This chapter of the Club’s history relates to the social activities, which are always such an integral and enjoyable part of belonging to a club of like-minded people. Obviously, there have been some changes in the type of entertainment enjoyed over the years but for most of the Club’s life, the mainstays of social functions have been the Fitting Out Party and the Regatta Ball (or party) during the sailing season and the Annual Dinner, New Year’s Eve and the Winter Lecture Series during the off season. To read the Club’s social history, it does seem at times as though the rise and fall of the type and success of social events has often been closely linked to the supply of alcohol, but this must be hotly disputed. As a previous Flag Officer of the Club has written: “Never an inkling of the Club … becoming a Drinking Luncheon Club. Sailing was the raison d’être”. Nevertheless, the success or failure of social events in any organisation is generally closely linked to the quality of the food and beverages provided. The Royal Lymington Yacht Club is fortunate that, in its Centenary year, it can depend on the catering provided by Mosimann’s, owners of the well-known and well-established private club of the same name.
[Mossimanns ceased their contract in April 2021 to be succeeded by South West Catering!]
Details of the social events held by and at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club have varied over the years and the form in which they were set down inevitably has a huge impact in the way in which this chapter deals with them. An historical record of social events at the Club can be likened to looking up from the deck (the present) at the mast of a yacht; the top of the mast (the past) is a long way off and rather difficult to see in detail but the nearer it is, the more detail can be seen. In this way, the years before the Second World War can be seen as the years which are up beyond the spreaders, where records are few and far between and the author has had to take the line that only those events which were over and above the usual round would have been recorded; otherwise, it is assumed that the normal social activities continued unchanged. As the Club grew, records became better and an annual Bulletin was issued from the 1960s to the mid 1980s which gives a brief summary of the events which took place. The PotterShip Magazine then took over and included social events in a length and detail which varied in adverse proportion to the amount of sailing activity which had occurred. However, since 2008, a more detailed record of formal social suppers and dinners is available, thanks to Tricia Sparrow; the author is indebted to her for the information which forms the latter part of this chapter, and to Carolyn Trimming, who researched the data which was available on line.
In this chapter, social events are presented chronologically rather than by separate event. In this way, it is much easier to see how the social activities of the Club have grown and altered and adapted over time – although, inevitably, means that various events such as the Annual Dinner regularly crop up in the narrative. However, it is hoped that this will not detract from the overall history of how some events have obviously withstood the test of time and remain popular today, while others have fallen by the wayside and still more have died away only to be resurrected later on; others have been introduced later and their longevity has depended, as ever, on the preferences and customs of the Club membership at the time. There is also, no doubt – especially in more recent times when the Club membership has been more representative of the wider world as opposed to the more elite ‘non trade’ membership of the early and mid-twentieth century – that the wider fortunes of the nation will have, to a certain extent, also impact the popularity or otherwise of particular events. Most recently, the 2020 and 2021 Coronavirus Pandemic has massively impacted on the ways in which we have been able to interact socially within the Club and it is as yet unknown how fundamental and long lasting these changes will be.
The author (at least of this chapter), not having been a member even twenty years ago, let alone a hundred, has perforce needed to rely heavily on written sources. These inevitably only record what each particular recorder of events considered to be important enough to set down for posterity. Consequently, no mention is made of, say, Club Barbeques or even the Laying Up Party, until it is suddenly evident that these must have been a fixture for some years prior to their first mention. In the same way, many events have taken place for so many years and are so much a part of the everyday existence of the Club that it is – and probably has been – easy to take their existence and occurrence for granted and thus to let a year pass without their being mentioned.
From inception to World War
The Royal Lymington Yacht Club has been sociable right from its inception; the decision to re-form a sailing club (World War One had caused an earlier incarnation to fold) was taken on Wednesday 19 April 1922 at Blakes, the home of Major Potter, the Club’s Founder and immortalised in the PotterShip legacy (Race, Prize and Magazine). It is unimaginable to believe that the group of ten who were present on that occasion did not celebrate the new Club with at least one cocktail for the ladies and a whisky (or possibly two…) for the chaps.
Although the primary reason for the Club’s existence has always been sailing, the concomitant need for refreshment has from the very beginning been accommodated; Major Potter’s conservatory was the original Club Room; two years later, Club records note that, as most of the members lived nearby, the main social activity was that of afternoon tea. This was possibly partly due to the fact that the Steward of the day, Mr Francis, took so long to produce any drink that had been ordered that the thirsty customer had time to stroll over to the Mayflower for a liquid taster before coming back to find his drink was nearly ready.
Once the new Club house was built, it is recorded that various social activities were organised to pay for the building costs. These included amateur dramatics; the premises were also hired out for private parties. One early PotterShip Magazine describes the early social and other club activities thus: “In the 1920’s the membership was comprised of a compact group of friends, and club actvities were wholly dependent upon the voluntary support of a small team of enthusiasts” On the water, nascent social activities were encouraged when, in the 1930’s, Club records point out that ‘a demand for the less plutocratic type of racing yacht and one more suitable for picnicking, as well as for racing, was met by the design of the Lymington ‘L’ Class by J Laurent Giles’ although – when not being used for leisurely picnics – the possibly rather over enthusiastic racing techniques employed to ensure a win in these boats was partly the reason why the much cheaper (probably less suitable for picnicking too) – and apparently rather unattractive – Coronation Class came into being. Eventually, these were themselves replaced with the very beautiful and enduring X class.
The leisurely interwar years ended abruptly with the horror of World War Two – and it was after this ended that the traditionally low-key social activities of the Club – picnics and afternoon tea – were augmented by the provision of a bar and of the requisite attendant, who could dispense drinks immediately and willingly. Unfortunately, in 1946 the Club (along with the rest of the country, probably) had a shortage of gin. As most of the Club’s pre-war sailing members had served in the Royal Navy during the War, where they had picked up a predilection for pink gins, this was obviously considered to be enough of a problem to be noted in the Club’s Bulletin for that year! Although the provision of a bar required considerable alteration to the club premises and although it was apparently deeply disliked by the older members, it obviously did no harm to the Club’s social life, as the Club history records that the club at this time ‘witnessed a renaissance hitherto unequalled or since surpassed’, which seems also to have been partly due at least to the presence of the sociable Captain Mostyn-Williams as Club Secretary.
When War gave way to Peace
The 1947 Bulletin announced that ‘A Grand Regatta Ball will be held on Friday 22nd August. Superior attractions in the way of a Dance Orchestra with Mr Sim Grossman in personal attendance, and special catering arrangements justify this rather high-sounding title. Of course, the tickets will be a little more expensive for the same reason ……’ (Sim Grossman and His Band were obviously well known as they had been good enough, in May 1940, be included on the BBC Home Service programme, so the elevated ticket price was possibly justified). It was during this period that the Evening Lectures came to prominence, quickly becoming a favourite social activity (as, indeed, they remain today) and including lectures on subjects as diverse as cruising from the Clyde to Dartmouth and the history of the Rating Rule, the latter apparently proving to be rather too technical for some of the audience. The 1947 Bulletin mentioned that the lectures had been ‘crowded and the suppers served afterwards have added considerably to the popularity of these functions. The Lectures have been of a very high standard throughout and have attracted a number of distinguished strangers.
The Forties turned into the Fifties with a Masked Ball at the Club, held on Friday 30 December. The Annual Dinner, earlier in 1949, was held on 4 November and ‘held to be a great success’; perhaps the Bulletin was penned by another hand by the following year, when it was reported that the Annual Dinner ‘is an established affair which may perhaps appeal more to those who are long in tooth and purse’. The situation hadn’t altered by 1951, when the Dinner ‘was a great success from the point of view of the enjoyment of the “select few”’! In that year, the ‘go-to’ events were obviously the Regatta Ball (‘an outstanding success’) and, in the school holidays, the Radio-Gram Dances. Christmas saw a Treasure Hunt (followed by tea at the Club), Christmas Luncheon and a New Year’s Eve Ball (presumably a fancy-dress ball, as the Bulletin writer suggested that ‘the high standard of originality of dress will, I am sure, again be reached, if not outstripped’), and a Children’s Party was arranged for 7 January.
By 1953 the Annual Dinner seemed to have regained its popularity, being attended by ‘possibly’ 75 people, including the Mayor and Mayoress and the Flag Officers of the Royal Southern and the Royal Solent. In that same year, the Regatta Ball and the New Year’s Eve Ball – the latter again with fancy dress – were possibly a little less well attended – attracting only ‘comfortable attendance with good gain to the Club’s coffers’. There was also a Club ‘Draw’ that Christmas, in preparation for a similar event to surround the 1954 Grand National. Whether or not the Grand National Draw took place is not recorded. Members in 1954 enjoyed a good series of Winter lectures and a maximum number of 73 attended the Annual Dinner. The Regatta and New Year’s Balls seems to have been popular, if not over full. Unfortunately, an inundation by the sea caused flooding in the bar which probably affected the Club’s social scene to a degree; the Bulletin for that year ended with a heartfelt wish that the summer of 1955 would be the best for years.
Whether or not the summer of 1955 – and indeed ensuing summers – provided glorious sailing weather, there is little doubt that, on-shore, the Club’s social scene was becoming increasingly active. The Bulletin of 1957 thanked everyone who had helped to organised ‘the many social functions held throughout the year’… and who, ‘no sooner is one function over, start preparing for the next.’ In 1957, these busy people produced a Fitting Out Dance, a Regatta Ball (which was apparently held in glorious weather and went ‘with a swing’), Potter Ship and other Parties, a Fancy-Dress Ball (where ‘the standard of imaginative ingenuity’ was such that the Vice Commodore awarded prizes) and an Annual Dinner. The Commodore of the Island Sailing Club, Major Windeler, was the guest of honour on this occasion. At the same time, the Club’s younger members were treated to Junior Dances and Reel Parties. Music lovers could enjoy the newly-introduced afternoon gramophone recitals, while the ‘Beer and Bangers’ meals were ‘as popular as ever’. By 1958, in addition to the successful Fitting Out Dance, Junior Dances, Potter Ship Party and Regatta Ball, Club members were able to carry on dancing throughout the winter months, courtesy of regular evenings of Highland Reels; again, in 1959 ‘The … Fitting-out and Junior Dances, Potter Ship and other Parties, Reel Gatherings, Music and Bridge Afternoons – were all well patronised, although the dances were down in the number of Members attending compared with last year (the members were probably exhausted!) Lectures took place on the first Saturday of the Winter months, and Reels on the second. Just in case anyone had the inclination to go elsewhere, members were reminded that lunch was served more or less daily throughout the year and suppers and teas were available during the sailing season. In between all these activities, it was noted that the year had been a bumper one for marriages and engagements amongst the younger membership, who were wished well, with the added hope that married life would be a happy balance between sailing and socialising at the Club.
The 1950s were also, of course, the decade when the new Queen, Elizabeth II, was crowned. One social event which was planned (although there is no record of it actually happening) was the chartering of a boat to take members and families out to see the Spithead Review.
The Swinging Sixties by the Sea
By the time the Fifties leant towards the Sixties, the Club had grown and the premises needed to expand. Although we have no details of events, it is recorded that ‘all social functions were well attended and are as popular as ever’ in 1960. Three wedding receptions were held at the Club that year, one of them at very short notice. It is recorded that the Club rose to the occasion. The Annual Dinner, held on 26 November, was attended by Sir Gerald and Lady Upjohn, Admiral Sir Manley and Lady Power and Mr and Mrs Robert Nock. However, there are indications that social events could be better attended. It was noted that the ‘House Committee look to your continued support at social functions, in the bar and in the dining-room during the coming year. They have your interest at heart and are there to help you. If you are not satisfied or have any complaints, a word to a Flag Officer, a Committee Member or an entry in the Suggestion Book will in all probability put things right’; obviously, this worked, as in 1961 – with an outside firm of caterers taken on for a year – it was reported that ‘regattas, dances, lectures etc have all been well attended with hardly an adverse criticism’.
Although social events in 1962 (again, no details, other than a report that the Annual Dinner took place on November 24th were reportedly successful – and notably attended by young Members – it seems that the caterers taken on in 1961 should have been retained for more than the year; ominously, it was reported that bar takings were down and ‘catering has not been up to the standard that most Members expect’, but shortly after this, a new Caterer was announced and great things were expected of him!
While it seems extraordinary that so many balls and parties could take place when catering facilities at the Club were not ideal, this was in fact the case; although the thirst brought on by competitive (or otherwise) sailing could be slaked at the bar, there were no convenient facilities for the provision of food, and this did apparently affect the scope of social activities which could occur at the club. However, by Spring 1963, the Club finally had a new kitchen, and by 1968 a Clubhouse which took full advantage of the views of the river, its estuary, and the distant Isle of Wight. As sailing activities increased on the water, so did social activities take hold on the land. The 1963 social activities, whatever they were (we do not know), were well attended and the Annual Dinner – the first to be catered by the Club’s own caterer and voted ‘the best meal’ created for that occasion for a long time – was so popular that it was over-subscribed.
An unspecified ‘calamity’ overtook the catering in 1964; however, although this resulted (for ordinary times) in a change – very successfully – to a self-service style of meals, it obviously did not impact the main formal social calendar particularly, as all social occasions were reportedly ‘well attended and many have been over-subscribed’. Indeed, the main event in 1964 was a Regatta Ball, whose success was largely put down to the fact that the Club had, for the first time, hired a marquee – which meant that more people were able to attend. Consequently, the Club immediately hired a similar marquee for 1965 and proclaimed that up to 250 members and guests could be entertained. The 1965 Ball was indeed another triumph and it was hoped that in 1966 (the marquee was by then a given) they would be able to fit even more guests in. Evidently, this was not possible because although it is reported that ‘the two dances, Annual Regatta and the New Year’s Eve were … a great success’, the 1966 Club facilities could only really cope with a maximum of 250 members and guests for the Regatta Dance. By this time, pre-booked ‘Wine Dinners’, held from January to March, had joined the Lecture nights in providing entertainment in the post-Christmas months while, at the latter end of the year, ‘Club Evenings’ were especially focussed on new members. In 1966, also, a highly successful and popular Race Game Evening was organised for members.
The 1967 Social Season at the Club was, inevitably, adversely affected by the rebuilding of the Club. Consequently, there is no mention of a Regatta Ball, there were no lectures, and the Club Dinner, held on 9 December, was held at a local hotel (The Camden Hurst). Nevertheless, the informal catering seems to have been ever more popular and a policy of booking tables for lunch had to be introduced.
Social events at the Club re-started with a bang in 1968, as the Regatta Ball was seen as a ‘fitting introduction’ to the rebuilt Club, when even the weather behaved and allowed members to luxuriate in the glorious surroundings which the building enjoyed. The Bar, run by one Clive Fry, was regarded as ‘the established centre’ of the Club’s social life, being so busy that there was a worry that any extra takings would be eaten up by the necessity of providing more staff.
Social events in the new building were also aided by the fact that the capacity for entertaining had been doubled. The Annual Dinner was graced by none other than Robin Knox-Johnston, who was very recently returned from his round the world single handed voyage in Suhaili and who, we are told, gave a ‘witty, polished and informative address’ on the subject. As had become the norm, there was a full programme of Lectures (although there was a plea to members to help with subject matter), while the popularity of the one-off Bridge Afternoon led to a plea that it might become a regular fixture. As social events ten years before had also heralded the popularity of Bridge, it is something of a mystery why it needed to be re-established.
Dining at the Club remained popular in 1969 and the success of the new club and its capacity to run more events led to an increase in the number of members on the House Committee. When Audrey Thomlinson and Anita Hobson retired therefrom, their high standards were heralded as an example to be followed at a club whose social life was ‘increasingly popular’. This popularity, in 1969, created the background for an Easter Regatta which included – presumably once the sailing was over – a discotheque for everyone to enjoy, in addition to the Regatta Ball, the Annual Dinner, Wine Dinners, The New Year’s Eve Ball, the Race Game Evening and a Bridge Drive (so the pleas of the previous year for more bridge were heard, if only in part).
The Social Seventies
Social events in 1970 were obviously organised in the spirit of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, as Winter 1970/71 was to be enjoyed in exactly the same way as that of the previous year, with the addition of a Discotheque Dance in November and an afternoon (as opposed to evening) lecture, after which tea was served. The lectures were, in fact, so popular that they were over-subscribed and a very polite message was issued to members asking them to put their names down beforehand rather than arriving betimes – and, equally politely, asking them to let the Club know if they couldn’t come, so that another could fill the space. Plus ca change! The Rev Stephen Pakenham succeeded Robin Knox-Johnston as the speaker at the Annual Dinner on November 14th; his account of his experiences in the 1968 Single Handed Atlantic Race held the audience in thrall. Distinguished speakers seem to have abounded at this time; in the following year, Hammond Innes – the well-known British novelist, whose works included Wreckers must Breathe, The Wreck of the Mary Deare and – in 1967 – Sea and Island – was the speaker. Hammond Innes was also a sailor and the latter book was apparently a compilation of stories about his voyages in his own boat, called the Mary Deare after the success of his book about a boat of the same name. Hopefully, his yacht did not meet the same end! Other than this, social events for 1971 were basically the same as those in previous Winters – New Year’s Ball, Wine Dinners and Lectures. There is no record of a Regatta Ball that year but, even if there was no official summer Ball to wear off all the calories, eating was obviously still very popular – the dining room was by all accounts so busy that tables needed to be booked.
The year 1972, was of course, a special one at the Royal Lymington – the 50th Anniversary of its founding. Social events organised to commemorate the event included an exhibition of artifacts and documents which illustrated the Club’s history to date. All full members were given a copy of a book of the Club History, which was well received and which was made possible by donations from some of the members. An alteration in the traditional Summer Social events, was also heralded in 1972, in that the Summer Ball (hitherto obviously called the Regatta Ball) was moved from August, to June. How this impacted the Ball is not recorded (the only mention of it is that Beattie Fair and Peggy Rich created a wonderful display of blue cornflowers, with 1922-72 as the motif, which were arranged over the Bar. However, the Regatta Cocktail Party which took the place of the Ball in August was attended by more than 400 guests and included a buffet supper and a discotheque. The Potter Ship Prize Giving Drinks party was another new event; at this, we are told that the dancing lasted until midnight.
1972 also saw the organisation of two separate events to support the RNLI, which is – of courses – still supported by the Club today, 50 years on. The first was a sea-borne expedition to watch the start of the Tall Ships Race (£37 was raised for the organisation) and the second was less active, being a Jubilee Bridge Drive, which included a tea worthy of the Jubilee year and for which the top prize was a transistor radio. The second prize was a bottle of whisky. Some prizes remain popular throughout the ages! The Bridge Drive was obviously very successful, as it raised over £150 and another £46 was made through the sale of souvenirs.
Although the perennially popular Lecture Series and Wine Dinners took place as usual over the winter of 1972/73, the New Year’s Eve Ball and the New Members Evening did not, victims of a winter of building works (the re building of the south west corner of the Club). Before these started, however, it seems that the Annual Dinner was an occasion of great hilarity. While member Jack Bryans heroically substituted for the indisposed John Perkins, Derek Heathcote-Amory (Lord Amory) the distinguished MP, Padre Logan and Sir Dermot Boyle (Marshal of the RAF) apparently gave speeches which occasionally belied the apparently serious nature of their professions and had the guests almost rolling in the aisles. The meal was similarly memorable – ‘a gastronomic gavotte’ we are told.
It seems that 1973 was a popular year from the social point of view, as members who wished to give private parties in the Club were reminded that these events had to be fitted in round a busy programme and therefore needed the prior approval of the House Committee. However, there are no details about what this busy social scene was; the Annual Barbeque which is listed as being a 1973 event actually took place in 1974. In addition to the Barbeque and the Annual Dinner (where Sir Vivian Fuchs, the Antarctic explorer, was guest of honour), 1974 saw the organisation of a motor treasure hunt and the New Year’s Eve Dance, in addition to what is described in the archives as ‘a comprehensive programme of lectures, wine, suppers and cocktail parties’ (is the comma between wine and suppers a Freudian slip, one wonders …!)
The year 1975 appears to be the first when the now well-established Art Exhibition took place. Members were encouraged to contribute work of a ‘maritime nature’ and the resulting display in the autumn brought welcome funds to the RNLI. Apart from this innovation, the usual and popular round of Fitting Out Party (which ‘will be organised on exactly the same lines as 1974 with tickets at £1.50 and a Disco included’), lectures and the Summer Dance – when the Wally Elliot Quartet and the (slightly concerningly named) Faulty Amp Discotheque were hired for the occasion – provided entertainment for members, once they were back on shore. It seems that a good few of the members of the time might also have had reservations about the disco; apparently it received ‘only limited support’ although it was rated a great success by those who actually did attend. The new members parties continued, and the Annual Barbecue, while a ‘civilised’ discotheque was hired for the evening after the Potter Ship race, to provide the music for what was described as a supper dance. A further ‘civilised discotheque’ was arranged for the Cruiser/Racer evening which was provided on 25 October that year. It seems that, by the mid-seventies, popular culture was not necessarily universally appreciated by Club members!
There was another Motor Treasure Hunt this year, and a New Year’s Eve Ball was also arranged, although at the time the record was written, this was only ‘tentative’.
There is no record of whether or not 1976 was brought in that tentatively arranged New Year’s Eve Ball, but regardless of this, the year held plenty of social activities for the members of the Royal Lymington YC. Sir John Donaldson (later Baron Donaldson of Lymington, who replaced the redoubtable Lord Denning as Master of the Rolls) being the guest speaker at the Cruising Dinner. That event was obviously a real triumph: it was enjoyed so much that the 1977 Dinner was already booked by the end of the year, with Captain Colin McMullen, Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club succeeding Sir John. The Annual Dinner in November saw the Deputy Master of Trinity House – Captain Miles Wingate – give the address. There was obviously an expectation that the success of this event would mirror that of the earlier Cruising Dinner, as the Club proposed that, if the event was over-subscribed, those who could not be accommodated to hear Captain Wingate would be given preference in respect of tickets to the next Cruising Dinner . There was the usual Fitting Out Party on 3 April, which included a ‘table d’hote’ meal and an informal dance; dancing was obviously a great attraction, as a new social event – a series of informal supper dances – was introduced in 1976. These consisted of a three-course meal and then dancing til midnight. Although they proved popular enough to be planned again for 1977, they were obviously not as well attended as it had been hoped, because the frequency with which they were held was reduced.
The long winter months were at this time enlivened by lectures, wine suppers, New Members’ Parties and a “Yacht Race Game”, which was (rather frustratingly for the casual reader) only explained further in the 1983 Bulletin.
The long anticipated 1977 Cruising Dinner with Captain McMullen was cited as the principal function of the Spring Season. The archived summary for that year list the usual other activities, including the New Members’ Parties, informal supper parties (where the discotheque was carefully organised to play music which was more suitable to the ‘oldies’) and plenty of support for the normal eating and drinking facilities of the Club. The most hair-raising event appears to have been the Annual Barbeque (at Hurst Spit), which took place on Saturday 23 July in Force 8-9 winds; the most patriotic was the attendance of club members at the Jubilee Review in Spithead, when 180 members had a lunch on board the Poole Belle and toasted HM The Queen, as she sailed past in the Royal Yacht. Autumn saw the captain of the British Admiral’s Cup Team, Chris Dunning, as guest speaker at the Annual Dinner. Britain won the Admiral’s Cub that year and Chris Dunning, who had overcome polio on his journey to succeed in sailing, went on to be one of the survivors of the terrible events of the 1979 Fastnet Race.
In 1978, a less nautical guest speaker at the Cruising Dinner was Jack Hargreaves, the television presenter whose most well-known programmes included Out of Town, Country Boy and How! Other social events that year have not been recorded in much detail. We know that, as in 1977, there were dances, lectures, Dinners, and parties both formal and informal, while the Annual Barbeque on 15 July was a success and took place in good weather and, later in the year when the weather was less reliable, the Club Christmas Party was revived for 5-8 year-olds. For older members, the Committee Members’ Dinner made its first appearance this year, just after the AGM, and it was hoped (successfully, as it transpired) that this would become a permanent event which is still in normal circumstances held as a thank you to all those members of the Club who have volunteered their time to help with the various Club activities.
One, slightly offbeat, social event – first recorded in 1977 and was again mentioned in 1978 – was the Club Lottery. In 1976 its virtues were generally extolled; in 1978 membership was again encouraged – ‘The lottery still runs and the bag is shaken once a month. Our gamblers make a really worthwhile contribution to the Club …. We would like more gamblers please, and this would enable us to increase the prizes. We hope that some more members will abandon the pools, cancel their accounts with William Hill, and invest in the Club.’ It is uncertain how such a plea would go down in 2022.
Once again, in 1979 the social events which had taken place at the Club that year are given little space in the annals. ‘The entertainment programme has followed similar lines to those of previous years and no-one can say that the Club house is not fully used’ is the rather pared back introduction to a list of events which included the Annual Dinner. The guest speaker was Sir Hugh Casson, the president of the Royal Academy of Art at the time and famous for his architectural designs and his paintings, among other things). Those attending the Cruising Dinner, enjoyed a speech by Naomi James, the first woman to have sailed single-handed round the world via Cape Horn, breaking Sir Francis Chichester’s record by two days, when she arrived in Dartmouth on 8 June 1978, and only the second to have sailed solo round the world (after Poland’s Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz did this in the previous April). There was no Barbeque (it clashed with a National Dinghy Sailing event at Hurst Castle) but the Children’s Christmas Party went ahead.
The final decades of the 20th Century and the 75th Anniversary
According to the annual Bulletin for that year, 1980 saw almost unceasing social activity. Events included a Supper Party for the Royal Cruising Club and the usual lecture suppers, speciality suppers including the Goose Supper, the Fish Supper and the Game Supper. Supper dances took place regularly (with bands rather than discotheques…) and the New Year’s Eve Party was so eagerly anticipated that it was fully booked up by the beginning of November. The Annual Barbeque was held at Bucklers Hard, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs James McGill. It was noted that the virtues of having a Barbeque that the organisers did not have to sail to, made life a great deal easier.
The highlight of 1980, however, was the Cruising Dinner, when HRH Princess Anne, Patron of the Club, was the guest of honour.
Bulletins to 1980 regularly mentioned the Fitting Out Party but it was only in 1981 that the Laying Up Party received a mention – even though all indications were that it was not the first. On this occasion, the festivities were accompanied by a West Indian Steel Band, who obviously went down well, as the writer of the Bulletin hoped their visit would not be the last. Unfortunately, this is the only social event of 1981 which receives any mention in the Club’s papers, but it is probably safe to assume that the majority at least of the regular lectures and parties went ahead.
The creation of the River Room was a main event of 1982, designed ‘so that families could come, together, and enjoy their food and drink together’. There is a general peroration to remember that there were other members of different ages and tastes who must be considered when using the Club. Social events in late 1982 included another Laying Up Party where the music was provided by the West Indian Steel Band, the Annual Dinner with Robert Hardy – a leading authority on the English Long Bow – many of which had just been recovered from the newly recovered Mary Rose, special suppers including the Christmas Supper and a disco for teenagers. It seems likely, also, that 1982 was the year that the Ladies’ Luncheon first took place, but in the Spring rather than in Autumn as it does today. Apparently, in 1982, 86 ladies filled the Club, taking over the Library, the Sun Lounge, the Dining Room and the Committee Room. So obvious was its success that another was immediately planned for May 1983.
After that Spring 1983 Ladies Lunch came a Summer whose hot spell was happily co-incident with the newly reinstated Summer Ball; so successful was this that it was decided to make it an annual event. Another social occasion which became annual at this time was the hitherto-for biennial Yacht Race Game.
Indeed, the Yacht Race Game was so successful (‘if you have not yet enjoyed such an entertainment it is an evening to remember’) that in 1983 the Club decided to have a Family Yacht Race Game as well, around Christmas time, as part of a Club drive to organise something for every age group. The mysteries of the game were this time finally unveiled to posterity: a series of races, a sort of Newmarket on Solent, with a tote on the side. There was, apparently, a function on every winter Saturday in 1983, including the Annual Dinner in November, where Admiral Sir William Pillar was Guest of Honour. 1983 also saw the instigation of ‘foreign’ evenings, when a lecture would be tied to an appropriate meal – for example, the lecture on charter cruising the waters around Greece was accompanied by a Greek meal.
Such sorties into exotic foods continued in 1984, when a Russian Supper was introduced and, with an increasing number of Club members sailing the Greek or Turkish coasts in flotillas, the Greek evening was repeated. However, the Chinese Evening which was apparently an established social event, albeit previously unremarked in the Bulletin, was dropped in favour of forays into the cultures of these geographically closer nations. It is to be presumed that 1984 saw the usual round of social events but the only recorded ones are the Christmas Teenage Party, the Children’s Christmas Party, the Junior Yacht Race Game, New Year’s Eve Ball and the Members Art Exhibition which raised £778 for the RNLI.
Ever mindful of the need to suit the winter social programme to the tastes of the Club membership, in 1985 it was decided that events such as the Greek evening should only be organised for two years only before being dropped for something new. A demand for a Black-Tie Christmas Junior Ball was therefore taken on board (although it was reported that apparently quite a few parents were intending to come along as well; how this went down with the 14-20 year-olds for whom the occasion was invented, is not recorded). Sadly, no other social events are mentioned for that year, so that we have no idea what the wishes of the 1985 membership actually were, in respect of social events.
Again, the 1986 Bulletin is not forthcoming in respect of social events. Apparently, the Club had a gaming machine which, in 1986, it was decided should be abandoned and members were encouraged to join the Club Lottery instead.
Sadly, there are no Bulletins for 1987 or 1988 and the PotterShip Magazine of Spring 1989 was the first of the successor publications. The then Commodore, AVM Sir Alan Boxer, summed up the social ambitions of the Club, in his introduction, thus: “In the clubhouse … we foster the social activities which are so important in bringing together a membership with such widely varied talents and interests. We are also able, in one way or another, to ‘wine’ and’ dine’ them for 363 days in the year: not a bad achievement, and one that complements the purpose of the club, ‘to encourage and promote yachting in all its aspects’”.
Although the magazine is thereafter mainly concerned with activities which had occurred on the water in the two years since the last Bulletin, it does mention that the Summer Ball of 1988 was attended by 260 people, which proved to be too many for comfort. The Summer Ball of 1989 was therefore limited to only 220 attendees, who would be presented with a free glass of Mumm champagne on arrival. The other social events of 1989 are not specifically covered in this, the first PotterShip; it naturally concentrating on the various sailing successes and enterprises of the Club, it gives only hints of the social events which accompanied these. However, it does mention that Raymond Baxter was the speaker and guest of honour at the Black-Tie Cruising Dinner on 4 March. Rather more informally – and possibly for a different part of the membership – the disco which followed the Easter Regatta that year was a great success, with a very good three-course dinner for only £4.00.
1990 saw the seventh Junior Regatta and the PotterShip Magazine records that the evening barbecues were a great success and mentions that a very energetic disco ended the week. This edition of PotterShip also saw the launch of House Notes, which describes the social events which have occurred and notes that ‘As usual during the summer months, clubhouse activities have given way to other priorities … However, we have continued our policy of holding a series of inexpensive and cheerful evenings’. Obviously, introduction more exotic sounding suppers, exemplified by the Greek and Russian Evenings which had entertained members in the mid Eighties had been appreciated, as the 1990 Taste of the Caribbean Night was well attended, while the release of the 1989 James Bond film ‘Licence to Kill’ might have been the inspiration to celebrate the opening of the new bar in the Club with Casino Night (perhaps accompanied by a martini, shaken not stirred). It seems that the overcrowding which caused dismay at the 1988 Ball put people off in 1989 (it was poorly attended) and so there was no Ball at all in 1990, the decision having been made to make it a biennial event; in order, presumably, to ensure that this attracted more people, members’ opinions were sought about the form this Ball should take. The ‘Bar be Que’ at Thorn’s Beach was cancelled; as in an earlier year, this was because it clashed with the National regatta in the Solent. The event was rescheduled to take place at the Clubhouse and to be turned into a Barn Dance. It is not on record whether this actually did take place. During the Winter, the social programme increased as the sailing opportunities decreased. Consequently, the colder months of 1990 provided entertainment in the form of informal social evenings, lectures, dinners, dances and wine-tasting. Christmas entertainment included carol singing, which had apparently also taken place in 1989. Club Nights took place every Thursday, as a way of helping members get to know each other better. The attractions included inexpensive suppers and drinks and occasional music and other entertainment.
In 1991, the Princess Royal attended the Cruising Dinner, a visit in 1990 having been cancelled. The Bistro (‘good value food served in a relaxed atmosphere by candlelight, with one of the best restaurant views available anywhere’) was launched in June, to great acclaim; by August it was reported a ‘resounding success’ and continued into the Winter months. The Junior Sailors’ danced the evening of their party in July away, with the music provided by The Force 6 Jazz Band. Winter cruising planning sessions, which have not hitherto for been mentioned as they were necessarily part of the day-to-day social calendar had become so popular that the Club felt they were increasingly becoming entertainment; they seem therefore to merge into the general lecture programme, and by the early 1990s there were about 27 a year. In addition to lectures, members were able to enjoy formal dinners, speciality dinners, music and low-cost food, poetry reading, discos and another Casino night. The introduction of ‘Cruising Conversazione’ – ending in a supper – as part of the 1991 calendar was successful enough to be booked again for March 1992; the point of this was to bring together members who went cruising, so that they could share their knowledge. Although this was not a social event, per se, it was hoped that ‘the Conversazione will be remembered as the chicken that laid the egg in the shape of a very jolly party’. A crèche was organised for those who had young children; since the crèche finished at 1800, presumably those families did not stay to supper.
While the second Cruising Conversazione (see above) will have appealed greatly to the, inevitably older, yacht owning generation of the membership, the younger members of the Club who were at the start of their boating life were, in 1992, delighted to enjoy the Optimist Camp on Pylewell foreshore, with highlights which included Barbeques and swimming in the pool. The usual summer social events took place as usual – although the weather was apparently awful, with fog, rain and adverse winds – and included a Regatta Dance in July where the music was again provided by the local Jazz Band, the appropriately named Force 6, who had obviously so impressed with their playing at Junior events that the Seniors decided it was their turn now. Force 6 were in high demand; they were booked for three more sessions during the year. Indeed, even without the sound of jazz, Social life at the Club for the winter of 1992 was set to be filled with a ‘programme of social evenings which is likely to be … energetic’. In late October, the Art Exhibition had over 110 exhibits and raised £585 for the RNLI. For those more interested in listening than in viewing, the Winter lectures, followed by supper, were an ongoing mainstay of the social scene. The Laying Up Supper (renamed the End of Season Party) was on a Caribbean theme; In November members were invited to the Annual Dinner and to a Beaujolais Nouveau and French supper; December brought a Greek Supper, and an Italian one, in addition to the Children’s Christmas Party, which was well attended and where Father Christmas ‘did a splendid job’. Christmas Dinner, with carol singing was fully booked, as was the Dance which celebrated New Year’s Eve 1992/1993; the dancing was obviously vigorous, as it was accompanied by music courtesy (once more) of the Force 6 Jazz Band.
The Junior Yacht Race Game (still popular) took place on 2 January 1993; there are no further details, but it was apparently well organised…. The mid-Winter was enlivened at the Club with a Game Supper in January and, in February, a Roast Beef Supper, a Steak Supper and the Cruising Dinner. The RNLI, long supported as one of the Club’s main charities, had their fundraising Ball at the Club on 2 April; possibly as a hint that it would be a good idea to attend the Ball, members who did not buy tickets were warned that there would not be normal use of the bar and dining room that night. It is recorded that the Bistro continued to be a success. The Christmas Children’s Party was well attended while the Christmas Dinner, accompanied by carol singing, and the New Year’s Eve Dance, were both fully booked. The second Junior Quiz took place in December and was obviously very popular, as the event was immediately rebooked for the following year. New pontoons at the Club were officially opened with a Barbecue and Dance on 8 May. The 1993 Art Exhibition, which had been a regular fixture of the Club’s calendar since 1975, took place from 20-31 October; the RNLI received 20% of all sales. Presumably, the lectures, Annual Dinner, Ladies Lunch, supper parties and other events which have been a mainstay of Royal Lymington life did occur, but they are not recorded. The year ended as it had begun, at a New Year’s Eve party where attendees again danced to the strains of Force 6 and their jazz.
The 1994 RNLI Ball was held at the Club in March and was a sell-out, raising £3,700 for the charity. In the summer, the Junior Regatta was, as usual, accompanied by nightly barbecues and, on the final evening, a disco. In December, the third Junior Quiz took place as well, presumably (there is no official record), as the normal turkey dinners and Christmas parties. 1994 was played out (third year running; is this a record?) to the sound of The Force 6 Jazz Band.
Jazz evenings seem to have been a main source of active social entertainment during the 1990s. Force 6 was the regular provider of this music and their leader, David Scaife explained that their name reflected the fact that there were six members of the band and that they ‘blew up a strong breeze’ after the interval. They apparently loved playing at the Club and carried on because of this, even though they freely admitted that none of them were in the first (or even the last) flush of youth. In 1995, they were booked to play the Club on Easter Saturday, 15 April. This event was apparently a great success, although the first formal social event of the year took place earlier when the Lifeboat Ball (described in PotterShip as ‘one of the most glittering occasions in the Lymington calendar’) included a Champagne reception, a tombola with prizes including lunch at the Savoy, dinner and dancing – though possibly not to the strains of Force 6. During the summer, little is recorded in respect of social events, except that Junior Sailing Week was accompanied by a popular evening social week, which included a barn dance in the McGill’s barn near Beaulieu. However, the House Committee, under new management, had ‘set to work to bring … some exciting new social events to add to the popular programme already in place. These events included the 1995 Laying Up Party under the theme of ‘Sounds of the Sixties’; the band was apparently so good that they were invited back to play the year out on New Year’s Eve. This was followed by a series of theme evenings, the first of which was French, devoted to the gastronomic delights available on the other side of the Channel. The already established and similarly named ‘theme suppers’ which were organised for the Winter of 1996/1996 included goose, fish, curry, game, steak & kidney, roast beef, steak and Chinese (the latter to celebrate the Chinese New Year). These were, on the whole, popular and to be repeated events, although the committee did consider dropping the less well received – which these were, however, remains a mystery. The normal Jazz evenings (see above), lectures and Club formal occasions were taken as a norm. The Christmas dinner was sold out.
1996 began with the Yachtsman’s DIY Evening, which was described as a ‘Gardeners’ Question Time but for boat owners’. Questions ranged from a modern take on the ‘fathering’ system, where reinforced PVC took the place of the possibly more romantic idea of covering a hole in the hull with a sail, to stop it sinking, to a discuss on the best way to fit a fridge. A less practical social event followed with the Viennese evening 17 February, where attendees were encourages to ‘dress up gracefully’ and to imagine Vienna in its romantic heyday. 9 March provided a (possibly) more intellectual evening – a nautical quiz and buffet supper with prizes, while two weeks later, guests were invited to solve the murder mystery which had been played out for them by the New Forest Players.
The seventh Lifeboat Ball took place at the Club on Friday 29 March 1996. A champagne reception was laid on, courtesy of Allied Domecq and the evening again included a tombola with prizes donated from both local businesses and individuals. Fund raising for Wednesday Sailing depended largely on the second year of a sponsorship sailing quiz, with prizes including a ride in a power boat and a photograph of the winner out on the water. At the other end of the year, the Annual Dinner was on 16th November, only two days after a Jazz Evening and just before a French Evening and then, a few days after that, a Curry Supper. A Christmas-themed Quiz Evening started the December Social calendar, while Christmas itself was celebrated with no fewer than two Christmas Dinners – a Turkey one on Wednesday 18th December and a Goose Dinner the following Saturday. The year ended to the rhythms of the Offbeats at the New Year’s Eve party.
The following year, 1997 saw the Club celebrate its 75th Anniversary. Special Social events for this had, as with this Centenary Year, been planned since at least 1995, (‘fireworks and fizzy drinks, gunfight and Fleet review, vintage dinghies and classic jets’) but the normal round of Winter entertainment also started with a bang, including a Fish Supper on 11 January, a Game Supper six days later, Burn’s Night on 23 January and a Roast Beef dinner after the AGM on 1 February. The first fortnight of February also saw the members enjoying a Hungarian Evening, a Steak Supper and a Valentine’s evening.
The 75th Anniversary Review and the fly past by the jet aircraft mentioned above will no doubt be covered elsewhere in this book, but the oyster and sandwich bar, provided by Monk and Sons, which provided sustenance to the returning sailors (and others) warrants a mention here, as do the promised fireworks, which were made especially for the Club by Graham Butler and launched from Ray and Eric Williams barge; this display was so spectacular that it warranted a poem, written by 9 year old Michael Butler, to be published in the Autumn edition of the PotterShip magazine for the year. Downton Village Band entertained everyone present.
Sadly, 1998 seems to be a year where very little was published in respect of the social activities of the Club. Perhaps so much happened on the water that there was no room in the PotterShip magazine to mention what must be presumed to have been a normal but not extraordinary season of lectures, suppers, formal dinners and quizzes. A year where the Fitting Out party started the season on the water and the Laying Up party saw the beginning of the season off the water, while presumably an Annual Dinner celebrated the past year of Club sailing and a Trafalgar Night commemorated a sailor whose abilities made sure that Britain ruled the waves for a good many decades to come.
1999 may have followed the same pattern as 1998, as PotterShip reports very little in the way of social activity, although a great deal occurred on the water. The Cruising Dinner seems to have been a success and the occasion was marked by the presentation of a variety of sailing awards, including the Seamanship Trophy, which was presented to Michael Thoyts for circumnavigating the Globe and entertaining members which his exploits in various editions of the PotterShip. There were special Thursday Evening menus in the Club once Thursday Evening Sailing had ended for the year, and Happy Hours, to encourage members to continue to socialize through the winter months. The Annual Dinner had Jim Saltonstall from the RYA as guest speaker; his brief was to give members an update on British Yachting and its future and, although there were a number of unspecified Christmas time events, this was the last formal occasion of the year because there was New Year’s Ball or party.
A new Century
… the year 2000 started with a New Year’s Day Brunch, which was to be a family occasion. The Club was interested to know everyone’s views, as they were considering the viability of repeating it as a regular replacement to a New Year’s Eve function. Does this mean that New Year’s Eve was lessening in popularity, or did it just signal a desire to enter the new Century with a slight change of emphasis in the social world of the Royal Lymington? Just as tea was an important element of the social scene in the early years of the Club, the tea which was enjoyed after the Scow figure of eight race was apparently even more memorable than the excellent racing which had preceded it. Winter lectures continued, now firmly established as a Wednesday evening event during the sailing off season. In addition, Chris Law gave a presentation in April about the recent America’s Cup series which had taken place in New Zealand. Bridge Evenings (with supper) took place on the first Monday evening of each Winter month and the Members Art Exhibition continued to provide not only an opportunity for members to enjoy what the more artistically inclined of their number had created during the past year but also provided a great source of funds for the RNLI. In 2000, Winter social events were not only plentiful but also, thankfully, listed in the PotterShip. Hence, members could enjoy any number of speciality suppers, from the French Evening with Beaujolais Nouveau, to the Game, the Steak, the Steak and Kidney Pudding or – more adventurously perhaps – the Curry Suppers held that Autumn. The guest Speaker at the Annual Dinner was Clive Martin (a month later to become Sir Clive Martin) a keen sailing member of the Club and the 1999-2000 Lord Mayor of London, being a member of the Stationers Guild. Christmas was celebrated with the choice, on different occasions, of either (or both) a Turkey and a Goose Christmas Dinner (both Black Tie events) and – presumably because the members had decided so (see above) – both a New Year’s Eve Party, which was to be celebrated ‘in traditional Club style’ and a New Year’s Day ‘Hair of the Dog’ Brunch were organised.
Just in case anyone still felt hungry after all the Christmas festivities, January 2001 saw the membership enjoying both a Jazz with Bangers supper and a Chinese evening. There was also a post AGM Fish Supper. However, once again the Bridge and lecture evenings, the speciality suppers, the Fitting out and Laying Up parties, the Christmas meals and the New Year’s Eve Party must all be assumed to have occurred because there is, sadly, little written record. Vince Sutherland took on the task of organising the monthly Quiz nights, which he is still doing twenty years later and the Club’s past Rear Commodore, Malcolm McKeag, was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner, while Jonathan Hutchinson spoke at the dinner held to commemorate Trafalgar Day.
The Club Lottery was still taking place in 2002, with a special bumper prize of £750 for April. 2002, of course, saw the Golden Jubilee of HM The Queen’s ascension to the throne, and the Club celebrated this in style with the Jubilee Ball. There was also a lunchtime party, loyal toast and 21 gun salute, which Club members watched from the safety of the pontoon. Winter 2002 seems to have been filled with opportunities to eat and enjoy other, possibly more cerebral, activities. Not only were there Monday night Bridge Suppers and Thursday night Quiz Suppers, the Wednesday night lecture series (with Supper) included subjects as diverse as researching for nautical history and filming for the Blue Planet. Trafalgar Night in October and the Annual Dinner (where William Norris was the guest of honour) brought cheer to the lengthening nights of November while Christmas again included separate Turkey and Goose Dinners and, bringing 2002 to a stylish close, a masked New Year’s Eve Ball. Just to ensure that the membership was not left twiddling their fingers before they could start sailing again, 2003 started with – in addition to the Bridge and Quiz Evenings and lectures covering a wide range of interests – Burns Night, the Cruising Dinner with guest speaker and then, in March, the Fitting Out Party and Irish Evening. Seventy members also attended an Antiques Quiz Evening that winter, when they were invited to examine twelve items, provided by auctioneer George Kidner. After dinner, Mr Kidner ‘gave us a most entertaining and amusing denouement on the items’ and presented the couple who ‘won’ with a bottle of wine and a year’s subscription to his catalogue. The event was such a success that a repeat was arranged for 2004 (and was repeated after that, too).
Bridge also continued into 2004, being played on the second Monday of each month from November to March. 40 players were deemed the optimal number, given the need to find a balance between playing the game, eating supper and chatting to friends. Although there is woefully little information about how the Club membership socialized in 2004, the Queen’s Harbourmaster Portsmouth, Commander Tom Herman, a former submariner, was the guest of honour at the Annual Dinner on 13th November.
In 2005, the year’s social events had but a brief mention in PotterShip. Trafalgar Night was celebrated on the Bi-Centenary of the battle and the toast was proposed by Rear Admiral John Lang, while Mac MacDougall, the Club’s Honorary Gunner, fired the salute. Club members went on so many memorable voyages that year which warranted articles in the magazine that somehow no mention at all was made of other social events other than those which took place on every evening of Youth Week.
The Autumn of 2006 saw the launching of the annual Photographic Exhibition, which still continues today and is exhibited in parallel with the annual Art Exhibition; members were asked to spend 2007 taking photographs of any sailing related activity, to be entered by September 2007. Sadly, the 2006 PotterShip does not mention any social activity and, apart from the Black-Tie Cruising Dinner – where Mike Vlasto, the Director of Operations for the RNLI, was guest speaker, it can only be assumed that the usual round of lectures and suppers, bridge and quizzes, parties and balls occurred.
Again, in 2007, there is very little information to be had about the way members spent their time off the water, but one new event was the Wine Appreciation Evening on 20 February, where a selection of French wines was enjoyed, together with a selection of cheese. The wine included some ‘interesting older vintages’ and the cheese was obviously not intended to be an alternative to supper, as members were advised that ‘supper may be booked separately’. However, from 2007 onwards, records of social events organised throughout the year improve dramatically, courtesy of the detailed notes kept by Tricia Sparrow and continued after she retired from the Social Committee a decade later.
2007 ended, and 2008 started with the New Year’s Eve Party, a Black-Tie Dinner where the Q Tones played music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Those who had recovered from this, or missed out on attending it, were able to enjoy, later that day, the New Year’s Day Brunch, which was enjoyed by 123 people. That winter, the lack of sailing was compensated for with a Burns Night Supper, a Tommy Cooper Tribute ‘Tommy Cooper Remembered’ (with Clive Greenaway playing the famous comic), the Committee Members Dinner and the Cruising Dinner. George Kidner, the auctioneer, was again present at the Antiques Evening (and supper) in early March, when members were again invited to suggest an age and value for a number of items which he bought into the Club for the purpose. The summer – when Royal Lymington sailors succeeded magnificently in their haul of Olympic medals – reached its zenith when these successes were celebrated by a Vin d’Honeur [sic] on Wednesday 27 August; the BBC covered the event, where the medallists were interviewed at the Club and an honours board of all the Club’s Olympic medallists was unveiled. The sailing season ended with the Laying Up Supper, when members danced to the music of the Stepping Out Trio until 2330. 68 Ladies attended the Annual Ladies’ Lunch in October, where Minette Walters, the author, was guest speaker, and only three days later 87 members enjoyed a Trafalgar Night with Admiral Sir Ian Forbes as speaker. The following month, John Doerr, Royal Lymington member and well known in yacht racing circles (the positions he has held including, among others, the chief umpire and chairman of the international jury for the America’s Cup XXIV trials and match held in San Diego in 1995 and the Vice Chair of the International Olympic Committee in Beijing) and Olympic Silver Medallist Nick Rogers were the guests of honour. As Christmas approached, the Christmas Party and Gala Buffet was accompanied by popular music, again care of the ‘Q’ Tones. Over 100 people attended the Turkey Dinner that year, which ended as it had begun with a New Year’s Eve Party where the music from the 60s, 70s and 80s was once more enjoyed, but this time to the beat of The Streetlife Band.
Forty-seven people celebrated the birthday of Rabbie Burns at the Royal Lymington in 2009, bringing a touch of the Far North down to the South coast with a swirl of tartan, a skirl of the pipes and the traditional Address to the Haggis, Toast to (and reply from) the Lassies and the toasting of the poet with the whisky. Swapping Scotland for Sweden, the Fitting Out Supper in March celebrated the new sailing season with Swedish meatballs followed by Swedish apple pie. Dancing was to the sounds of Mamma Mia and the ABBA Tribute Cabaret. St David’s Day was celebrated with a dinner of Welsh Cuisine and, less than three weeks later, the Club saw St Patrick’s Day in with ‘Traditional Irish’ food; members were encouraged to book a table for either lunch or for dinner. For those members who simply couldn’t get enough meals out, the Club also held evenings, dubbed The Famous Chef’s Dinner, when the Club’s Chefs created a meal in the style of a famous Chef. In January, guests were invited to sample food in the style of Raymond Blanc, the following month, James Martin was the subject of the Chefs’ attention and in March Jamie Oliver’s type of menu was showcased. On a more romantic note, the Valentine’s Dinner included oysters and guinea fowl and music was provided by The Mudeford Crabs, a local band who specialise is rock music. The Tommy Cooper Tribute was back, ‘by popular’ demand, cheering a no doubt bleak February evening with ‘a celebration of the comic genius, providing hilarious after-dinner entertainment’. An active year on the water was eventually tied up at the Racing Prize Giving and Laying Up Party, where Bluebird Disco provided the entertainment. This was obviously very popular, as the event was sold out. George Kidner once more invited members to pit their wits against him in identifying the age and value of various items he brought to the Club and BBC newscaster Carolyn Brown, who was at the time – and perhaps still is – the Yachtmaster to read the Shipping News, was the guest at the Ladies Lunch that year; she spoke on a variety of topics including having breakfast with John Humphrys and life behind the microphone. Rear Admiral Bob Love, the then Director of Ships and Chief Naval Engineering Officer, was the guest speaker at Trafalgar Night. Admiral Love was – amongst other things – involved in the 2002 recovery of HMS Nottingham when she had run aground on the submerged Wolf Rock, near Lord Howe Island and 370 miles off the Australian coast (it’s amazing what information is available from Wikipedia). It cost £39m to repair the damage and she returned to active duty, two years later. On Saturday 21 November, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, the former CINC Fleet and First Sea Lord who retired as Chairman of the RNLI a year before, was the speaker at the Club’s Annual Dinner.
The St Andrews Day Dinner on 28 November ended the non-Christmas social round as it had begun – with Scotland; the menu on the advertising flyer enticingly announces that ‘The Menu will be based on a Scottish Theme….
Guests were invited to ‘dance the night away’ as Cooldaddy’s Disco provided the entertainment at the Christmas Party and Gala Buffet on 12 December, when a fabulous sounding buffet was on the menu and the night started on a sparkling note with a glass of Bucks Fizz being presented to each person on arrival.
Depending upon which theory individuals subscribe to, either the decade or its penultimate year ended with a Masquerade Party on New Year’s Eve. Smoked salmon was followed with Beef Wellington and then a dessert of cappuccino mousse before the revellers danced to the music of Time Out.
A decade that started well but ended in a pandemic
It actually began with a New Year’s Day family brunch, where members were invited to ‘beat the Hangovers with a 2010 Breakfast from the Royal’. Burns Night, which was possibly a good way of re-engaging with the hangover in spite – or perhaps because of – the traditional bagpipe and reel music, was enjoyed by 57 guests, while St Valentine’s Day – ‘look no further than the Club to enjoy a special night out for Valentine’s…’ – was enjoyed to the music of Howie Crab. The Famous Chef Evening in February was, slightly tantalisingly, called ‘Peter and Fergal’s Chinese Extravaganza’ and the advertising flyer included not only the flag of China but also those of Italy and Great Britain. The March ‘Famous Chef Evening’ was slightly more conventional, included a menu based on the recipes from the famous River Cafe restaurant of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Also in March, St David’s Day was noted with a Welsh themed Supper menu while St Patrick’s Day, rather unsurprisingly, invited members to enjoy an Irish themed Supper Menu.
The Bar was refurbished by 2010 and was described by the Commodore as ‘a great place to meet friends over a pint and put the world to rights… Looking forward to another year of night activity both on the water and socially. I am confident the Club will retain its friendly and welcoming ambience for Members and visitors alike. This attitude was exemplified by the instigation of the New Members’ evenings at the Club, which are still a regular and important feature of the social calendar.
As usual, the formal start to the sailing season was the Fitting Out party, this year on a Caribbean Theme with the five-piece steel band known as Hurricane Force – hopefully not a harbinger of the weather to come. Dress was to be Caribbean or Colourful and guests were enjoined to enter into the spirit of the event with a drink of rum punch on Arrival. At the other end of the season, the live band, rather appropriately named ‘As It Was’ kept the party moving while members were able to reminisce over a menu of mackerel, beef and syllabub at the Laying Up Party and Annual Racing Prize Giving on 16 October.
Reminiscences of the Junior season were made easier when, with the new decade, came also the first Helpers’ and Parents’ Supper, which ended Wednesday Junior Sailing; at this lively event, over 120 people of all ages enjoyed each other’s company and mulled over the highs and lows of Wednesday Junior Sailing.
2010 Mike Golding was the guest speaker at the Annual Cruising Dinner Club Ladies were entertained at the Ladies Lunch in October by Denise Edwards, the film and TV stunt Co-ordinator, whose film and TV credits were surprisingly eclectic, ranging from the Muppet Show to Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and from Miss Marple to Midsummer Murders. Admiral Paul Boissier, the head of the RNLI and former RN Deputy CinC Fleet, spoke at the rather more formal Trafalgar Night Dinner later that month while a few weeks’ later, Tom Cunliffe entertained the guests at the Annual Dinner to a ‘truly memorable’ and hilarious medley of maritime tales based on his own experiences a yachtsman, journalist, lecturer and author – not least of the splendid Channel Pilot Book of which a good proportion of members probably own at least one edition. Christmas 2010 began in a positive social whirl; a wine-tasting and supper evening in early December was followed a week later by the Christmas Party and buffet where attendees were invited to ‘dance the night away’ with the Dixieland Jazz Band. A few days afterwards, the Turkey Christmas Dinner provided another excuse to eat well – but this time without the after-dinner exercise, which was probably as well, given that the menus was five courses. On New Year’s Eve, members were requested to ‘Dress to the Nines’ and Time Out played 2010 into the past.
2011, as was now the custom, began with the New Year’s Day Family Brunch and was followed with a Jazz night, when Dave and John Horler and their band played ‘easy listening jazz’ to guests at a fish and chip supper; later that month, 47 people attended Burns Night, suitably entertained by piper Iona McDonald, who played a variety of melodies on the bagpipes throughout the evening. Howie Crab again entertained diners on Valentine’s Night. By 2011, social entertaining at the Club was facilitated by improved access to the balcony, with folding doors from the library. These would not only provide uninterrupted views across the Solent from both inside and outside the Club but would also make it easier for members to savour the odd gin and tonic on the balcony, as the sun set over the water, and make it easier to use the library for ‘special events’. One of the first special events of 2011 was the Cruising Dinner in February, where Commander David Evans, RN (Ret’d) and Harbour Master at the Hamble River was the guest speaker. Zac and the Zeros provided the music at the Fitting Out Party the following month; the theme of the 60’s was mirrored in a menu which included Babycham, prawn cocktail, chicken Maryland and Black Forest Gateau. April saw an evening with Matt Black the Piano Man (formerly to be heard at Preachers Restaurant in Lymington) and[although we had booked Matt Black – House Manager Mark Fishwick advised that his language had become a little “risqué” for the members] later that month the Club celebrated both the Royal Wedding (when Prince William married Catherine Middleton and the couple became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) and the latest Club race, the Royal Lymington Duo, with a party centred on the balcony. Social events began with coffee, Bucks Fizz and pastries; pink champagne was available to toast the happy couple and lunch included a special Royal Wedding Souvenir Menu, which included lobster and langoustine. The race began after lunch and the day ended with drinks in the bar. In June over 200 Members joined together at a luncheon, to say thank you and farewell to Peter Lowe, the Head Chef, who was leaving the Club after 42 years. The 2011 Regatta Ball was held on Saturday 23 July. Beans Powell was the Guest at the Ladies Lunch and Group Captain Jonathan Hutchinson the guest later that month at Trafalgar Night, while Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey spoke at the Annual Dinner in November. Taking place a few days before the annual Turkey Christmas Dinner, The Christmas Buffet and Gala Party was, as usual, the harbinger of a Christmas of fun and feasting. Zac and the Zeros provided the entertainment at this event, while Time Out was, for the second year running, chosen as the group to bring music to the club as revellers danced into the New Year.
2012. A year to remember. The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and it was, in addition, a great year for British athletes as the Olympic Games came to our shores and the sailing events took place conveniently close to the Club, in Weymouth. As if to emphasise how monumental this year would be, members of the Royal Lymington were encouraged, after the ‘night celebrating with friends’ not only to enjoy our New Year once again at the New Year’s Day Brunch from noon onwards but also to celebrate a third time, with the Chinese New Year (enter the Year of the Dragon) on 12 January, with a suitably oriental menu. This was, admittedly, a little early, but the actual Chinese New Year almost co-incided with Burns Night. This took exactly the same form as it had done in 2011 (it even cost the same …) as did Valentine’s Day, except the latter had a different menu in 2012. Commander Ian Gibb, ex captain of cruise ships including the Canberra and the Oriana, who was awarded the MBE in 2012 for voluntary services to maritime charities, was the guest of honour and speaker at the Cruising Dinner and provided the diners with a no doubt very entertaining take on life on board and working for P&O. In February, there was an evening of light classical music courtesy of the Wessex Ensemble with a suitably classical menu to accompany it. April saw the Royal Lymington and Royal Thames YCs join in a ‘Spring Excuse’ Meet, with music by the Mudeford Crabs while the Island Sailing Club gave a Ladies Lunch at the Club in May 2012, with an after-lunch talk by the poet, Mary Ralph. In June, the Jubilee celebrations took centre stage. The weekend of 2/3 June saw a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee hog roast followed the next day by an opportunity for members to watch the Jubilee River Pageant on the big Club screen and to enjoy ‘The Big Jubilee Buffet Lunch with Proms Style Sing-along’. A few nights later, there was a Supper at the Club to celebrate the departure from Southampton, on their Jubilee Voyages, of the three Cunard Queens – Elizabeth, Mary and Victoria.
There was inevitably a huge amount of excitement at the Royal Lymington as the Olympics approached, especially as several members were actively involved, both as participants and as organisers and staff. However, normal social life must go on and the beginning of the sailing season for the less occupied members was celebrated with the usual Fitting Out Supper, where Midnight Rambler provided the music. The Summer Regatta came to an end with the annual Summer Ball and music by BB3.
The Summer Olympic Games, especially the sailing events, were transmitted to Club members via the big screen and, when Ben Ainslie came to Lymington shortly after his victory, the Club positively thronged with members enjoying a wonderful evening of celebration and vying to be able to hold his gold medal. This remarkable sailing season ended formally with the Laying Up Supper and Party. Dorsal Fin provided the entertainment and guests dined on Guinea Fowl and a trio of desserts; a week earlier, Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement, a former deputy CinC Fleet and a Falklands War veteran was the principal guest at Trafalgar Night, while Phil Lawrence – the Commodore then as he is in Centenary Year – was billed to give his insights into the experiences of an Extreme Sailing Series Race Officer at the Annual Dinner in November. Wednesday lectures continued throughout the shorter months and, when Vince Sutherland – together with Bob Burney – had finished his stint laying Olympic markers in Weymouth, he continued to lead the ever-popular Thursday evening Quiz nights at the Club. Matt’s Friday Bistro was added to the Club’s social round and proved to be well received. In the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year, the Summer Ball was such a success that the 2013 Ball was already agreed on long before the year came to a close. November was a busy month socially. Not only did the Annual Dinner take place, but members could also book to attend The Merlin Rocket End of Season Dinner and Prize Giving on Saturday 3 November and/or the Le Beaujolais Nouveau night which was held on 15 November.
In 2012, Christmas started with the Christmas Party on 8 December, with dancing to Fantasy Disco. The Turkey Dinner, the last to be held, provided a traditional and sumptuous feast and commenced with a glass of mulled wine on arrival, to give an instant festive feeling. This memorable year ended on New Year’s Eve, as members danced into the new year to the music of Zac and the Zeros.
Although the PotterShip is generally too full of tales of achievement and excitement on the water to be able to mention all the social events which habitually take place over the course of a year, the social scene at the Royal Lymington is always full and varied; as Club Commodore Phil Lawrence commented in the forward to the 2013 magazine that the success of the Club’s social activities is ‘due, I believe, to the wide range of Members’ interests’. He goes on to list the Bridge nights and the Quizzes, the film nights, lecture evenings and formal dinners. For him, the 2013 Summer Regatta Ball had been a highlight of that year, with members ‘dancing the night away on a balmy evening in June’. Nevertheless, it had been a highlight of a packed social calendar. The normal New Year’s Day Brunch and a Burns Night hosted for the first time by Ian Hunter in full dress kilt and including the full panoply of traditional graces, addresses and toasts started the ball rolling. There was a Wine Tasting and Supper Evening later in February and at the beginning of March Captain Lionel Hall, the Chairman of Solent Sea Rescue, was the guest of honour and speaker at the Cruising Dinner. Members were invited to support Lymington SailAbility by attending a Spring Fashion Show at the Club in April. Coffee and home-made biscuits (obviously the slimming variety ….), champagne and canapés were provided as fashions from Stanwell’s in Lymington were displayed and Helen McGinn of ‘The Knackered Mothers’ Wine Club’ was guest speaker . The call of balmy breezes and white coral sands lured people to the Caribbean style Fitting Out Party in April (dress code Pirates/Caribbean/colourful) while the food at the Summer Regatta Ball in June celebrated ‘food from famous racing venues around the world’. This was obviously a tempting prospect, as 181 people attended. A Campfire Supper was provided to end the sailing season at the Laying Up Supper and music for the event was provided by Derek, from The Frog. There was no Ladies Lunch in 2013 but Trafalgar Night made up for it, with no fewer than three named guests (Commodore Michael Graves, RN, Mrs Sandra Graves and Lt Amie Jackson, RN) and an entire ship load of Officers under Training from Southampton University, on HMS Blazer – which was in Lymington at the time. John Doerr, of the America’s Cup jury, was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner in November; later that month, Dave and John Horler , back by popular demand played easy listening jazz to the assembled guests, Dave Horler on the valve trombone and John on the piano, with Ian Ellis on the tenor saxophone, Paul Atkinson on the e-bass and Ron Davidge on the drums. Christmas 2013 started with the usual Christmas Buffet Party, the ever-popular Zac and the Zeros returning to the Club to provide the music, and ended with a New Year’s Masquerade and Banquet.
All the masks had been (hopefully) abandoned by the time 78 members appeared at the Club for the 2014 New Year’s Day Brunch. Burns Night came and went once more to the tune of the bagpipes (played by Mick Stuart) and Valentine’s Day reappeared with acoustic music from Nick Hayward-Young. The News Editor of Yachting Monthly, Dick Durham, was the speaker at the Cruising Dinner in March and later that month, a wide variety of music ‘from Sinatra and Fitzgerald to Ernest Wranglin and Coltrane via Brubeck, Davis and Brian Ferry’ was provided as a backdrop to an Italian Evening of Dinner, Jazz and Dance. Pam Moore was the guest speaker at the Ladies’ Lunch in October. Pam is a member of the Club and an accomplished artist, who in 2001 set out with her husband on a voyage that would last nine years and take them round the world. Two days later, the final voyage of Admiral Lord Nelson was once more commemorated at the annual Trafalgar Night Dinner, where the principal guest was Mr Deputy Doug Barrow, the Chief Executive of Maritime London and a Deputy of the Ward of Aldgate in the City of London. Malcolm McKeag, a long-term member of the club and a well-known writer and broadcaster who has sailed and raced at international level in a variety of boats of all shapes and sizes, was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner in November. The Christmas Party saw 131 people dance to music provided by DJ John while Vinyl Cafe produced live music for the New Year’s Eve Party which ended the year.
By 2015, social events at the Club were considered central enough accorded a special section in the PotterShip magazine; in that year, for example, it records that the tables at the Ladies Lunch, where the guest speaker, Sue Randall, had been one of the Volunteer Forest Rangers for six years, were decorated with the theme of ‘Forest in Autumn’. Champagne was served before lunch and the afternoon ended with a fascinating talk from Ms Randall on the subject of the New Forest, its workings, ownership and nature. Obviously, all the cruises into foreign waters upon which Club members embark were in 2015 carried right into the Club house. The Laying Up Supper was on a Caribbean theme, while members were also invited to enjoy the French Night (tables decorated with the colours of the French flag) and the Greek Food theme Evening, which saw tables dressed in blue and white. Just to complete the international feel of Club parties, guests at the Summer Ball feasted on Moroccan tagine, French Boeuf Bourguignon and Spanish Paella before dancing until late to the sound of the FM Party Band. For other social events, Trishia Sparrow is an invaluable source of information. Those attending the 2015 Burn’s Night, again hosted by Ian Hunter, enjoyed a ‘Rendition of Tam O’Shanter’ by Malcolm McKeag, in addition to the traditional fare and piping by Iona McDonald. No fewer than eighty people listened to music by Nick Hayward-Young as they celebrated Valentine’s Night at the Club. Rear Admiral Terry Loughton, the Chairman of Trustees for the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton and for the Fly Navy Heritage Trust, was the guest of honour at the Cruising Dinner. The flyer for the Fitting Out Party held on 28 March invited people to ‘Boogie on down to the live funk sounds of Dorsal Fin’ Friday Club Nights in 2015 included an Italian Themed Menu in April, a Greek Night in July (where members were invited to let the Club ‘take you to the sun by tantalising your taste buds with our Mediterranean inspired Menu), and a French Evening in August (‘Sacre-Blue! It’s a fantastically French Affair’). A Bistro Night marked the start of the Art Exhibition, giving diners ‘exclusive access’ to view the exhibition before they ate. Trafalgar Night saw as principal guest, Captain Andrew McKendrick RN. Having passed ‘The Perisher’ submariners’ course in 1993, he commanded two nuclear submarines before taking on more sedentary jobs at the Ministry of Defence. Chris and Hilary Knox were guests at the Annual Dinner the following month. The Christmas Buffet Party was generally heralded as one of the highlights of the Club’s Social Calendar and reports stated that ‘it’s reputation was certainly upheld’ in 2015. At this event, the display of food was apparently so artistic that it was almost a crime to cut into it – although hunger inevitably meant that party-goers managed to overcome their scruples and tuck in before they attacked Vince’s quiz. The evening ended with a disco from DJ John. Party clothes were encouraged and there was a promise of great company and suitably festive atmosphere.
As the clocks ticked over into the New Year members who had arrived at the club to dine and dance away the final hours of 2015 left as all the promise of 2016 dawned. Scotland came south for Burns Night, when Ian and Norma Hunter made sure that all the atmosphere and tradition of the occasion were brought to life. After hot smoked salmon and the traditional fare of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, the wonderfully tempting Tipsy Laird pudding was served (it’s actually sherry trifle, Scottish style, but Tipsy Laird sounds so much better). With piping by Iona MacDonald and Calvin Sims as Caller for the after supper Scottish dancing, the evening was its usual success. Valentine’s Day commenced with the challenge of finding your table by matching up characters from the films (eg Mickey and Minnie Mouse) and the music for the evening was once more provided by Nick Hayward-Young. Brigadier Andy Bristow was the Guest of Honour and Speaker at the Cruising Dinner later that month; March saw the sailing season’s formal beginning with the Fitting Out Party where members started to get fit by dancing the night away to Zak and the Zeros after enjoying a delicious supper. The Island Room was decorated with flag bunting and, according to an eye witness report, after the supper ‘the music rocked, the building rocked and the members rocked into the night to ensure that Fitting Out was launched, celebrated and thoroughly enjoyed – see you on the water’.
The year’s social events might have started (metaphorically, at least) in Scotland but April was all England’s, as the Club commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of that most English of playwrights, William Shakespeare with an Elizabethan themed Banquet, followed by a memorable celebration of the Bard’s achievements, entitled ‘The Bard and the Sword’ and brought to the Club courtesy of the Lymington Players. Glorious summer weather made the Summer Regatta Ball all the more beautiful, as members sipped champagne on the balcony and enjoyed fabulous food and some energetic dancing. As summer slipped into Autumn, local girl Alice Liddell (the Alice of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland) was the subject of both the guest speaker (Angela Trend) in her after lunch talk and of the decoration (the tables were adorned with teapots but the thoughtful ladies of the Social Committee decided to substitute flowers for the sleeping dormice of the stories). Other activities during the winter included Bridge, on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. This game, after some years of falling out of favour, is making a comeback in the Club calendar. Trafalgar Night 2016 saw Rear Admiral Nick Lambert RN as guest speaker. Admiral Lambert was the Head of the RN Hydrographic Service when he retired in 2012 with expertise not only in hydrography, but also in maritime power at war in the 21st Century, electronic navigation and working in high latitudes, while author and ex Rn and Royal Hong Kong Police officer Manley Hopkinson was the guest speaker at the Annual Dinner. As usual, social events in 2016 also included Lecture nights and film nights, receptions and other social gatherings including the New Year’s Eve party, where guests were exhorted to wear dinner jackets and Glitter and which ended the year to the live strains of Wired Sound.
In 2017, a glance at the number of social events which were added to the Club calendar might make the reader wonder if the House Social Committee ever went home. As usual, members were invited to enjoy the usual run of social events but, in addition, they were offered an even wider selection of ‘extra-curricular activities’ in which to indulge when they were not on the river, further afield (or should that be further a-sea) or enjoying the view from the balcony. Formal events included the annual Burns Night Supper (where that deliciously decadent Tipsy Laird was again served as pudding) and Ceilidh, and the Valentine’s Evening (where the Vince Sutherland disco made sure the evening went with a swing and where every lady was given a red rose). The Cruising Dinner, instead of a guest speaker, saw Richard Young, a member of the Magic Circle, entertain the guests with his amazing sleight of hand skills. and the Fitting Out was organised on a Cuban theme, with Salsa y Sol Dance provided the atmosphere and members feasting on a seafood, chicken and chorizo paella and Catalan cream. Mid-Summer was celebrated with the ‘Black and White” Summer Regatta Ball, which saw the Club decorated with a myriad pom-poms and members dancing to the music of Dorsal Fin, while the Tom Cotton Duo entertained diners at the Laying Up Supper. Capt. Alison Towler, RN, who is also an active member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, was the guest of honour at Trafalgar Night. The Club’s usual Christmas festivities went with a swing and Zac and the Zeros made sure that the party mood lasted right to the end of the year for those members who attended the ‘Sparkling New Year’s Eve Party’. The renewed popularity of Bridge led to the introduction of beginners and intermediate classes, so that the entre to the activity was open to a wider audience. Other new activities included yoga and Pilates classes, additional quiz nights, with Peter Bell providing a different format than Vince does to his questions but an equally enjoyable evening. There were monthly coffee mornings for adults and afternoon teas for children, flower arranging demonstrations and Nordic walking expeditions. Film nights were very successful and well attended and films more suited to the younger members of the Club were introduced for the school holidays. Members were able to learn the Jive, Rock and Roll and Salsa, in preparation for the parties and balls to come. For those who were intent on making their cruising holidays go even more smoothly than before, there were short course language classes to ensure that they ordered the right parts for their boats and the right drink for their thirst. The Annual Ladies’ Lunch this year had as its guest speaker Aimee Darnell, a well-known local artist, who spoke on the subject of ‘between two rivers’. Because of the success of this annual luncheon, monthly ladies’ informal lunches have now been introduced as well and have proved to be very successful.
Happily, social events in 2018 were again a success, with more members attending established events and, once again, new activities added to the list. 51 members attended the Burns Night Supper and traditional Ceilidh while 85 listened to the author Lord Strathcarron speak at the Cruising Dinner. The sailing season opened officially with a 1970s disco at the Fitting Out Party on March 10th. Bridge and dance, yoga and Pilates were all over subscribed while morning coffee (often after yoga) and monthly Friday afternoon teas continued to be enjoyed. Ladies’ informal lunches proved to be enduringly popular and attendees were treated to a variety of interesting talks. Outdoor exercise was amply catered for with no fewer than three cycling groups, catering for cyclists of differing abilities and inclinations. Indoors, a new monthly Book Club was added to those which already existed. Twelve or more members regularly met (and meet) to discuss a wide range of books, which this year ranged from Victorian murder mysteries to novels inspired by the Russian Revolution. Film nights and the two different quiz nights were also extremely popular. At the Annual Ladies Lunch, Camilla Sellers, a new member of the Club and a wine expert, introduced her listeners to ‘A Brief Foray into the World of Wine’, enlightening them in respect of the less well-known aspects of the wine trade – including the fact that a huge percentage of the price we pay for any bottle of the same is for tax, unrelated to the actual value of the wine. Captain Simon van der Byl, a member of the Club, but also of Cowes Week and the Royal Yacht Squadron, was the speaker at Trafalgar Night. Another new Club member, Wing Commander Andy Green (hitherto known more for his performances on land than on the sea, as he is the World Land Speed Record holder), was the guest speaker at the 2018 Annual Dinner. He is now endeavouring to break his record (763mph) by exceeding 1,000 mph, with the Bloodhound LSR project. The Annual Art Exhibition displayed a wide variety of excellent pictures and sculptures, while Christmas Cards and ornaments made by members of the Club were also on display. Any donations were as usual given to the RNLI. Christmas brought in the Christmas Buffet party and Turkey Dinner for adult delectation and Santa arrived as usual, to start the seasonal excitement for the younger members of the Club. Finally, the year came to a spectacular end with a James Bond themed New Year’s Eve party. Here, the casino tables were constantly in use, food and wine flowed, DJ Steve Phillips provided the music for all those attendees who had paid attention to their dance classes – and for those who had not been able to join those classes, there was a video which led the dancers through the appropriate steps.
By 2019, the Royal Lymington Social Scene was so busy and diverse that even members of the House Social Committee were sometimes surprised by what was on offer. Burns Night, graced not only with the swirling colour of the various tartans worn by Club members with Scottish ancestry, but also with the haunting sound of the bagpipes, beautiful food, great company and some hilarious entertainment, was followed by Valentine’s Day, when the tables were decorated with heart shaped chocolates and flowers, and diners who felt like it were able to participate in a slightly more fiendish than anticipated quiz while being soothed by the mellifluous voice of Susie Kimber. Tom Cunliffe revisited the Club as guest speaker for the Cruising Night Supper and entertained 89 members. As in previous years, Pilates, yoga and bridge added diversity to the on-shore life of adults and Shipmates and afternoon tea provided the opportunity for parents to chat while their children played and forged friendships which may possibly lead to successful sailing partnerships in years to come. The lecture series (which are no longer strictly anything at all to do with the House and Social committee but which do bring people together and may therefore be at least mentioned here) continued to be as successful as ever and the film nights provided members with an eclectic mixture of films. For those members of a more artistic bent, 2019 saw the beginning of a new Art Group, who met every Wednesday during the winter months. Out of doors, the cycling groups continued to thrive and wildlife walks were arranged by Peter Darnell – the manager of the Lymington and Keyhaven Nature Reserve – and were very well received. The Book Club continued to attract a regular group of members, who not only discussed a wide variety of books but also took a tour of the literary sites of Lymington which was followed by a very civilized cream tea at the Club. The Annual Ladies Lunch had as its guest speaker Linder Holden, a member of the Metropolitan Police for 27 years, who enthralled everyone with her stories of being part of the group of police officers who were involved in exposing the Cynthia Payne Luncheon Voucher Scandal. Captain Peter Jackson, RN was the guest of honour at Trafalgar Night; Captain Jackson, amongst other things, was the Master of the QE2 when she became a troop carrier for the Falklands War and is now a member of the Cowes Harbour Commission. The Annual Dinner in November was attended by 60 members, who listened with interest to the Rogers family and their ‘Assent’ to the Fastnet. Away from feasting, the organisers of this year’s Annual Art Exhibition were perforce, presented with the opportunity to adapt the event and therefore, they hoped, to improve the visitor experience thereto. The exhibition partitions which have been, in the past, loaned to the Club were no longer available, so a new hanging system was devised, based on that found in art galleries and museums but adapted to fit the specifications and requirements of the Club. As pictures could now be exhibited on the walls, the exhibition no longer took up floor space and so it was decided that it would be kept up for a fortnight, rather than for the traditional three days. Over fifty paintings and art photos were displayed. The opening night included an auction in aid of Wednesday Junior Sailing and the RNLI.
Christmas at the Club in 2019 was particularly magical for the younger members of the Club. Thanks to the amazing sewing skills of Sarah Richards, a selection of giant felt snowman created by Jose Nieves and some imaginative use of white sheets, electric night and fairy lights, Santa’s Grotto took over the whole of the Solent Room, and the children walked through a snowy landscape before they found a Grotto illuminated with fairy lights and hung with stars. Santa – who arrived by sea – was able to help dozens of children enjoy a wonderful start to Christmas. A newly formed Club Choir entertained members to Christmas Carols in the Bar and the Club Christmas definitely started with a swing. 2019 ended, and 2020 began, with a fabulous New Year’s Eve Party, where members were beguiled by magician Colin Phillips while enjoying champagne, a wonderful meal and dancing to the music of DJ Steve Phillips.
More or less a virtual Club
2020 started with such promise. Ideas for more social activities included a new photography class, for those who wished to make more use of their digital phones and cameras. All the regular classes and activities were in place and everyone was looking forward to a splendid sailing and social season. Social Evenings started with a bang (or should we say a dram), with a truly wonderful Burns Night, complete with piper and, after supper, a thoroughly enjoyable Ceilidh; it is fortunate that there are no Rules for Collision aimed at Scottish dancing because there were definitely a lot of collisions on the dance floor that night. Valentine’s Day was celebrated ‘at the Races’ this year, with attendees – having been encouraged to enter the spirit of the night with canapés and a glass of Champagne as they arrived – placing ‘bets’ on horse races which were then eagerly and enthusiastically watched on the big screen to see who would win. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the Covid 19 pandemic blew up and stopped Club activities in their tracks. Temporarily. Never let it be said that the indomitable spirit which stood the British – including (latterly, anyway) members of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club – in such good stead during the wars and upsets of the past several hundred years has died. The arrival of the pandemic to British shores brought a total national lockdown. Shopping, eating out, going to gyms, playing golf and, inevitably, going sailing were among the first activities to be stopped. This first lockdown, however, brought eerily quiet roads. The population was told they could go out once a day for exercise; cycling was, therefore, still possible – indeed, possibly even more enjoyable, even though all that activity could not be followed up with an after-cycle drink or meal at a pub. The various cycling groups therefore continued with a few tweaks to ensure that social distancing was maintained. We might not have been allowed in the Clubhouse but nothing would stop us on line. Yoga and Pilates and one Book Club continued care of Zoom, with the former continuing afterwards with a Zoom coffee morning. A new Weekly Newsletter hit the internet on Monday 6 April and, in addition to providing easier access to the Club’s website information, was filled with news and helpful advice on subjects ranging from on line photography and sailing courses to providing practical help to members of the club who had to self-shield and isolate. The new virtual Club portal included updates on new membership applications, the Hurst Spit Coastline and the Mayflower 400 Celebrations which were planned for August.
By the following week, a virtual Regatta, on line Bridge, an online Art Club and Tuesday Night lectures had been added to the list of activities which members could enjoy from the comfort of their own homes. By the time May was in, the Online Tuesday Evening Lectures had been joined by Vince’s mini quiz, Rainy day photography and an on-line Happy Hour. There was an opportunity to hear a series of pre-dinner Concerts with Phil and Katherine Collett; Katherine, dressed in appropriate style, delighted listeners with a careful selection of songs from various decades; the final concert on 18 June, included a collection of songs from the 30s to the 50s in addition to a tribute to Vera Lynn, who had died that day. Members were invited to drink coffee at an online coffee morning and junior members had a weekly challenge to find the Club Cat; where could he be hiding – in the Batman’s shed, in the Sail Loft, on the bar … somewhere else? Those with nimbler fingers could join ‘Sewing for the NHS’; joined Member Assistance; and/or an on-line Art Club, which had taken over from the actual one as this could no longer continue in the Club. Pilates and yoga sessions continued on line. By early July, the Lockdown was ending and the Club could open again, although strict social distancing and the wearing of masks at all times unless eating or drinking had to be, and was, closely enforced. Online activities continued, largely because life was by no means back to normal and many of the Club’s members had to remain at home, self-shielding for various reasons. However, as the Club was now open for coffee, there was no reason for the online coffee mornings, which had finished, at least for the time being, at the end of June.
As sailing activities returned to some state of normality, the first-floor bar and restaurant also reopened; carefully stewarded by volunteer members of the Club, with fewer tables, table service and suitable hand sanitising facilities, the Club was open for drinks and meals. Friday night meals with a themed menu were popular and the Sunday lunchtime roast was re-introduced as Autumn approached. There was a positive feel in the area and the Rear Commodore House spoke of plans for lectures, formal dinners and a monthly Quiz Evening. A return to some restrictions in mid-September did not completely extinguish these hopes or these activities. Movie Night restarted and lecture night returned to the Club. The first (and only) Quiz Night of the year was a great success, even though it had to be an adjunct to a normal supper and the teams were actually composed of dining groups of friends, limited in number to six per appropriately distanced table. Much of the discussion at the associated supper time was of the impact that the arrival, in early November, of Mosimann’s, our new catering partners would have, on the Club and its future. To celebrate the new partnership, Mosimann’s organised some gala dinners, which were very well received – indeed, fully booked up within 24 hours of their being announced. Sadly, in common with most of the rest of the Country (but not the Isle of Wight, enticingly visible on the near horizon) the inexorable march of the pandemic meant that before the next Quiz could be enjoyed and before those Gala Dinners could be sampled, early November also saw another period of strict limitation on social activities (for a month) under the Government’s Covid 19 prevention system. Social events – the lectures, the book club and coffee mornings, exercise, the photographic competition and the art – all went back on line and the Gala Dinners were postponed until mid-December. However, when they did take place – four of them over two consecutive weekends – the diners confirmed that, when Club activities finally come back to normal, there will at the very least be great food and wine to fuel the Club’s every activity.
Inevitably, however, the total ban on all large gatherings meant there was no Annual Dinner and no Ladies Lunch. Trafalgar Night, that most essential of social functions for any Club with associations to the sea, came and went without the Club members being able to raise a glass to the Immortal Memory at the usual formal dinner. Christmas at the Club was different this year, too. The House Social Committee managed to buy new decorations for the Club and to put them up on the first-floor trees and rooms, and on the giant tree in the foyer but even without the strict restrictions of November, the normal winter social activities were compromised. There were no Christmas lunches (although Mosimann’s provided these to those people who lived locally and needed help) and Santa had to remain in the fastness of Lapland, unable to visit anyone except via individual chimneys on Christmas Eve. From Boxing Day, more severe restrictions to prevent the spread of the pandemic meant that the Club had, once again, to close. The New Year came and went without balloons falling on happy sailors and friends and no guests clinked glasses of fizz together while watching the reflection of the moon on the river from the balcony. The decorations and trees stood unseen and unappreciated and could not be taken down until the club opened to staff again a week or so into 2021.
Nevertheless, just as they say an army marches on its stomach, sailors and members of the Royal Lymington are as keen on their food as anyone else and even in the midst of a pandemic this does not change. An online Cream Tea was organised for Saturday 28 November; Mosimann’s provided a full afternoon tea (to be eaten at home), with sandwiches and a variety of small cakes as well as the scones cream and jam which we had been expecting. Participating members were asked to decorate their table appropriately. A select but cheerful number of members joined the Zoom meeting and looked at and appreciated the efforts made by everyone to devise a table setting that was both elegant and different. Mosimann’s Head Chef, Nick Hebditch, chose the best laid table; the winners received a bottle of champagne, delivered to their door. There was also a quiz about all things cream tea, such as whether the jam goes first or the cream if you are eating a scone in Devon.
The Annual Art Exhibition was able to go ahead this year because it happened to start just before the November lockdown, although the delivery of pictures and the setting up of the exhibition were different, in order to observe social distancing. The same format was used as in 2019 and, although fewer pictures were exhibited than last year, it still looked good. When the New Forest was put into a higher coronavirus restriction zone at the beginning of December, the pictures were still at the Club. No one could go in to look at them, and the artists were unable to go into the Club to retrieve their work, and so the decision was made to put the exhibition on line and to keep it there until the end of January, with members being able to vote on their favourite picture.
We are now at the beginning of 2021. The online yoga and other activities have restarted and a new art group has just begun. Club members were able to participate in an online Burns Night, when the Burns Night team entertained no fewer than 88 members at a truly enjoyable evening, which included almost everything you need for a traditional Burns Night, including tartan and haggis and whisky and poetry, the toast to Rabbie Burns, the sound of the pipes and the singing of Auld Lang Syne. The only thing that was missing was being able to work off all that food and drink in a succession of really energetic reels and dances.
There is some now some hope that the pandemic has peaked and that the successful introduction of the vaccination programme will allow the World slowly to return to living a more sociable and active at some point in 2021. Until that day comes, the Royal Lymington will continue to offer its members a virtual social life with all the on-line clubs and societies and interests which were available in 2020. A virtual Valentine’s Day was arranged for 2021. Taking place after the Virtual Club AGM, it included a sumptuous four course meal and petits fours, with Live entertainment from Jazz and Soul Singer Bex Snook. The evening also included a cooking demonstration from Nick Hebditch on how the food was prepared. On Thursday 10 February, the Evening’s Lecture involved the Junior and Youth Sailors, who gave ‘fifteen riveting contributions telling the stories of how our young sailors have managed to learn about & enjoy their sport in 2020 – and some amazing successes’. On the more stationary front, Real Bridge takes place on Monday afternoons, the Online Book Club meets monthly and the Art Group is presented with a new pictorial challenge every week. Previous and current lectures are available on line as are the opportunities to chat over morning coffee or something stronger at Happy Hour. Tips on well-being have been added to the Newsletter and a new monthly gardening article will be invaluable to all those people whose attention has been drawn to their gardens for the first time in the past year. Indoor exercise classes continue and now kettle bell classes have been added to the normal Pilates and yoga sessions. Junior members have not been forgotten at this difficult time; a word puzzle is available on line while Zoom lectures have included subjects such as the current America’s Cup; there has also been keen competition in the Junior VR racing (VR – virtual regatta, for those of you who are wondering). A biscuit making and decorating session has also been arranged, courtesy of Mosimann’s, who are doing a tremendous job in the quest to help members of the Club to remain socially active. What will happen during the rest of this the final year before the Club celebrates its Centenary is, alas, open to conjecture. Widespread vaccination is being carried out even as this is written and it is to be hoped that some semblance of normal life will return before the end of the year. However, until such time as we can once more meet at the Club and enjoy in person, together, our Suppers and Dinners and coffees, our lectures and bridge and art, our yoga and Pilates and sailing, one thing is certain. Social life at the Royal Lymington will continue. It may be virtual, but the interests which bind us together as a Club both on and off the water will continue to bind us together through the airwaves.
Sailing seems very often to go hand in hand with a vibrant social environment. The excitement of the race at sea is relived in the aftermath of the event – either immediately, over a drink, or later, during the long winter months, when there is more time to mull over past successes and failures; the whys and wherefores, the means of doing better next time; for those more inclined towards cruising, social drinks in the cockpit as the sun goes down or in a local bar soaking in the local atmosphere become evenings in the bar, with a whisky to hand and a chart to explore while planning the next cruise, the next adventure. The Royal Lymington Yacht Club is a place where all the various interests in sailing – the racing, the cruising, the mucking about in boats, the learning how to sail – have, can, must and will all continue flourish. The social events which the Club organises serve to unite these sometimes-disparate interests, to produce a club membership where everyone can, if they wish, take an informed and active interest in everything that is going. Returning to the (admittedly rather fanciful) analogy mentioned at the start of this chapter, that of the yacht mast, now including its sails; a yacht is made up of many vital parts. It needs a watertight hull, a means of steerage, an anchor, a mast and sails. Each is necessary. In such a way is the Royal Lymington Yacht Club formed. It is made of many parts, each necessary, each interconnected. If the on-the-water activities are the hull, the Flag Officers the steering mechanism and the members and volunteers the anchor, social activities could easily be seen as the mast and sails, filling the Club with colour, in some years more visible than in others, but always there, the communal centre which draws everyone together, just as the mast of a boat and its sail draw all eyes. Over the past century, social events at the Royal Lymington have changed as the fashions and tastes of its membership have changed. From the restrained picnics of its early years, when the membership was smaller and less diverse, through that time in the 20th Century when cocktails and bridge evenings were the principal social aspiration of the adult English middle class and a Swallows and Amazons type mucking around on boats was regarded as the idyll of childhood, to the current day, when electronic games and greater pressure at school has to an extent altered the expectation of childhood and the working world has encroached more and more on the leisure time of adulthood, the Royal Lymington has adapted to suit the mood. Thus, it has grown into a Club with several thousand members whose ages range from those who are still at school to those who can remember the last World War. Inevitably, therefore, social activities have adapted and grown so that they can appeal to the actively sailing and also to those whose sailing days are behind them but who are still intensely interested in it and wish either to help others sail or simply to sit in the bar or at a meal and reminisce about days gone past. In the past, most of the members of the Club were members first and foremost because they sailed. Now there is a part of the membership who have never sailed but who are nevertheless still interested in the sea and wish to be involved in other ways. The Club’s social calendar has therefore changed considerably over the years. In 2021 there are more retired members of the Club than ever before, and fewer teenagers and young twenties. Current activities take account of this – more and more of the non-sailing opportunities – the book club, the art group, yoga, Pilates etc – are suitable for people of mature years. This commentary is one part of a book which celebrates the Club’s Centenary. The Club has a proud history which it is right to celebrate by considering the years which have passed since 1922 but, to ensure a bright future, it has also to look forward to the time to come and, to survive at all, it has to attract and keep younger members. The Club’s social events must and should continue to adapt and seek to bring in these teens and twenties. As has always been the case, the Club’s Social committee members are more than happy to be given ideas for events which can be used for such purposes. It is pertinent to repeat again those words which Alan Boxer, the Commodore in 1989, wrote in the first PotterShip magazine – “social activities … are so important in bringing together a membership with such widely varied talents and interests. We are also able… to ‘wine and dine’ them for 363 days in the year: not a bad achievement, and one that complements the purpose of the club, ‘to encourage and promote yachting in all its aspects”.