Arnside Sailing Club is celebrating being the RYA North West Sailing Club of the Year. The Club has more doubled membership since 2014 by introducing a children’s programme, offering adult training and using grant funding to buy new club boats.
Arnside has a long history of sailing. The Victorians held regattas. In summer, bay boats brought visitors from Morecambe up to Arnside and Grange. From the 1840s to 1940s Crossfields built yachts and Morecambe Bay Prawners, which were fast sail-powered fishing boats designed to trawl for shrimp and other fish in the Bay. In the 1920s there were over 70 prawners based at Morecambe. Arthur Ransome’s Swallow was made in Arnside and kept on the estuary, by a local teenager in the 1930s.
When the tide is in, a sunny day Arnside offers some of the best sailing in the North West. The winds are more constant than in a lake. The estuary provides a large sailing area with the reassurance of land nearby. The scenery is outstanding. At high tide, it is possible to sail to Grange and back before the tide goes out.
Alasdair Simpson for the club said “In 2016 we introduced a junior sailing programme attracting 21 children. In 2018, 60 children sailed with the club at least once. Thanks to grant funding we were able to buy nine new cadet boats in 2017. Our children’s programme is made up of low tide sessions for beginners when the water is shallow enough to stand up in and high tide sessions for improvers and advanced sailors. Cadets start from the age of 7 or 8 upwards. The club offers longer two and four-day children’s courses at Killington Reservoir near Sedbergh. We use Killington as we can offer a longer day sailing than at Arnside which is tidal.” At the same time, the club introduced two-day weekend courses at Killington for adults and families and in 2018 offered a women’s course over four Tuesday mornings at Killington.
New for 2019, are midweek sessions for retired people and others available during the week. The sessions will be aimed at people interested in learning how to sail, those looking for more experience and others who may have sailed in the past wanting to restart. The sessions are part of a pilot project run by ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) with funding from a Sports England to promote physical activity and health in rural areas. The club is keen to encourage other wind or human powered water sports in the estuary, including canoeing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and kite surfing.
A major achievement last year was the purchase of “Severn” built in Arnside by Crossfields in 1912 with the help of a Heritage Lottery grant. Though there are around forty Crossfield boats still in existence, there were none in Arnside. Severn is one of ten Rivers Class Yachts built by Crossfields for the River Mersey Yacht Club. The Rivers Class were the top racing boats of their day sailed by members of the Liverpool merchant elite, including three Olympic medallists. In 1926 the Earl of Derby who was Secretary of State for War 1917-18 and Commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club brought Deva, one of Severn’s sister boats.
Other boats built by Crossfields include; Bonita, built in 1888, the oldest boat to take part in a Round Britain Challenge in 2013, Moya 1910 owned by a Morecambe councillor in the 1920s, second in her class in 1975 Fastnet Race, now in the Mediterranean and Ziska built in 1903 currently based on the West Coast of America having been sailed across the Atlantic and due to take part in a race to Alaska this year.
An important commission for Crossfields was the Sir William Priestley the Morecambe Fisherman’s lifeboat. The boat is named after Sir William Priestley a Bradford mill owner and MP, whose wife donated the money in memory of her husband. Unlike other places, Morecambe’s fisherman provided the town lifeboat. When she was built in 1934 the Sir William Priestley was paraded through the streets of Morecambe and Heysham watched by 10,000 people attended by the Lord Mayors of Bradford and Leeds and the Mayor of Morecambe.
In 1979 a mould was taken from the hull of the Sir William Priestley. At least nine boats have been made from the mould, including Linda still owned by a Morecambe fisherman. The Sir William Priestley is in the collection of the Lancaster Maritime Museum awaiting restoration. Since her return to the village, Severn has become a symbol for the village. People were constantly taking pictures of her when she was in the water last summer. At least two artists have produced pictures of the boat. A Friends Group has been set up as a charity to help maintain and fund Severn. Like any old boat, she will require ongoing maintenance. The Sailing Club is currently replacing some of her internal framework and a couple of planks, where she rests on her side at low tide. If you would like to get involved with Severn, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A highlight of the club’s 2018 season was a Swallows and Amazon weekend based on Peggy Blackett a replica of Coch-y-bonddhu, which was built by Crossfields for Arthur Ransome in 1934. Coch-y-bonddhu returned to Arnside in the 1950s and was used to teach sailing at Earnseat Prep School on the sea front in the 1950s. Coch-y-bonddhu is now in the collection of the Windermere Jetties Museum.
The Sailing Club’s clubhouse in the historic Old Customs House on the Promenade is used for social and musical events, including jazz and folk nights.
The Club is running a Try Sailing Day on Saturday 18th May at high tide from 1115 to 1315 based on the Promenade by the Albion.
Alasdair Simpson for the club said “There has never been a better time to start sailing at Arnside. We run sailing courses for both adults and children. Our membership fees are only £65 a year. With club boats available for use by members, you do not need your own boat to start sailing with us. To find out more visit our website on www.arnsidesailingclub.co.uk“