Please select your home edition
Edition
CoastWaterSports 2014

The Story of the GRP Solent Sunbeams

by Sarah Johnson 6 Apr 13:06 BST

Roger Wickens, owner of Solent Sunbeam V26 Danny, who is a keen enthusiast of this historic yacht as well a highly successful helm, has published an informative illustrated account of the story behind the GRP Solent Sunbeams.

The publication details the origins, ten years ago of the GRP addition to this nearly 100 year old classic Fleet, when some of the Class members realised that the fleet number at Itchenor was in danger of declining below the critical mass needed to run a successful Class. Local Sunbeam owners Alan Stannah and Roger Wickens wondered if a GRP version of the boat would attract new entrants to the fleet with the lower build and maintenance costs.

The story of how Alan and Roger went about producing the first GRP Sunbeam, with the assistance of the late acclaimed Naval Architect Theo Rye and boatbuilder Mark Downer on the Isle of Wight, makes very interesting reading in this delightfully presented book which includes plenty of illustrations, photos and anecdotes.

Roger took on the task of Project Manager. There were many obstacles to overcome, including Class Association rules, design analysis and approval, EU Recreational Craft Directive concerns, build and fit-

out and rigging alterations. In order to preserve the integrity of the Fleet's racing, much time and effort was spent to ensure that the GRP Sunbeams would sail exactly the same as the original wooden boats. This was an essential criterion; if the new GRP boats sailed faster it would be unfair and if they sailed slower no one would buy one!

The philosophy behind the introduction of GRP construction to the Fleet was to reduce necessary annual maintenance, lower the build cost of new boats, and to include watertight bulkheads in order to make the yacht unsinkable. The first GRP trial boat, V61 Betty, was built from scratch in 21 weeks and launched in July 2010; she was raced extensively throughout that first season taking part in 36 races with every Sunbeam owner trying her out. Everyone agreed that Betty raced equally against the wooden boats, the Solent Sunbeam Class accepted her as a Solent Sunbeam, and a green light was given to building new GRP boats.

To date 11 new GRP Sunbeams have been built, including two which will be launched in 2020. Interestingly the new GRP Sunbeams have attracted a number of lady owners, who are reassured by the fact that their new yacht will float in an emergency situation. The introduction of the GRP boats to the historic Solent Sunbeam fleet has encouraged the owners of the existing wooden boats to bring them up to tip top racing condition, and the Fleet has grown to over 30 boats in commission and racing regularly.

For information on how to obtain a copy of 'The Story of the GRP Solent Sunbeams' please email

If you are interested in owning a piece of yachting heritage that also has a very active racing fleet, then the class has a number of boats available for sale or part ownership, with more details available on the Solent Sunbeam website, solentsunbeam.co.uk

Related Articles

Henri-Lloyd announced as Regatta Clothing Partner
Cowes Classics Week set to take place from 25th to 31st July The Royal London Yacht Club, organisers of Cowes Classics Week, is delighted to announce a partnership with new sponsors, marine clothing brand Henri-Lloyd, who is joining the regatta as Regatta Clothing Partner. Posted on 19 May
Calling all Solent Sunbeam owners, past & present
Input and photos required! With the centenary of the legendary Sunbeam fast approaching in 2023, the association is keen to update the history and ownership of each of these classic boats with a view to some form of publication for the 100th celebrations. Posted on 28 Apr
Entries open for Cowes Classics Week 2020
Royal London YC intend to run the regatta as planned in July The Royal London Yacht Club, organisers of Cowes Classics Week, is delighted to announce that entry for the 13th edition of the regatta is now open. Posted on 16 Apr
Cowes Week announces the Official Charity for 2020
Scaramouche Sailing Trust gets youngster from North London into sailing Cowes Week Limited is delighted to announce that the Official Charity for the 2020 edition of the regatta will be Greig City Academy's, Scaramouche Sailing Trust. This six year old school sailing club, which became a charity last year Posted on 15 Dec 2019
Itchenor Solent Sunbeam at Classic Yacht Regattas
Peter Nicholson's 'Dainty' shone amongst the 'grand dames' of classic yachts Bosham-based Peter Nicholson, owner of Solent Sunbeam 'Dainty' hull no 1, shone amongst the 'grand dames' of classic yachts at La Belle Classe, Regates Royales and Voiles de St Tropez regattas in the South of France. Posted on 25 Oct 2019
Classic Keelboat Syndication
And why you should try it Itchenor Sailing Club offers some of the best one design keelboat racing in the UK. We have racing water at all states of the tide and three different classic keelboat classes to choose from, all of which boast a strong double-digit average turnout. Posted on 20 Oct 2019
Peter Nicholson sets off for Regates Royales
The event sees the gathering of around 150 of the world's greatest classic yachts What started 15 years ago as an unusual and challenging adventure, has become not only an annual event, but one that has created life-enhancing memories, incredible sailing experiences, lifelong friendships, prestigious awards. Posted on 24 Sep 2019
Cowes Week 2019 day 8
The final day's racing is for the Cowes Town Regatta The historic and prestigious trophies available include the George Oliver Challenge Cup, Royal Cowes Town Regatta Challenge Cup, Sir Godfrey Baring Bowl and Culpan Challenge Cup. Posted on 17 Aug 2019
Cowes Week 2019 day 7
Fridays's racing held in an increasing south-southwesterly breeze Fridays's racing in an increasing south-southwesterly breeze determined the overall class winners at Cowes Week, as well as those for Black and White groups and the whole regatta. Posted on 17 Aug 2019
Cowes Week 2019 day 6
A breezy day on the Solent, with powerful gusts to 25 knots The Quarter Ton class is renowned for thrills and spills in stronger winds. Today Sir Keith Mills' Cote led around much of the course, challenged initially by Oscar Strugstad's Dawn Raid, before the latter broke the spinnaker pole in a broach. Posted on 15 Aug 2019