The history of West Kirby Sailing Club is brilliantly recorded in John Millar’s book “Anything But Sailing”, available for purchase from West Kirby Sailing Club. The following short precis of our history is predominantly extracted from John Millar’s book.
Following the completion of the West Kirby marine lake in 1899, owners of the 12ft C.B. fleet, at that time based at Hoylake, expressed the desire to sail on the marine lake. The club first Commodore, Mr C.C. Knowles, sailed in the first regatta held on the lake in 1899, but at that time under the burgee of Hoylake SC as West Kirby Sailing Club had not been founded yet. A group of members of Hoylake Sailing Club agreed that a sailing club based in West Kirby, would promote the sport of sailing, and founded West Kirby Sailing Club. Thus, West Kirby Sailing Club (WKSC) was founded in 1901.
The WKSC Burgee was designed and approved by the admiralty. The founders chose the Wirral Horn on a red background.
The first “club house” of WKSC was the Hydro Hotel situated on the West Kirby promenade. Until 1910, the hotel owners generously allocated a room within the hotel, to be used as a club room headquarters.
In 1906, the then Commodore Mr C.F. Hutton proposed that the club should have its own clubhouse. Negotiations led through the acquisition in 1910 of a long term lease of a piece of land, for the erection of the clubhouse on the foreshore near the lake by Tell’s tower. WKSC first club house was completed in July 1910. A set of club rules were agreed, which excluded dogs and woman from entering the club house, unless, by a special ruling for a specific event… It is comforting to note that WKSC has since moved on.
A new Flagpole was erected in 1926 to replace the original one deemed beyond salvation. At the time, the team assembled to erect the flagpole, showed a sense of history for under the flagpole laid buried a time capsule containing a newspaper and several other objects. It is a testimony to their skills and workmanship that the flag pole still stands today.
Plans for a new clubhouse were drawn and approved by the General Committee in 1952. The building eventually began in 1953 and gave the foot prints of the clubhouse we enjoy today. Later addition were made, which comprised of the Wilson room, Offices and Junior rooms, new changing rooms, the training room, 2 boat sheds and the boatman store and outer buildings.
The first sailing class to be introduced at WKSC in 1913 was the B.R.A. Dreadnoughts, which was thought to be a modern design compared to the 12ft C.B.
The Members of the club hoped to attract young yachstmen to the sport of sailing, a culture still deep routed within the ethos of WKSC today. The clinker built dinghy was an excellent boat, of its time, especially suited to train youngster in the art and science of sailing. The class flourished until the 1950s when a new modern design, the “Firefly” was introduced to the club and still very much sailed at the club today.
In 1922 WKSC purchased the Star fleet from Southport, later to be commonly named as the ‘West Kirby Star Class’. In 1935, the then boatman, Ben Armitage, made a superb model of the ‘Star’ which is on display in our clubhouse today. The ‘Star’ class was clinker built, constructed of larch upon bent elm timbers. The class is still actively sailed today and there is no better sight than a fleet of ‘Stars’ sailing with their red sails on the river Dee.
By the end of the Second World War, the fleet of boats sailing at WKSC comprised B.R.A. Dreadnoughts, Seabird Half Raters, ‘Stars’, Operas, Handicap and Cruising boats. In 1949, the 18ft national Restricted Class was introduced as a more competitive boat that the Seabird Half Rater. However, the 18ft class was not specifically restricted as a one design class, and was a heavy boat designed for an all male crew. Consequently, a new class of boat, suitable for estuary or coastal waters was designed in 1954, which we know today as the Falcon class.
In 1956 a new boat, more modern in design that the ‘Star’ and more solid than the ‘Falcon’, was thought to be needed at West Kirby. Plans were drawn for a new boat suitable for the Dee Estuary, the first of which was built in 1958. The name of the new class was to be ‘The Hilbre Island One Design” and the names of the boats should all start with the letters “HI”.
Falcons, Hilbres and Stars are all still sailing at West Kirby today and together with an established cruising fleet, constitute the tidal classes of West Kirby Sailing Club.
After the second World War, the advent of new dinghy classes, using new building methods, rapidly saw the Firefly, Cadets and in 1952 the GP 14 being established at WKSC. This was eventually followed in the late 1960s by the Laser class, and more recently newer classes, such as the International Canoe, Solo, Illusion, Optimist and Albacore.
The close racing on the Marine Lake was ideal as a breading ground for many winners of major championship around the world. A list of all champions and runners up until 1985 can be found on page 386 and 387 of John Millar’s book. WKSC boasts national, European and world champions in several dinghy classes as well a victory in 1968 by WKSC team members at the WLYC 24 Hour race.
Today, the club enjoys a lake almost twice its original size. The outer lake wall finally collapsed after almost 100 years existence, a testimony of the building skills of the Victorian era. In addition the club invested in modern training facilities and a fleet of training boats for adults and young sailors alike. Monday night is reserved for a very well supported adult training evening. Saturday mornings see the “On Board” youngsters taking to the water over the summer months.
Racing on the Marine Lake takes place in the evenings on Tuesday (Solo, Laser, and Firefly), Wednesday (fast & Slow Handicap), and Thursday (Albacore & GP 14). Friday night is reserved for our junior fleets with racing taking place for the optimist, cadet and youth handicap fleets. The tidal classes are out in force on Sunday on the Dee Estuary as well as the Int. Canoe, Fast and Slow handicap dinghies, tides permitting.
West Kirby Sailing Club runs a number of championships and open meetings each year. Major past events included the Firefly nationals (Held at Pwhelli SC under the WKSC burgee) and in 2014 the Finn National Championship on the river Dee. However the club is probably best known for the Wilson Trophy team racing event in Firefly, the first of which took place in 1949 and has been held yearly ever since.
The event was initially known as “The North West Firefly Championship”, but changed its name to the “Wilson Trophy” in honour of Billy Wilson, a much loved, great character and one time Commodore of West Kirby Sailing Club. In 1995, the event status was elevated to “The World Team Racing Championship” for “The Wilson Trophy”. A great event, since regarded by many as a milestone in the history of team racing.
In 2015, WKSC held a magnificent week end of sailing and social extravaganza to celebrate its 100th Regatta. A combination of tidal and lake sailing over the 3rd, 4th & 5th of July, saw a total of 365 boats taking to the water, despite winds at time gusting well over 30 knots. This was a truly wonderful event most enjoyed by all participants.