Sunbeams set to shine in their 96th year

Sunbeams are still going strong 96 years after their initial launch
Sunbeams are still going strong 96 years after their initial launch

The 96-year-old Solent Sunbeam classic keelboat fleet has a busy racing and social schedule lined up for the coming sailing season, which started on Saturday with an afternoon race around Chichester Harbour.

Based at Itchenor Sailing Club, the class offers competitive and sociable Thursday evening racing, weekend regattas and a number of week-long racing events at both Itchenor and Cowes, from April through to September.

Thirty-two Solent Sunbeams regularly sail from Itchenor SC ranging from 96 years in age to new all-GRP and newly epoxied yachts ensuring excellent one-design racing in a competitive and very sociable fleet.

Newcomers to the class are welcomed into the fleet with tips and advice on ownership, rig set-up and maintenance freely available from the long-standing owners and enthusiasts.

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Two new boats will be joining the Itchenor fleet this season, V47, Kitty who has come up from the Falmouth fleet and V70, Minty a brand-new GRP boat.

As one would expect with a class spanning 96 years, many of the current events, regattas and activities have their origins in the past.

The class itself originates from Hamble River Sailing Club, where in 1922 the club commodore, Basil Lubbock, was asked by members to find a new one design racing yacht. Lubbock commissioned the eminent naval architect Alfred Westmacott and the Solent Sunbeam was born.

It turned out to be one of Westmacott’s best designs for racing; not only is she an extremely pretty three-man keelboat but also one that can handle the boisterous conditions of the Solent.

Her original construction by Woodnutt & Co on the Isle of Wight must have been of exceptionally high quality as eight of the first yachts still actively race today including hulls V1, V2 and V3 which were all commissioned in 1922-23.

The fleet was based at Hamble until 1930 and at Bembridge Sailing Club in the 1930s. Itchenor SC first adopted the class in 1932 and by 1966 all the Solent boats were based at Itchenor. A sister fleet has existed in Falmouth since 1924 and will be celebrating their 95th anniversary this year with a number of special events.

For more information on sailing and owning a Solent Sunbeam as well as information on forthcoming events, contact the Class Association via the website at www.solentsunbeam.co.uk

The class operates a well-organised crew/helm request system for anyone wishing to try out sailing this classic keelboat. Please visit the website for more details.