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.