CHAPTER 5 – 1920 The Weymouth Sailing Club

A New Name

There had been no election of officers at the previous A.G.M, but it was evident that Mr. Franklin Smith would have to be replaced as Commodore owing to his continued absence [he was now in Scotland running a paper-tube factory], and therefore the name ‘Franklin Sailing Club’ would be of historic value only. This lent force to the movement in favour of incorporating the word ‘Weymouth’ in the name, and at the A.G.M. of 24th April 1920 this change was quietly effected with universal approval, the name being changed to ‘The Weymouth Sailing Club.’

Col. Williams, who [as usual] took the chair, was elected the new Commodore, and ‘gave a short account of the history of the club, specially mentioning the desirability of  "Weymouth" being associated with the club’s name.’  Mr. Hownam Meek was elected Vice-Commodore, Mr. Pitcher was returned as Hon. Treasurer; and Mr. Wakefield was officially installed as Hon. Secretary.  A revised set of 14 rules was adopted and the annual
subscription for sailing members was raised to one guinea, that for non-sailing members being 10s-6d.

A Sailing Committee was appointed to draw up a programme with a recommendation for six races, and a cup for each of the three classes [A. B and C as before]. The new Commodore offered six silver spoons, one for the winner of each race in B class; and the opening cruise was fixed for Whit Monday, May 24th, ‘weather permitting’. Mr. Bussell undertook to provide a new set of mark buoys, and Capt. Cooke, the Harbour-master, offered a special flag ‘to be flown on the pier flagstaff in the event of a race being postponed.’  The new red and yellow club burgee was designed by Mr. Byles.


The re-named club embarked on its first full-fledged season with 20 boats on its register. Points for series races were awarded on the system of one for a first, two for a second, and so on; so that the winner of a series was the one with the lowest score for its best races [four out of six to count].

The time-honoured opening cruise [instituted by the Corinthians in 1902] was duly [and perhaps dutifully] observed on Whit Monday afternoon, by six boats only, practically all of which belonged to club officers. They were: Colleen, Reliance, Dolphin, Redwing, Jose and Bunty II; and Mr.Wakefield records that they ‘met at the pier in a gentle easterly breeze, and followed the Commodore [Colleen] to Greenhill, when the break-off was signalled.’

The first race had to be postponed on account of a strong S.E. wind, and was re-sailed a week later in such light airs that [in B class] only six out of eleven boats managed to struggle once round the course. Albatross, the only C boat out, also got round, but was disqualified for starting before the gun. After this race she was placed in class B [at scratch].

Mr. Wakefield’s Letter

On the subject of the second race the record is unusually laconic for reasons which appear later. It seems that on this occasion the B class race was won by Mr. Wakefield in Reliance, but that his victory was turned to ashes, either by tactless comment or his own thin skin, or a bit of both. In any case his pride was so wounded that he went home and wrote an unhappy letter to the Commodore, which is preserved in the minute book. It runs:- ‘Dear Commodore, I feel that, as you have made yourself the recipient of the anonymous complaints of those who are not sportsmen enough to accept the opinions of their own handicapping committee, without referring them to your secretary, you have placed me in an impossible position, from which I can only extricate myself by resignation, which course I now take with considerable regret. I have not written up the minutes of last night’s proceedings, as I have no desire that any show of bias or feeling on either side should be recorded. Naturally, as I have not the unanimous good wishes of my fellow-members with regard to my only success in boat racing, I renounce any prize that might otherwise have come my way.’

The trouble was evidently made up amicably, for at the next Committee meeting Mr. Byles records that ‘it was resolved that the Secretary’s letter be not read, as it had been caused by certain remarks as to handicaps which appeared to reflect upon Mr. Wakefield as winner of the last race. Mr. Wakefield now accepted the Commodore’s assurances that nothing personal was, or indeed could have been, intended, as Bunty was similarly favoured by the circumstances of the day; and on the motion of Mr. Bussell a resolution was unanimously passed thanking the Secretary for his past services, and requesting him to withdraw his resignation. This Mr. Wakefield had consented to do, but asked the Assistant Secretary [Mr. Byles] to carry on for a while, as his own movements were uncertain.’

Thus we see the dangers of unguarded criticism, and learn a lesson in the need for sporting acceptance of  official decisions.  Mr. Wakefield, though pacified, does not take up his secretarial pen until September, and the records in the meantime are entered by Mr. Byles, supplemented by several informative press cuttings.


At this time the Town Clerk approached the club with an invitation to co-operate in an endeavour to ‘revive the Town Regatta’; and the Royal Dorset Yacht Club offered a prize of £10 for a club race to be sailed over the R.D.Y.C. Regatta course. Both invitations were readily accepted.

The weather on the day appointed for the third club race turned so rough that the event was called off, and the mark buoys had to be ‘abandoned at sea’ only one being subsequently recovered. New mark buoys to an improved design were made by Mr. Hutchings, and Mr. Matthews [of the Cove Inn] thereafter took them out in his motor boat ‘in return for an occasional can of petrol.’

The third race was finally sailed a week later in much better weather; as the Weymouth Telegram’s report [erroneously headed ‘Franklin Sailing Club’] describes: ‘The third race of the Weymouth Sailing Club’s season …. took place on Wednesday under very pleasant conditions – bright sunshine, smooth sea and south-westerly breeze. The club course thus provided a run to the outer mark, a reach towards Preston beach, and a beat to windward back to the pierhead, twice round. It was emphatically a day for the small light-weather boats, and in class A Major Foster’s redwing Margot made a good fight with the much larger Saracen [Mr.A. D. Hownam Meek]; while in class B Mrs. MacKenzie-Grieve’s Kelpie, sailing for the first time since 1914, came in second out of eleven starters less than five minutes behind Mr. Pitcher’s Dolphin, who easily saved her time allowance and won the silver spoon given for each race by the Commodore [Lieut. Col. A. B. Williams].

With a good start, the B class were a pretty sight running together to the first mark, but on the next leg Dolphin gradually drew ahead and Kelpie caught and passed Hirondelle for second place. After the second mark the boats scattered all over the bay, according to widely differing opinions of their skippers as to the best way to tack. There was no race in C class, Mr. Tumer’s Kismet being the only starter. Mr. Wakefield’s Reliance did not finish.


The R.D.Y.C. Regatta is reported in three cuttings, two of which [in the Southern Times] are worthy of note:-‘The Royal Dorset Yacht Club Regatta gave that touch of distinction to the season which it has lacked for some years past, and the racing provided a fascinating spectacle to the crowds of people on the various coigns of vantage. The new stone pier was the favourite rendez-vous, and here the course of the yachts could be followed as easily as if one was at sea. It is a fine addition to the town’s assets and very popular with visitors who want to get the maximum of health-giving ozone. Naturally all eyes were turned on the old Britannia and her attendant destroyer. Her race from Cowes to Weymouth provided her with one of the smartest victories of the season, and His Majesty was very pleased at his yacht’s success. She has taken part in twenty three races, winning seven first prizes. There was some capital racing for the prizes offered to the Weymouth Sailing Club, but the town sadly missed the shore sports which used to be such a popular supplement to the Regatta. The war is over now, and it is time that the various clubs got back to the normal. The present stagnation is not creditable to a seaside resort.’

We are glad that the Sailing Club at least was exempt from the taunt of ‘stagnation’! Its exploits on this occasion are recorded in the second cutting:-‘The local sailing club is going very strong, and a turnout of fifteen small craft in the Bay was a sight for those who have been moaning and deploring the little interest which Weymouth people take in any form of sport.  Perhaps next season the officials will see to it that, following the Yacht Club’s days, the town has a Regatta of its own, and a Regatta worthy of the name.’  

So the Town Regatta evidently did not materialize this year.


The Club’s race had a sequel in a protest lodged by the Commodore [Colleen], against the victory of Jose [J. Miles] on the ground that ‘since the declaration of the handicaps she altered her sail area by bending a larger mainsail.’

After discussion, however, the protest [which ‘was made as a matter of principle with no wish to penalise the Jose‘] was dismissed on the ground that it was not made to the officer of the day at the close of the race. But, with a view to dealing with such cases in future, it was resolved ‘that any alteration in rig or sail area must be notified to the secretary in writing at least seven days before the race will take effect.’

Cup Winners

The sixth and last race of the series was sailed, the report tells us, ‘in continuous rain,’ but seven boats turned out to decide the issue of the Hambro Cup, and three ‘for the love of sport’ in C class.  B class had a good race, the first four finishing within two minutes. Dolphin, first as usual, was thus unable to shake off her handicap, but easily secured the Hambro Challenge Cup [given by Capt. Angus Hambro, M.P.] for the season, with two firsts, a second and a fourth in her four best races.’ In C class Kismet [E.S.Turner] easily won the Huxtable Rose Bowl, and Saracen took the Rink Cup after two extra duels with Margot to decide the issue.

The last scheduled race on the programme was the all-in-race for the Franklin Smith Cup [equivalent to our present Phillipson Cup Race], and here again we are indebted to the Weymouth Telegram [and Mr.Wakefield]: ‘The Weymouth Sailing Club completed their programme for the season with a combined race for the Challenge Cup presented by Mr. Franklin E. Smith, all boats except winners of class cups being eligible. Conditions were pleasant, the race being sailed in sunshine. It was no easy task to bring together twenty boats of such varied sizes and rigs, but as a whole the handicap proved very close, with only sixteen minutes between the ten boats after the first, St. Barbara, refitted and sailing better than ever before, won easily, equalizing Sprig‘s sailing time, with a very close struggle between the latter and Jose for second place. [Eleven boats are listed].  Ariel, Reliance and Tom Tit did not complete the course. The scratch boat, Yvette, entered by permission of the sailing committee, for trial purposes only, not being eligible for the cup.’

Yvettewas Mr. Bussell’s new cutter, which appeared on the scene at the end of August.

Mrs. MacKenzie Grieve’s Cup

It seemed a pity to pack up such a successful season so soon, and this thought evidently occurred to Mrs. MacKenzie-Grieve, for, on September 8th the committee assembled to hear a letter from this lady ‘offering to present a silver cup, to be won outright, by the best two results in three races – all boats except challenge cup winners to be eligible to compete.’ This offer was gladly accepted, dates were fixed and it was agreed to give handicap times at the beginning [ˆ la Phillipson] instead of deducting them at the end, an innovation calculated to provide ‘a much keener sense of individual rivalry and proportionately greater interest’ [to spectators], since ‘a boat once overtaken has again to overtake the leader in order to win.’ [Thus wrote Mr. Wakefield in the Telegram – ‘New Rules for a New Cup.’]

These three races were duly sailed off, the first two in light winds and the final one in very squally weather [September 18th] which caused several mishaps. Thus Margot we read ‘was prevented from sailing, Kelpie was unable to complete the course, Redwing and Reliance had minor mishaps, and after one round the race was called off. On arrival at the pier, to where Kelpie was towed by Yvette, hearty cheers were given by the assembled boats for the donor of the cup, whose sporting spirit is much appreciated by members of the club. The cup goes to Jose with three points, followed by Kelpie with four – this concludes the season’s racing, which has been very successful and very enjoyable.’

Annual Dinner [1920]

The Prizegiving took place at a dinner at the Crown Hotel, which was attended by about thirty members and friends, all men, with the exception of Mrs. MacKenzie-Grieve, who, escorted by her husband [a Commander R.N.] arrived to present the prizes. The occasion is well described in the words of Mr. Wakefield’s press report:-‘The first full racing season in the Club’s history was brought to a fitting conclusion by the General Meeting, presentation of prizes and dinner at the Club’s headquarters, the Crown Hotel. [Here follows a list of prlzes already outlined]. On the proposition of Mr.Miles, hearty cheers were given for Mrs. MacKenzie-Grieve, whose pluck and sporting spirit in sailing her boat in all weathers were the admiration of the whole club.’

Col. Williams, who had tendered his resignation as Commodore, through ‘dissatisfaction on several matters’ was not present, and in his absence Mr. Hownam Meek [Vice-Commodore] ‘proved himself to be as much a master of the art of addressing a meeting as he is of sailing a boat, which is saying a lot.’