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30 Years of Sailing at Kielder Water Sailing Club

by Nicola Bell on 30 Aug 2011 27-28 August 2011
Adrian Langford during the Kielder Water SC 30th anniversary © John Scullion

2011 is the 30th anniversary of sailing at Kielder. The very first race to be held on the lake was on 21 June 1981. Gwen Paton, one of the founding members of Kielder Water Sailing Club, recalls: "The course was to be 'around an island towards the Dam'. It turned out that the lake filled quickly and we ended up 'rounding' a flag stuck into the highest piece of land just below water level. The original club house was the office building of the Contractors and was given to the club, provided we dismantled it and re-erected it ourselves. Many of the early members put in long hours to get the Club up and running."

Members of KWSC continue to give their time and talents to the club. Steve Gibbon has just been awarded the RYA Community Award for Outstanding Contribution to sailing. This prestigious award, described by the RYA as the "MBE of sailing", reflects Steve's contribution to the development of Kielder Water Sailing Club, as well as the support and training he gives to clubs regionally and nationally as an RYA National Coach and Regional Club Development Officer. Steve is the only person to have received this award in the North East this year. Another KWSC member, Michael Collins, received the same award in 2006 in recognition of the work he has done for the sailing club. In 2010 KWSC was awarded RYA Volvo Champion Club status in recognition of the training and development opportunities provided for under-18s.

Kielder Water Sailing Club and Kielder Water Yacht Club celebrated the 30th anniversary with a regatta on the August Bank Holiday weekend, this year hosted by the sailing club which is based at Tower Knowe. Originally, both the sailing club and the yacht club were based at Leaplish; in 1993 the sailing club re-located to Tower Knowe with a new club house leased from Northumbrian Water, and the yacht club moved to the anchorage at Whickhope. Christine Fair, another founder member of the club, and Julie Gibbon brought photographs and press cuttings about the club's history which provided plenty of opportunities for reminiscence.

The regatta began with a sailing treasure hunt, with clues located on buoys on the lake, and ashore. Teams comprised a maximum of six people, with any number of vessels allowed per team. Winners Team Windrider gained most points by organising a team comprising a Windrider trimaran (Ed Holt and Zoe Vallance) and a windsurfer (Judy Scullion) to find the water-based clues, and the children Ben and Annabelle Scullion to cover the ones ashore.

Windsurfing is seeing a resurgence of popularity, thanks to Brian Coates becoming a windsurfing instructor and the club's investment in equipment, also funded by grants from Sport England and the Community Fund. Julie Gibbon is to be commended for her successful grant applications over many years. Windsurfing used to be strong at KWSC, and two of the club's former leading lights in windsurfing, Ian Fair and Colin Wilkinson, have given a trophy for the newly-inaugurated Freestyle Competition. This is held under PWA rules, where competitors are scored on diversity, technical skill and style. The juniors were on good form, beating the adults, with the eventual joint winners Jane Vallance and Christina Coates sharing the trophy between them.

Rounding off the regatta weekend was KWSC's long-standing Little America's Cup - match racing in Toppers, a knock-out competition where pairs of competitors sail a very short triangular course against each other. The winner was Adrian Langford, with Jack Vallance winning the youth Little America's Cup and Luke Stewart the juniors'.

Kielder Water Sailing Club continues to go from strength to strength; it organises cruising and racing activities and provides RYA training for junior, youth and adult members. New members are always welcome and more information about the club is available at

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