A history of Hayling Island Sailing Club

by Belinda Cook and Leonie Austin

2011 has been a very special time for the Hayling Island Sailing Club, celebrating its 90th anniversary year. It was in 1921 that a small group of sailing enthusiasts gathered at Wall Corner, (where Mengham Rythe Sailing Club now exists), and formed HISC, using the constitution of East Cowes Sailing Club to guide them. With 120 members, racing mostly took place during the summer months, with a Regatta in August. This was attended by visitors from the sailing clubs of Chichester Harbour, with not only sailing and rowing races, but races over the mud using pattens. Sailors met initially in a small wooden hut, and in Quay Cottage, but in 1930 built a more substantial clubhouse. Boats were wooden, mostly clinker built, with sails of canvas and none of the modern “gadgets”, were available. Sailing was definitely for the summer months! Wet suits for winter sailing did not become compulsory until 1970! Recently, the archives group at HISC recovered a minute book covering the years 1927 to 1930, recording the minutes of the General committee, the sailing committee and the committee overseeing the clubhouse activities. The minutes make fascinating reading – a member of the archive group has transcribed the handwritten pages to enable easy reading.

During the late 1920s and early 30s, the membership grew slowly and members raced and met other sailors enjoying the use of the harbour at high tide. In 1935, Captain Ivan Snell who lived at Mengham House on Hayling, offered to build a new clubhouse at Black Point (Sandy Point), enabling sailing to be undertaken at all states of the tide. In 1936, the cruciform shaped building was opened having been designed by Captain Snell, and one of the first events was to host the defence of the New York Challenge Cup in International Canoes by Roger De Quincey, a HISC member, and Uffa Fox, later to become known as Prince Philip’s sailing master. In 1939, when war was declared, sailing was suspended. In 1943, the clubhouse was the headquarters of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPPs), a highly secret organisation undertaking reconnaissance in canoes in preparation for D Day. So secret was their work, that it is only recently that many of the details have been known. Hayling residents will know that recently there is a plan to provide a suitable memorial on Hayling seafront to these very brave men.

In 1946, the clubhouse re-opened and members returned to retrieve their boats and start picking up the pieces after the war. 1946 saw the resumption of sailing but a shortage of funds necessitated Captain Ivan Snell, Captain Rex Janson, Doctor E Wright and Commander Norway (novelist Neville Shute who lived in Pond Head) to form a company called Sandy Point Limited. The HISC property was then leased to the company for 21 years. Almost immediately new classes began to appear, and with the advent of cheap dinghies, mostly being designed by Jack Holt, a large number of members arrived from London. Very soon a few of this group tried to purchase the freehold, and although their efforts were very enthusiastically received, it took until 1959 before this was finally achieved by the full membership.

HISC began to host more and more National and International regattas and many families began to arrive with their children, those children now in 2011, bringing their own grandchildren down to continue the tradition. During the next decades, members have continued to become National and World champions in many classes, and have become part of the British Olympic teams.

In 2003, Princess Anne opened a new clubhouse, members having matched funds with a large grant from Sports England, producing a very spectacular building. In the last two years, HISC has hosted two World championships, the Laser Class in August 2010, and this year the Flying Fifteens. In both events visitors came from all over the World and the flags flying for the Laser championship came from all continents. All over Hayling, competitors were staying, shopping and eating, seeing Hayling at its best. But at its heart, the club is still for families, with the sandy beach for the young, and the sheltered waters within the harbour for the older children to learn to sail.

Belinda Cook and Leonie Austin lead a small archive group, which gathers HISC memorabilia, including photographs, moving pictures, documents and artefacts. They mount regular exhibitions in three display cabinets and link special exhibitions to visiting classes. They have been helped in their work by the Hampshire County Council Living Links project, which encourages Community groups to preserve and conserve their heritage. They received training at Hampshire Record office, and although this project has come to an end, they hope to continue spreading the word about community archives.