The Burnham Sailing Club - A Brief History

Sailing as a leisure activity and sport in Burnham on Crouch goes back a very long way – from as early as 1865 the Town Regatta was a “fun day” for the residents of the town and, as well as sailing, there was rowing, swimming, a greasy pole, and soot and flour fights. This was a one day event and saw large numbers of local half-decked and open boats entering the racing. These boats were brought to racing trim (not scrubbed and antifouled, or even dry sailed, as racing boats are today). The bottoms were covered in black lead (used to clean Kitchen ranges) and were then polished and polished and polished just for this one day only event.

Burnham Week was started around 1893 as a regatta between the local clubs (the London Sailing Club and Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, and joined by the Royal Burnham Yacht Club in 1895 and Crouch Yacht Club in 1907).

However, because of their occupations (working on the river) local people and others were not eligible to join the established clubs in the town so, at a public meeting on the 15th October 1930, it was decided to form the Burnham on Crouch Sailing Club for “locals”. It was agreed that the Club would provide mid-weekly races for the half-deckers and clinker-built dinghies, from the first Wednesday in May until Burnham Week, after which daylight no longer permits racing in the evening.

The first clubhouse was a small “shed”, a store on the site of the old RCYC Club which was rented for £8.00 per annum from 1st January 1931. The old RCYC Club was on R J Priors Wharf. The present clubhouse was built single-handed for the sum of £350.00 by Olley Wright who had a wager that he could do the work on his own – he won the £5 bet. That building now forms the basis of our Clubhouse today and was opened in 1935.

The Club’s facilities were further enhanced by the addition of a dinghy park and launching ramp in 1964. The ramp was located at the western end of the promenade together with a dinghy park. The Club effectively operated from both ends of West Quay until 1988 when the dinghy park was lost as a result of the construction of the marina.

Three years passed during which time the Club had no access to the river and no dinghy park. In 1991, to enable the Junior section and Dinghy classes to continue, the Club, together with the Crouch Yacht Club, constructed a floating pontoon on the Burnham Sailing Club foreshore and, after much negotiation, the Club leased the ground behind the pontoon which is the present dinghy park and carpark.

In 2009 the clubhouse was almost destroyed by a fire caused by a faulty fridge. Fortunately, a passer-by noticed smoke issuing from the Clubhouse and alerted the fire brigade and members at 0630 in the morning. The fire destroyed the galley, damaged the floor and caused a lot of smoke damage everywhere. That summer the Club continued to operate more or less as normal thanks to the hospitality of our neighbour, the CYC, until, following a massive effort by members, the Clubhouse was rebuilt and up and running for the 2010 sailing season.

In 2010 the land behind the clubhouse (the “compound”) and the accompanying brick building adjacent to the clubhouse were purchased from CEFAS whose laboratories were on the site which is now Burnham Shores.

In 2012, recognising the escalating costs of repair and maintenance of the deteriorating pontoon, the Club decided to look at a replacement. A novel solution was adopted to overcome the narrow width and steep incline of the existing pontoon at low water, which had always limited the size of dinghy that could be launched, and, thanks to the efforts of a few Club members, we were able to obtain match funding. The new pontoon was constructed and opened in 2013.

Newspaper cutting following the first race in May 1931