CHAPTER 9 – The Falcons 1927

The One-design Project

On September 2nd, 1926 the committee met to consider a motion tabled jointly by Capt. Hamblin and Mr. Pitcher ‘that the club should lay down two or more boats of a one-design class, for sale to members [and others] on any reasonable terms of payment. If built locally, the builder should be restricted to build no further boats on spec. for two years or until the first batch were disposed of.’ The Vice-Commodore [Mr. Pitcher] ‘spoke at some length on the suggestion,’ and after discussion he proposed and Hon. Treasurer [Capt. Hamblin] seconded that the principle contained in his suggestion be adopted and that the necessary financial backing be provided by the club. The motion was carried unanimously.

Mr. Bussell’s Blueprint

First Falcons awaiting the lauching ceremony in Mr Bussell's yard 1927

First Falcons awaiting the lauching ceremony in Mr Bussell’s yard 1927

The sub-committee appointed to carry out this resolution consisted of the two protagonists and Mr. J. Taylor. Their first step was, naturally, to consult Mr. Bussell, who, in turn, lost no time in producing plans [if indeed they were not already up his sleeve]. Three weeks later [Sept. 24th] a set of blueprints for a projected one-design sailing dinghy was exhibited on the club room walls, and these received special mention at the annual dinner a month later [Oct. 23rd] by the Commodore who is reported to have said:-

‘The committee has long been of the opinion that a one-design class was essential, but until quite recently they had not felt that they were in a position to back the project in the way they would like. They were agreed that the time had now arrived when the question must be faced … and as a result Mr. Bussell had designed a boat which in their opinion fulfilled local requirements, viz. a fairly speedy boat 16ft. long and possessing a modem yet moderate sail plan of the familiar Bermuda type. It was fully realized that owners required a boat which, when not racing, possessed qualities of a robust enough nature to render her suitable for ordinary cruising needs.’

Adoption of Local Class

The club was now able to ‘back the project’ to the tune of £120 and it only remained for the committee to make sure that the design on view was popular enough to justify their embarking on production. This far-reaching decision did not remain long in doubt and, at a committee meeting on the evening of Armistice Day, 1926, Mr. Pitcher proposed ‘the formal adoption by the club of the one-design class and specification according to the boat now built by Mr. W. L. Bussell; and that the class be called the Weymouth Falcons,’seconded by Col. Saunders and carried.

Orders Come In

Launch of the first Falcon, 'Sparrowhawk', with the owner,  Dr Llewellyn Pridham on board and  Mr Bussell, the designer and builder supervising, 1927

Launch of the first Falcon, ‘Sparrowhawk’, with the owner, Dr Llewellyn Pridham on board and Mr Bussell, the designer and builder supervising, 1927

Mr. Bussell had evidently chanced his arm by building the prototype model [‘Sparrowhawk’] as soon as the plans were out. and this act of faith was now justified by an order from the club, on Nov.25th, for four Falcons at a price of £40 each. The committee at first limited club expenditure on Falcons to £60, but as soon as orders started coming in they decided [Dec. 7th] to go the whole hog and raised the limit to the sky of the club’s resources, £135, at the same time asking Mr. Ridge to draw up a hire-purchase agreement. The next two orders came from Syndicates, the Commodore’s [Meek, Barnes and Mountain] and Vice-Commodore’s [Pitcher, Ridge, Gallop and Webb], both on hire-purchase terms. Two extra boats were accordingly ordered by the club, which undertook to pay £20 down on delivery of each, with the remaining £20 each in one year’s time; and on Jan. 7th 1927, Mr.Bussell undertook to produce five Falcons by the first week in May.

On this date also the committee approved a draft hire-purchase agreement drawn up by Mr. Ridge, who was co-opted onto the Falcon sub-committee.

The Committee’s Report

The next mention of Falcon progress occurs in the ‘Committee’s report’ on the balance sheet leaflet issued for the first time at the AG.M. on April 2nd. Here we read: ‘Falcon One-Design Class: In view of the continued prosperity of the club, the committee has at length decided to embark on a scheme which has been under discussion for several years. This decision has been amply justified by the enthusiastic manner in which it has been received. No fewer than six boats have been ordered, the names and owners being as follows:-

No 1 Sparrowhawk Dr. H . Ll. Pridham.
No 2 Osprey Mr. W. L. Bussell.
No 3 Merlin Mr. F. W. Bratby
No 4 Kestrel Commodore’s syndicate
No 5 Kite Mr. Gallop’s syndicate
No 6 Buzzard Lt.Cmdr. Burton, R.N.

This leaflet also supplies some interesting information about the club’s winter activities, notably [1] that nine lectures were held, including ‘Criminology’ by Mr. Ridge, ‘The Truth About China’ by Dr. Ll. Pridham, and ‘Early Aviation on the Coast of Palestine’ by Capt. Chris. Smith and [2] that Capt. Hamblin started the idea of club suppers by inviting members to sup with him one evening in the club-room. ‘This innovation proved so popular that it was followed by two further suppers, the committee being hosts on the first occasion, and the members returning the compliment on the second.’

The balance sheet showed £138 in hand, and in this connection the meeting approved a new rule, 5A, vesting the affairs of the club in two trustees, Mr. Hownam Meek and Capt. Hamblin ‘with powers to invest money and adopt such measures as shall appear to them necessary in the interests of the club, subject to the approval of the committee.’

The officers of the club were all re-elected. the only change being that Mr. Pitcher, declining to stand again as flag officer, was elected Treasurer, thus exchanging offices with Capt. Hamblin who became Vice-Commodore. Mr. Hownam Meek agreed with Mr. Pitcher that an infusion of new blood was a good thing and offered to stand down, but he was nevertheless re-elected for the seventh, and final time.
A scheme to enable boat owners to insure against damage or loss was put forward and accepted in principle, but a committee of investigation subsequently turned it down ‘on account of the large risk to which the club would be exposed financially’ and the idea was accordingly dropped. An alternative scheme to cover winter storage was recommended as being sufficient to satisfy members’ demands.

Plans for 1927

Referring to the coming season, the aforesaid committee’s report observes: ‘with the advent of the One-design class, the 1927 season promises to be one of considerable interest as, in addition to ordinary club races [Weds. and Sat. afternoons] it is proposed to organize a series of evening matches [for Falcons] when ‘in order to provide variety it is proposed to establish a fixed mark in Redcliff Bay and a second in Bowleaze Cove, giving a run out and a beat back, alternative to the usual triangular courses.’

Among new members elected this year were Lieut.Cmdr. Burton,
W. [Bill] Fisher, Cmdr. F. P. Saunders and a white haired Irishman named Michael Gallagher. Dr. Llewellyn Pridham at this time had the good fortune to acquire not only a Falcon but also a wife, and Mrs. Kitty Pridham became the club’s fourth lady member. The cadets were also augmented by Freda Bratby and Doreen Breach.

For starting purposes it had been the custom for some years to designate the classes A, B and C by the flags X, Y and Z respectively.

With the arrival of the new class it was now decided to incorporate C class with B, using the X flag, thus freed, to designate Falcons.

Falcon racing was regulated by a new Racing Rule 8, the stipulations of which included: no ballast, no spinnakers, crew not less than two or more than three, buoyancy tanks of 12 gallons minimum, anchor 12lbs. with 15ft. of approved rope.

The idea of distinguishing marks on Falcon sails seems to have been initiated by Mr. Gallop who embellished ‘Kite’s’ sail with a square. In 1928 Dr. Pridham followed suit by giving ‘Sparrowhawk’ the medical trade mark of a red cross, and other devices followed [‘Hobby’ – circle, ‘Osprey’ – triangle, ‘Merlin’ – X], to produce a feature unique to the Falcon class. Falcons were supplied complete with one suit of sails but anchor cable, topping lift and claw were 50s. extra making the inclusive price £42. 10s. This low cost was made possible by the elimination of decking and all superfluous frills, one of the objects of the design being to produce a boat within the reach of all pockets. The Falcon was, and still is [1955], the cheapest 0-D boat on the market.


Early Falcons racing 1928  (R to L, 'Hawk', 'Merlin', '?' and 'Peregrine'.

Early Falcons racing 1928 (R to L, Hawk, Merlin, ? and Peregrine.

The first five Falcons [‘Sparrowhawk’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Kite’ and ‘Buzzard’] were launched before an admiring crowd in May; and these boats, together with ‘Cuckoo’, made their first official appearance in the Bussell Cup match v. Lyme Regis on June 20th, when the home team [Hamblin, Burton and Pitcher] successfully defended the trophy by 25 points to 15. Bussell Cup matches were also held against West Bay and Parkstone with equal success, although a match against the officers of
H.M.S. ‘Revenge’ was lost by two points and friendly matches at Bridport and Lyme Regis were lost by six and sixteen points respectively.

The first challenge cup for Falcons was put up by Col. Saunders and was won by Lt. Cmdr. Burton in ‘Buzzard’ in the first official Falcon race, on Aug. 12th, 1927. A second Falcon cup put up by Mr. Hownam Meek was competed for in a series of Thursday evening races beginning on June 9th, and this was finally won by Mr. Gallop in ‘Kite’.

The Ladies’ Race, for which the Dorset Daily Echo now presented a perpetual challenge cup, was sailed in Falcons, in two heats of five, on Aug. 13th and was won in the final by Mrs. Saunderson in ‘Buzzard’. Mr. G. Stevens, editor of the Echo was elected an honorary member as a mark of appreciation of his interest in the Club.

The Cadets’ race was also sailed in Falcons, in three heats of three, on Sept. 3rd, and was won by Miss Breach.

Meanwhile competition in the A and B classes was so keen that ties occurred in no less than three cases – the Baldwin, Club and Franklin Smith Cup series. These ties were sailed off between the three pairs of skippers concerned in two Falcons – ‘Buzzard’ and ‘Kite’ – on Sept. 30th and were won in each case by the skipper who drew ‘Kite’, in three very exciting races which resulted as follows:-

Baldwin Cup: T. W. Graham beat T. R. Wakefield by seven seconds;

Franklin Smith Cup: A. H . Warren trounced Capt. Hamblin by five minutes;

Club Cup: S. G. Gallop beat Lt.Cmdr. Burton by 13 seconds; – there were evidently no weeds on ‘Kite’!

As a footnote to the season’s activities it is interesting to note that the headgear favoured by members for sailing was a stocking cap knitted in club colours – a fashion which lasted until the early thirties.

The Falcons Take their Bow

Commenting on the season’s activities in his speech after the annual dinner at the Gloucester Hotel, Mr. Hownam Meek said ‘the new Falcons had taken most of the limelight. They had proved a wonderful success; their speed and seaworthiness were remarkable and the Thursday evening races had been the most popular series of the season.’

The Mayor, Councillor P. J. A’Court, who presented the prizes, said that ‘he could not recollect any function in which he gave away so many prizes in one night’ – there were 15 cups, 9 replica cups and 31 spoons. He might have added ‘or listened to so many speeches’ since five toasts and seven responses, a total of twelve, are listed on the programme!

In proposing the vote of thanks to the Mayor, Capt. Hamblin pointed out the great advantages of Weymouth Bay for small boat sailing, saying that ‘races held in other places put a handicap on strangers owing to their lack of knowledge of tidal currents, etc.’ Mr. Mowlam, of Parkstone, referred to his early association with Franklin Smith ‘who was practically the founder of the Weymouth Sailing Club’ and added his tribute to the Falcons by saying ‘the club had taken the right step in instituting a one-design class.’

Thus the Falcons took their bow, the success of the new venture was sealed and another long-standing ambition had been fulfilled.

CHAPTER 10 – The ‘Varsity Year 1928

Club Moorings

The instant success of the Falcons and the prospect of more to come raised the vital question of extending the already congested club moorings. The Committee’s deliberations on this subject during the winter 1927-28 resulted in a bold application to the Harbour Committee for a group of seventeen berths opposite the Club-house in exchange for eleven existing club berths in the lower harbour, and this was followed up by Capt. [Councillor] Hamblin undertaking to interview the Town Clerk on the Club’s behalf. The result of his diplomacy was a letter from Capt. Cooke, the Harbour Master, on March 6th, ‘announcing that the Harbour Committee have approved the plan submitted to them in full.’ Capt. Cooke was thanked for helping to put the matter through, and the Club thus happily acquired a piece of the harbour right under its windows all to itself.

The next job was to procure and lay the necessary mooring tackle, including a considerable quantity of chain. For this the Committee accepted a tender from the Edison Steam Roller Co. for 280ft of chain [5cwt.] at 3d. per lb., and the responsibility of laying it was entrusted to a moorings committee consisting of Messrs. Bussell, Warren, Pitcher and R. C. Flisher. Finally Capt. Masters was elected at the A.G.M. to the new office of Berthing Master.

The X-Class

Smitten no doubt by the allure of one-design racing, certain senior members of the Club now turned their minds to initiating a class of larger O-D craft, and placed orders with Newman’s of Poole for yachts of the National X class, a deep-keeled 18ft Bermudan dayboat already popular with the Parkstone Sailing Club.

The arrivals of these smart little yachts, making the passage from Poole under sail [no engines were fitted], must have been a cause of great interest to club members in the early weeks of the season. The four boats constituting the class in its first season were Mr. Pitcher’s ‘Betty’, Mr. Graham’s ‘Ceyx’ [pronounced ‘Seeks’], Major Foster’s ‘Mersa’, and Capt. Brocklebank’s ‘Ariel’.

X-class racing started on July 11th and continued twice weekly in two series for cups put up respectively by Mr. Graham and Mr. McDwaine. A big thrill was provided for the cadets in August, when it was decided to let them sail their annual race for Capt. Hamblin’s Cup in the new class. This race was sailed in four heats by sixteen entrants, and was won by Capt. Brocklebank’s daughter in ‘Ariel’. T. Pitcher was disqualified.

Oxford and Cambridge Sailing Matches

Bright as was the spotlight on the X boats, it paled before the beam which now illuminated the Falcons, singling them out from all other one-designs [in the second season of their career] for two sporting events of national interest, to the lasting pride and credit of the Club. These were the Oxford v. Cambridge Inter-University Sailing Match, and the Cambridge University Cruising Club’s Marine Week, held successively at the end of June and beginning of July, 1928 and both sailed in four Falcons in Weymouth Bay. The ball was set rolling in February by a letter from the secretary of the Cambridge University Cruising Club [Hounsell-Damers] ‘concerning the proposed holding of the C.U.C.C.’s sailing matches at Weymouth, and the use of the Falcon boats.’ The owners of ‘Sparrowhawk’, ‘Kestrel’, ‘Buzzard’ and ‘Kite’ readily volunteering to lend their boats, a reply was made in the affirmative, and this gave rise to a further enquiry re the Oxford and Cambridge match. The second proposal being welcomed on the same terms, dates were fixed, the races were sailed under the burgee of the C.U.C.C. and the Falcons came through with flying colours.

The Inter-‘Varsity match was sailed off in six races in high winds on 29th and 30th June and was reported in a Cambridge paper as follows:- ‘The annual match with Oxford University Sailing Club was this year sailed at Weymouth in four boats of the Falcon class, 16ft. sloops, kindly lent by members of the Weymouth Sailing Club. The match has never been sailed so far west, but Weymouth Bay, beautiful and sheltered, is an ideal place for small boat sailing, and six races were sailed successfully on the last two days in June, when regattas all round our coasts were being held up by stress of weather, Cambridge winning decisively by 38½ points.’ Odd numbers raced against even with alternate change-over of teams, ‘but,’ says the report, ‘unfortunately No 1 [‘Sparrowhawk’] and No 6 [‘Buzzard’] were distinctly better than No 4 [‘Kestrel’] and No 5 [‘Kite’] and the even numbers rather better than the odd.’

In the third race ‘at the first buoy No 4 to avoid a collision with No 5, was driven on to No 1, and protest flags were soon flying … These protests might have resulted in both boats being disqualified, but at the last moment it was found that both were invalid, each protestant having failed to comply with the necessary conditions.’

The C.U.C.C.’s Marine Week which followed, put through a full programme in the same Falcons. Race A was won by No 6, and in race B No 6 was again leading at the end of the first round, when ‘rain began to fall heavily, and the other boats discovered reasons for retiring.’ As no 6 [‘Buzzard’] won every race she entered she was later left out. On the Thursday evening ‘a match was sailed with the Weymouth Sailing Club which the latter won easily.’ On the last day, after five heats and two semi-finals in which No 1 proved slightly faster than No 6, ‘the final should have produced a fine race, but unfortunately No 1 was over the line at the start, thus losing one minute. After three rounds No 6 won by 25 seconds, a happy close to a successful season.’ In the evening a well-attended dinner was held at the Victoria Hotel, at which officers and several members of the Weymouth Sailing Club were present.

The Committee’s report on this week, on the A.G.M . balance sheet, ended thus: ‘An outstanding feature of these matches, was the seaworthiness of the Falcons, which received an intense gruelling under the hands of the enthusiastic contestants.’

A New Commodore

H G Pitcher (Commodore 1928 - 29) in Windflower 1922

H G Pitcher (Commodore 1928 – 29) in ‘Windflower’ 1922

This year also marks the retirement from flag office of Mr. Hownam Meek, after a tenure of seven formative and eventful years. In proposing a vote of thanks [at the A.G.M. on 3rd. April] Mr. H. G. Pitcher, the new Commodore-elect referred to ‘all the unselfish work Mr. Hownam Meek had done on their behalf, and to the undoubted success of the Club due to his untiring and unremitting attention.’

Other officers elected at this meeting were Capt. Hamblin, Vice-Commodore, and Mr. S. J. Gallop, Hon. Treasurer. A vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. A. E. Clayton for auditing the books in an honorary capacity for the past four years, and he was now elected Club Auditor at a fee of £2. 2s. annually.

Club Racing

For signalling purposes the X code flag [recently allocated to Falcons] was now wanted for the new X class, and this led to a revision of class names to bring them into line with their flags. Thus C class [re-instated with five boats] became Y class, B class [ten boats] became W class and A class [five boats] became Z class, the Falcons being designated by the F code flag.

Two new Falcons were launched this season [1928], ‘Hobby’ [No 7] for Messrs. Pitcher, Wallace and Brown, and ‘Osprey’ [No 2], the last of the original order which the club sold to Mr. Bill Flisher in part exchange for his W class boat ‘Sonia’. Both these boats took part in the Bussell Cup races v. Lyme Regis, Parkstone and Bridport, each of which the Club won by a rather narrow margin.

Y class was allocated a new series race cup presented to the Club by Messrs. John Groves & Sons, and the fixture list waxed full. In addition to the numerous series races for the Club’s five classes and the matches afore-mentioned, racing events included Town and R.D.Y.C. Regattas, the ladies’ race [won by Mrs. Gallop in ‘Kite’] and an all-in handicap long-course single-banded race which was won by Capt. Brocklebank in ‘Ariel’.

The Committee’s Report referred to ‘keen sailing in inter-port racing, the Club retaining the Bussell Cup against the challenges of West Bay, Parkstone and Lyme Regis.’ Also the ‘Falcon O.D. class, as anticipated, provided the best sport of the season. Mr. Bussell, the designer and builder is to be congratulated on evolving a type of boat both seaworthy and dry, and capable of a good turn of speed.’

Torpedoing of ‘Merlin’

A sombre note was sounded early in this season by a regrettable mishap. Early in June Mr. Bratby, who had been forbidden to race by his doctor, was out sailing his Falcon [‘Merlin’] with his daughter Freda [now Mrs. D. Jacobs] at the helm, when a runaway torpedo from Whitehead’s firing range suddenly surfaced under his bows lifting them out of the water, swamping the boat with backwash, and staving in two planks near the waterline. A Torpedo Recovery Vessel soon took them in tow, and Mrs. Jacobs says she was none the worse for her experience, but her father, being for’ard at the time of impact, sustained a severe nervous shock, and never sailed again. The Committee wrote him a letter of sympathy, and took up the question of adequate warning signals with Whitehead’s, to prevent recurrences of the accident.

‘Buzzard’s’ Secret

The secret of ‘Buzzard’s’ success in the ‘Varsity matches and elsewhere came literally to light when she was lifted out and turned over at the end of the season, disclosing under-water planking with beautifully rounded edges. Taxed with effecting this unorthodox refinement Lt.Cmdr. Burton admitted responsibility and offered to make amends by [a] bearing the cost of similar treatment to all other Falcons, or [b] withdrawing the boat from all future racing. Declining both these offers the Committee decided to penalise the culprit by asking Mr. Bussell to cut a six-inch strip off the foot of his mainsail. This was not done, however, because in the following season Lt.Cmdr. Burton withdrew the boat from racing [alternative b], and bought ‘Sparrowhawk’ from Dr. Llewellyn Pridharn, who was now reluctantly obliged to abandon sailing through ill health. This incident had a sequel the following autumn [November 1929] when the Committee, at the recommendation of a Falcon-owners meeting, finally ruled that ‘Buzzard’ be allowed to sail in F class without penalty; the other members of the class to be allowed to make the same alterations to the edges of the planking. So far as is known no Falcon owner took advantage of this concession, and in 1932 the practice was finally forbidden.

Extension of Premises

Membership having now risen to 150, some addition to the two small upstairs rooms constituting the Club-house was becoming a pressing necessity. The downstairs rooms were still nominally requisitioned by the War Department, and the Committee [at the instigation of the House Committee] now asked Mr. Bussell to expedite their vacation by the end of the year, and to grant the Club a lease for the whole of the premises, subject to agreement as to alterations. In this Mr. Bussell agreed for an extra annual rental of £10, and subject to Club members undertaking all necessary alterations themselves, except putting in the front window. These alterations were put in hand during the winter of 1928-1929, and are summarised in the Committee’s report at the A.G.M . of February 1929 as follows:-

‘Owing to the growth of the Club, and opportunity favouring, the lower floor of the Club has been taken over. When finished the front portion will form a Corrunittee Room and secretary’s office, and the rear portion a spacious changing room with a wash-basin and seat lockers. In the upstairs sitting room all lockers have been removed, and two large settees provided, greatly improving the comfort and accommodation. A very fine oak sideboard, once the property of his late Majesty King Edward VII, and installed in his yacht ‘Formosa’ has been very generously presented by G. Spooner Esq. It will be a great asset.’

A subscription list was opened to alleviate the Club’s expenses in these improvements, of which the cost to date was £64. The work involved must have provided plenty of winter occupation for Club members, and the new rooms they made were a valuable heritage to posterity.

To complete the story it is necessary to quote from the Committee’s report on the following year, 1929:-

‘The enlargement of the premises – thus leaving the upper room solely for recreation and the back one for use as a bar and kitchen – has more than justified the expense incurred. The removal of the bunks from the reading room has enormously increased its comfort, especially since a modern gas fire has been substituted for the ancient arrangement for burning coal. Great credit is due to those members who actually assisted in making the alterations, and to those who subscribed towards the cost enabling the improvements to be carried out without touching Club funds.’

CHAPTER 11 – The Parkstone Era 1929-34

The Phillipson Shield

Among the resolutions passed at the aforementioned A.G.M. was ‘a vote of thanks to Mr. Phillipson, Commodore of the Parkstone Sailing Club, for putting up a cup for the X-class for races between the Parkstone and Weymouth Clubs.’

This enterprising project, with its implication of weathering St. Alban’s Head, was calculated to stimulate interest in the seagoing as well as the racing qualities of a class common to the two neighbouring clubs, between whom cordial relations had grown up since the inception of the Bussell Cup races in 1926. The conditions laid down for the new contest were: ‘Tb be open to all X-class boats of the Parkstone and Weymouth Sailing Clubs; to be sailed for annually and alternately in Poole Harbour and Weymouth Bay; to become the property of any owner [of boat] winning three races.’

The Falcon Class 1932

The Falcon Class 1932

At a conference between representatives of the two clubs it was agreed to hold the first contest at Weymouth, and this was later made the focal point of an extensive five-day programme for the entertainment of the visiting club. This included a two-club X-class race in the ‘Town Regatta [nine entrants]; and official Dinner at the Burdon Hotel; a three-round match for the Phillipson Shield; the usual two-round match for the Busse1l Cup in Falcons; and finally a ‘straight’ X-class race to finish up.

The Phillipson Match resulted in the visitors ‘sailing away with their Commodore’s shield under their arms’ [to quote Mr. Pitcher], having won it by 44 points to 37 in three hard-fought rounds the last of which went to Weymouth by one point in a wind logged as ‘force 4-5.’ Mr. Phillipson, who himself sailed one of the three Parkstone X-boats, ‘Jewel’], referring to the race at our next annual dinner, said how glad he was that the first race for his trophy should have taken place in the open waters of Weymouth, and that personally he had never enjoyed a race more in his life.

For the next three seasons Parkstone successfully defended the Shield in their own tricky waters, their victories becoming increasingly decisive as the Weymouth X-class regrettably languished and dwindled until finally, in 1935, it vanished altogether. The last Phillipson Shield Match took place in 1933.

The decline of the X-class was probably due in some measure to the great financial depression of the early thirties and is summarized in the committee’s report for 1934 as follows:-

‘X-class has unfortunately almost disappeared. This is a matter for very great regret, as the X is a fine class of O.D. boat. The committee did everything possible to help the class but for various causes it dwindled until in 1934 there were only two boats left. As ‘Pixie’ has now been sold there is little chance of an X programme next season. The Commodore of the Parkstone S.C., however, has expressed a wish that competition for the Phillipson Shield shall still go on. His suggestion is that we should send a team to race at Parkstone in their X boats, in the same manner as … for the Bussell Cup.’ This offer was accepted but not fulfilled.

The Bussell Cup Lost and Re-gained

Turning to the great five-day Parkstone visit of 1929, the Bussell Cup match which followed the Phillipson races provided considerable excitement by ending in a draw. In the re-sail a week later the home team [Cmdr. Burton, S. G. Gallop and Bill Fisher] saved the situation with a win by 24 points to 18, and the other challengers [Lyme and Bridport] were similarly repulsed. But Parkstone were getting our measure: in the following year [1930] their match again produced a draw, and this time the re-sail resulted in the loss of the Cup by I5 points to 27.

Five years were to elapse before the precious trophy was recovered, and this entailed four Club visits to Parkstone S.C. for matches in their Dolphin O.D. boats in the fickle estuary waters. These visits, coupled with similar trips for the X-class matches, brought the two clubs into close contact, the resulting friendliness being epitomised by Capt. Mowlam at the 1931 Dinner when he ‘referred to some of the exciting events which had taken place between the Weymouth and Parkstone Sailing Clubs. The meetings between them were always eagerly awaited, and he endorsed the excellent feelings which existed between the two clubs.’
The ultimate recovery of the Cup in 1934 is described in the relevant committee’s report thus:-

‘The outstanding feature of the season’s racing was the return of the Bussell Cup. Our efforts to recover this during the past four years were unsuccessful and some of us had begun to despair. However, Cmdr. Burton, Mr. D. Pitcher and Mr. T. Pitcher did the trick.’

This must have been a very proud day for the club, for Cmdr. Burton, and – especially – for David and Tommy Pitcher both of whom had but recently graduated from the cadets.

‘Buzzard ‘s’ Exploit

Another interesting bit of rivalry arose from an argument between Mr. Pitcher and Capt.. Mowlam at the annual dinner of 1928. Mr. Pitcher maintained that a Falcon was better than a Dolphin any day, and to prove his point undertook to sail one round to Parkstone the following season and enter it in a Dolphin race.

This he duly did, with the aid of Mr. Charles Flisher, on June 6th, 1929. The boat selected was the peerless ‘Buzzard’, and the operation – planned with military thoroughness – included lifting the boat out for two days preparation and drying at Poole. For this purpose the voyagers were met on arrival by Messrs. Gallop and Bussell, who were to be skipper and mate in the race, and much tuning-up ensued. ‘Buzzard’ met her opponents in a high wind, with Mr. H. G. Pitcher as third man, and the result left no doubt as to Mr. Pitcher’s contentions, the Falcon sailing gaily through the entire fleet of Dolphins to win easily and thus vindicate the claims of the proud sponsor of her class.

At the next Annual Dinner [1929] Capt. Mowlam gracefully presented Mr. Gallop with a ‘handsome framed photograph’ in appreciation of this remarkable achievement.’

Change-Over races

The enlarged club premises combined with an unusually fine Summer to give fresh impetus to sailing in 1929, the membership rising from 145 to 163. Two more Falcons were launched, Col. Adam’s ‘Tiercel’ [No.8] and Mr. Pitcher’s ‘Peregrine’ [No.9]; and over a hundred races were organised, including a friendly match with the U.S. Training Ship ‘Arkansas’, a Ladies’ Race in X boats, and the club’s first change-over races. The X-class change-over race was for a cup put up by Capt. Brocklebank, and Lt.Cmdr. Burton provided a cup for the Falcon race. Neither of these were Challenge trophies, but the Falcon change-over race has remained a popular club feature ever since.

Also put up this year was Mr. Spooner’s trophy – a beautiful silver falcon – for the Falcon’s Long Distance race, the second edition of which is still competed for today.

The Mayoral Commodore

After two eventful years under the guidance of Mr. Pitcher the club began the ‘thirties with a re-constituted executive team, led by Engineer-Captain F. W. Hamblin R.N. [retd]. This dynamic gentleman had the unique distinction of combining the offices of Commodore and Mayor, being elected to the latter eminence in November, 1930, and re-elected the two following years.

The retiring Commodore, Mr. Pitcher was elected to the hitherto vacant office of Rear-Commodore – a precedent suggested by Mr. Bussell; while the office of Vice-Commodore was voted to Mr. Hownam Meek, who, during his two years out of office, had started the Castle Cove Sailing Club. Mr.Charles Flisher became Mr. Haines’ assistant secretary in place of Mr. Bames [retiring], and Mr. R. Wilkinson took over the treasurership when Mr. Gallop bid a reluctant farewell in April. The general committee [increased from six to nine] included Capt. Masters, Capt. Cooke and Messrs. Bussell, Ridge, Spooner; Faller; Barnes and Gallagher. All the officers and committee were re-elected the following year, and through their labours the club acquired two valuable additions – the Stone Pier Starting Base and the Ladies Changing Hut.

The New Starting Base

Club races had so far always been started from the end of the wooden pier, where the absence of any shelter from the elements made heavy demands upon the endurance and self-sacrifice of the Officers-of-the-day. One of the first jobs of the new committee was to approach the Town Council’s Harbour Committee and Borough Surveyor for permission to enclose a small area on the stone pier, with a view to erecting on it a sectional hut and two flagstaffs. Thanks to the good offices and influence of the Commodore, permission was readily forthcoming, and a special hut was purchased from Messrs. Betts & Co. The new starting hut, which was ready in time for the 1930 season, added greatly to the comfort of the shore parties and gave a less blanketed starting line, despite an enduring element of doubt as to how to cross it!
Other innovations were the employment of a paid Time-Keeper – Mr. Rudd – at 2s-6d per racing day, and the purchase of a pair of cannon, subscribed to by Major Haines, Mr. Haines [Hon. Secretary], the Commodore and Mr. Byles. The design of the mark buoys was also improved, the word ‘Chemmers’ entered the club’s vocabulary to denote the permanent mark now laid by the seine-net fishermen, or chemmers, as the northern limit of the sandy bottom suitable for their nets. The Brunswick mark was introduced the following year [’31] to provide an inshore [D] course for the new Monday night Falcon races. From this period also dates the two-gun abandonment signal. the red and green course direction flags [in lieu of the black baIl], and the flag-pole in the club-house window.

Motor-boat Races

One of the first races to be regulated from the new base reflects the engineering proclivities of the new Commodore, but it must have caused some head-shaking among the die-hards when it became known that the club was to sponsor races for Power Craft! Records on the subject are few and bashful but it appears that three of these marine juggernauts were timed twice round a club course on June 6th ‘in a light wind.’ This breach of taste was followed by a series of races for ‘speed boats’ in June and August; but, although a cup was offered for ‘a motor boat section’ the next season, the sacrilegious idea did not catch on.

The Ladies’ Changing-Hut

Although the membership list included an increasing number of ladies, the club-house was, by an unwritten law, still reserved exclusively for men. This tendency to regard the ladies as a decorative appendage was all very well in the days when they wore trailing skirts and were vouchsafed one indulgent race a year; but when their emancipation led to a serious interest in sailing and the wearing of slacks, there arose an urgent [not to say embarrassing] need for a suitable changing room.

Members laying the foundations for the first Ladies changing Room (The Hen House) 1931 - 32

Members laying the foundations for the first Ladies changing Room (The Hen House) 1931 – 32

The voicing of this need at the A.G.M. of 1931 led to plans for an extension being drawn up by Mr. Warren [the club architect]; but in view of the cost and ‘the unsettled financial state of the country,’ no further action was taken until the following winter when ‘the financial state of the country and the club giving no immediate cause for alarm’ the new extensions [ changing hut and modem conveniences] were carried out ‘by direct labour under the supervision of Major McSweeney’ in time for the 1932 season, which opened under the aegis of a new Commodore, Mr. G. T. Ridge.

The acquisition of their ‘Hen House’ gave the ladies a new zest for sailing, with a marked rise in their membership and record entries in the two Lady Members’ Races, as well as much crewing in ordinary events.

Lady members were in fact, becoming an integral part of the club, and at the end of the season Capt. Hamblin suggested that the time had come to admit them to the club’s annual dinners. This controversial suggestion was shelved until the A.G.M. of 1933 when it was raised as a proposition from the chair, supported and opposed by impassioned speeches, and lost by 32 votes to 12.

Falcon Migrations

The decline of the X class was offset by a steady increase in the number of Falcons, which rose to 13 in 1931 with the addition of ‘Faller’ [A.J. Faller], ‘Glebe’ [M. J. Gallagher], ‘Hawk’ [R. C. Flisher] and ‘Harrier’ [Cmdr. Saunders]; to 17 in 1932 with ‘Honeybuzzard’ [Capt. Stayner], ‘Goshawk’ [Major Peel-Yates] ‘Eagle’ [G. T. Ridge] and ‘Aquila’ [H. W. Pangbourne]; and to 20 in 1933 with ‘Katabella’ [G. R. Pocock], ‘Windhover’ [Cole & McKissick] and ‘Erne’ [Dr. W. G. Gallagher].

The sails of these boats all upheld the tradition of distinctive devices, and bore recall numbers in order from 10 to 21, omitting the unlucky 13. It will be observed that Mr. Faller named his boat after himself. This was an inversion of the then current club practice whereby owners were nicknamed after their boats. A survival of this custom derives from the fact that the present Hon. Secretary’s first boat was called ‘Kaista’ – the only name to stick.

In 1934 three of the first flight of Falcons – ‘Kestrel’, ‘Kite’ and ‘Buzzard’ were sold out of the Club. ‘Kestrel’ [with a bright blue hull] only went round the corner to Castle Cove, whence she raced in the Y class with a slightly altered rig, ultimately returning to the fold [or eyrie] in 1946 under the ownership of Dr. Llewellyn Pridham’s daughter Diana [now Mrs.Jolm Robb] who embellished her sail with an eagle’s head. ‘Kite’ went to Poole; and ‘Buzzard’ went to Bridport, finally finding her way to the Channel Islands [St. Helier Yacht Club] where, with a half-deck and altered sail plan, she became the first of the Channel Islands Restricted Class, to which several of her sisters have subsequently gravitated.

‘Honeybuzzard’ followed ‘Kite’ to Poole the same year, and remained there until the resumption of sailing in 1946 when Dr. Ricks and Mr. Sansom reinstated her under the name of ‘Merlin’ [11], rechristened to distinguish her from Mr. Charles Flisher’s new ‘Honeybuzzard’ [1938]. The original ‘Merlin’ had just gone west with Mrs. Cloudsley-Smith, who sold her to Jersey in 1946. The new ‘Merlin’ retained her old recall number [15] however, although it had been taken in the interim by a new ‘Buzzard’ [1935], so that since the War there have been two 15’s in the class.

The practice of taking up back numbers for sails, very prevalent at this time, destroys their value in indicating the age of the boats concerned and is therefore deprecated.

Team racing

The 16 Falcons of 1932 were divided into two sections for their Monday night races, A section for the Saunders Cup and B section for a cup presented this year by Mrs. A. F. Masters. This season also saw the introduction of Team Races with two cups for inter-class teams:- Col. Boulton’s Cup for the X class v. Falcons in Falcons, and Mr. Maudsley’s Cup for X class v. Falcons in X class.

The 20 Falcons of 1933 sailed in two sections on Wednesdays as well as Mondays, and were further divided into four groups for a series of three change-over Team Matches, with a prize to each of the winning skippers of one of the newly introduced club neckties. These Falcon team races, regulated by a set of seven rules, became a regular part of the club’s programme and bore fruit the following year in the recapture of the Bussell Cup, as already described.

Death of Mr. Haines

The annual report on the balance sheet for 1933 opens with these words: ‘The committee regret to record the death on 23rd Jan. 1933, of Mr. Charles E. Haines, Hon. Secretary since April. 1924, during which time he has discharged the duties of his office with great keenness and efficiency; while his tact and ready wit endeared him to all who were fortunate enough to be associated with him in the management of the club.’

Mr: Haines’ record of nine busy and fruitful years is a fine example of devotion to the club. He had been in poor health for some time, during which his work was done by Mr. Bames and latterly by Mr. Charles Flisher. His office was now taken over by Major Griffin with two assistants – Lt.Cmdr. Burton and Lieut. [now Capt.] Knight, R.E., elected at the A.G.M.

Mr. Ridge – the solicitor-Commodore – was elected to a second year of office, with Mr. R. Wilkinson Vice-Commodore. The new committee included two promising new club members, Messrs. G. Cox and H. W. Pangbourne, both destined for flag rank in the near future. Mr. H. G. Pitcher – the banker-treasurer – was re-elected to an office which he was to hold for seven years [1932-9].

The Phillipson Cup

The main event of 1933 was the introduction of the end-of-season handicap race for the newly acquired Phillipson Cup. On this first occasion, Sept. 23rd, 1933, it was sailed in two sections:- A, Falcons; and B, all other classes. The presentation of this cup by the Parkstone Commodore provided yet another link between the two clubs, and this all-in ‘grand finale’ race has since become one of our enduring traditions.
Other matters of note were the employment of Mr. Arundel as official timekeeper; and the construction of a pontoon raft at the foot of the quay-wall opposite the main club-moorings. This raft survived until quite recently, but in its latter years its failing buoyancy became a source of peril, especially under the club’s more corpulent members.

The Prizegiving Tea

The Commodore for 1934 was Mr. Reginald Wilkinson, a young bachelor solicitor with conservative views, particularly in regard to the presence of women at the annual dinner, the vexed question of which again arose at the A.G.M. of this year. This time the ‘stag’ majority fell to the perilous margin of two votes, and when it came to the point the issue was tactfully evaded by the compromise of a Prizegiving Tea at the Clinton restaurant, to which the ladies were admitted without loss of face to the die-hards. The function was not a success, but the break with tradition was a moral victory to the fair sex and provided the necessary transition to the now highly popular Dinner and Dance which started the following year.

Sailing events this sunny summer included the timing-in of the Island Sailing Club’s Cowes-to-Weymouth race, and a promising new contact in the form of a friendly match with the Christchurch Sailing Club. The meeting with this club made such a good impression that they were invited to enter for future Bussell Cup Matches which would now once more be sailed in Weymouth Bay, thanks to Lt.Cmdr. Burton and the brothers Pitcher whose final victory over Parkstone made 1934 a red letter year and began another chapter in the club’s history.

CHAPTER 12 – The Big Room

The New Secretary

In the Autumn of 1934 Major Griffin was transferred to Gosport and was therefore obliged to resign the secretaryship, which he had taken over on the death of Mr. Haines. As Capt. Knight, the assistant hon. secretary, did not see his way to handling the full duties, the committee asked Mr. Gallagher to take over until the end of the financial year. That was eighteen years ago, and Mr. G. has served the club faithfully in the same capacity until the present day.

Sparrowhawk visits the Shambles Lightship 1936

‘Sparrowhawk’ visits the Shambles Lightship 1936

Soon after the transfer of Major Griffin, the Club lost another valuable member in the departure of Cmdr. Burton, who sold ‘Sparrowhawk’ to Lieut. H. Mead and went to live in Devon. One of the new Hon. Secretary’s first duties was to write the commander a letter of appreciation for the very considerable work he had done for the club, which indeed owed much to his energy, enthusiasm and racing skill.

The Commodore for the next two years [1935-1937] was Mr. George Cox, under whose flag the club experienced a fresh wave of prosperity with new boats, new trophies and no less than eighty new members, a rate of expansion which called for a material enlargement of the club premises.

New Boats

Falcon Class in Town Regatta 1937

Falcon Class in Town Regatta 1937

Z class, augmented by the two X survivors, ‘Ceyx’ and ‘Pixie II’, had recently enlisted ‘Quest’ [Col. Adams] and ‘Felicity’ [E. L. Pope] and was now joined by ‘Ultimus’ [W Flower Symonds], bringing the total, with our old friends ‘Windflower’, ‘Idler’ and ‘Lapwing’, up to eight. Y class, gaining Mr. K. T. Moyes’ 12 footer ‘Gull’ and Dr. Gerrard Pearse’s ‘Antelope’, mustered 14 boats; and the Falcons gained four additions, bringing their total in 1935 up to 20.

The new Falcons were ‘Gyrfalcon’ [F. R. Hillier], ‘Lanner’ [Dr. Harvey], ‘Buzzard’ [11] [Vl L. Bussell], and ‘Hobby’ [11] [G. Cox], the latter being a replacement for the Commodore’s existing ‘Hobby’ which he sold to Bridport. A fifth boat was ordered for the club’s first lady Falcon-owner, Miss Diana Stone, and this was met by selling her Mr. Bussell’s newly built Falcon, whose sail Miss Stone embellished with the Arabic figure 4. In July 1935 a further order was met by selling the new ‘Buzzard’ to Mr. C. R. Wrey, and Mr. Bussell – still boat-less – finally supplied his want by importing the old-timer ‘Kite’ from Poole, in exchange for Capt. Stayner’s ‘Honeybuzzard’ whose sail number [15] was bestowed on the new ‘Buzzard’.

Glede and the Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert 1930

‘Glede’ and the Royal Yacht, ‘Victoria and Albert’, 1930

In 1936 Mr.Gallagher bought a new ‘Glede’, disposing of the original to Tynmouth, and Mr. H. G. Rose made his debut in ‘Tarse’.

New Trophies

In April 1935 a letter was received from the Whitehead Torpedo Co, offering a cup to be competed for by Falcons in the Town Regatta, and to become the property of the member winning it three years running in the same boat. The company also offered £25 in Regatta prize money to be divided between the club’s three classes. These generous offers were accepted with the club’s best thanks and the Commodore wrote a personal letter of thanks to Mr. J. P. Davison the managing director, who was invited to become an honorary member of the club.

This public spirited firm had put up a cup for X-class boats in the 1934 Regatta, and this had been won by ‘Minnikin’ of Parkstone. The present trophy was of truly noble proportions, standing some 3ft. high and lavishly decorated. It is now in the possession of Mr. David Pitcher, who pulled off the hat-trick in ‘Peregrine’ with the aid of the whites of several dozen eggs!

A similar condition was attached to the Spooner trophy and David Pitcher carried this off also with three successive Whitsun Long Distance Race wins. Mr. Spooner replaced the Silver Falcon with a new and similar one [1936] and Messrs. Whiteheads likewise replaced their giant cup with another of equally embarrassing proportions [1939].

In this year also the Falcon Friday Trophy – a Silver salver -was presented by Dr. W G. Gallagher, a new committee member and owner of Erne. A series of six races on Friday evenings was specified, to end by July 1st, and at Mr. Pitcher’s suggestion the venue was a new dog-leg course [C] round the Middle and Bincleaves buoys.

The first season’s result of this series gave credence to the nautical superstition about not sailing on Fridays, since only two of the nine dates allocated produced any result, and these were each determined on one round!

Lady members were given a series of three races, the prizes [for the first four places on aggregate points] being the Echo Cup, Col. Boulton’s Cup [originally for Falcons v. X-class] and cash prizes by Messrs. Ridge and Wilkiinson.

The Cadet’s races were run on similar lines.

Mr. T. W. Graham [whose ‘Ceyx’ now raced in Z class] offered a trophy for a projected series of Long Distance races for Z class on Sundays, but this the committee declined with regret ‘in view of the club’s accepted practice of not racing on Sundays.’

This being the Jubilee year of King George V, the season opened with a special all-in handicap ‘Jubilee Race’ for a prize provided by the club.


In order to deal with the flood of new members, special committee meetings were held every Saturday evening for the sole purpose of confirming the applications as they became due. Forty-eight new members were elected in 1935, as a result of which there was little more than standing room in the club on race nights, and when the autumn came the monthly suppers had to be limited to 30 through lack of space. In fact the club was once more getting too big for its boots, and something would have to be done.

Wemouth Sailing Club in 1936 after building the new clubroom. The left-thand end dates from 1830 and the Longshed from 1923

Wemouth Sailing Club in 1936 after building the new clubroom. The left-thand end dates from 1830 and the Longshed from 1923

In December the committee, deciding that a bold step was required, investigated the possibility of buying-in the club premises and the Long-Shed for which they offered Mr. Bussell £750. This offer was declined [the price asked was £900] but the benevolent landlord, after a conversation with Mr. S. Tewson [a committee member, architect and surveyor], suggested an alternative scheme. This was a plan for extending the club over the Long Shed, the cost of which Mr. Bussell undertook to bear himself conditional on an increase in rental of 6 per cent. on his capital expenditure.

This very co-operative offer was at once accepted and the position was put clearly to the A.G.M. in the committee’s report as follows:-

‘By reason of the growing membership of the club it has been thought advisable to increase the accommodation. It has been decided to extend over the adjoining building known as the Long Shed, in the form of one large room facing the harbour and three small rooms behind; forming bar, office and kitchen. The present bar will be converted into further accommodation for Lady Members, and the present office will be added to the Men’s Dressing Room.’

‘The extension will be covered by a flat roof from which a very fine view of races and surroundings can be obtained.’

A later resolution to the effect that, on completion of the extension., the existing club-room should be reserved for men, carries the implication that ladies were now admitted to the club premises without let or hindrance.

Building the new club room over the front of the longshed in 1936

Building the new club room over the front of the longshed in 1936

Building. to Mr. Tewson’s plans, proceeded throughout the early summer and in August the club took over the new premises for furnishing and decoration. Embellishments included charts and constructional models provided by Mr. Bussell and a board bearing the names of past Commodores [including the Franklin Club] presented by Mr. Pangbourne.

The official opening, on Oct 8th, 1936, was performed by the Mayor at a party with refreshments provided by the Commodore’s lady, Mrs.Cox, with the help of Mrs. Pangbourne and Mrs. Bennett,

This adoption by lady members of the role of hostesses began a tradition which revolutionized the organisation of social events such as inter-club races, and earned official commendation in the 1937 report thus:-

‘The lady members have helped greatly during the year. They were most useful as hostesses when other clubs visited us, and a number of them have done noble work in making cushions and mats. The Committee wish to thank these ladies.’ The delivery of this verbal bouquet may be regarded as the final recognition of ladies as potentially useful members of the club.

The Balance Sheet for 1936 showed that the committee’s faith in the club’s continued prosperity was well founded, their official comment being:-

‘The increase in receipts under all headings, due to the still rapidly increasing membership, has resulted in a gratifying surplus on the year’s working and indicates that there will be no question of raising member’s subscription to meet the additional expenses which will necessarily arise out of the extension of club premises.’

Special donations by members towards the furnishing fund totalled nearly £40, and House Committee sales showed an all-time record of £76-8s.

It needed a full working season to set the final seal of success to the venture, and this was recorded in the Report of the following year in these words: ‘1937 was the first complete sailing season since the premises were extended, and the result fully justifies the enterprise. The new rooms are found very useful and there is an excellent view from the roof.’

The old clubroom in 1936 - 73 looking East.

The old clubroom in 1936 looking East.

Feasts gastronomic and intellectual

The first annual Prizegiving Dinner and Dance was held in November, 1935, at the Burdon Hotel. It was a great success, but numbers had to be limited for this and the 1936 dance because only a small room was used, [the dining room]. In 1937 the annual report tells us ‘The Dinner and Dance was again highly successful: owing to using a larger room at the Hotel Burdon [the Hall], it was not necessary to limit numbers and the happy feeling which distinguishes the club generally was very apparent at the jolly affair on November 4th.’

‘Several members were unable to be present as the dance was not held in the week-end, and it is suggested that it be held on a Friday in 1938 instead of Thursday as heretofore.’ This was done, and the Sailing Club dance became a high-spot of the year.

Although the feminine element had now established itself in the club-house and at the Prizegivings, the men still retained a last stronghold in their Suppers. Held regularly on the second Thursday of each month throughout the winter season, their success was largely attributed to ‘the enormous work put in by Mr. Charles Flisher and the excellent cooking of Mrs. Skillman. ‘Favourite menus in those days of plenty included roast turkey, goose, duck and pork, pigeon pie, rabbit pie, jugged hare and ‘Frills’ or Weymouth Escallops boiled in milk.

In addition to the suppers there were ‘intellectual feasts’ – usually on the fourth Thursdays – in the form of talks by such authorities as Capt. Hamblin, Col. Sandes, and Messrs. H.A.G.Stevens, O.C.Vidler and A.M.Gill. The idea of combining the two types of feast is a post-war innovation.

One supper, held some years later, deserves mention because it commemorated a centenary. This took place in January 1939, and is recorded in the Annual Report of that year as follows:-

Supper 1939

Supper 1939

‘Members appreciate greatly the increased amenities made possible by the extension of the premises, but some … still have great affection for the old room, which was at one time Weymouth’s Custom House. On a window pane in this room a hundred years ago a loyal tide-waiter scratched with a diamond “God Save the Queen. E.Shearn T.W. 2/1/39.” The committee decided to dedicate the January supper to the commemoration of the centenary of this loyal sentiment and the idea – with other good things – ‘went down’ very well!

A contemporary letter from Comdr. Burton covering his subscription reads:- ‘I am very glad to see that the window pane had lasted out its century. I had always had a misgiving some ass would unstep his mast through it !’ The envisaged calamity is cleverly illustrated on the back of the letter.

CHAPTER 13 – The Indian Summer

Coronation Year

The death of King George V, the ‘sanctions’ of the Abbysinian War, and the abdication of Edward VIII, cast a slight gloom over the otherwise prosperous and happy middle ‘thirties; but with the coronation of King George VI in 1937, followed by a royal Review of the Fleet in Weymouth Bay in 1938, spirits rose to a new high level, and the club shared in a nation-wide Indian summer of peace and plenty before the onset of an undreamed-of winter.

On the continent of Europe events were already taking a turn for the worse, in fact Hitler and his Nazis were behaving so badly that ‘Aquila’ changed her swastika into a quartered square!

H W Pangbourne ('Pang'), Commodore 1937 -1949

H W Pangbourne (‘Pang’), Commodore 1937 -1949

‘Aquila’s’ owner, Mr.H.W.Pangbourne, had just been elected Commodore, an office he was to retain for the record if interrupted period of fourteen years. The only other changes in the administration were that Dr. Gallagher became Vice-Commodore and Mr. Harry Pratt was elected assistant Hon. Secretary with special duties connected with the bar.

One of the first duties of the new committee was to make arrangements for the festivities in connection with the Coronation on May 12th, 1937. Mr.F.R.Jakeman was put in charge of ‘illuminations’, and members were recommended to decorate their boats with ‘flaglets’, specimens of which were exhibited in the club. Materials for decorations were also lent by Mr. Bussell, and the club, in common with the rest of the community decked itself out in a blaze of fluttering colour.

On the afternoon of Coronation Day – a national holiday – the club opened its season with a Long-Distance Coronation Race, with £10 in prize-money subscribed by the Corporation and three Coronation medals provided by the club, one for each class.

One fine day in June Reginald Wilkinson sailed his Falcon ‘Tiercel’ over to Swanage where, receiving a favourable offer, he sold her on the beach and came home by train. A new ‘Tiercel’ was launched for him on his return, but the following year he bought the old one back again, selling his new acquisition to Major Stayner and Mr. Woodhouse, who re-christened it ‘Honeybuzzard’ [after their original boat which had gone to Poole in 1935], changing the sail mark [a sword] into an anchor.

The only other new Falcon launched this year was ‘Shaheen’ [Arabic for hawk] built for Mr.John Robb, a keen yachtsman from Belfast, as a present to his son John, then a cadet member. Mr. Robb took a great interest in club activities and now presented two cups for single-banded races, one for Falcons and one for Z class. A third cup was presented by Mr. Pratt for the Y c1ass August Bank-holiday race.

Falcon Fever

Tony Bennett and John Robb on Preston beach 1936

Tony Bennett and John Robb on Preston beach 1936

Falcon-racing enthusiasm at this time ran feverishly high and protests were an almost weekly occurrence. No race was missed that could humanly be sailed. and third men were shanghaied into service whenever the whitecaps foamed. David Pitcher in ‘Peregrine’ was the accepted ace, but ‘Hawk’ [Charles Flisher], ‘Hobby’ [Tony and John Bennett], ‘Buzzard’ [Billy Butler], ‘Tarse’ [G. H. Rose], ‘Eagle’ [M. T. Davey] and ‘Sparrowhawk’ [Bratby and Hayes] were usually in the forefront and rarely missed a race. No rain was too heavy, no fog too impenetrable and few winds too strong for these intrepid mariners. Small wonder if they sometimes capsized. as ‘Sparrowhawk’ and ‘Tiercel’ did in 1937, also ‘Erne’ and ‘Katabella’ in 1938.

The Monday A section series of 1937 resulted in a tie between ‘Peregrine’ and ‘Sparrowhawk’, the sail-off of which provided an exciting win for Reg Bratby [‘Sparrowhawk’] by eleven seconds, reminiscent of the Scrap-Wendy duel of 1921. Handicap racing paled before the incomparable thrills of one-design dinghy tactics, and the club made no apology for concentrating on its Falcon class.

Loss of the Bussell Cup

Inter-port matches against Lyme Regis, Bridport, Hamworthy, Parkstone and Christchurch again resulted favourably in 1937, the last named being sailed in a thunderstorm, to which two boats succumbed. In 1938, however, our old rival Parkstone captured the Cup once more, with a decisive 25 to 17 point win from a team composed of David Pitcher, Charles Flisher and Billy Butler. With a view to its early recovery, Mr. David Pitcher was appointed to the new office of Sailing Master with the duty of training the Bussell Cup team. But this was in 1939 under the shadow of Munich, and there were soon to be other more urgent calls for training.

Three Bereavements

Losses more personal and irrecoverable were suffered in the deaths of three staunch members in this period. Mr. John Robb, ‘a most popular member who did much useful work in the club during the past three years,’ died suddenly before he could see his new Cups awarded; and Mr.H.N.Byles, one of the founder members, passed away at the age of 70.

In the following year [1938] the annual report records:

‘The club suffered a great loss in the death of Mr. H. G. Pitcher who was a Founder Member of the club, Commodore for two years and Hon. Treasurer for eighteen [including the ’14-18 war]. The work he did for the club outside his official duties will never be realized except by a very few, and we greatly miss his presence and good fellowship. As a tribute to his memory his friends have subscribed to a Barograph which has been placed at the west end of the Common Room.’

Service Membership

Membership continued to rise steadily, topping the 300 mark in 1938 and extending portentously in 1939 to the inclusion of three Mess subscriptions, one for each of the fighting services – the Depot Dorset Regiment, H.M.S. Osprey, and Woodsford Bomber Command [RAF]. Only the new rooms made this influx possible, and the increased rental was thus more than justified.

Service members accounted for two of the four new Falcons launched in 1939, Capt. Hamblin’s son Bob [now Col. S.R.M.Hamblin], returning from India, named his Falcon ‘Chhil’, the Hindustani word for Kite, while Col. Bushell and Col. Sackville Hamilton jointly purchased Condor. The third was built for Drs. Gallagher and Whittaker with the Irish name of ‘Iolaire’ [‘Yoolery’]; and the fourth ‘Ringtail’, was ordered by Mr. Pratt for his wife, who sailed her for one last glorious season under the sign of the ace of spades. These were destined to be Mr. Bussell’s last Falcons and brought the firm’s total output up to 36, excluding a batch of four built for Jersey in 1938 with half-decks, short booms and 25ft. masts. Ten years were to elapse before any more were built, by which time Mr. Bussell had passed on, the firm being taken over by Mr. E. Wright, his boat builder since 1932.

Handicap Classes

Additions to Z class included the Meech family’s ‘Seaway’ [1937], ‘Viking’ [J.H.Bulkley] and ‘Faraway’ [Dr. Bulman] in 1938; and ‘Wenda’ [Maj. Peel Yates], ‘Uvadalia’ [Mrs. Udal], ‘Marie Celeste’ [C. K. Dowrnan], and ‘Saki’ [O. Walford, an ex-member] in 1939. Of the 20 listed boats only half a dozen entered for club races, with ‘Idler’, ‘Windflower’ and ‘Sibindi’ as the regular customers.

Most of the Y class boats owed first allegiance to the Castle Cove Sailing Club; and again only half a dozen of the 18 registered turned out for Weymouth races. In 1938 this class was extended to include the Island Class O-D dinghies of the newly formed branch of the Royal Naval Sailing Association.

The provision of moorings for the new club boats [as distinct from those moored in Castle Cove] presented quite a problem; but thanks to the strenuous labours of Mr. Pratt and the brothers Jakeman, none were ever turned away.

The Portland Races, initiated in 1922, had become a perennial feature, the now accepted custom being to sandwich them with Weymouth races on alternate Saturdays. A special time-keeper, Mr. Chas. Rose, was employed to start them from Castle Cove, quite independent of the local club. Since many of the Y and Z class boats were registered with both clubs however, it was agreed in 1938 that henceforward ‘on Saturdays all handicap boats of both clubs should race together and competitors who are members of both clubs should be considered as competing in two races.’ Thus the two clubs shared the organization of Saturday races, each being responsible for combined races in their own waters on alternate weeks. The Falcons sailed in both.

The outstanding event of 1938 – apart from the vast concourse of warships which assembled in the bay for the Royal Review on June 21st – was the holding at Weymouth of the Royal Thames Yacht Club Regatta. Turnouts were good [including 18 Falcons] but results were marred by lack of wind. The proposal to hold the Prince of Wales Cup 14ft. National Dinghy races at Weymouth this year did not materialize.

The Last Season

At the AG.M. of 1939 the office of Hon. Treasurer [taken on pro tem by W. G. Butler] was filled by Capt.F.W.Hamblin, and the committee again included Mr.J.P.Dunphy, whose many contributions to the club’s welfare now extended to making a new and better Brunswick Mark.

The transfer of the clubroom bar and the installation of a mahogany counter was effected at a cost of £20, and the games room [now ladies cloak-room] was redecorated. The clubroom was put at the disposal of the R.N. Volunteer Service Reserve for their weekly lectures.

Despite the appeasement policy of the government, the Navy was not unmindful of the trend of events in Germany, and an early danger-sign came in May with the closing of the Eastern Harbour Entrance by a boom.

This necessitated a change in the course of the Whitsun Long-distance Race, but apart from this inconvenience the season followed its familiar pattern undisturbed. A series of four Ladies races had fifteen competitors and was won by Mrs. David Pitcher.

In August more danger signs appeared in the form of practice blackouts, Air Raid Precautions and the calling-up of the reserves. Racing continued. On Sept.2nd the usual Saturday race was held in Portland Harbour. On Sunday, Sept. 3rd, Mr. Chamberlain announced that the country was at war.

The nation was transformed over-night. Emergency war regulations came into force, and all racing stopped abruptly. ‘There was a war on’ and several members joined their units at once. Happily the season was practically over; only the Cadets’ race and the Phillipson Cup were missed. The Dinner and Dance was also cancelled, but the prizes were awarded at a sherry party at the club on Nov. 18th.

The boredom of the Blackout and the uneventful ‘Phoney War’ of the first winter was relieved by a series of fortnightly suppers, each followed by a talk. At the request of many members ‘chiefly ladies,’ a dance was held at the Burdon on Leap-Year Day, Feb. 29th, 1940. Due to the exigencies of war and ‘flu the attendance was rather thin but everyone enjoyed themselves and the war seemed far away.

So far away that plans were put in hand for a limited racing season, permission being obtained from the Naval authorities to use D course. Accordingly, with the return of spring, eight Falcons and a few Y class boats took the water, complete with the prescribed port registration numbers in black and white on their bows, and enjoyed a little sailing in the small permitted area bounded by the anchorage of the Contraband Control Authority, where a varied collection of foreign merchant ships aroused their curiosity.


The Phoney War ended with Hitler’s invasion of Belgium on May 10th but, after the first shock there seemed no immediate cause for alarm, and the weather continued brilliantly fine; so on Saturday, May 18th the eight Falcons and ‘Tumblehome’ began a series of races [three a week:] on D course, the O.D. being Mr. Arundel and the timekeeper our old friend Mr. Wakefield.

Six of these races were held in May, despite the adverse criticism of patriotic landlubbers who deprecated such flagrant and public recreation when war work was the only justifiable occupation. One might play golf or even tennis in comparative privacy, but such open enjoyment as this sailing was considered to be very bad form.

The arrival of shiploads of refugees from the Channel Islands brought the war nearer home, and the races ended abruptly on Saturday, June 1st, when news came through of the Dunkirk evacuation with Mr. Churchill’s call for Little Ships.

Weymouth boats could hardly hope to get there in time to be any use, but if it had been Cherbourg we would have all gone like a shot.

The eight Falcon owners who now packed up ‘for the duration’ included Peter Rose [‘Hawk’], one of the four who came not back, to whose memory this chronicle is humbly dedicated.