The Early History of the Club

The Early Years

Following discussions some local people had when sailing particularly on the River Avon or the Gloucester Sharpness Canal and chats on the bank, it was decided to hold a meeting to discuss the formation of a Sailing Club in the Tewkesbury area.   An Inaugural Meeting was held in the Office of Lt. Col. Alex Hattrell at Newton House, Church Street, Tewkesbury on Tuesday 8th October 1949.   There were eight people present: Lt. Col Alex Hattrell. (Who was Chairman for this meeting); Miss S. Rainsford; Miss C. Whittard; Dr. J. T. Spiridion; Dr. C. R. McCash; Mr. J. Beecham; Mr. D. G. Henderson; Mr. R. Rhymes.  Following the decision to form a Sailing Club they thus became the Founder Members.   It was unfortunate that Dr. John Greene, who had been one of the people most interested in forming the Club, was unable to be present at the Inaugural Meeting due to surgery commitments. He was to take an important part in the development and activities of the newly formed Club thereafter.  He was the guiding light for 20 years.

The original thoughts had been to reform the old Severn Sailing Club which had closed down during the Second World War, but following discussions with remaining officials of that dormant Club it was clear that they did not wish to co-operate. It was then decided at the next meeting held at the end of November that the club be known as The Avon Sailing Club. This name was advised to the Yacht Racing Association (now the R. Y.A) and accepted.

The first Officers and Committee were then elected at this meeting, Jan Spiridion and John Greene were made Vice and Rear Commodores, Alex Hattrell Hon Treasurer and the late Reg Rhymes became the first Hon. Secretary. It was decided that the 12ft National and Firefly Classes would be fostered and a Racing Committee was formed

The subscriptions were then decided: £3-3-0. Boat Owners; £1-1-0 Non Boat Owners; 10-6. Juniors; £4-4-0. Family Boat Owners.   These subscriptions were to remain unchanged for over ten years - until the 1960 AGM when the Club moved from Twyning to Chaceley.

At the first Annual General Meeting held at the end of January 1950 our first Commodore Mr Leo Robinson was elected, he served until his death in October 1952. This first AGM was held at The White Bear Inn and this became our 'local' where we held Committee Meetings and General Meetings for some years.

A small area of land was rented from the Beech Boatyard on the east bank of the River Avon on the Bredon Road at Tewkesbury. This piece of land was probably no larger than the lawn in front of our present Clubhouse at Chaceley. Access to the river was along a small cutting of approximately three boats width and twenty yards long. Getting onto the river was not easy for sails were generally hoisted before leaving the dinghy park, particularly in a westerly-or back up the cutting in an easterly. The first races were held in l950 and the first Open Meeting was in July with racing for King George V Fund for Sailors Pennants. Races in this first year were started from the east bank of the river and all starting equipment had to be carried from the dinghy park. By the end of 1950 Members were 38 with 9 boats.

The Club continued to expand in 1951. The first Club dance was held successfully in February at the Royal Hop Pole Hotel, an event which was to continue annually at various venues in the town for a few years and then further afield between Kidderminster, Broadway and Cheltenham Racing now took place on the river Severn as well as the Avon. A full programme of races took place mainly on Sunday afternoons between March and October at 3.00pm. The first interclub race had taken place at Banbury Sailing Club. which we had won. It was not Team Racing as we now know it but a race, or races, with six helmsmen from each Club in a 'straight' race with the winning Club having the most (or least) points-depending on the home Club's points system.

There was now a Single Handed race and a Crew’s race so the racing types were being expanded to add interest. In 1951 there were no single handed class boats in the Club the first British Moth was to appear in 1953. It must be appreciated that at this time there was no accommodation at the Club and very limited car parking space. The Committee wanted there to be, at least, a place to change and were looking for a suitable small building which could be erected in the dinghy park area.

At the AGM in January 1952 an increase in the balance in hand to over £70 at the end of 1951 as compared with £27-12-10 at the end of 1950. It was also reported that there were now 17 boats in the Club and 55 members. A small piece of land had been leased from Croome Estates on the East Bank of the River Avon upstream of the cutting on which a permanent position for the starting of races was to made. There was now a Winter Programme and two meetings were held during after the AGM. In future years there were monthly meetings during the non sailing period. In 1952 the Club continued to grow. Cheltenham College became our first Affiliated Club and had two boats and six members by the end of the season. The great advantage of the Cheltenham College Sailing Club was that they sailed on Sundays and by doing this increased the number of boats racing. This continued until sailing at the College became a major' sport in the mid 1960's when they sailed on Games days. In due course they had six National 12's regularly racing In the early summer of 1952 a permanent flagpole was erected on the Croome Estate land and such amenities as a Course Board were provided with a fixed starting time of 3.00pm with 5 minute intervals between the 'guns'. A Club Measurer was first appointed and such things as Buoyancy Tests and Class Certificates were in evidence for the first time. Merlin Rockets now became a Club Class and so the way the Club was to develop was beginning to show.

The Club was starting to be recognized Nationally for Joe Raymond was 4th in the Sir Ralph Gore Trophy for Fireflies and Joe Yorke 11th in the Burton Trophy in his National 12. Thirty one races took place during the season and Team Racing against Banbury Sailing Club took place on a home and away basis. These fixtures were to continue for nearly twenty years. At last in the autumn of 1952 a 'pavilion' of approximately the size of our present O.O.D Box, was purchased at an 'advantageous price' and erected by members on the Club grounds. This was a great step forward, for at last the members had somewhere to change--there was an annexe added with an elsan closet. Our first Clubhouse!!!!. By the end of the year there were 90 members with 28 boats. At the AGM in January 1953 Dr. John Greene was appointed as Commodore, for the first term in that office A publicity office was first appointed

The main racing day continued to be Sunday but Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon sailing was included in the fixture list for the first time. Racing took place for the Lower Avon Navigation Trophy (LANT) at Pershore and Tewkesbury and we Took part in the Severn Motor Yacht Club (SWC) Regatta held on the river Severn below Mythe bridge. A team of three 12ft National Helmsmen represented the Club at the Yachting World Team Trophy held in Poole. A special race was held on Coronation Day 2nd June, 1 953.

It was becoming obvious that the Club was outgrowing the present site at Tewkesbury. Difficulty was being experienced with the parking of cars and with the shortage of boat parking space. The launching of boats and proceeding to the main stream was inconvenient. Two alternatives were apparent, either the restriction of Membership which would be against the Club's interests or the finding of another site where the Club could continue to grow. One of the Members then approached the Commodore with the offer of a site at Twyning with a suitable building for a Clubhouse and an orchard for use as a dinghy park. This was adjoining the Fleet Inn on land owned by Cheltenham & Hereford Brewery co ltd. There were some long Committee Meetings followed by the First Extraordinary General Meeting of the Club in August at which it was decided unanimously and with general acclamation that the Club should move to the Twyning Fleet site. Our tenancy started on 25th December 1953. Thus began the second chapter in the life of the Club, a crucial era for during the six years the Club was at Twyning the Club virtually doubled in size. When we moved to Twyning there were 46 boats and 140 members but at the end of 1959 there were 80 boats (and a 'Waiting List') And 250 members.

The Move - Twyining to Chaceley Stock

At the AGM in January 1960 it was announced that after protracted negotiations the club had purchased land at Chaceley Stock for the new headquarters. At this time the club membership was standing at 300 and the existing site was proving crowded, with the increasing pleasure traffic on the River Avon racing was becoming difficult. The members clubbed together to purchase the grounds at Chaceley Stock (part of which was a gravel pit). The river authority very kindly filled in the pit with river silt to produce a usable site, but it was a few years before a club house could be built. The facilities were very BASIC changing in a car and no toilets were the order of the day.

The Club House

The club house designed by Dick Rainger was financing of the club house was by "Labeled Debentures" i.e. members lent the club money, these were promptly repaid, annually, the order being determined by ballot. The club was built and opened in 1961 by Joan Green, Over the following years the veranda was extended to provide extra space and viewing for the very competitive races. The design proved popular and was used when the Severn Sailing club (Now located on the river Avon) required a club house. The club house is used for most club social events, and can be used for personal events with special permission from the committee.

The Hey Days

The club has a reputation for producing excellent racers over the years even to the point where members attended the 24hr racing in Lancashire for several years in the eighties. During the sixties and seventies several members who attended the National Championships for Merlin Rockets, caused the National Championship rules to be changed. During the many successful years of the club, many events occurred, and i attempt to reproduce a few here Some members went to the national 12 and Merlin rocket National Championship for many years and the club routinely sent teams to the classes team championships, Phill Rowley won the national 12 lady helmsman cup at least once and probably more often The Merlin Rocket team produce two chairmen of the National Merlin Rocket Class associations the team also won the championship in 1970, there efforts caused the RYA racing rules to be amended The Nationals won the 12's team championship in 1961 and were runners up in 1968

Some of our members who learned to sail at Avon went on to greater achievements, perhaps the most distinguished being Joe Richards who learned to sail at Avon with his family and became a National 12 Burton Cup winner, Olympic Bronze medallist in the Flying Dutchmen (YES OLYMPIC), first in the fastnet race and now among the leading professional yacht designer and sailor... So learning at Avon can't be bad

History by A.J. Rayer (Honary Life Member) 20th April, 1999

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