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Sailing at Ruislip in the 1980s - memories provided by Chris Hibbert


Click on any picture for enlarged view.



I joined Ruislip Sailing Club (RSC) in 1984, and think that it had been running since 1953 or so. At the time that I joined there was a fleet of Albacores, which is a big (15ft) boat for the size of the water, and also Graduates and Solos, plus the inevitable general handicap class.

The club had, I think started out with the Heron dinghy, a small two person boat designed for D.I.Y. construction soon after the war.

The pictures above show some of the fleet racing on a quiet day, including Graduates, a Solo, windsurfers, and a Laser, while the picture below (left)  shows three of the Albacore class crossing the finishing line at the end of a lap - the committee boat is the motor boat behind them. The white boat with a spinnaker set on the far shore is probably a 420.

More often the starts and finishes were organised from the shore, and the picture above right shows the race officer (who happens on that occasion to be your author!) in action, while members of the public picnic quite oblivious close alongside. This was one of the endearing features of sailing at Ruislip, as it often proved to be a source of interest to those picnicking and generally enjoying the open air and water.

However, anyone with sharp eyes will see that the water level was not high in these pictures, the beach along the far bank being wider than when the water level was high.

By 1987, a sequence of events had started which lead to the cessation of sailing. For some time the level was held down while work was done on the dam, then a leak developed in the puddle clay bed, then some nature fanatics dammed the inlet to create a wetland to the east of the lake, regardless of others historic and legitimate uses of the lake itself. The results can be seen in the pictures below.



So by 1987, the year of Michael Fish's "non-hurricane" the club had moved temporarily to one of the Rickmansworth lakes , where we succeeded in keeping our identity as a club together over the next couple of years, with intermittent returns to Ruislip when each "low water" episode had, as we thought, been overcome. 

The two pictures above show Albacore class members packing up at Ruislip and arriving at Rickmansworth, and feature Bruce Preston, the club Bosun, and Drs Ron and Julie James, both of whom held senior positions, Julie in the the post of Commodore in the closing years of the club, and who worked valiantly but to little avail to prevent the final demise of the club.

This came about in the early 90s, when, "after everything", it transpired that the council rather liked the idea of permanently low water, as it relieved a number of theoretical problems created by the arrival of housing built in the flood plain of the outlet from the dam (and who gives planning permission for such? Don't ask!). Modern morals had also been having an effect, and with the less frequent occupation of the clubhouse and race box, vandalism had started to rear its ugly head as well.

So that was that. After a memorable party to bade farewell to Ruislip Sailing Club, the various fleets dispersed. The more active Albacores went to Maidenhead, joining the established class there, while the Solos and Graduates found new homes somewhat closer, at the clubs in the Denham/Rickmansworth area.

Ruislip had been an active and very welcoming club for very many years, developing at a time when the UK boom in small boat sailing came about not long after WW2. As well as entertaining its members, it was unique in its closeness to a "lay" audience, who often expressed interest, and must have been treated to many entertaining spectacles on the windier days. It was a shame it had to disband.

Ruislip Sailing Club - R.I.P.

Comments from past members:-

My name may not be that familiar, but I raced at the lido in 80/81 - it was great fun and very shifty - the diverse fleet was a giggle too. Shame to see the demise of this place and the other local clubs which used to race together at regatta's. My life has been shaped by sailing and the people I met when competing - happy memories, but a shame these resources are being eroded for future generations to enjoy.
Rob McMillan

I was born in 1947 and lived in King Edwards Road Ruislip. I was a member of Ruislip Sailing Club in the 60's. Mostly I worked on the rescue boat with Tony Hesslegrove .

We always sailed in the winter and how cold it was. Sometimes we went out first on the Sunday sailing to break up the ice. I saw my first rubber wet suit in use at the Lido. It took us a long time to get to capsized boats if they were right up the Northwood end. By the time we got to the crew they were half frozen. I think we carried a bottle of medicinal rum for such occasions. Sometimes we used the sailing scouts boat as a rescue boat as it was faster.

I don't think the scoutmaster knew about this because one time the boat featured in the Ruislip Northwood Gazette with us rescuing some poor sailors. The scoutmaster was not amused when he saw the picture. (I still have that photo) I remember Tony got into trouble for this.

I was also a member of a school band at the time we were called the Town Criers of Ruislip. We used to practice above Colin Rosses Photo Shop and drive all the neighbours mad. We played once at the Ruislip Lido Sailing Club house just up from the pier where the water skiers used to take off from.

I remember well the filming of the Night to Remember. We went up to watch a few times. It was the middle of Winter I seem to remember. My sister's boy friend Peter Jaques was an extra. They had to jump off the side of the ship into the lido. At night in winter!!!!!!!!!!!. The scenes with the lifeboats rowing were filmed with the lifeboats tied up to the jetty. I remember seeing Moore doing his scene with the upturned life boat.

Sometimes the ice was too thick for sailing. We skated up there a few times. They sent out a Land Rover to test the ice first. When that was ok all the locals all took to the ice. In the winter the wooden rowing boats all got repainted in the boat shed. They were beautiful boats carvel planked too The catamaran rescue boat was built in that boat shed too. It was yellow and slow. We had a seagull outboard motor. Noisy and slow.. Trying to refill the fuel tank in the cold was a hazardous task. The Heron was the main yacht while I was there with the Graduate. Then the Albacores came. To see them planning through the thin ice I can still hear the noise today.

All that sailing must have put the sea in my blood. I am now working on a diving Ship In Australia as a second officer. I have lived in Perth Western Australia for 30 years.
Patrick Davies.

My name is Patrick Davies. I now live in Perth Western Australia. I have some memories of Ruislip Sailing Club in the late 50's and early 60's Below a copy of a newspaper cutting from the Ruislip Northwood Gazette 30 May 1960. Poor quality I'm afraid but it shows myself and Tony Heselgrove rescuing a Heron dinghy on Ruislip Lido. We were using the sea scouts boat on that day and the scout master was not impressed when he saw that photo in the paper as we did not have his permission to use the boat. I am starting the seagull outboard motor and Tony is hanging on to the waterlogged dinghy. Not sure where the dinghy crew is but they were probably warming up with medicinal rum somewhere near by. I was only 13 at the time but always enjoyed my time with Tony on the rescue boat.


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