Porthpean Sailing Club today

PSC is tucked in the westernmost corner of St Austell Bay,

in a cove which affords protection from all but south easterly winds.

The club house stands above Porthpean Beach, a wholly unspoilt sandy beach which shelves gently to the sea, thus making for safe launch and recovery.  The beach’s protected situation is favoured by canoeists and paddleboarders, who either paddle left to Charlestown or right to the secluded low water beaches further around the bay.  There are panoramic views of the whole bay from the club house, with the red and white striped day marker on Gribbin Head in the distance, and on clear days, beyond to the Eddystone Lighthouse.

Drone footage of Porthpean by Martin Rendell
We are passionate about dinghy racing at PSC, and as well as our usual club racing, we often run national championships; a challenge which keeps all our committee and safety kit up to scratch.

The handicap system compensates for class variations, making the racing competitive, with often only seconds separating finishing places.  Although it can be said the racing is competitive, it is never forgotten that it is all just fun, and when the boats come ashore there is always a team spirit to haul the dinghies to the slip, for our tractor to pull them up to the club yard.  We also have club boats for the use of members, again designed to cater for all. We have a Bug dinghy for early beginners, through to Pico dinghies, Lasers and a Vago for those who fancy spinnaker and trapezing. It should be noted that the club is not a training centre, but there is plenty of help and advice available for those with a reasonable sailing competence.

When the tractor and safety boat are rinsed down and squirreled away, covers on, then it’s time for a bacon butty or a pasty from the galley, and maybe an après-sail drink from the bar.  As a club, we are proud of our reputation for a happy, relaxed, and inclusive atmosphere where newcomers quickly feel at home.  There is a family friendly ethos in the club, making it an easy going, though sometimes noisy place.  The year round social calendar with skittles, quizzes, club walks and evening BBQs cater for most tastes, and out of season it is a lovely place for a quiet drink with friends.

For membership and full social and sailing programme, follow the links above.

PSC is rya affiliated

When you affiliate to the RYA you become part of the RYA family, a community of like-minded clubs and associations working with the RYA to ensure the ongoing success and growth of club and class activity and all forms of boating across the country. Affiliation also supports the RYA’s work protecting your rights and freedoms on the water.


PSC history

The history of Porthpean and how the sailing club came into being

The site that Porthpean Sailing Club is located on today used to be a Pilchard shed. Annual Membership Fees used to be £1.25 a year, there was no safety boat, and It was also noted that “they were a hardy lot” in those early days with not a wet suit in sight!

St. Austell in 1951, was a small market town on the South Coast of Cornwall. The 2 main local industries were St. Austell Brewery and the surrounding collection of China Clay Works. The population was recorded as 20813, whereas today the population stands at double that and is still rising. Few people owned a car, wages were very low and Cornwall like the rest of the country was trying to recover from the effects of the 2nd world war. So to form a sailing club was a very impressive task, especially as the proposed Club initially had neither Clubhouse nor dinghy park, and was on the coast some 2 miles from the town centre. There were no grants available, so what we have today owes a lot to the dedication, determination and vision of the founders.The following history is a précis taken from the existing Minutes of Committee meetings, plus some memories from Guy Morgan and John Hill. Guy joined the Club at the inaugral meeting, John joined the Club in the late 1950’s.It is possible that some of this history is not 100% accurate, but more details may come to light, which would allow me to correct as necessary. Unfortunately there were not many meetings held in the early years, so details are rather scarce. Remember sailing conditions had to be ideal, a capsize was a very wet affair as a boat had to be manually bailed, plus the fact that there was no safety boat available. Sailing clothing as we know it today was non existent, so sailors usually wore layers of old clothing, whilst tennis shoes were worn on the feet. Boats of this era were wooden, fairly heavy and comparatively slow by today’s standards.The First 10 years……..

An informal meeting was held at Mr. Conway Morgan’s house at Porthpean on the 9th October 1951. Also present were Thomas White and Michael Graham. These three men decided that if they could gather enough support, they would form a sailing club, and base it at Porthpean, a small beach on the outskirts of St. Austell. They arranged a public meeting by advertising in a local newspaper to see if there was sufficient interest locally.

Following the advertisement, a public meeting was held at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Mount Charles on 26th October. 12 people attended and the intention of forming a Sailing Club was put to the meeting. Enough interest was generated, the Club was formed and the name Porthpean Sailing Club was adopted and Mr W.G.Bulteel was elected as Commodore. The Club agreed to accept the tenancy of a yard at Porthpean to store boats in. This yard housed 2 buildings one was known as the old Malt House, which can be seen on period photographs of that time and an old Pilchard curing shed. The Malt House belonged to the Council and although empty was considered too dangerous to use. The Pilchard shed was used to hang the cotton sails to dry. The boats originally were stored in a carpark, which was the area of ground behind the present Clubhouse. Some of the founder members, Conway Morgan, Michael Graham, Stuart Warne & John Truscott sailed Redwings

The first AGM was held at the Duke of Cornwall on March 11th. 20 persons enrolled as members, rules were issued and the Club adopted the Redwing Class as its main dinghy plus the adoption of a 12ft Class, the Fleetwind. The Redwing dinghy was the most popular dinghy in Cornwall during the 50’s. It was designed by the late Uffa Fox, specifically for the West Country. It carried a very heavy centreboard and the total weight of boat and equipment was in excess of 300lb, rather a lump to try and pull up our dear little slipway!! There were good fleets at Looe, Newquay and Restronguet. Today only Looe SC has a fleet of Redwings. Unfortunately there are no records available of the first season’s racing, but I believe that there were possibly only 3 boats sailing. Races were held on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. The racing marks were made from cork and once laid would remain in situ for the rest of the sailing season. However the odd summer storm would usually result in marks going missing resulting in extra cost to replace them. Over the next 30 years construction of marks and anchoring them proved to be an annual problem.

Races were started from the yard, under the direction of Harry Kendall complete with flags and shotgun. A certain amount of aggravation took place between members and the driver of the Kelly’s ice cream van, which used to park at the bottom of the slipway thus causing an obstruction to the launching of the boats. (This sort of thing still happens today!!). There was also a certain amount of social activity, as the Club held a Laying up Supper at the end of the season.

The 2nd AGM held at Duke of Cornwall Hotel on 20th April. It was reported that the Club had 14 full members and 7 cadet members. W.G.Bulteel was re-elected as Commodore. The first race of the season was set for 16th May. A joint regatta was arranged with Charlestown for Thursday August 27th. A revolutionary meeting in September proposed that members who could afford to, would lend money to the Club, for the purchase of dinghies so that members without boats could hire them. It was fairly standard practice that if an owner could not sail his boat due to other commitments then he would loan the boat to another.

The 3rd AGM was held at the Queens Head Hotel on 22nd April. Membership was reported to be 21 full members and 10 cadet members. Mr Bulteel resigned as Commodore, no one was elected to replace him. The first race of the season was scheduled for 15th May, Saturdays at 15.00 and Thursdays at 19.00. A Christmas dinner and film show was organised for later in the year. The Club received a letter from the Council agreeing to a maximum of 12 boats using the beach at Porthpean. The Club tried and failed to secure a tenancy from the Council for the malt house at Porthpean. The Hon. Secretary was authorised to buy a stop watch for starting the races with.

The 4th AGM was held at the White Hart Hotel on 14th April. Mr W.A Whetter was elected as Commodore. Membership had fallen to 18 full members and 9 cadets. Club rules were redrafted, one of which was the decision to change the scoring. At that time the first boat scored 3 points, the second 2 points and the third boat 1 point. The scoring was changed to give the first boat in a race ¼ point. 2nd 2 points, 3rd 3 points etc. Clearly the Club now had more than 3 boats racing. The Club investigated the possibility of buying a tractor to haul boats out of the water. Christmas supper was organised at the Fowey Hotel. The “Crews Cup” was presented to the Club by Michael Graham. The race was to take place each September. Changing before and after races was a problem and so it was discussed whether to buy a shed that could be erected in the yard. The heavy weight of boats and trollies was evident as consideration was given to buying a tractor to pull the boats up the beach, (something we are still discussing today!!)

The 5th A.G.M held at the White Hart Hotel 19th April. The sailing season set to run from 12th May until 29th September. This was a momentous year as the Council had demolished the Malt house and offered the tenancy of the enlarged yard to the Club at a rent of £3.50 / annum. The area formally occupied by the malthouse was earmarked for the shed. Thursday racing was switched to Wednesdays. The first Clubhouse came into use this year when the Club applied for joint tenancy of the Watch House. This is the building at the bottom of the slipway, which the Council uses today to store deckchairs. Originally the watch house was built for the Customs and excise men of the 19th century when smuggling was prevalent along the Cornish coast. Membership was now up to 20 full members, 6 cadets and 1 honorary member. The Club bought Redwing No30. Permission was given from the Council that boats could be kept on the wall by the beach and the Council agreed to provide materials for a slipway, which would help with launching. The first life membership was granted on the payment of £15.

The 6th AGM held at Queens Head Hotel 14th May. Mr W.A Whetter was re-elected as Commodore. Subscriptions were raised to £1.25 for full members and 65p for cadets. Membership had fallen to 17 full members, 3 cadets, 1 life member and 1 honorary member. Nobody in the Club wished to purchase Redwing No30 and so it was advertised in “Light Craft” for sale at £90 with any offer over £70 to be accepted.

The 7th AGM held at the Church School Rooms, South Street, 16th April. Membership had risen to 20 full members, 3 cadets 1 life and 2 honorary members. Subscriptions were raised to £1.50 for full members, cadet membership remained unchanged. Redwing No30 was finally sold for £50. The Club was offered the use of the upper room at the beach, rent was fixed at £2/annum. The Council agreed to provide materials for the Club to build a wooden ramp from the beach to the wall, which would allow boats to use the wall for parking. A “home” and “away” fixture with Newquay SC was arranged plus attendance of the Club for the Whit Monday regatta at Restronguet. The 1st race of the season was scheduled for 14th May. A rowing boat, complete with a seagull outboard engine was offered to the Club to act as a rescue boat. A special General Meeting was called to decide to purchase a suitable hut costing no more than £140 to be built in the Club yard. Pictures of this hut are displayed in the Clubhouse. The Laying up supper was booked at the Wentworth Hotel tickets priced at 6 shillings (30p in today’s money). The Council allocated £50 towards the cost of a ramp, which the members built to get the boats from the beach to the top of the sea wall.

The records indicate that there were 10 boats in the Club, these being 3 Redwings, 2 Hornets, an Albacore, Merlin Rocket, Wildcat, a Mayfly and a Heron. The date of the first race was set for May16th with the last race scheduled for 12th September. The 8th AGM was held at the Arts Club on April 15th. The membership had grown to 25 full members, 14 cadets, 2 hon. members and 1 life member. Arthur Whetter was re-elected as Commodore. Fixtures were arranged at Newquay and Restronguet for Redwing racing. The long awaited hut was finally bought and erected in the yard on 23rd April and was the first official Clubhouse. John Hill was elected onto the committee as a Cadet Member, John is the only person who was on the Committee in the 1950’s who still sails at Porthpean today. The design of the Club Burgee was decided. Charlestown Coastguard had an old flagpole to dispose of and the Club accepted it in exchange for 100 cigarettes. Tickets for the laying up supper at the Cliffden Grill went on sale for 42.5p each. Some dissatisfaction with the existing handicap racing was evident as it was proposed that the Club adopt a 2nd one design boat for racing. Proposed boats were the Albacore, the Enterprise and the Mayfly, with a lot of the interest directed towards the Enterprise as it boasted 2 rigs the smaller rig made it suitable for junior racing. Late in the year the Club invited Miss Kim Cardell and her father to bring their Enterprise from Newquay for the Club to inspect. Kim is still racing today and is a member of Mounts Bay SC. However there was a new boat, not yet launched, that was causing quite a bit of interest amongst Club members, the Scorpion. The Club was urged by members not to vote on a new class until the Scorpion had been inspected.

In many ways this was the start of the modern Porthpean Sailing Club that we have today. The year started with an EGM called in late January to discuss the merits of the Scorpion. Although not really mentioned in the minutes it is obvious that quite a few of the influential members were intrigued and interested in the yet to be marketed Scorpion. The prototype, Scorpion No1, had been at the club for inspection, and due to bad weather conditions was not launched until the last weekend in January. The boat was first sailed by Stuart Hore and Philip Chesterfield in a brisk south easterly wind article. The performance and stability was such that several members declared that they would buy one within 2 years. The Scorpion had the added attraction that it could be built at home from a kit. A photograph of the inaugural launching can be seen on the Clubhouse wall. The Scorpion was immediately adopted as the Club boat, and 4 were bought that year. Scorpion No 48 owned by John Morgan, the Whetters owned No 49, Dennis Mitchell No 50 and Peter Milne bought No 82.
The 9th AGM was held at the Arts Club on 7th April when the Commodore was pleased to announce that membership had increased to 52 members. The Treasurer announced that Club assets stood at 3 shillings and 4 pence (about 17p). and a wooden hut. A 6 year plan to improve the Club and its facilities was announced. This involved developing the Club Yard to build a Clubhouse, unfortunately the Council was against the development and instead offered the Club the tenancy of the Watch House, on the beach. The first ever Scorpion open meeting was arranged for 24th and 25th September.

The original Club rules were redrafted and an EGM was called in February where the rules that we use today were presented to the members. These were passed and a small handbook containing the rules was produced. The AGM was scheduled for 25th March at the Arts Club. Arthur Whetter was re elected as Commodore. The need to obtain a dedicated rescue boat was raised, and a sub committee was formed to consider the purchase of a more functional rescue boat. This is the first mention of a rescue boat. Though I am told that the Club had been using a rowing boat complete with outboard engine that had been donated to the Club by Arthur Whetter. The Club was presented with the L K (Lloyd Kirk) trophy, which arrived in the post from Bristol. Crinnis Beach had been bought by new owners and it was rumoured that they intended to form a sailing Club there. Much work was being carried out at the Watch House to make it a Clubhouse. Even today there are still murals and traces of the sailing club on the upper floor of the Watch house should anyone care to climb the stairs for a look. Arrangements were made for another Scorpion Open Meeting, the Club stipulating that a minimum of 12 boats had to enter. In those days it was the norm to enter prior to the race day, thus allowing Clubs to arrange catering etc to suit the entry. However only 7 entered, despite this the meeting was held. The Laying up supper was arranged for October 14th.

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