The formation of Southport Sailing Club had its beginnings in the late 1950’s when a few dinghy sailing enthusiasts sailing ‘kit-built’ dinghies began to meet on the water, at the lakeside and later in Tommy Mann’s Bar, (the pub on stilts now known as ‘The Lakeside Inn’).
Thus Tommy Mann’s Bar became the meeting place for those who formed the nucleus of Southport Sailing Club, and in 1959 with the blessing of Tommy Mann (The then, lake lessee – all 22 stone of him), the club was born, and a Commodore, a Secretary and Treasurer were elected. However there was still no clubhouse and no official water to sail on as a club.
Eventually application was made to the Royal Yachting Association for official recognition, and a delegation from our club was invited to London to meet Officials of the RYA who gave them a sympathetic hearing. Shortly afterwards Southport Sailing Club became an Officially Recognised Club and Member of the RYA.
An annual membership fee of five shillings provided funds to purchase buoys and flags. (No electronic starts then). Starting and finishing sequences for races were operated from a pole with yardarm strapped to the railings and four personnel operated the several halyards to raise and lower race control flags with two primitive guns providing sound signals. In those early days races were operated from the eastern side of the lake, out of a 10ft x 6ft lean-to beside the lake lessee’s office. Tommy Mann’s Bar was still the club meeting place.
Basic facilities were poor. The changing areas in the old boathouse were dark and dank, like dungeons, sometimes dripping with rainwater from the roof. There were no washing facilities and no toilets. On days of special events a large furniture van served as a changing room and/or galley and a large caravanette for the purposes of reception and protest committee, both provided by club members. The prize giving was held in the open and such was the enthusiasm that a sizeable crowd was always present regardless of the weather.
To meet the requirements of the many new dinghy clubs that were springing up about this time the RYA had compiled a ‘Club Constitution’, which was adopted by SSC. This placed control of the club in the hands of its membership. All Officers and Committee members of the club were to be elected by the membership. Their duty being to run the Club according to the rules drawn up by the members in General Committee. A copy of these rules ‘The Constitution’ is given to every new member, and is available upon request. Among other things it informs members how to nominate a member for Office and how to get an idea discussed or placed on the agenda for Management meetings or at an A.G.M. These rules may only be altered by a formally constructed amendment on the Agenda of a General Meeting.
The Lake was very much smaller than it is today. The seaward boundary was a wall where the islands are now; parts of the old wall still show. The islands are in fact simply piles of clay and sand, being the spoil excavated from the extension to the Lake, i.e. that part of the Lake between the islands and our present Clubhouse site. The northern part of the lake (for powerboat use) came later.
It was the building of the new sea wall, the Marine Drive and the extension to the Lake, which lead to the building of our own Clubhouse on the reclaimed land. The reclaimed area was of doubtful stability, muddy, and most inhospitable to the observer. There were no services envisaged by the council such as drainage, water or power. It would probably remain a marshy area.
In due course it became apparent that this was a possible site for a new Clubhouse On 23rd May 1966 at a very well attended General Committee meeting at the Clifton Hotel, with Vin Evans as Chairman, it was decided by an overwhelming majority to proceed with the project.
The Clubhouse is built
Before the structure was built two vital legal agreements were negotiated. These were a lease of 60 years duration, giving Sailing and Racing Rights on the Marine Lake; a dinghy parking area for 300 spaces, and a tripartite agreement between the Council, the Club, and The Lake Lessee (and any successor) as to Racing times, dinghy licences and dinghy parking fees. A firm contract for the laying of the foundations was placed with a civil engineering company in January 1967, followed shortly afterwards with a contract for the building of the clubhouse. The specifications being for a single story building of light construction, to be underpinned and raised with sub-walls tied to a substantial concrete raft.
The Mayor of Southport, Alderman Simms Mitchell, officially opened the Clubhouse on the 22nd October 1967.
The membership was growing rapidly and in that year there were 584 Full Members, 110 Junior Members. The Enterprise Fleet numbered 46; there were 67 GP14’s and 105 in the Handicap Fleet. It wasn’t long therefore before there was talk of an extension to the clubhouse. Plans were presented in October 1970 at a Special General Meeting and it was agreed to proceed when funds were adequate. A second issue of Bonds was launched and approaches made to various sources for grants, gifts and cheap loans. It was 1972 before it was felt safe to proceed with the project and the ‘go ahead’ was given at a General Meeting in March of that year. A group of enthusiastic members prepared the groundwork and the foundations so saving a considerable sum of money. The extension was then completed and the clubhouse has remained in that form to the present date. 1988 was the year in which a fire severely damaged the south end of the building. During the reconstruction further improvements were made. Today our headquarters is the envy of many of our visitors and one of which we should all be proud.