95 years young: It’s time for a Sunbeam sailing party

Solent Sunbeams - a spectacular sight / Picture by Mary Pudney
Solent Sunbeams - a spectacular sight / Picture by Mary Pudney

The Solent Sunbeam class are celebrating 95 years on the water with a special regatta weekend and an anniversary party at Itchenor Sailing Club.

This pretty, classic, three-man keelboat which was designed by Alfred Westmacott in 1923, has been continuously sailing in the Solent for 95 years and has its base at Itchenor Sailing Club.

The very first Sunbeam – Dainty, No1 – is still actively raced today as are several boats that were built in the early 1920s.

A traditionally-trained naval architect from the Victorian era, Westmacott responded to a commission from three Hamble-based yachtsmen to design a racing dayboat by producing a boat that was not only pretty but one that could handle the boisterous conditions of the Solent.

Thirty-two Sunbeams sail from Itchenor ranging from 95 years of age to new all-GRP and newly epoxied yachts, yet all racing on level terms in a one-design fleet. Regular racing is highly competitive with no restrictions for tides on most weekends and Thursday evenings from March to October.

Yacht skipper and Sunbeam crew, Julian Hawe, said: “The boats are awesome - the class’ best asset is that in light airs it is just amazing. Sunbeams behave as a boat should.”

The boats are awesome - the class’ best asset is that in light airs it is just amazing. Sunbeams behave as a boat should.

Juilan Hawe

Alongside regular racing in beautiful Chichester Harbour, Sunbeams race at Cowes Classic Week and Cowes Week.

The club look forward to welcoming many regular sailors at the anniversary weekend at Itchenor on May 26 and 27, as well as former and prospective sailors and members of the sister fleet based in Falmouth.

On both days, taster sessions will be available from 3pm and the anniversary party will be held at the club on May 27 from 7.30pm.

MICHAEL HELLYER