In the beginning …
"The first social and prize distribution in connection with the newly-formed Gurnard Sailing Club took place at Prince's Café on Saturday, … The Commodore congratulated the club on the excellent progress made in a short time. It was formed on July 10th with about 15 members, and now had 62, with 11 boats."
Thus The Isle of Wight County Press of October 10th 1931 reported the first prize-giving of the embryo sailing club.
One of the first things the club did was to revive Gurnard Regatta, partly to stimulate interest in the new venture. The Regatta had been extremely popular before the First World War, when it was held on the Marsh (the venue for a lot of village events in those days). The 1931 regatta was planned for Saturday, September 5th with plenty of events to choose from. There were swimming races, punt races, a handicap sailing match open to boats not exceeding 15 feet and, intriguingly, "mop fights in punts" and two tug-of-war competitions – one for men and one for ladies – in dinghies! Unfortunately, the weather for the first one was not particularly favourable. As the County Press put it
"… although inclement weather militated against its complete success, it was hoped to make it an annual event." In fact, the weather on the 5th was too stormy and so it was postponed for a week and even then the weather gods were not on the side of the Club as the day began wet but cleared up in time for a curtailed event to take place.
A full programme of races was organised for the first complete season in 1932. Racing was held on Saturday afternoons and Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The season started on Saturday, May 14th and finished on Saturday, August 13th. Early trophies included the Coyney Cup, the Dudley Cup and a cup or prize from each of the three Flag Officers.
The Club went from strength to strength during the 1930s until 1939, when war broke out. One of the last events was an Inter-Club Team Race, held at Wootton Creek Sailing Club on Sunday, July 23rd, 1939. Six Redwings were to be used and would be drawn for by the six competing clubs – the owner of the boat crewing for the nominated helm. The course was from Wootton Creek to Binstead Boom and back, twice, and all the boats took in the region of six hours to complete it in a strong breeze. The event was won by Cecil Atkey of the Island Sailing Club but the County Press omits to mention who the Gurnard representative was, possibly just as well as he came last.
The season had actually finished when war was declared. A programme of races was drawn up for 1940 and a letter was written to the Commander-in Chief, Portsmouth Dockyard, enquiring about the likelihood of sailing in the following year. The Dinner-Dance and Prizegiving for the 1939 season was abandoned although the trophies were sent to the winners. Any unwon trophies were deposited at the bank for safe-keeping. At the Sailing Committee meeting of May 9th, 1940 it still appeared that sailing might go-ahead but in fact it did not and the Club went into hibernation.
An extract from "Gurnard Sailing Club 1931-2006" by Sheila Caws.
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Last updated 14:59 on 25 February 2021