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Home / About MYC / History of MYC

History of MYC

Established in 1932, Margate Yacht Club (MYC) has been a haven for local sailors for 90 years. The flotilla of sailboats setting off behind the harbour arm, a quintessential backdrop to Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings throughout spring and summer.

It might be called Margate Yacht Club, but as the harbour became silted up, locals with yachts or cruisers moved their boats to Ramsgate, so today you'll see a range of dinghies from old wooden sailboats to modern fibreglass racers, all out together on the water. Whatever the boats, the rituals are still the same. Sailors hauling their boats down the slipway behind the Turner or past Manning's seafood kiosk into the shelter of the harbour. Sails hoisted, rigging checked, they push off into the shallows and out into the open sea, one day Mediterranean blue and white tops, the next, churning browns and greys.

Margate lies on the Thames Estuary and on maritime maps the particular stretch of water off our town is known as the Margate Roads. It's a tricky patch of tidal water; while Margate is relatively sheltered, the prevailing south-westerly wind can still be fickle when it whips off the land and funnels around Arlington House. As club commodore Sue Anderson ruefully notes, "It's always different and you never quite know what you are going to encounter." Sue first came into Margate harbour to seek shelter in the middle of a force nine gale back in 1978. The boat she was sailing did not survive the storm, but it was the start of a love affair with the town.

Today with 140 members, the club is thriving. From old-timers whose families have sailed on these waters for generations to new members who have never set foot in a sailboat, not to mention the fearless squad of young cadets it's fiercely intergenerational. A glorious mixture of new and old Margate mucking in together, bonded by an insatiable passion for the winds and water.

2022 was a big year for the club. On its 90th birthday, the freehold of the old clubhouse on Fort Hill was sold and the site is being refurbished by developers, with brand-new facilities for the Club, and an improved social space in order to serve members and the local community better.

For MYC member Gaye Lamb Robinson, seeing the club thrive is personal and deeply satisfying. Her grandfather Leslie Short was one of the earliest members. Her parents got together crewing on boats at Margate and Gaye has spent her life on these waters. "People see 'Yacht Club' and they think that it's posh," she says. "Well, they should come and try it!" MYC member Winter Ilhan, aged 11, explains: "The sailing club feels like extended family to me, there is always someone there to help."

So, here is your invitation Come and cheer on the sailors on from the Harbour Arm, and check out our website for more information about how to get involved.

We are also delighted that Margate S.U.P. and Surf, run by Club member Lawrence Head, is now officially affiliated with MYC. Accredited by the British Stand Up Paddle Association, Lawrence offers lessons in multiple locations across the Margate and Westgate planned around the tides, the wind and swell. Navigate to margatesupandsurf.co.uk for details.

"The sailing club feels like extended family to me, there is always someone there to help"

Margate Yacht Club the early days by G.Massiot-Brown -

"It is regarded in yachting circles as a good omen if a yacht club starts off its activities in a pub, and doubtless this tradition holds good in the history of many clubs. Like the Royal Temple Yacht Club, the Margate Yacht Club also came into being under such auspicious circumstances, The George Hotel, King Street, Margate, being one of our first rendezvous during the autumn of 1933, when the Club was actually formed.

We started off with and odd assortment of craft, but had no one-class design of yacht to enable us to race amongst ourselves, or against any of our neighbouring clubs. A small fleet of 14-foot restricted-class sailing dinghies built at Conyer Creek was acquired, and with these we gradually gained skill in handling these little boats and learned all the tricks of racing, but had little scope of pitting our skills against other Thames Estuary yacht clubs, who raced Essex One Design 18-footers. We eventually decided to dispose of the 14-footers and have Essex One Designs built. In 1937, Mr. L.C. Brockman of Margate was commissioned to build "Sapphire". Three more E.O.D's, "Sard", "Jade", and "Cairngorm", were built at Whitstable, so with our fleet of four, we were all set for having a crack at some of the experts at other clubs, including Ramsgate, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Essex, and Burnham. The most coveted prize of all was the Etheridge Trophy of the Whitstable club, competed for by all the clubs annually, and we really felt we had made good when we eventually won this trophy in 1948.

In 1934, Mr. R.G. Odell was our Vice-Commodore, and he presented the Club with a dumb barge, which we proceeded to convert into a floating club house, and the incredible exploits we had with this unwieldy vessel would fill a volume. Eventually, we had to dispose of the barge as the harbour board, and everybody else, guessed what might happen if we had a hard blow in the harbour. The barge was sold to a newly-formed club at Harty Ferry, and we all regretted the departure of our erstwhile 'headquarters'. The Club then acquired premises at 24, High Street, where we all remained until 1940 when the Club went out of commission in order to devote its energies to more important operations. On vacating, the owner of the premises was most insistent on all dilapidations being properly carried out, and it was only the timely arrival of a bomb carefully labelled," The Margate Yacht Club" that eliminated any further worry on the part of the few remaining members of the Club. Between the periods of disposing of the old barge, and obtaining our High Street premises, the late brothers Kirby and George Cleveland, of the St. Georges Hotel, hearing of our difficulties, at once placed a clubroom at our disposal, and looked after us with the utmost kindness. All who know the St. Georges Hotel with its fascinating ship's bar, will appreciate how lucky we were, and members of other clubs who visited us there were simply amazed at the strides the Margate Yacht Club had made so quickly. The call of the sea, the harbour, and smells of rope and paint however, were too much for us, so we just had to get a base near the harbour, and, although the St. Georges was all very grand, it was no place for us in our decrepit yachting gear to stroll into during the height of the summer season.

The Club was re-formed in 1945, this time at the Saracen's Head, further up the High Street, and in April 1947, our present clubhouse at Fort Hill was acquired and reconditioned, where we have excellent premises overlooking the harbour. Our opening ceremony saw a large number of members from all adjacent clubs, and our new headquarters was launched in real nautical style, with good wishes all round.

We now have seven Essex One Design's, several other yachts, and a number of motor boats and cruisers. Special facilities have been arranged for members of the R.A.F. station at Manston, the ex-WRN's Association, and the Sea Rangers, the latter rendering really excellent service on the 'Square Head' to our race officers. During this spring, we started to build a cadet class design, and three of these boats were built by our members on the Club premises, so good sport and practice have been afforded the younger generation of both sexes. Cadet members are coming along in encouraging numbers, and it is hoped that by next year to have further cadet boats built.

The Club activities include our own Regatta, the Town Regatta, Councillor's Race, Ladies Race, Lifeboat Crew Race, and of course our points races and inter-club racing. Including the now popular Kent Week at Ramsgate. Cups and trophies have been presented to the Club for competition at the various events. The Club burgee is the Margate colours of red and blue, having superimposed a limb of the Cinque Ports emblem in gold, half a Leopard semi-rampant, and the stern half of a Roman galley."

A story from retired Flag Officer - Alan Robinson -

My time at Margate Yacht Club: -

"It all started at a Senior Scout meeting of the 29th Margate. Our scout leader was Eric Spicer who was a member of the Margate Yacht Club. He suggested that we should join as cadet members, and that was during the summer of 1948. The clubhouse was No. 14, Fort Hill, and the boats were moored in the harbour. These consisted of seven Essex One Designs (E.O.D's), and a 20-foot day boat like a modified Solent Sunstream. There were also a few modified 14-foot Kent restricted dinghies.

That winter the Club built two International Cadets No. 91 and 92, on the upper floor of the workshop. At this time there were no lifejackets or waterproofs to be had, so all cadets had to pass certain tests. 1. We had to swim fully clothed from the moored boats in the middle of the harbour to the King's Stairs, and 2. had to learn to scull a boat (that is one oar off the transom). After these tests we were allocated to an E.O.D as the third crew member. This meant operating the centre plate which weighed 270lbs, and operating the running back stays. I should have said that the reason for the sculling was to ferry members out to the moored boats. When crewing on these boats, there were no winches, or jamming cleats; ropes were cotton, or hemp, so every Monday morning we all had blistered hands. Life carried on in this fashion until 1951, when I was called to the university of life (national service).

After this phase of life, and on returning to MYC, there was a small fleet of Firefly's, one of which I sailed with the owner's daughter (no prizes for guessing who that was). I also still sailed on the E.O.D's, but now as jib hand, and on occasions helming if the owner was not available so that the boat could still claim its points. During the 1950's, a big increase in the number of boats meant that a dinghy park was needed. At the time there were 23 GP14's 9 Enterprises, and the start of the Fireball and Mirror classes. The E.O.D's were on the decline but the small bilge cruiser was beginning to appear. During this period, the Club supported Kent Sailing Week, which was held at Ramsgate, Dover or Whitstable on a yearly rotation. To get the E.O.D's to the event, we sailed them there. Whitstable was my favourite as on the last day we raced to Harty Ferry where we went ashore for a meal, or played darts with the local fishermen. By the time to return to Whitstable the owners were usually merry, and would have failed a breath test, so it was left for the cadets to get the boats back to Whitstable.

So that was the first 20 years at MYC. Happy days!"

Last updated 12:49 on 20 February 2023

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