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  History IOS Sailing Club

Records of the island's oldest sailing club go back as far as 1896, as evidenced by this well established sailing programme from the time. Unfortunately, the exact date the Club was founded is currently unknown and assumed to be the late 1800s.

Originally known as the Sheerness Sailing Club (later the Sheerness Sailing and Motorboat Club), the name was changed in 1935 to Sheppey Yacht Club, before becoming the Isle Of Sheppey Sailing Club in 2002 to help clarify both location and purpose.

The object of the Club has always been to encourage and promote the wonderful sport of sailing, and to provide sailing facilities for local people and the wider community.

The Club started out at Queenborough, initially operating from the Globe pub in West Minster, later the Castle in Queenborough when a site from the Admiralty at Crundall's Wharf was also rented for boat storage. Until recently the Club still leased a small boat compound behind the Guildhall from the Council. In the early days there were yacht, dinghy and cruising members.

IOS Round the Island Race

The famous IOS Round the Island Race was first held in 1959 and was originated by Keith Broughton, the Sailing Secretary at the time. The early races started on the west side of the Kingsferry Bridge and finished at Ridham Dock. The inaugural race was won by P. G. Harris, the Treasurer of Gravesend Sailing Club, sailing a Snipe dinghy.

In the early 60's the course started at Queenborough and finished at either Ridham Dock, or just after the bridge, before moving to the modern course: a full circumnavigation of the island starting and finishing from Sheerness.

Early Island Race at Queenborough
A magical photo of an early 1960s Island Race starting from Queenborough.

Click to enlarge.
    A new clubhouse

At the start of the 1960s, the Sheerness Urban District Council started work on a development plan to improve the sea front and local amenities. The Club's then Sailing Secretary, Keith Broughton was employed as a draughtsman by the Council, and helped to prepare the plans.

The Council owned an area of land at Cheyney Rock, which they had established as a car park in 1950. Broughton could see that due to the excellent tidal properties at this point (the best of any site on the island's north coast), this site would be the ideal base for a sailing club, allowing dinghies to be launched and recovered at all states of the tide.

In fact, before its brief use as a car park, the site had been used for many years as a coal depot due to its excellent tidal access. The depot was acquired in 1877 by the Sheerness Cooperative Society, with coal bought in to a short pier by the brigantine Adolphe & Laura. The remains of the coal pier can still be seen today in the form of wooden stumps embedded in the side of the promenade.

A row of adjacent terrace houses were also earmarked for demolition, so providing ample space for a large boat parking area.

Broughton produced a sketch for a yacht club building at this point, and persuaded his superiors at the Council that building a yacht club here would be an asset to them and the community, helping to regenerate the eastern end of the seafront. He also suggested Sheppey Yacht Club might be interested in its tenancy. As a direct result of this, officers of the club were invited to a meeting with Council regarding the building of a proposed yacht club.

Shortly afterwards Broughton accepted a post with another council and moved away. Colleagues were left to see that his scheme was carried through. Work started on the new building at the end of 1963, but the original contractors made such slow progress the Council had no choice but to terminate their contract and start again with new contractors.

The purpose-built clubhouse was finally finished at the end of 1965. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, a keen sailor, was due to open the new building but declined due to an "unusually heavy" summer programme.

New clubhouse

The clubhouse was instead officially opened on Saturday 16th July 1966 by the chairman of the Medway Regatta, Brigadier B. Chichester-Cooke, who said it must be "one of the most modern in the country if not in Europe".

An unfortunate oversight

Unfortunately, a change of council a few years later resulted in the plans to demolish the adjacent terraces being overturned, and their planning blight lifted. It seems neither the Council or Club members at the time realised Broughton had sketched a Yacht Club at this point on the basis of the adjacent terraces being demolished, thus providing the adequate land for dinghy and car parking.

This has left the club with a large clubhouse, but limited options for expansion, despite being ideally situated in all other respects, which has ruled out moving.

This situation has been remedied to a small degree since 2010, after the Club has recognised, and looking for ways to correct this historical mistake, acquired the lease to the Catamaran Yacht Club's old boat compound at Minster. Although this compound offers less favourable and more restricted launching, and is further away than ideally desired.

The Club hopes a better solution to this problem can be found or will present itself in the future, and has learnt to work around the problem as best it can including prioritising the existing boat park, and use of an innovative one way system using the promenade to accomodate large numbers of visiting boats for the Island Race.

Queenborough Yacht Club

In 1976, the members who owned yachts on moorings, and who were still based at Queenborough decided to form themselves into the Queenborough Yacht Club, leaving IOSSC at Sheerness, as primarily a dinghy sailing club.

[Author: J. Bell - to be continued...]