A Short History Of The West Lancashire Yacht Club
It was the enthusiasm of a small group of racing sailors that led to the founding of West Lancashire Yacht Club (WLYC) in 1894. Their aim was the development of competitive sailing in smaller boats. In particular, in a single-handed 12 foot centre-board dinghy. This would provide affordable one-design racing in a boat that could be used both on the sea and on the new Marine Lake, opened by Southport Corporation in 1893. Agreement with the Southport Pier Company led to the construction of the ‘Old Pierhead’ Clubhouse, completed in July 1894, which provided easy access to the Club moorings at the end of the pier. The Club adopted the Lancastrian Red Rose as its burgee emblem. However as this closely resembled the Commercial Code flag for the letter ‘C’, the Club soon decided to adopt the ‘Golden Lion’ on a blue burgee. The lion was a direct copy of part of the Lancashire crest.
Evidence of the Clubs support of the one design concept came with the Seabird Half-Rater (1898) and Star class (1906) day boats, being especially designed for our tidal waters. Dredging of the River Ribble however led to silting of the moorings north of the pier and, by the early 1930s, these classes had migrated to other clubs.
The club gave up its pier end clubhouse, following a fire in 1933. It moved to premises on the Promenade where it functioned primarily as a gentlemen’s club. Sailing, now on the Marine Lake, revived after the war, with the adoption of the Uffa Fox designed Flying 10 (smaller sister of the Flying 15). The advent of plywood dinghies, beginning with the Heron and GP14, led to a rapid expansion of lake sailing. In the early 60s, dinghy sailing on the tide recommenced, first at Southport and later, as conditions changed, at Ainsdale.
Extension of the lake in the mid 1960s saw the club moving (snooker table and all) to purpose-built premises on the lakeside in 1967. This coincided with the first 24 Hour Race, held in that year to celebrate the centenary of the Borough of Southport. The Race developed into an annual event attracting competitors from all over the country. No other event in the WLYC calendar attracts as much public interest. It is a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of Club members over the years that the Race maintains its popularity and will celebrate its 50th year in 2016.
The development of small bilge keel cruisers in the 1960s and 70s led to a temporary resurgence of the pier end moorings, but continuing silting led to their demise by the 1990s. However, offshore sailing had become re-established in the club and a number of enthusiastic Club members participate in offshore cruising and racing in locations throughout the UK and beyond.
Optimist dinghies arrived in the 1980s increasing the participation of younger sailors at the Club. Since then, training at all levels has become an increasingly important facet of club life. The Club soon became a Royal Yachting Association recognized training establishment. The strength of Junior training and sailing at the Club resulted in the award of RYA Champion Club status. The Club continues to actively encourage the participation of young people in sailing through the RYA OnBoard scheme.
(Ian Donaldson & Clive Porter)