image of The River Adur
The River Adur is very tidal

William Mills looks at Sussex Yacht Club’s elaborate new clubhouse building scheme and asks how viable this really is.

On 3rd September 2016 I attended a packed meeting at the SYC’s Shoreham club house to listen in bewildered amazement as club commodore Steve Vyse announced he and his colleagues had just completed 18 months of secret negotiations to sell part of the club’s Shoreham site knocking down the existing clubhouse in the process.

When we spoke afterwards I expressed grave doubts as to the viability of the scheme. However Mr Vyse made clear he would ‘come down on me like a ton of bricks’ if I dissented. Yet I feel that on such an important issue all points of views should be heard.

 

image of Commodore Steve Vyse tells shocked members about his building plans. Co. sec Tim Leigh is at far right
Commodore Steve Vyse tells shocked members about his building plans. Co. sec Tim Leigh is at far right

 

Sussex Yacht Club has the misfortune of being based at two different sites with its yacht moorings and old, disused Southwick clubhouse located close to the harbour entrance, and a car drive away, in Shoreham High Street is the main clubhouse and boatyard situated in on a narrow strip of tidal riverbank.

Sussex Yacht Club’s Building Plans

The commodore’s plan involves selling a strip of the club’s road frontage which would result in knocking down the existing main club building and replacing it with one built on stilts partially due to the narrowness of the remaining riverbank site, and also because it would be on the wrong side of the new flood defensives.

During the meeting I felt the club was dividing between those who live nearby and regard the club’s principle use as a free carpark in an otherwise busy shopping street with limited parking.

Others, coming from further afield, are sailors heading for the yachts at the Southwick site and rarely venture into the Shoreham clubhouse. At present the facilities for the sailors are lousy. The pontoons are a sad joke compared to those in nearby Brighton Marina. There is little parking and a disused old clubhouse providing a couple of toilets and no refreshments.

 

image of Except at high tide Sussex yacht Club's slipway remains idle as the river isn't navigable by keel craft
Except at high tide Sussex yacht Club’s slipway remains idle as the river isn’t navigable by keel craft

 

The lion share of the club’s £500,000 annual revenue is taken by the Shoreham site providing employment for the office staff and subsiding a loss making bar and empty restaurant.

Yacht clubs always have problems retaining trained catering staff due to the seasonal nature of the English weather and often bar staff are disconsolately left reading a book on weekdays and during the winter due to lack of customers.

Mr Vyse seemed to suggest that a new clubhouse would somehow reverse this trend. However fabulous this new stilted edifice might appear, as a private members club its trade would be limited to a few local residents having an exclusive drinking session one Friday a month.

If the rest are happy for their fees and subscriptions to be used in this way so be it. Individuals can always vote with their feet and not renew their membership if they so wish.

However when public money is being used it is a very different matter. Shoreham is very short of car parking. It already has a selection of High Street pubs and restaurants to choose from.

 

image of Sussex Yacht Club's empty veranda looks out over the narrow strip of land used by local residents for convenience parking.
Sussex Yacht Club’s empty veranda looks out over the narrow strip of land used by local residents for convenience parking.

 

What would clearly be best for members and the wider community at large, would be for the whole of SYC’s Shoreham site to be given over to car parking with a landscaped riverbank tow path that everyone can enjoy.

In return SYC would be entitled to request the Council provide a purpose built site  industrial land near the harbour entrance where they is ample space for car and boat parking.

A new slipway would be easy to construct giving access to all states of the tide launching and recovery of craft.

A purpose built clubhouse would provide windswept visiting yachtsmen seeking respite with a hot shower, laundrette, hot meal and bottled drink and with somewhere comfortable to sit which didn’t keep going up and down.

Close to the boats, it would be far more likely used regularly by both sailors and boat owners who regularly visit their boats during the week. At present few muster the enthusiasm to get back into their car and sit in traffic so they can pop into a club bar several miles away which in all likelihood will be empty.

 

image of Fecamp Yacht Club, France, puropse built with offices below and recreation above immediately adjacent to the moorings. Not a fancy restaurant miles away.
Fecamp Yacht Club, France, purpose built with offices below and recreation above immediately adjacent to the moorings.

 

In Fecamp, Normandy, the visiting yachtsman finds immediately above the moorings a building with harbour master’s office and showers on the ground floor and the recreational area with fabulous views out to sea on top.

How many weary sailors would realistically wait on a busy road for a bus into the nearby town to visit an expensive clubhouse restaurant, which might be closed in any case, and for which they are certainly not dressed for?

The Shoreham site might well be ideal for a new pub restaurant. But to succeed it would need to be fully open to the public in order to compete on equal terms with its High Street rivals.

For a small number of locals to expect to keep public money for their own benefit is both selfish and unrealistic.

The resources available should be used for the benefit of everybody.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m afraid this article is full of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Look to the provenance of the information. An author with an axe to grind. It’s a shame the publishers of the article didn’t check the facts before publishing.

  2. What a load of tosh, as a club member I can tell there has been no secrecy regarding the new club house proposals and all members I have spoken to are in support of the clubs proposals. The rest of your article is pure dribble, unless through the lock, where there is no space, the whole river dries at the edges so is unsuitable for your amazing plan.

  3. This article is complete rubbish. The Shoreham site is very well used by club members and dinghy sailors.It’s also home to many bilge or lifting keel yachts which are well used. It hosts a thriving sailability scheme. The bar is often very busy – all week – and the restaurant much improved. The current clubhouse will flood due to rising water levels and has to be re-built anyway, and much of the money is coming from the environment agency for that very reason. You cannot build a site near the entrance. At MLWS there is barely 1m of water there anyway and it’s right over on the south side.

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