CHAPTER 8 – The Crest of the Wave [1924-26]

Up and Up

With the Club-house a ‘fait accompli’, Major Haines’ term of secretaryship began as the Club rose on the crest of a wave of prosperity, fostered by the carefree post-war boom of the mid-twenties. Races increased in kind and number, membership soared, boats multiplied, and the Committee began to extend its view beyond the parochial confines of Weymouth Bay to arrange inter-club matches with kindred fraternities along the Dorset coast.

Races 1924

The first Cadets’ Race for Capt. Hamblin’s Prize was sailed in a very puffy wind, obliging all the eight starters to carry reefed sails. The two girl competitors, Janet Byles [‘Puffin’] and Joan Walford [‘Ripple’] ‘sticking pluckily to their tillers’ – proudly carried off the first two places respectively in a close finish well ahead of the boys, and ‘Puffin’ even registered a protest against ‘Saucy Polly’ [Reg. Bratby] for striking the Northern mark. It appears that this mark was moored with a long length of old grass rope, which, floating just below the surface, became caught up by ‘Saucy Polly’s’ plate, thus drawing the mark up to the boat with a resounding clang! The referees ruled that ‘Saucy Polly’ was justified in carrying on, that this decision should constitute a precedent, and that the offending rope should be replaced.

The Dorset Daily Echo [as it now styled itself] put up another Ladies’ Cup [again to be won outright] and this was carried off in triumph by Mr. Bratby’s twelve year-old daughter Freda, who sailed her boat round the course so effectively that ‘Sprig’ [in which Miss Eisa Byles won the cup the previous year] completed the two circuits to win by a margin of 15 seconds corrected time, against the competition of no less than fourteen rivals!

The prizes for these two races were presented at a Club tea party given by Mrs. Hamblin, and Mr. Hownam Meek, in presenting them remarked, ‘We men will have to look to our laurels.’

Town Regatta 1925

Town Regatta 1925

This was another summer of wild weather, and the R.D.Y.C. Regatta had to be postponed on account of high winds on the appointed date; but two days later six of the big J-class yachts and five 12-metre yachts crossed the Weymouth starting line in a 40 mile race to Bournemouth – a stirring sight for Club members, whose event took place at the same time.

Despite the bad weather the Club sailed fifteen racing events, honours in the eight trophy races being very evenly divided. The Rose Bowl went to Mr. Walford’s ‘Yvette’ [three firsts, seven competitors], the Hambro Cup to Mr. Home’s ‘Ripple’ and in C class the Rink Cup was hotly contested by Mr. Bussell’s ‘Fifi’ and Mr. Meek’s ‘Bumble Bee’, each scoring four firsts with a win for ‘Fifi’ on points.


A new and quite regular entrant in C class this year was ‘Kismet’, now owned by the newly elected Mr. Gallop, and at the end of the season Mr. Bussell exchanged ‘Fifi’ for a new B class boat called ‘Cuckoo’. Another notable addition to the Club this year was ‘Dorothea’, owned by that well-known yachtsman Dr. Gerrard Pearse, who was soon to play a prominent part in the Club’s history. Other notable new members included Mr. Percy Graham, Mr. W. H. Paul, Brigadier General Edwards and Miss Edwards – the Club’s third lady member.


On the debit side the Club sustained a heavy loss in the departure of one of its most valued members, Mr. J. Miles. Before he left, however, this cheerful little sportsman provided two sensations in his famous ‘Jose II’ – first by losing his rudder at the end of the first round of a race and ‘charging the pier which he struck with considerable force, carrying away his bowsprit: and secondly by ‘carrying away his bobstay in Portland Harbour, which caused his mast to fall, putting him out of the race’. The Club also said good-bye to another useful member, Mr. Oliver Walford, owner of ‘Yvette’, though he returned the following year.

A Visitor

The Prizegiving Dinner was graced by a visit from Mr. F. C. [‘Wendy’] Bond, now a member of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club at Falmouth. In proposing the toast of ‘The Weymouth Sailing Club’ Mr. Bond said how glad he was to hear of the proposed dinghy class, and told how successful the O.D. class [Redwings] was in his present Club. This dinghy class proposal had been the subject of a recent special meeting at which it was decided to write to the Island Sailing Club at Cowes to ascertain the chances of picking up second-hand 14ft. National Dinghies; and the Commodore, in replying to Mr. Bond’s toast, said that all depended on the number of members coming forward who were willing to spend £50 on a boat of this type. Among other speakers Mr. Pitcher [the father of four sons] complimented Capt. Hamblin on initiating the Cadets’ Race, thereby encouraging sailing ‘by those of an age which was the best to ensure future good results,’ and Mr. Donnelly, the time-keeper, raised a laugh in responding reluctantly to the toast of ‘the Officers of the Course’ by saying ‘how much he preferred sitting in the rain in an open boat to standing up and making a speech.’

More Lectures

The winter was again enlivened by a series of fortnightly lectures which included such diverse subjects as ‘The Battle of the Falkland Islands’ [Mr. Hownam Meek], ‘Weymouth to the Solent’ [Mr. Pitcher], Liverpool in Wartime’ [Gen. Edwards], ‘Evolution of Yachting’ [Mr. Haines], Lifeboats [Mr. Bratby – with lantern slides], ‘Weymouth Harbour Past and Present’ [Mr. Bussell], ‘The Burden of Civilisation’ [Capt. Hamblin], and ‘Patrol Work during the War’ [Capt. Masters]. Capt. Masters also conducted another series of instructional classes in navigation, and the House Committee effected some improvements to the ‘beer cupboard’, extending its facilities to the provision of ‘whisky and splash at 7d. per tot.’ It is also recorded that Mrs. Skillman’s wages were raised from five to six shillings per week.

Y.R.A. Recognition

Mr. Hownam Meek was elected to his fifth term of office as Commodore, and announced that, as a result of formal application by the Committee, the Club had now been officially recognised by the Y.R.A., to which Capt. Hamblin had been appointed Club representative. The Hon. Secretary [Mr. Haines re-elected] reported that membership [90] was now more than double that of two years ago, and the Treasurer [Capt. Hamblin re-elected] reported that the House Committee profits covered the whole of the running expenses of the club-house, and that the Balance Sheet showed an excess of income over expenditure of £27 13s. Mr. Clayton, who had been appointed auditor in place of Mr. Walford, commented very favourably on the Balance Sheet and offered his services free ‘in an honorary capacity’ on this and all future occasions. Copies of the report of this meeting were sent to Yachting Monthly and The Yachting World.

Officers of the Day

Evidence of an attempt to tackle this problem is shown in the minutes of a Committee Meeting when it was recorded that ‘In past seasons instances have occurred when boat owners who happen to be members of the Committee have had to abandon whatever chance they had of winning a trophy to take over, at the last moment, the duties of O.D. It was felt that among the many keen sportsmen who have recently joined the Club there would be a number who could and would volunteer to take over a share of these duties.’ The Committee compiled a list of suitably qualified members, and the Commodore agreed to approach these to ascertain if volunteers would be forthcoming. ‘As a result of this, a list of volunteer O.D’s. [in which the name of Capt. Hamblin appears seven times] was drawn up and scheduled.’

New Boats – New members

Lapwing (Henry Nat Byles, founder member and designer of the burgee) 1932

Lapwing (Henry Nat Byles, founder member and designer of the burgee) 1932

During the winter Capt. Hamblin devoted some of his boundless energies to building himself a boat [of diagonal cross-planking] in his own house [18 Greenhill], and this novel craft, emerging through a dismantled window-frame, formed an addition to B class under the name of ‘Tern’. Mr. Byles acquired ‘Lapwing’ [A class], Mr. R P. Macdonald took over ‘Jose II’, the brothers J . and R Macdonald [cadets] added ‘Dragonfly’ and Miss Edwards entered the lists with ‘Wild Duck’ [C class] which won her the R.D.Y.C. Regatta Prize. Another newcomer to A class was ‘Gunga Din’. Recall numbers were allocated for the first time this season [1925], these being drawn out of a hat except for the Commodore’s and Vice-Commodore’s boats, which were numbered 1 and 2 respectively. New members elected this year included Dr. Llewellyn Pridham [who took over ‘Sonia’] ,and Messrs. H. Pearce, Charles Flisher, Harry Pratt and Nat. Byles.

New Trophies – Long Distance Race and Vincent Shield

Dr. Gerrard Pearse offered a new Challenge Cup for a race to be sailed annually by the larger boats on a special long-distance course, which he suggested should be round the Shambles Lightship, though this was later modified to a course round marks off Ringstead and Castletown. The Commodore added a cup for B class boats on the same course, and Mrs. Hownam Meek put up a cup for A class Saturday [Portland] races, which were now sailed as a separate series for all classes, the Committee allocating the Franklin Smith Cup to B class, and putting up a new trophy – the ‘Club Cup’ – for C class, making a total of ten cups in all.

In addition to these trophies Mr. Vincent the jeweller presented an embossed silver plaque mounted on a large mahogany shield. After deliberation, the Committee decided to use this handsome donation piece for a permanent record of the winners of all challenge cups, the names to be inscribed on small silver shields attached to the mount. This Vincent Shield now hangs in the men’s room of the Club, and bears on its 24 plates a record of all cup winners from 1914 to 1929.

Inter-Port Races

The idea of inter-port matches was mooted in March 1925 by Mr. H. Pearce, at whose suggestion invitations were sent to the Parkstone and West Bay Corinthian Sailing Clubs. Parkstone declined owing to lack of available dates, but West Bay [Bridport] readily accepted the challenge and two spirited matches ensued. The first inter-port race in the Club’s history was duly contested at Weymouth in a strong wind on July 23rd. The home team was Messrs. Pearce, Bussell and Byles, and the selected boats were ‘Saucy Polly’, ‘Puffin’, ‘Cuckoo’, ‘Ripple’, ‘Sonia’ and ‘Sprig’. West Bay Sailing Club won the match by 22 points to 20, and, at a tea party given by Mrs. Hamblin the winning team were duly presented with the agreed prize of a Club burgee. This tradition is retained for friendly matches up to the present day.

In a return match at West Bay on August 20th [after three postponements] the Weymouth team [Bussell, Byles and Gallop] retrieved the club’s honour by 12 points to 9, and brought back a West Bay Corinthian Sailing Club burgee.

The Annual Dinner

The press report of the 1925 Dinner [cutting preserved] is more than usually full, and the numerous speeches it records reflect the prosperous and happy state of the Club’s fortunes. ‘The dining room’ the report runs, ‘was resplendent with many silver cups, which were presented to their respective winners by Mrs. Hownam Meek. In the centre was the magnificent silver shield presented by Mr. J. Vincent.’ Among the prize-winners maybe mentioned: Cadet’s Cup, R. F. Bratby, Ladies’ race, Mrs. Warren; and a total of 28 silver spoons [firsts] including four to Mr. Wakefields Reliance [which also won the Echo Cup in the Town regatta], and one each to Mr. Byles and Mr. Gallop for the Inter-port race, presented by Mr. Pitcher.

The guest of honour was Mr. H. G. Stevens [Dorset Daily Echo] who, in a flowery speech, said ‘To propose the health of the Weymouth Sailing Club was to give the toast of a unique company of men, whose merits lay in the historic traditions they were able to hand down from generation to generation In claiming that the Club was founded in 1886 he referred to the times of Alfred the Great who, he said ‘held a great Regatta in Weymouth Bay, as a result of which this King of Wessex granted to the town the crest of a sailing ship.’
The Commodore, replying, said, ‘the sporting friendship which the Echo has ever extended to us has been both moral and material … I have been in coast towns where the report of a local sailing match has consisted of a heterogeneous collection of mis-spelt names in connection with a garbled jumble, which leaves the reader wondering if it refers to a football match or a prize-fight.’ Referring to the past season the Commodore remarked ‘The season has been marked by three innovations. First the formation of an entirely separate series of races in Portland Roads, thus providing six cups to compete for instead of three, of which, in many cases the eventual holders were not decided until the final race. By courtesy of the King’s Harbourmaster we have been permitted to start [Portland] races from Bincleaves Pier, instead of from a boat in Castle Cove. The second innovation has been the Long Distance Race, which was very popular indeed; the wind was rather light on the day in question, but the Torpedo Range saw to it that the proceedings could not be called exactly dull. The third innovation,’ Mr. Meek continued, ‘was the inter-port sailing match. There can be no doubt that this event should become an annual one.’ The Commodore closed with a word of praise for his Committee, and especially the Hon. Treasurer, complimenting him on the Club’s excellent financial position.

Other speeches included contributions from Dr.Pridham [proposing Officers of the Course] who said he had ‘consistently failed to bribe the O.D.s to look the other way when he fouled a buoy’; Capt. Hamblin, who recalled the dangers of O.Ds on account of certain yachts ramming the pier; Mr. Bratby, who said that if one of the prize winners had not carried away his [‘Sprig’s’] mizzen mast he might have won more himself; Mr. Pitcher, who emphasised the importance of a good and regular crew; and Mr. Byles, who said that much of the success of this, the most successful season on record, was due to the R.D.Y.C. and the good offices of its Hon. Secretary, Major Newcombe.

‘Our Guests’ was proposed by Capt. Hamblin, who said how delighted they were to welcome the West Bay Corinthian Sailing Club, either at their dinners or on their course; and the programme concluded with ‘musical items’ including a song, ‘A glass of beer and a bit of bread and cheese’ composed by a Naval Officer in the Hood and sung by Mr. Norman Graham to music by Mr. Dunkley [of Weymouth].

Winter Activities

Only three lectures appear to have been arranged during the winter of ’25-’26, but continuity [and House Committee sales] were maintained by a pleasant tendency for members to foregather at the Club at ‘opening time’ on Sunday mornings for an exchange of gossip over a friendly glass of ale. This tradition persisted for many years, and might well be revived.

The Club was running so successfully under the direction of the Meek-Pitcher-Hamblin-Haines combination that it is not surprising to find this quartet re-elected at the A.G.M. The Balance Sheet, audited gratis by Mr. Clayton, showed a credit balance of over £120, and the Treasurer, in his report ‘commented on the satisfactory way in which the Club was run, and hoped to see a general forward policy adopted.’ Mr. Byles, Mr. Bussell and Capt. Masters had done yeoman service on the Committee, but did not seek re-election, so some fresh blood was introduced in the persons of Dr. Pridham, Mr. McDonald and Col. Saunders, with Mr. E. Covill co-opted on to the House Committee in the role of librarian.

At this meeting Mr. J. Pearce handed over the minute book of the late Corinthian Club which has provided the material for the early chapters of this book.

Among new members elected at this time were Col. F. Adams [sailing], Mr. G. T. Ridge [non-sailing] and R. D. H. [Inky] Pitcher [cadet]; and a useful item of business by the retiring Committee was to effect the inclusion of the Weymouth Tide Tables in Pearson’s Nautical Almanack.

Single-handed race

The racing fixture list for 1926 listed twenty one events, including an innovation introduced by Dr. Llewellyn Pridham in the fonn of a Single-handed race, for which the instigator offered a new Challenge Cup. The course for this race, sailed in a stiff breeze on July 10th, was a long one from Weymouth Pier to Castletown and back via the two harbour entrances, and the result is reflected in references to it at the Annual Dinner, when Mr. Byles described it as ‘a capital innovation, the object being to test and encourage seamanship, and in rough weather in the roads that object has been fully attained’; while the Commodore said, ‘the cup presented by Surgeon Lieutenant Llewellyn Pridham, R.N. [retd.] not only produced a unique and interesting match, nineteen boats in all being sailed single-handed, but it also produced a most gratifying result as the donor won the cup himself’.

Baldwin Cup

Col. Baldwin also put up a cup, to be won outright, and this was reserved as a consolation prize for the boat turning out the greatest number of times without winning a cup. In the result ‘it fell’ to quote the Commodore’s speech again, ‘to the member who deserved it above all others, for not only did he sail his own boat but he actually built her himself – Capt. Hamblin.’

The Bussell Cup

The outstanding event of 1926, however, was the presentation by Mr. Bussell [on June 1st] of a silver Challenge Cup for inter-port races. The minute book contains a typewritten copy of ten rules and regulations drawn up by the Committee for Bussell Cup races, and the following excerpts from these rules are worth quoting:-

1. The Cup shall be the property of the Weymouth Sailing Club, and shall be used as a Challenge Cup for inter-port races.

2. It shall be open for competition between such clubs as the Weymouth Sailing Club may invite, it being understood that any club that has taken part in the competition in a satisfactory manner shall be invited to compete again the following year.

3. The holders to make arrangements within the limits of British Summer Time for such matches as may be required.

4. The matches to be sailed on the lines of the Weymouth Sailing Club and the West Bay Corinthian Sailing Club matches of 1925. The home club shall provide six boats not exceeding 18ft. in length if possible. The club which scores the highest number of points to be adjudged the holder for the season, and gaining the right to defend its title on its own course during the ensuing season.

NOTE: Rule 4 in 1952 was amended to read ‘The holder of the Cup shall defend it, by invitation in the waters and boats of each challenger in turn. The Club, if any, which beats the holder by the greatest number of points shall be adjudged the holder for the ensuing year. If no Challenger wins a match by more than 1½ points the holder shall be entitled to retain the Cup for a further year.’

The main object of the amendment is to absolve the holder from the onus of extending hospitality to each successful challenger.

5. In any dispute not covered by the Y.R.A. rules the decision of the Weymouth Sailing Club to be final.

6. The cup shall be presented to the winning club’s representative at the Annual Dinner, or similar function of the previous holder.

7. In the event of there being no complete races for the cup in any year, the trophy shall remain in the custody of the last winner, but after the lapse of three such consecutive years, the cup shall be returned to the Weymouth Sailing Club.’

Invitations to compete for this trophy were sent to Parkstone and West Bay, with both of which clubs friendly matches had already been sailed, but only West Bay took up the challenge, and this match sailed on July 15th, ‘resulted in a first class struggle, with a win for Weymouth by the narrowest of possible margins – one solitary point,’ [Mr. Hownarn Meek, Annual Dinner].

Other Races

Mr. McDonald appears to have been less successful with ‘Jose II’ than was her previous owner, for, at the Annual Dinner, he is reported as saying that ‘he regretted that the only race he had won was when one of his two competitors accidentally left his propellor set across the boat and the other fouled a mark.’

The only other available news of races this year is that the Echo again put up a cup, plus a prize of £2-2s., the cup having fourteen competitors, of which the winner was a girl named Doreen Breech.

Change-over Race

Commodore Hownam Meek's Idler 1924

Commodore Hownam Meek’s Idler 1924

The season ended with a ‘handicap sweepstake race’ on September 29th, starting from the ‘Wooden Pier’ through the Northern Entrance, round Idler on her moorings in Castle Cove, and back by the same route. The winner is not recorded, but the interesting point is the injunction ‘no owner to sail his own boat.’ Here then is the fore-runner of the now traditional end-of-season change-over race – the fourth innovation to originate in this period of expansion, which paved the way for the creation of the long foreshadowed one-design class.