Stokes Bay has always been a destination for those wishing to enjoy the seaside. In 1854 the Stokes Bay and Isle of Wight Steam Boat and Telegragh Company started building a pier at the east end of the bay to cater for the increased numbers of people who were expected to holiday on the Isle of Wight following the building of Osbourne House by Queen Victoria.
The pier was badly damaged during the Second World War and was eventually destroyed by the military. The remains of the pier can still be seen at a very low tide and a warning buoy is all that remains to remind us of this once grand structure.
The Sailing Club was formed a year or so before the outbreak of World War II (1938). When on 9 May 1938, a meeting in Gosport Council Chamber was convened to discuss the formation of a Club in Stokes Bay for owners of small boats, as a means of bringing people to the residential district of Alverstoke. The proposal was approved, and Officers duly elected.
President – The Mayor, Major C.F.O.Graham, OBE, JP.;
Commodore – Admiral G.Layton, CB, DSO.;
Secretary – Mr J.C.Donnelly.
The Club’s first regatta was held on Saturday 6 August 1938. Inaugurated by the Mayor firing the first guns, and breaking the Club burgee which embodied the town’s colours of blue and gold in vertical sections with a red horizontal bar at the masthead. For its first season the Club operated from Mr Rogers boathouse not far from the present Angling Club. By 1939 membership had grown to 160, and a wooden hut had been acquired as the first Clubhouse, however, with the outbreak of hostilities the Club ceased operating in September of the same year.
In 1942 the Club records were destroyed in an air raid, and in the same year the Club hut was requisitioned for the war effort – it’s exact contribution never having been made public, though it was reputed to as ended up as a shed in a senior officers garden.
Stokes Bay played a very major role in the lead-up to D-Day and was one of the principal sites for the development, testing and building of the component parts of the Mulberry Harbours.
The grass field next to the club still has the remains of many concrete roads and has produced many a bent tent peg during camping at open meetings!
On 1 August 1946 the Club resumed its activities, using the very solid
two-storey building constructed to control the D-Day embarkation. Temporarily secured from the Naval Authorities through the strenuous efforts of Mr J.Fairhall and Mr J.Donnelly. Annual subscriptions were set at 10/6, and on the social side 1948 saw the first “Pirates Ball”.
“Bystander I” the first rescue boat was purchased in 1950. The Clubs tally of trophies was evolving, and was further increased when in 1952 Mr C.Gustar presented the “Gussie” trophy, a unique silver plated model of a national twelve. In the same year the Club introduced the Langstone system of handicapping – one of the first Clubs to do so. Membership remained at around 150 despite subscriptions escalating to £1. The Firefly National Championships were held in 1954, attracting over 100 entries, and in 1959 the idea of a special 21st Anniversary race led to the first Pursuit Race. Also, in the 1950’s an Albacore named ‘Allegro’ made history in the Racing Rules Appeal Cases when the owner “rocked” her around the course to victory in a flat calm.
1960 saw the beginning of catamaran racing. Annual subscriptions were raised to £3, to allow for repairs to the Clubhouse. The first bar was established in 1965. While 1966 marked something of a leap in technology when electricity was laid on, a telephone connected, and the following year showers installed – one for men and one for women. Sailing in the 1960’s continued apace, the Club playing an active part in popularising sailing nationally over this period, with its participation and organisation of major sailing events, as well as being the venue for a series of races between National Champions from various classes for the T.V. programme ‘Grandstand’ in the first attempt to present sailing as a spectator sport. Later the Dart catamaran fleet acted as extras in a ‘Blue Peter’ programme with John Noakes learning to sail. Videos of sailing and sail-boarding were also made for a “This is Sport” series. In 1969 the Club hosted the Optimist World Championships.
By the 1970’s membership had grown to over 500, resulting in a need to extend the clubhouse, subsequently opened by Sir Alec Rose. Throughout the 1970’s the Club hosted many National events, even producing its own National Champions. By the end of the decade board sailing had arrived at Stokes Bay.
The 1980’s saw the Club finally produce its first World Champions in Jason Belben and Andy Hemmings. Later, this pair represented Great Britain in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Club also held it’s 50th Anniversary in the same year.
With membership continuing to grow the clubhouse underwent its second extension in 1994, opened by a founder member Mr J.C.Donnelly.