In the 1920 the land around Snettisham Beach all belonged to Etna Stone & Shingle Co which was extracting shingle for the building industry. Before that in 1908 Queen Alexandra had built a bungalow for her family to enjoy the pleasures of the seaside. In 1930’s holiday bungalows started to be built on the land owner by Etna S&S Co. Over time a number of bungalows were built along the foreshore. In 1938 a group of the bungalow owners, interested in racing their boats, came up with the idea of forming a sailing club. Initially there was an odd assortment of boats, no clubhouse, events being organised on the beach or run from a member’s property. The Snettisham Beach Sailing Club was officially formed a year later in 1939 with Mr. F. G. Kirkland as the Club’s first elected Commodore. He remained in office for the next 21 years and on his retirement in 1959, he was made Hon. Life President.
World War II brought an abrupt, unscheduled end to the newly formed club. To wind–up the club all the funds were spent on a “knees up” at Harrison’s Holiday Camp nearby and SBSC was put on hold. The entire Snettisham Beach area was requisitioned by the Military to be used, initially as a USAAF gunnery training camp and later, towards the end of the war, as a prisoner of war camp. The prisoners were employed as part of the war effort, to take out the shingle to build concrete runways for new airfields. During this period twenty years normal supply of shingle wa s taken out in three years and new lakes were formed. After the war, in 1946, the area was cleared of mines and munitions and returned to civilian use. That year Snettisham Beach Sailing Club was reformed, becoming affiliated to the R.Y.A. Sailing resumed with an assortment of boats including National 12 dinghies. In 1950 Charles Curry from Fairey Marine sailed at Snettisham and as a result Firefly’s were introduced to the Club.
The members, assisted by two member builders, put up a very basic clubhouse which sufficed as such until 1953 when it was washed away. The Great Flood of that year devastated the area, lives & property were lost; among those who died on that fateful day was Peter Beckerton, a club member, who died trying to save others. Peter’s mother, brothers and sisters survived by boarding a boat moored to their bungalow. Snettisham Beach Sailing Club annually sails a memorial race in recognition of Peter Beckerton and his selfless action. For the seasons of 1953 and 1954 a member’s bungalow living room was used as an ad-hoc clubhouse.
Following the tragic loss of Peter, the Beckerton family left the beach, selling their bungalow to the Club in 1955 which, with some alterations, became the new clubhouse. Throughout the following years the club flourished with fleets of Fireflys, Nationals, Enterprises, and Mirrors until in 1962/63, a member obtained a set of plans for a Fireball. Throughout the freezing winter of that year he built the new “planing” hull b oat in the veranda of his beach bungalow. Once launched, this revolutionary dinghy changed attitudes and it quickly became the preferred boat for the racing fleet. Over the winter of the following year eleven members built their own fireballs and a new fleet was born. The next two decades saw the fleet grow to over forty boats and SBSC boasted one of the largest Fireball fleets nationwide. By the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the club had grown in stature and proudly hosted Fireball European and World Championship Qualifier events which consistently attracted over eighty competitors, including some of the top sailors of the day.
The increased popularity of the club meant that by 1966 it had outgrown the bungalow clubhouse and needed to move to larger premises. Around this time Etna S&S.Co. was stopped from taking any more shingle for fear of weakening an already fragile beach defence bank and the beach was bought by Snettisham Beach Holding Co. (SBHC), a group of local beach bungalow owners. The sailing club rented a plot of land for the new sailing clubhouse from SBHC on the site of former the prisoner of war camp. Using funds from the sale of the old clubhouse and loans from a number of members, a new clubhouse was built. In 1967 the newly built clubhouse was officially opened by the then Commodore, John Whitmore. Since then it has been in constant use, with many and improvements and alterations on the way. The freehold of the clubhouse was purchased a few years later.
The Fireball fleet had declined by the mid 1980’s to be replaced by Dart 18’s and Lasers as the dominant racing fleets which continued until the turn of the century. This was the time when the Dart 18 fleet became very competitive with many of the club sailors competing regularly at open meetings around the country. SBSC hosted its own Open Meetings as well as the Dart 18 Area Championships. For several years Snettisham Dart 18 sailors produced impressive results, becoming champions at National, Inland National and European events.
In the late 1990’s racing for mono hull boats tailed off, until new classes started to arrive, Laser 2000’s, the return of the Enterprise plus various singlehanded boats and a growing topper fleet for juniors. The Cadet Week started in the late 1990’s for Juniors in Toppers. In the early 2000’s the importance of training was recognised, driven forward by a number of stalwart members, including parents of some of the Juniors. A Training Centre was formed, which gained RYA recognition and began training children to sail Toppers. The centre developed rapidly, training a squad of instructors who helped with teaching ever increasing numbers of children and adults. The centre now boasts a permanent RYA Chief Instructor, who has continued to develop it as a major part of the club with a comprehensive range of courses and activities, attracting new members, school groups and community youth groups. Cadet Week is run by the Training Centre each year, attracting over a hundred children aged 7yrs to 16yrs for sailing lessons that range from ‘Learning to sail’ for novices, up to specialist race training for the most experienced sailors.
Over the last 20 years the Club has gone on from strength to strength, surmounting the low point of losing the clubhouse roof in a storm in the 1980’s, when it was blown off and damaged the club bungalow behind; now the Junior Sailing Centre. A generator was installed to bring electricity into the clubhouse, the Kitchen and Bar Areas upgraded, new safety boats acquired, permanent planning permission obtained to install five storage containers for club gear, safety boats, a tractor and the generator. Development of the club continued in 2015 with the purchase from the RSPB of additional land to increase the number of the boat parking spaces. The following year, 2016, a Sport England “Inspired Facility” grant of £75,000 was received to extend the clubhouse by building a new veranda and conservatory, modernise the changing rooms and add central heating. As a planning condition for the extension, the flood defence bank in front of the club had to be raised, increasing the final cost of the project to a little over £103,000. The conservatory has created additional space for social events and doubles as a teaching area for RYA training. The Club now owns 2000’s, Wayfarers, Toppers, Fevas and Optimists which are used for sailing instruction, and can also be hired by Club members.
Following the resurgence in sailing, the club now races fast handicap, 2000’s, slow handicap, and Topper Fleets. There are handicap cup races and Open Meetings for 2000’s, RS 700 and Toppers for Juniors. In addition, two Open Days are held each year for the general public to visit the club and experience sailing.
Currently the Club is enjoying a very buoyant period with a broad range of members who own a wide variety of boats, including Catamarans, Mono-hulls, single-handed boats, windsurfers and kite surfers. The Club season extends from April to the end of October, with scheduled racing every weekend and on Bank Holidays. Additional Pursuit Races and Social sailing occur on Friday evenings as the tides allow. The Junior fleet enjoys its own programme of racing on the lake at weekends and a Wednesday Evening Club, plus some sea racing for the more competent sailors.
Snettisham Beach Sailing Club has an all-inclusive policy and welcomes new members of all ages. Club offers memberships in a number of categories; for sailing members, kite and windsurfers, kayakers, paddle boarding, and social members. For further details visit our website: www.snetbeach.co.uk and Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/Snetbeach/