- The First 60-Years -
Sixty years ago on May 17th 1948, Thorpe Bay Yacht Club was founded by a group of enthusiastic youngsters led by Kit Hobday. They met at his parents house “St. Helens” to form the first yacht club east of Southend pier. There were at the time only four other sailing clubs in the Borough, all west of the pier in rather restricted situations.
Up until this time Thorpe Bay had been viewed as an exposed coastline, but was seen by Kit as an unobstructed expanse of water suitable for setting the courses needed for top class dinghy sailing. Few clubs have been fortunate enough to have a founder who in his teens, had the foresight to see such potential and act upon it.
The club started to race an assortment of dinghies in a handicap class, using the Hobdays beach hut as a start box, changing room and clubhouse. The 1949 season saw the adoption of Jewels as the first class and two years later a clubhouse was constructed on the old Mason’s boatyard site, known today as the bosuns hut.
On his return from National Service, Kit persuaded Stephen McAdden the local M.P. to be Commodore. The club was still being run by young people and needed an authoritative Commodore to command respect with the establishment. The annual regatta was fast becoming famous, attracting entries of more than 100 boats from the south east coast, and T.B.Y.C. hospitality was becoming a byword amongst the dinghy boys.
In 1953 the National 12 foot class was adopted and Hobday again became Commodore. C.J. Morehouse was persuaded to become the club bosun and provided the lovely Estuary Championship Trophy for the 12 footers. With much hard work improvements were made to the club and jetty, fleet sizes increased, and the Hornet class arrived!
Typical of the members acceptance of a challenge is the story behind the building of the present club-house. As a result of a meeting between Beecher Moore and Kit Hobday the 1958 Hornet World Championships were awarded to Thorpe Bay Y.C. on the condition that they had a suitable clubhouse from which to host them. Twelve months is not long to cut the red tape and plan and build a clubhouse, but the members managed it, two of whom raised £10,000 interest free as a bond to build the club and were promptly repaid £2,500, collected from 100 members in direct gifts.
Since those Hornet Championships, the club has hosted many national and international events. The enthusiasm and ability of the Thorpe Bay sailors was infectious and helped to develop domestic fleets of Cadets, Albacores, G.P.14s, Lasers, Mirrors and Fireballs. The club honours board is crammed with championship wins in many classes with the Olympic silver medals taking pride of place.
In 1962, the club gained international fame for its part in running the “Little Americas Cup” for “C” Class catamarans on behalf of the Chapman Sands S.C. as they had neither the waters nor the facilities to run the event. With this in mind the clubhouse at Thorpe Bay was extended by one third in area towards the east.
The new decade saw Ken Herve win the Cadet National Championships at the age of 14, adding to those already won by Peter Bateman and Dicky Bennett, going on to win many more championships in the Hornet Class. The Sandhopper keelboat class was adopted and, together with a growing fleet of cruisers, soon filled the moorings opposite the Club. In 1977 T.B.Y.C. had 250 boats catering for the needs of its members.
Recent years have seen the Club hosting increasing numbers of Open events and, with our Sandhopper fleet now totalling over 30 boats, we were instrumental in establishing their own Class Association. Our cruising fleet continues to enjoy a full programme of weekend rallies, the regular annual trip to Calais and, of course, summer cruises to a range of venues. We are currently a recognised Training Establishment with the intention of developing our Cadet membership and also offering race training.
The dinghy and multihull fleets continue to expand with single handers becoming ever more popular.
Currently the committee are carrying out modernisation to the ground for facilities and actively fund raising for a replacement Jetty.
Finally, the Club is financially secure and with its steady and enthusiastic membership of about 1000, Thorpe Bay Yacht Club still lives up to the tradition and purpose for which it was established 60 years ago.