for hill soaring) and even they are starting to use thermals, wave lift and sea breeze fronts to get away from the hills.
Yes, I should have said that parapentes now seem to do the stuff that hang-gliders used to. Despite a few years and 300 hrs P1 in sailplanes, I have to say that the freedom of simpler flying is very alluring. I flew a lot from Sutton Bank and occasionally from the Long Mynd, and in both places - particularly the latter - there was considerable antipathy to the hang gliders nearby, which always seemed rather silly to me.

Ann Welch was a wonderful character, and I had the huge pleasure of working with her a few years before she died. She must have been around 80, but was sharp as a pin. Her instructing style was legendarily acerbic, and she wrote most of the briefing notes for ATA pilots. If you haven't read her autobriography, "Happy to Fly", I strongly recommend it.

In principle though, the power of the gliding (sailplane) clubs came from the fact that due to the reliance on winching as a means of getting airborne, they controlled access to the take-off areas. Sailing clubs have never had that sort of power and control and are suffering as a result, except in areas where they own all the moorings. But, as has been noted, even that is eroding with the growth of marinas. I agree with JumbleDuck that what seems to be happening is a paradigm shift in sailing - you join a yacht club if you want to be social, or to race, but most cruising sailors don't.
Yes, gliding clubs are still needed for winch and aerotow launching, but even that is getting less important as more and more private owners have self-launchers. Every club now has a fair proportion of members who rig solo, buzz out onto the runway, disappear, return a few hours later, buzz back to their trailers and derig solo without ever interacting. As far as they are concerned, clubs are simply airfield-ownership groups. As well as launching facilities, the other thing clubs provided for experienced pilots were retrieve crews, but the improved performance of modern sailplanes and the number of self-sustainers around mean that field landings are now fairly rare occurrences.

Finally, clubs were important when all gliding supervision was delegated to the BGA, but now that the aircraft are registered and the pilots have licences, that's far less important too.

Oh dear. What a digression. Still, I agree that it's like the change in sailing over many years but perhaps accelerating now. No need now for club moorings, watermen, winter storage, changing rooms or bar when you keep your boat in a marina. I was thinking just a few weeks ago how much less common it is now to see a yacht club's initials on the transom - even the once near-ubiquitous CCC up here has more or less vanished. But then, I am not in a yacht club and I cannot think of any conceivable reason why I'd want to join. Yes, yes, even if they'd take me.

Sorry, lots of words. It's a rainy day and I'm stuck at home because my nice new engine has gone phut.
 

JumbleDuck

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8 Aug 2013
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SW Scotland
Oh dear! They are not supposed to do that.
Indeed. I was hoping for phut-phut but only got half measure.

It's the cooling water header tank. Leaking from the join halfway up. Warranty job, and France is all on the beach at the moment. A wee bit frustrating.
 

Sailing Ape

New member
Joined
1 Apr 2015
Messages
11
Very interesting discussion on the history of yacht and sailing clubs - thank you.

+1 on this from AntarcticPilot though:
"I felt that, while his conclusions concerning yacht clubs are clear and probably correct, he fails to acknowledge that for a lot of us, yacht clubs are redundant. The decline of clubs doesn't necessarily mean a decline in sailing, just a decline in a particular model of sailing."

Also, I have to say that I am seeing more and more young people in yachts, pushed maybe in part by the high cost of housing and lousy job prospects and also by what they see on social media (vlogs, instagram etc) of people sailing around the world and seemingly having endless adventures in sunnier climes as opposed to the usual daily grind experienced by most. Even while lurking on these boards I see people looking for advice on liveaboards that they can then use to take off into the wild blue yonder later...
 

pyrojames

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Joined
9 Aug 2002
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2,525
Location
Cambridge
I think tha advent of marinas has rather hit the yachts clubs. I always used yacht clubs as a base from which to sail, when I had a boat on a swing mooring. Somewhere to keep a dinghy, come alongside occaisionally and have a pint or too with other sailors. Marina's do away with the need for a dinghy or other shore access, and are normally pretty close to a pub, or Marina bar. Yachts clubs are therefore somewhat superfluous. A few, very few manage to have their own marinas, which helps keep them alive, RHYC being one of the few, although I still only use it as a base for a swing mooring.
 

lw395

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16 May 2007
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42,060
Maybe it's different if you actually live on the coast?
 

SteveA

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31 Dec 2001
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399
Location
Cumbria. UK
It also depends where you keep your boat - here in the NW of England marinas are few in number and have very restricted access times. The club I'm involved with has had to tell any prospective new members that they will have to go on to a waiting list for a winter berth as we're full and all our boats are kept on swinging moorings in the summer (which are free)
 

Babylon

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7 Jan 2008
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3,834
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Solent
Maybe it's different if you actually live on the coast?
Very true. The vast majority of members of my own club I've got to know over the last decade live locally, and the club has a significant social value to them.

It also has social value to the good number of other members (like myself) who drive a considerable distance from inland, and - despite being less than regular visitors - appreciate the welcome they receive when they walk into a warm environment.

The marina stuff is also fine, but considerably more anonymous... which sadly reflects the way the culture has moved over the decades.
 
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Babylon

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7 Jan 2008
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Solent
A local marina berth for my 27' yacht would cost approaching £6,000 a year (Hamble).

My council mooring up the river costs about £700 (of which half are harbour dues) while the club costs about £600, total about £1,300pa.

Why the pfuk pay an additional £5k a year to park a boat?!
 

jac

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10 Sep 2001
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8,651
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Home Berkshire, Boat Hamble
A local marina berth for my 27' yacht would cost approaching £6,000 a year (Hamble).

My council mooring up the river costs about £700 (of which half are harbour dues) while the club costs about £600, total about £1,300pa.

Why the pfuk pay an additional £5k a year to park a boat?!
Thats one of the main reasons why we joined the club. Even though our mooring is one of the Tucker and Munday commercial ones, the cost is about 1/2 of the cost of even the cheapest marina on the river. with a launch to remove the need to go out in a dinghy, what's not to like. That said, we joined when we were berthed at Deacons as a good way to meet other people, do Rallys etc. so the social side was important. We are too far away to pop in but always pop in for a drink when down there or after a sail.

But i can fully understand why people don't join. If you can park a car / dinghy somewhere and sail to get away from it all, then there is no upside to paying severeal hundred pounds a year in club fees.
 

dancrane

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29 Dec 2010
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8,965
At risk of changing the subject for a moment, may I mention Ventnor Yacht Club, which seems inexplicably to have survived in the absence of any yachts or even members?

I took this photograph outside the Spyglass Inn at the end of Ventnor esplanade last month...



...but I can't find a single word online about the club's events or membership; nor have I ever seen anything resembling a sail or even a rowing boat, anywhere in the town.

What, I wonder, is the benefit of RYA affiliation if the 'club' is just a humorous or interesting echo of times long gone?
 

Sumitoo

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24 Apr 2014
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2
Location
Burnham on Crouch
Some clubs have no club house but organise events - dinners/races etc - in various parts of the coast. The City Livery Y.C is one club in question.
 

dancrane

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29 Dec 2010
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Some clubs have no club house but organise events - dinners...
I'm afraid that's probably the case. Dinners more than races...in fact, dinners more than boating of any kind.

Still begs the question, why would a dining or social club without active intent to sail, seek affiliation with the RYA?

I had another online search for Ventnor Yacht Club and found one ancient reference, from 1912, I think. Of course, it was Ventnor New Jersey. :rolleyes:
 

Frogmogman

Active member
Joined
26 Aug 2012
Messages
485
I suspect that the relaxation of Sunday licensing laws must have had an effect on club membership.

When I raced out of Lymington in the early 80s, the RLymYC certainly had a number of 'non-sailing members' who presumably preferred it to Brockenhurst Golf Club as somewhere to go for a drink on a Sunday. (IIRC, back then Sunday opening was midday to 2;30pm and then 7 to 10pm. In certain places in the UK (wales/scotland ?) it was even more draconian than this. These restrictions did not apply to private clubs).

Some of those members certainly didn't seem that keen on the arrival of a bunch of unruly sailing types piling in after a Sunday morning's race.
 
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