Sailing: Sunbeams’ class shines through

The magnificent Solent Sunbeams   Picture by Chris Hatton
The magnificent Solent Sunbeams Picture by Chris Hatton

The Solent Sunbeam class based at Itchenor Sailing Club has been awarded a prestigious Classic Boat magazine award.

They have taken the title in the Spirit of Tradition under-40ft category.

The Sunbeams have enjoyed a spectacular resurgence over the past five years because of their courageous decision to build new boats in GRP while remaining true to the traditional wooden design.

The tradition in the title of the award stems from the inspired original 1922 design by Alfred Westmacott, who had previously designed the popular XOD, Victory and Mermaid classes. The Sunbeam is considered by many to be his masterpiece.

The GRP Solent Sunbeams faithfully follow Westmacott’s beautiful hull lines, deck and cockpit layout with a skilful combination of modern and traditional materials.

The first new Sunbeam named Betty was launched in 2010 just five months after the members of the class association gave approval for the use of the line drawings. She competed in Cowes Week that year.

Charles Hyatt, commodore at Itchenor SC, said: “The Classic Boat award is a deserved reward for the foresight and dedication shown by members of the Sunbeam class. We are proud to have this iconic fleet of boats racing at Itchenor and gracing the waters of Chichester Harbour.”

Champion Sunbeam sailor Roger Wickens led the project. For Roger the only answer was yes, the only timescale tomorrow and for every detail there was no compromise. Naval architect Theo Rye interpreted Westmacott’s design for GRP boats so successfully that they sail equally with the traditional boats whilst maintaining their key wooden visual features.

The plug and moulds were created by AP Structures of Sandown, Isle of Wight, who also built and assembled the hull and deck mouldings. The completion of the work took place at Itchenor’s Haines Boatyard, who contributed the beautiful timber work and fitted out and rigged Betty ready for racing.

There are now seven GRP Solent Sunbeams racing at Itchenor alongside the traditional wooden craft. With a further two under construction the rejuvenation of the Sunbeam class continues.

The Classic Boat award is a deserved reward for the foresight and dedication shown by members of the Sunbeam class

Itchenor Sailing Club commodore Charles Hyatt

Itchenor Sailing Club are inviting people to enjoy a free sailing experience on Sunday, May 17, as the club open their doors for sailing taster sessions as part of the the RYA’s Push the Boat Out campaign.

The event is supported by Chichester estate agents Strutt and Parker. Push the Boat Out is a nine-day nationwide event that will see hundreds of sailing clubs and centres across the country opening their doors for local people to have a go at sailing and windsurfing.

RYA sport development manager Duncan Truswell said: “Push the Boat Out provides the perfect opportunity for people to discover their local sailing venue, meet key volunteers and like-minded people, have a go at the sport and find out how much fun it is and how easy it is to get involved.”

Gayle Palmer, organiser of Itchenor’s open day, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in the RYA Push the Boat Out. We are inviting the local community to come down to the club, have a go at sailing, see what the club has to offer and get involved. Who knows – if you visit you might just get hooked.”

Starting at 9.30am, Itchenor will stage a wide range of activities including opportunities to meet and talk to club members, a short sail in a dinghy or keelboat, a race on a boat, a tour of the clubhouse and facilities, viewing of the types of boats that race from Itchenor – dinghies and keelboats for all levels of experience and age.

You can also find out about the training courses on offer throughout the season for children, powerboaters and keelboat racers and discover how less-experienced ladies are learning to sail. There’ll also be details of how to hire one of the club boats or join an existing fleet, plus membership options.

Free tea and coffee will be available and the clubhouse and bar will be open for lunch, drinks and tea.

All those who wish to sail are requested to pre-register before the day so the club can allocate enough boats and members – call the office on 01243 512400 or complete the form at

Visit or call 01243 512400. You can also find the club on Facebook and via @Itchenor1 on Twitter.

For more on RYA Push the Boat Out, visit