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Home / Afloat & Onshore / More about DRSC / Club History

Club History

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A Potted History of Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club

The building of the reservoir began in 1960. As the reservoir was filling up, in 1966, a group of interested sailors approached the Sunderland & South Shields Water Company with a request to establish a Sailing Club.

A public meeting was called at the Five Bridges Hotel, in Gateshead; setting out proposals, a membership and management structure, and inviting applications.

After a questionnaire in local newspapers, the 1700 positive replies set in motion the establishment in 1967 of Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club on the direct supply reservoir, with John Sigmund becoming the first Commodore of DRSC.

In 1967 with a membership of 670 and 120 registered boats, the pioneering spirit was evident as sailors emerged from the three temporary wooden huts. Sailors wearing a mixture of old clothes, wellies, oilskins and even huge 'desert rat style shorts', were ready to set sail. Their annual fee for membership was £5.00 and their boat park fee another £5.00.

Gordon Durham's company, which had provided the wooden huts as temporary facilities for the club, commenced the building of the Clubhouse. Funding coming from public and private finance as well as grants from The Playing Fields Association, English Sport and the Water Board.

Spring of 1967 saw the opening of the new Clubhouse, with it being fully operational in 1968. By 1970 the access lanes between the lines of boats and extension to the car parks was completed. In the late 1970's the extension to the men's changing rooms and building of an extra-large garage was completed, again with input of funding from Sport England. In 1980 further refurbishment resulted in the Clubhouse we have today.

Northumberland County Council and Durham County Council both established school sailing bases, bringing their own equipment. Durham County Council also had a paid Manager on site. Then in 1974 after the boundary changes, the newly formed Gateshead Education Authority also set up a school base. Unfortunately, when the cut backs in funding for such activities within schools began, all the centres were closed during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Gateshead Authority eventually established, 'Way Out In Gateshead', WING, which was developed as part of Social Services, with the group regularly using the Club on Wednesday afternoons, introducing water sports to a wide variety of people. Wing were operating for a number of years, until their funding was cut.

DRSC has RYA recognition as a training centre. The RYA Training section continues to be very active, with many Club members as qualified instructors, providing an introduction to sailing and windsurfing. Junior training sessions, operating under the RYA Onboard scheme, has also encompassed schools and youth groups. For several years, Friday afternoon school sessions were in place. Junior windsurfing sessions continue to be popular.

The Classes of dinghies initially adopted at DRSC were GP14, National 12, Firefly, Enterprise, Cadets and Flying Fifteen. The Club has and continues to operate and adapt to the changes in the dinghy world.

International Fourteen, Mirror, Topper, Laser, OK, Optimist, Fireball, 420 were all adopted as classes although some have since disappeared as fleets. In the late 1990's RS 200 and Topaz dinghies became popular, and the decision to open the Club to any dinghy in 2004, has produced some interesting boats such as the Musto Skiff, which has been sailed to an exceptionally high standard.

Class racing continues to thrive, especially in the Musto Skiff and Laser Class, however there are still well established GP14 and Flying Fifteen Fleets, showing the strength and resilience of dinghies with a 70 year history.

Racing continues to play an important part at DRSC. Many of the Club buoys are named after local features, including Gallowshill, Millshield, Kilnpit, Espershields, Winnowshill, Hunter, Pow Hill and Ruffside. DRSC, through its regular racing programme has helped develop some world class sailors, who have achieved recognition in their own Class and also gone on to be champions in other classes.

As racing continues to thrive, no longer do we see the cotton sails with a tarry smell, which had to be ironed, but now a vast array of coloured sails and also laminate sails. Sailors at the Club have embraced the changes both for their craft and their high-performance clothing.

There have been many celebrations at the Club, with one of the most notable being a visit from royalty. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary in 1992, members welcomed HRH Princess Anne to the Club and out on the water in a RIB.

DRSC has developed into a Club offering opportunities for a range of water sports, including kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming. The Club's objectives, stated in the 2001 Handbook:- a) the encouragement of amateur yacht and dinghy sailing; b) encouragement of the study of seamanship, pilotage and navigation, of improvement in boat design, and of boat-building and sail-making; c) the holding and arrangement of matches, races, regattas and competitions; and d) the promotion of social activities, all of which continue to some extent to be incorporated into the Club's operation.

Indeed, Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club has become one of the larger sailing clubs north of the Wash, with an area of 3500 acres of water. It has hosted (and still continues to host) many major inland championships and is still recognised as a major water sports centre in the north of England.

Ann Penny (May 2021, Commodore 2009 2012)

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Last updated 13:44 on 18 November 2021

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