Pleasure sailing at Kinghorn has a long history, with records of the Kinghorn Yachting and Boating Club, as it was called then, going back to the 1880s. Details exist of the Second Annual Kinghorn Regatta in 1890, which attracted the inshore working boats of the day - sailing yawls, rowing skiffs and the like. Commodore Bill Johnston provided his yacht, Periwinkle, to start the races while back on shore a marquee was erected at the harbour for teas since the
club had no premises at that time. Fortunately, when it came to normal club business, Bill also happened to be the owner of Kinghorn Hotel and was able to provide accommodation for meetings.
Historical data is a little sketchy from then on but we are able to pick the story up again with a regatta just after the Second World War. This saw the arrival of yawls from Dysart and deep keel boats from Leith, not to mention the participation of local smaller clinker-built dinghies, rowing boats and possibly even canoes.
As the club entered the 1950s, the type of craft seen on the water changed dramatically thanks to the wartime development of good marine ply and strong waterproof glues. These made it possible to construct light and, for the first time, high performance dinghies such as the Hornet, Enterprise and Graduate, leading to regular racing taking place, usually in Burntisland Bay, and, in 1956, a points series being started. Most members settled on the Graduate because it was easy to build at home and had good performance. It was also light weight which meant, unlike the older and heavier clinker-built dinghies, it could be launched at any height of tide. Other clubs copied this decision and, for a time, the Graduate was one of the most popular boats on the Forth.
The first four Graduates were built by Alex McAndrew in a workshop behind the station and emerged for the summer of 1957. They were owned by Gordon Williamson, Stan Bissett, Joe Stewart and Irvine Milne. It was around this time the club was given an old Scout hut near Kinghorn Loch, just above the village. The hut's location was less than ideal so the members dismantled it and re-assembled it behind the railway arches near the shore where it served as a clubroom for many years. After the club was finished with it, the Scouts took ownership once more for canoe storage and it has only recently been demolished.
The club also found a clearer identity by adopting the burgee of Admiral Schank, who was a native of Kinghorn and a noted sailor of the American and French revolutionary wars. With a keen and ever growing membership, the sailors were keen to keep going through the winter and, from 1958 right up to today, Kinghorn Loch has been used for winter sailing.
By 1959, the club had eight Graduates, two Shearwater Catamarans and a GP14. The emergence of this fleet marked the break from the old "Sailing and Yachting Club" based around the harbour to the present day "Sailing Club" with its more formal structure and year-round organised events. In the mid 1960s, thanks mainly to the efforts of member Richard Hardy, the club was able to have its present clubhouse built on the seafront. Tragically, his son, Dick, a promising young sailor, was killed in a road accident not long after his 17th birthday.
With a clubhouse, a near homogeneous fleet and lots of relatively young and enthusiastic sailors, the club went from strength to strength. Gordon Williamson competed in the National championships at Lowton (near Manchester) and Reg Armstrong travelled to Largs for a "one of a kind" meeting where he held his own against such noted sailors of the day as Ian Proctor (Wayfarer) and Jack Holt (Enterprise), achieving a second in one race.
Regattas on the Forth were generally every second weekend and well supported. Held at the beginning of July, Kinghorn's was no exception and would attract up to 100 boats. In those days, car ownership was relatively rare so taking part in other regattas meant sailing there. Saturday mornings would often see a small fleet setting off for places as far away as South Queensferry while other weekends and evenings would see racing restricted to the bay.
A measure of the club's standing at this time was the successful staging of a Graduate National Championships and the outstanding performance of Charlie Tulloch Junior to claim second place.
In 1965, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution was establishing inshore rescue stations around the country and decided that Kinghorn, along with South Queensferry, would be a suitable site. An approach was made and the outcome was that the late Dr. Roy Weir, a former club commodore, became the station secretary and most of the initial crew was drawn from the club. Dr. Weir held this position for many years until he was succeeded by Charlie Tulloch Junior.
The first lifeboat shed was erected behind the clubhouse and, after the lifeboat moved along the shore to larger premises, it became a useful storage shed and workshop for the club. In the 1970s and '80s, the introduction of glass reinforced plastic (GRP) boats led to the arrival of new classes - the most notable of these being the Laser, which is still raced today. Over the years, the pattern of club sailing and visiting regattas continued but problems were looming as the young enthusiastic sailors of the 1960s became the not so young sailors of the 1990s and other members lost interest or moved away. In short, the club was in decline. However, thanks to the enthusiastic leadership of current Training Officer Roy Henderson, the club bought training boats and successfully applied to become a Royal Yachting Association Recognised Training Establishment. Today, the bulk of the membership has gone through these training courses. The stark reality is that, without these efforts, there would be no club.
Now, club sailing is enthusiastically supported throughout the year. There are around 50 members which is a smaller number than in the past but the proportion who take part in club activities make it a very friendly and active club.
This was composed with the help of Alastair Russell and the late Dr. Roy Weir. The Sailing Club would appreciate any additional information on the history of the club. Please email Robert Milne on firstname.lastname@example.org
Kinghorn Sailing Club members in the 1950s prepare their boats for a day's sailing out of the bay.
Graduate dinghies racing off Kinghorn in the late 1950s.