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The History of Poole Yacht Club

The Early Days 1865 - 1934

The story begins back in the middle of the 19th Century when the first records can be traced. Poole Yacht Club, as it is now constituted, is really the result of three clubs all closely connected in various stages eventually becoming one Club as it is today.

The original Poole Yacht Club is thought to have been founded in 1865 but was probably in existence in some form many years earlier. The centenary was actually celebrated in 1965 at Hamworthy.

 In 1898 The Hamworthy Sailing Club was started and many years later in 1936 it became known as The Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club. Subsequently in 1948 it became the Poole Yacht Club having taken over the name of the original club which had become almost defunct. The old club had headquarters in Poole High Street and the last Commodore was a Commander Linklater, who was also a Member of the Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club. He offered the name and all records and trophies if the Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club would take over the name of the Poole Yacht Club in order to preserve it in perpetuity. This was agreed and the 'new' Poole Yacht Club was officially registered with Commander Norman Hibbs as Commodore.

The original Hamworthy Sailing Club founded in 1898 was the result of the difficulty for artisans, such as paid professional skippers, paid hands, boat builders, sailmakers and fishermen to become members of the more exclusive Yacht Clubs whose members consisted mainly of amateur gentleman yachtsman.

At that time there was an organisation known as the Y.R.A. - The Yacht Racing Association later changed to the Royal Yachting Association - R.Y.A. as it is known now. This Association was responsible for the original Yacht Racing Rules and only members of clubs recognised by them could take part in any organised Yacht racing or regattas raced under their rules. This meant that the so called 'professional' was banned from racing his own boat or indeed helming other yachts for their owners.

So, in about 1896, a group of these so called 'professionals' and outsiders decided to form their own Sailing Club in order to organise and enjoy racing amongst themselves. They, of course, were not recognised by the Y.R.A.

The Club became know as the Hamworthy Sailing Club and was situated along the shore of the Harbour, a little to the East of the old clubhouse. The 'Clubhouse' was an old wooden railway carriage with a platform on top of it, surrounded by a rail which was the 'Gun Deck' and used for starting and finishing the races.

Hibberd Wills was the Secretary and it was said he kept the club funds in an old sock under his bed! He sailed in the Harbour for many years single handed in his famous old boat named 'Poppy'!

The Club was, of course, not recognised by the Y.R.A. but this did not deter the members from racing between themselves regardless of recognition or otherwise. The members mostly consisted of professional skippers of local yachts, paid hands, longshoremen and Poole fishermen. Some famous old names were amongst them including Newman, Redman, Hood, Gould and Wills. The annual subscription was five old shillings.

After the 1914-18 War, the membership was very small but by 1925 there were many local people looking for an inexpensive Club from which to sail. Tradition was beginning to break and tradesmen and the so called 'amateur gentlemen' began to mix and the very exclusive Yacht Clubs of the past opened their memberships to people of all walks of life. People like Tom Ratsey, head of the famous sail making business, was invited to become Commodore of the Island Sailing Club at Cowes at the age of 80. Even a young yacht designer named Uffa Fox obtained membership of the previously very exclusive Club. The pursuit of yachting and sailing was no longer confined to the privileged few.

The Hamworthy Sailing Club thus attracted more and more local yachtsmen who organised their own sailing races. Amongst these yachtsmen was the well known sailor Col. Pierce who eventually became Commodore. Y.R.A. recognition was sought and granted in 1934, the membership being now largely non-professional. There were two main annual events - one taking place in the summer and one during the winter. First there was the Annual Cruise to Studland when most Members sailed round to Studland beach and then had 'high tea' at the Bankes Arms. Anyone not sailing would be invited aboard Commander Linklater's yacht 'Theodora'. She was a wonderful old 38 ton Bristol Pilot Cutter that could, if necessary, carry the whole of the Club membership! During the winter the Annual Smoking Concert was held at the Shipwrights' Pub on Poole Quay. This was restricted to 'men only' and was, of course, just an excuse for glorious booze up. Songs were sung and pints of ale consumed. The songs soon got bawdier and bawdier as the beer flowed and the smoke thickened, but such was the spirit of friendliness between members who as yet had no proper Clubhouse.

Handicap cruiser and dinghy racing of all kinds became a regular feature off the Hamworthy shore. The cruiser fleet included some large ex raters both 6 and 8 metre yachts and provided some spectacular sights when under full sail. Well known names of the owners were amongst them like Col. Pierce, Commander Linklater, Jack Travers, Steve Colombus, Arnold Newman, Norman Hibbs, Horace Drake and many others. The racing was very keen and there was great rivalry between the various owners with no quarter given or asked for! Most of these larger craft had paid skippers and crews and as any cash prize money was always given to these professionals, the rivalry reached enormous heights both on the water and ashore.

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