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80th Anniversary celebration of Dover Snipe Fleet No 8

by Sarah Mees 16 Apr 2013 20:34 BST 13-14 April 2013

80 years ago, in March 1933 members of the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club (RCPYC) in Dover Harbour, Dover, Kent, England ordered a fleet of 10 new Snipes to be built by Whitstable builder Anderson Rigden and Perkins. Two more Snipes were ordered in Whitstable. This fleet then raced regularly each week up to 1939 at one time being the 2nd most active fleet to Miami. They travelled to local clubs and also to Northern Ireland. After the war there were certainly Snipes sailing out of Dover College (a local independent school that had many links with the RCPYC) and it is thought there was a Snipe in the harbour up to the early 1970's.

A few weeks ago Graham Campbell (Erith YC former Commodore, Race Officer and Snipe sailor) suggested to his fellow Snipe sailors in this part of the country that we should attend RCPYC to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the formation of Snipe Fleet No.8. Sarah Mees, also Snipe owner along with husband George, started to research a little and discovered that the RCPYC Snipe Fleet 8 had organised a sail past the club of their new boats on 15th April 1933. We approached the RCPYC and they agreed to the plan to re-enact this sail past on Sunday 14th April 2013. RCPYC suggested a two day event and so it was agreed.

A display was produced of historic material relating to the RCPYC and Snipes and other clubs that were racing Snipes together in the 1930's through to 70's. Sarah wishes to thank all those people who helped her with collecting information from the archives of the class (Jerelyn Biehl and John Rose) Dover College and those clubs that either knew they had a Snipe history (Medway and Broadstairs) or had no idea at all – Eastbourne Sovereign Sailing Club.

Snipe sailors from around England came to view the display and enjoy the social scene – some had not seen each other for 37 years. The owner and crew of Snipe 2447 "Wonda" (John Howard and Lynda Bennett) brought some very interesting paperwork dating back to 1937 when the boat was built. There was a visit from the newly formed cadet section – The Pirates of RCPYC. Later there was a lively dinner enjoyed by all.

A sail past and racing was planned for Sunday. The wind had died, the weather looked unsettled, but the loyal Snipes took to Dover Harbour's waters for this historic event. Race 1, which became the sail past, was very slow, allowing time for familiarization with the new waters. During this race the wind started to pick up and the sun shone. This allowed time for a further race with brilliant, warm, sunshine and a good light breeze making for some good racing – the spectators were happy too.

It was so sunny it could even have been Miami...

RCPYC overlooks the Harbour and racing area from very smart premises and RCPYC provided a buffet which turned out to be a full hot meal with bread and cheese for afters – well received.

Snipe Fleet No. 8 formed in 1933 by enthusiastic RCPYC members, led at the time by Geoffrey Pout, winner of the Reichner Perpetual trophy in 1934, has meant that Snipes came to UK in 1933 or before. On Sunday 14th Snipes were once again racing on Dover Harbour and sailing past Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club thanks to the enlightened members of RCPYC 80 years ago and to the members today.

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