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Club History

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West Kirby Sailing Club was founded in July 1901, just a few years after the Marine Lake was opened. We started meeting in a room in the magnificent Hydro Hotel, but soon outgrew the ad hoc arrangements there. The First boats to sail at West Kirby were the 12 CB Class, who had all moved over from our neighbours at Hoylake Sailing Club.

Our first Regatta was held in 1906 and has been sailed all the years peace and Covid would allow. The prizes were £5 for the winners (£750 2023!).

In 1909 the first Seabird Half Raters were ordered, nine years before our venerable Star Class. Half Raters are still sailed by Wallasey Yacht Club, amongst others. 1913 saw a new 12 CB Class introduced, which we locally called the Dreadnaught Class.

On the 24th March 1922 the Star Class was bought from West Lancs Yacht Club, still going, they are our oldest Class still sailing. First built in 1901, these ash framed on oak planked clinker built boats are a wonderful piece of living history and a delight to sail.

In the late 1940s members wanted something a little more competitive than the Seabirds, a few members were sailing National 18s, but this class was struggling to take off. In 1954 Harry Dennis sat down and sketched a boat, to be built with a moulded diagonal veneer, 19' 3" long and able to plane.  This was to become the Falcon Class, which is still going strong. In the 1980s, due to their clean lines, they moved to GRP construction, which has proven light weight and durable.

The Hilbre Class was designed in 1957 to be larger than a Star and more solid than a Falcon, designed for racing and picnicking, hence the coach house as a nod to British weather. The mahogany clinker construction has proven exceptionally strong and many of them are still sailing today.

The other tidal group, not yet mentioned, is the Cruiser fleet. Not one type of boat, but many. From the Clubs very first days, members have had an assortment of dayboats and yachts moored on the River Dee. Members have sailed these boats, under the WKSC Burgee all over the world.

Over the years we have also sailed many, many different classes of Dinghy, too many to mention in a short history such as this, so I will only mention those that get an official Start in the Club handbook in 2023. They include (in no particular order!) ICLA (Lasers), Solos, Illusions, GP14s, Optimists and Fireflies (currently team racing only). Many other boats sail in the Fast and Slow Handicap Fleets, where we use the Portsmouth Yard Stick (PYS) Rating to determine the race winners. A personal handicap will be trialled in 2024 to encourage new sailors to race.

It is fair to say that West Kirby Sailing Club, with their friends from Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire (ROI), invented the sport of Team Racing. The event which was to become the Wilson Trophy was started 1949. The Wilson, as we know it, became so in 1953 and has been raced every year (bar Covid years) since. It is the UKs premier Team Racing event and hotly contested by teams from all over the World. WKSCs dominance of the sport was recognised in 1995 when the inaugural World Team Tracing Championships were held at West Kirby. Liverpool and Manchester Universities use our Club as a base for their Team Racing Training, benefitting from over 75 years of team racing experience at WKSC.

We started a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Training Centre in the early 2000s to teach people to sail and drive power boats at a reduced cost to members. This has gone from strength to strength. Now members from aged 8 to 80 can learn to sail or drive a boat!

1910 saw the building of our own Club House, a wooden building at the back of the land now occupied by the present building. This land was owned by Mrs Ashton, of Ashton Park fame and was constructed in 3 months!

The Club was originally men only. In 1912, the first female Associate Members were elected. For the era a bold move and an early step in the right direction, but we were not home and dry for equality there, not at all!  In 1913, it was brought up at General Committee that a member, Mr Leo St Johns had brought his wife into the Club! In 1934 women were permitted to grace the Club with their presence, there were few facilities provided, and ladies and children had to get changed in a bus at the side of the building, which doubled up as their Club Room.

The Edwardians had soon realised that they were outgrowing the original Club House, and in 1939 a subscription to pay for a new Club house was commenced. It took 16 years to complete the project and on 30th April 1955 the new Club House was opened, a single storey version of what we have today.

Only on the opening of the new Club House did the women get a toilet and an actual room in the Club to call their own (the current Macdona Room). On a bit of a roll, the Gentlemen soon realised the error of their ways and in 1992, only 80 short years after Mrs St Johns dared to enter the Club House, women were given full rights in their Club. There is nothing like equality, and that really was nothing like equality.

The Club continues to go from strength to strength, with sailing continuing throughout the year and a thousand members far and wide. Over the decades we have been lucky enough to produce National and World Class Sailors, professional and amateur, and many thousands of people with just a good old love for that water that has followed many throughout their lives and for others, a new love.

The building has been refurbished and re-purposed to make it suitable for the push and pull of modern life. Boats to hire and multi-function rooms to eat, drink, train, play snooker and party in, we have it all! That is not to say we can sit on our laurels and relax, we still have a way to go and much work for the volunteer Members and Staff as the sport of sailing continues to evolve.

Last updated 16:22 on 4 December 2023

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