Unravelling the history of the Exe Sailing Club in Exmouth

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 January 2018

The Exe Sailing Clubhouse at No 22 Shelly Road, circa 1930s. Picture: Contributed.

The Exe Sailing Clubhouse at No 22 Shelly Road, circa 1930s. Picture: Contributed.

Archant

A new book – tracing the early history of the Exe Sailing Club in Exmouth – has just been published.

Exmouth Yacht Club yachts, ca 1900. Picture: Contributed. Exmouth Yacht Club yachts, ca 1900. Picture: Contributed.

Entitled A History of Exe Sailing Club – The First 40 Years 1912 – 1952, the 48-page book does just that.

It’s been written by John Fletcher, 83, from Exmouth, who has long-standing family connections with the club, going back to its earliest days.

His grandfather and great uncle both sailed for the club in the 1920s, while his uncle raced in the mid-1930s. John was brought up in and around small boats and three local boatyards in Exmouth’s dock area, and in company with many contemporaries at the club, began sailing in family boats from an early age. A keen racer, he retired from sailing in 2010.

“Dave Preston, the immediate past Commodore, realised during his term of office that the club had a large collection of records and documents which had never been properly archived and were in danger of being lost,” said John.

A Utility, National 12s and International 14s with the clubhouse on the left, 1937. Picture: Contributed. A Utility, National 12s and International 14s with the clubhouse on the left, 1937. Picture: Contributed.

“The history of the club is little known, even by members, so Dave decided to set about getting it recorded in a simple, readable form while some of the older members were still alive to contribute.

“The present book records the early years of the club and is the start of a long-term project. Fortunately, there is a wealth of talent among members to continue this ongoing work.”

The Exe Sailing Club is one of the oldest sailing clubs in the area, with its roots in the former Exmouth Yacht Club, founded in 1889, who were the builders of the present Harbour View café and National Coastwatch Tower as its clubhouse in 1895.

Following the demise of the Exmouth Yacht Club, the club in its present form dates from 1912. Initially called the Checkstone Sailing Club, it changed its name to the Exe Sailing Club in 1924. It has a long and illustrious history, producing national champions, world champions and Olympians in many sailing disciplines, as well as round the world cruising yachtsmen and women.

Howard Williams sailing Blackstar in front of Belsher’s and Sharp’s Bungalows, ca 1946. Picture: Contributed. Howard Williams sailing Blackstar in front of Belsher’s and Sharp’s Bungalows, ca 1946. Picture: Contributed.

“The starting point for the book was 45 pages of typed notes entitled ‘A history of the club, 1896 to 1946’, written by two past Commodores, which had lain dormant for many years,” said John.

“The Exmouth Journal was frequently quoted, local newspaper reporting being more detailed in former times.

“In addition to the club’s own records, many other sources were readily made available, including family records and photograph albums of members and the descendants of members now deceased. Local historian Ian Cann and the Exmouth Library reference section were also useful sources, in addition to the records of relevant sailing dinghy class associations.

“Reminiscences of older members and voice recordings of long deceased members describing their sailing experiences lent colour to the written records.”

A History of Exe Sailing Club - The First 40 Years 1912-1952 has just been published. More volumes will follow. Picture: Contributed. A History of Exe Sailing Club - The First 40 Years 1912-1952 has just been published. More volumes will follow. Picture: Contributed.

The book – which includes a wealth of contemporary pictures – sets out a comprehensive review of what sailing on the Exe was like, from the late 19th century up until the early post World War Two years.

“The many evolutionary changes over that period were but a prelude to the unprecedented growth of sailing across the country and the revolutionary changes that the club would undergo in the following years,” said John.

More volumes of the club’s history – ‘covering all aspects of the long and surprisingly varied activities of the club and its many members over the years’ – are expected to follow.

A History of Exe Sailing Club – The First 40 Years 1912 – 1952, costs £4 and is available from Peter Dixon Chandlery at 1 Pilot Wharf, Pierhead, Exmouth EX8 1XA (01395 273248). All profits to RNLI.

More details about the Exe Sailing Club: exe-sailing-club.org

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