Please select your home edition
Leaderboard 2023

Solent Sunbeams celebrate their Centenary

by Nick Leach 21 Mar 16:35 GMT
Sunbeam fleet in Chichester Harbour 2022 © Kirsty Bang

The ever-growing Solent Sunbeam Class based at Itchenor Sailing Club is looking forward to an action-packed year, the highlight of which is the Centenary Regatta which is to be marked by events in Chichester Harbour from the 7-9th June.

This pretty, classic, three-man keelboat was designed by Alfred Westmacott in 1923 and has been racing continuously for 100 years except for the war years. The very first Sunbeam - ' Dainty', No. 1 - is still actively raced today from the Class's base at Itchenor Sailing Club. 'Dainty' has recently been nominated in the 'Centenarian of the Year' Category in the 2023 Classic Boat Awards.

The enthusiasm shown by the owners of these little yachts is remarkable. 'Dainty' has been owned by Bosham resident Peter Nicholson since 1971 and has competed in x Cowes Weeks. After 100 years the Class shows no signs of slowing down. Up to 40 boats are expected to compete at the Centenary regatta with some boats travelling from Cornwall where its sister Class - the Falmouth Sunbeam - is based.

In 1922, a renowned naval architect, Alfred Westmacott, responded to a commission from three Hamble-based yachtsmen to design a racing dayboat by producing a boat that was not only pretty but one that could handle the boisterous conditions of the Solent. 34 Sunbeams were built in the 1920s and 30's but the number racing were limited by a questionable decision of the Class in 1926 to limit the number of boats allowed to be built. Fortunately, that rule was lifted so that further wooden Sunbeams were built again in the 1970's and 9 wooden Sunbeams have been built since then.

In 2011 the Class began building GRP versions so the Class now contains Sunbeams sailing from Itchenor ranging from 100 years of age to new all-GRP and newly epoxied yachts, yet all racing on level terms in a one-design fleet. Regular racing is highly competitive with no restrictions for tides on most weekends and Thursday evenings from March to October.

"The boats are awesome - the class's best asset is that in light airs it is just amazing. Sunbeams behave as a boat should", Julian Hawe, yacht skipper and Sunbeam crew.

Alongside regular racing in beautiful Chichester harbour, Sunbeams race at Cowes Classic Week and Cowes Week.

The enduring nature of the Solent Sunbeam is summed up by a former owner who said: 'Helming a Sunbeam is serendipity. You leave all your problems ashore, and surrender to the sensuous joy of reacting to what she tells you.'

We look forward to welcoming many regular sailors at the Centenary Regatta, as well as former and prospective sailors, and members of the sister fleet based in Falmouth.

Further information about the Class can be found at

Related Articles

Cowes Classics Week discount entry ends soon
31st May is last date to benefit, before the July event Those wishing to benefit from a discount when they enter for Cowes Classics Week 2023 may still do so, but time is running out. The discount ends at midnight on Wednesday 31st May. Posted on 22 May
Solent Sunbeam Chisholm Weekend Regatta
19 out at Itchenor Sailing Club Nineteen Sunbeams took part in the annual Henry Chisholm weekend regatta at Itchenor Sailing Club on the 29th & 30th April. The event celebrates the impact of Sir Henry Chisholm in the 1950s and 60s when he re-invigorated the Sunbeam Class at Itchenor. Posted on 6 May
Cowes Classics club-based social program update
The spirit of the week is Corinthian racing followed by a varied social calendar The Royal London Yacht Club, organiser of Cowes Classics Week, is delighted to reveal that its popular club-based social program will this year include events at six local yacht clubs. Posted on 31 Mar
Entries open for Cowes Classics Week 2023
Early-bird rates are available now The world's largest classic yacht regatta of its kind welcomes a wide range of yachts and its club-based social programme, including afternoon tea kindly provided by Evelyn Wealth Managers, is very popular with visitors to Cowes. Posted on 1 Mar
Entries open for Cowes Week 2023
In this iconic regatta two of the most competitive classes are worlds apart At 197 years young, Cowes Week remains one of the pre-eminent regattas in the world, and this year the team expect to welcome more than 500 boats racing in 37 different classes. Posted on 17 Jan
Cowes Week 2022 overall
A spectacularly busy finish line at the Royal Yacht Squadron The last day of Cowes Week featured short, action-packed races in a solid north-westerly gradient wind, culminating in a spectacularly busy finish line at the Royal Yacht Squadron. Posted on 6 Aug 2022
Cowes Week day 6
Khumbu wins the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup A thrilling finish for the Grand Prix yachts competing for the New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup, one of sailing's most coveted prizes, saw Christian Zugel's GP42 Tschuss lead three boats across the Royal Yacht Squadron line just 30 seconds apart. Posted on 4 Aug 2022
Cowes Week day 5
Ian Atkins' Dark 'n' Stormy wins the Britannia Cup Lighter winds this morning increased to give competitors another great day on the water, predominately in breezes of 10-18 knots. Posted on 3 Aug 2022
Cowes Week day 4
Women's Day sees a great ratio of female helms More brisk winds and warm weather provided a further day of excitement for the fourth day of Cowes Week. Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor ever, was racing today, demonstrating just how seriously the top teams take their racing. Posted on 2 Aug 2022
Cowes Week day 3
One highlight: more than 20 XODs crossed the finish line overlapped After a relaxed morning waiting for wind, Cowes Week competitors enjoyed a third successive day of glorious sailing and close racing in ideal conditions. Posted on 1 Aug 2022