Dedicated members of Shropshire Sailing Club have turned their dream of a new clubhouse into a reality after more than a decade of planning and fundraising.
The purpose-designed clubhouse replaces an old wooden hut and provides a modern, warm and energy efficient building, which includes changing rooms and showers, disabled facilities, a galley for catering, lounge and training room.
An official opening with past and present members who have been involved with the project saw the club celebrating the end of a long journey to upgrade its facilities.
Preparations to build a new clubhouse started nearly 12 years ago and included negotiating a new lease and gaining planning approval, which needed to take account of the building’s proposed footprint on the northern shore of Whitemere - a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an internationally important wetland habitat.
The club gradually raised around £135,000 towards the project from savings, revenues and careful spending and was able to start breaking ground for the foundations in autumn 2019 but a funding shortfall meant there would need to be two construction phases, with changing rooms built first followed by the communal areas when finances allowed.
Then at the 11th hour and with a huge sigh of relief, a club application to Sport England for a £75,000 grant was successful, allowing the whole building to be completed in April 2020 – which in a final twist of fate was just as the Covid pandemic hit home, denying members the use of their new clubhouse for a further year.
Undaunted, members visited one or two at a time to decorate when restrictions allowed, and two awnings were put up outside to provide shelter for sailors when the government allowed watersports to resume but indoor spaces remained out of bounds. Members are finally now enjoying being able to both get on the water and use their new clubhouse.
Commodore John Ridgers said: “Along the way our club officers have suffered many setbacks and it seemed that each time they had a plan to progress, requirements and conditions changed, or application dates shifted, delaying progress. But five commodores in turn with their respective committees kept the vision alive and moved the project forward step by step.
“The moral of this story is not to give up on your club’s dream. Whatever the adversity, problems can be overcome. It’s been a real team effort by our members, past and present, and due to their dedication, time and efforts, we now have a fabulous new clubhouse, which will be the focal point for all our sailing activities now and well into the future.”
In addition to the Sport England funding, the club was also grateful to receive grants from the Mary Hignet Bequest Fund and Twemlows Community Energy Fund delivered locally by Shropshire Rural Communities Charity, and support from Shelley Signs Ltd.
Additionally there was a “£s for planks” fundraising initiative whereby members could donate to cover the cost of larch overlaps on the outside of the building and have their name on a plaque inside in recognition of their contribution to the new clubhouse.
Shropshire SC aims to provide access to sailing for all, including beginners, keen racers and those who simply “enjoy messing about in boats”. The club is an RYA Recognised Training Centre and also has RYA OnBoard recognition for its work with children and young people. Find out more at Shropshire Sailing Club - sailshropshire.co.uk - or discover more about how to start boating at www.rya.org.uk/get-afloat.
Support for clubs looking for funding
If your sailing club is looking for support to develop facilities, kit or projects, remember to catch up with our new #FundingFriday series @RYA Midlands on Facebook.
Sailing Development Officer Howard Nelson has been sharing his expertise in weekly videos to help clubs find and apply for grants, ranging from those available through large organisations like Sport England to some of the more elusive smaller pots of money, which clubs can tap into with the right know-how.
The upcoming 2021 RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference will also be helpful for clubs with plans to upgrade or develop their facilities. Following the national online conference evening on Monday 8 November, RYA Midlands will be hosting its own event on Sunday 28 November at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire.
Workshops available on the day will include looking at developing or replacing facilities, exploring how clubs can plan and project manage their aspirations towards a successful outcome. The RYA Affiliated Clubs Conference is ideal for sailing club flag officers, committee members, staff and volunteers. Tickets are free and booking is available here