Bewl Visit
Virtual Sailing
Boat Bits
A Sail on the Social Side
Whatever Next
Fails her M.O.T
Weather (or not?)
Start of Season Party
Future Events

Club: ( Association for pursuance of common interest,
building used by such association.)

During the course of a recent conversation somebody asked me what my sailing club was like. I gave them all the usual platitudes about location, the people, facilities etc. and thought no more about it. At work a day or two later I was reading some benchmarking data on leading companies and why they had achieved their acknowledged position. I re-called the earlier question my college had asked and got to thinking about comparisons between sailing clubs that I had visited over the years.
The grandest was probably Parkstone YC at Poole. Virtually everything in this huge carpeted and polished club was franchised out. They even had car-parking attendants to organise the transport of the well heeled blue-rinse brigade who lunched daily on the veranda overlooking the harbour. The Parkstone Club Committee proudly pointed to a two-year plus membership waiting list and were constantly remonstrating with their Class Captains to ensure racing entry levels or they would drop that particular class and include a more proactive one!
By comparison Maylandsea and Brightlingsea SC’s in Essex were more practical in that there membership actual went there to sail and the facilities and surroundings reflected this. They also promoted handicap racing as a way of attracting membership. These clubs were far more hustle and bustle with a corners-knocked-of attitude. Parkstone would never have tolerated The Blackwater’s mud flats.
Chichester SC was similarly practical but somehow managed to blend this with a traditional appeal and an excellent restaurant.
By comparison Ullswater SC in Cumbria seemed to combine the aspirations of all these clubs in an easy going atmosphere set amongst some of the most visually stunning scenery in the country. People obviously seemed happy to travel significant distances at the weekends to belong to, and sail at, Ullswater. It has a real charm all of its own.


Smaller clubs like Colmere in Shropshire and Little Paxton in Hertfordshire are far more akin to Aquarius in both size and facilities but strangely neither have a bar! A great failing in this day and age. Both are extremely friendly and welcoming and seem to understand the need to treat their facilities as a business and extract the maximum from them to supplement revenues to ensure their survival.
In many ways Weymouth SC was the odd one out. Sited at the extreme end of the Western Key, car parking was non-existent. Dinghy parking was almost as bad and the clubhouse cramped with few facilities. It was not a club you felt that you wanted to stay in particularly. Strange really because the sailing out in the bay was the best, and is used extensively as a venue for both Nationals and European events.
Bala SC was much the same with a take or leave it attitude toward its visitors. Their launching facilities were abysmal and several dinghy,s were badly damaged while we were there. Bala town however was interesting. Some enterprising individual had converted an old school building into an excellent restaurant, which, amongst other things, served the best Steak & Kidney pud I have ever tasted!
At the end of the day it not its size or facilities that make a club. It's the people. Management Committees may set policy and guide development but ultimately it is the willingness of its members to become actively involved in its programmes and support needs, that ensure overall success.
Aquarius is very lucky in this respect. Its Committee is well led and very proactive in growing and developing. The Club Race entry has been increased over recent years and has been balanced with a comprehensive annual social programme. Links with other clubs have been maintained and matters of joint interest, such as recent Thames Water land development plans, pursued as joint initiatives. Club membership is healthy with younger participation at all time highs. External class and handicap racing has also helped by offering members the opportunity to sail at other venues and on open water. I think in it's own way Aquarius compares very favourably with many of the other clubs I have visited. It retains an old-world charm, in keeping with its environment, while providing excellent value and facilities for its membership. Long may it continue to prosper!
Mike (Over Easy) Baker