Club history

Beginning at Clatworthy Resevoir

In the mid 1960s when Clatworthy reservoir was built some 12 miles west of Taunton, a number of dinghy racing enthusiasts who sailed on the sea during the summer months, got together and formed a club to organise somewhere for them to sail during the winter. In those days clothing suitable for winter sea sailing was not available, wet suits were in their infancy & dry suits something mainly used by divers, hence the need for sheltered water for the winter.

Clatworthy Sailing Club had a membership of around fifty families and individuals. They found the reservoir so much to their liking, that all the year round sailing soon began and a simple clubhouse was built. Financial circumstances however never allowed any main services to be connected.

Move to Wimbleball Resevoir

In the mid 1970s a new reservoir was created at Wimbleball and the Clatworthy Club were invited to move to this much larger and more open stretch of water, sailing there for the first time in October 1978. The clubhouse at Clatworthy was sold and is now used by anglers. The proceeds of this sale, a Sports Council grant, members' contributions and a good deal of free labour, part from an early unemployment reduction scheme, allowed a larger clubhouse to be built at Wimbleball. This new clubhouse had the added luxury of mains water and drainage.

At this stage however the only lighting available was by candle - it was not until later that gas lighting was installed, enabling winter sailing to go until later in the day as members no longer had to rely on daylight to change. As membership increased and funds allowed electricity was put in and a purpose built race hut was built at the southern end of the club bay. By this time membership had increased to five times that of the original Clatworthy club.

First sailing at Wimbleball 1979

An interesting aspect of the club's history is the way that the types of boat sailed has changed over the years. In the 1960s at Clatworthy members mostly sailed Mirrors, Larks and Solos. In the early days at Wimbleball someone turned up with a sailboard and to the amusement of onlookers, gave a demonstration of how to fall into the water. Another member, with great foresight, bought a Tasar dinghy which at that time was quite new to the market. Although this boat has changed owners several times it is still raced regularly at Wimbleball, where the Tasar is currently the most popular two-person racing dinghy.

Mirrors, Larks and Solos are seen on the water less often nowadays. Lasers have become the most popular single-handed boat sailed. Despite the initial amusement and scorn, sailboards have always been welcome and never been banned, as in some clubs. In fact Wimbleball has proved to be a useful training ground as one sail-boarding member reached world-class racing standard.

The large size of the lake has always attracted a few catamaran sailors as until recent times it was the only inland water in the South West where they could be sailed. Even trimarans are seen on the water, where for the last twelve years, disabled people have used them for their sailing activity. Other minor activities include canoeing, rowing and even model sailing boats. All the foregoing came about because from the beginning the club had a policy of allowing any 'seaworthy' boat to take to the water. From time to time various unusual craft, from Exeter Maritime Museum, have been seen going through their paces at Wimbleball.

Local schools are encouraged to base their clubs and sailing instruction at the club, where from time to time inter-school regattas are held. A few years ago a number of members became RYA qualified instructors and in 1992, the club became a RYA recognised training establishment. Many of our current members having joined after first learning to sail at Wimbleball.

2000 onwards

The boats sailed continue to change with the times as people are tempted to try more up-to-date craft so we have seen many Supernovas,Phantoms and K1s all of which have had well supported open meetings. Sailboards are rarely seen and the club has had to send about 30 to landfill!

Sail training is now an important activity. The club runs many courses. The cadet courses held in the school holidays have been so successful that the building has been stretched to its limits. As a result the club now has a strong youth team who have done well in various events.

There are now four safety boats and all drivers are RYA qualified.

Various schools continue to use the club for training, Dulverton Middle School being notable for its policy of every child should learn to sail and kayak.

South West Lakes Trust

In 2002 South West Lakes Trust opened an activities site near the club. Some of their activities duplicate the club activities but membership remains steady at around 200. Sailing for disabled people actually started way back in 1982 on Monday afternoons using one Challenger Trimaran and two volunteers with no safety boat. The first two Sailability national championships were held at Wimbleball in 1988 and 1989. RYA Sailability formed soon after and the club became a foundation level site, then a registered charity in 2010.

The facilities for the disabled have improved to include easy wheelchair access to the hoist and seven boats of which one, a Pioner multi is used for wheelchair trips around the lake when not in use as a safety boat. The clubhouse has been extended to house a disabled person's bathroom.

2020 update

By 2014 much of the interior of the 30+ year old changing rooms had rotted away and needed replacing. Even parts of the cedar wood window frames were failing. As these held the glass and held the roof up something needed doing urgently!

Members worked tirelessly to raise funds to do this. Most notable was a 50,000 Sports Council grant awarded with help from SWLT, who extended the lease by three years. As a result there are now two refurbished changing rooms with power showers (thanks to a higher capacity electricity supply provided free), double glazing and a large door at the South end of the club room. The club paid for, and members fitted, a new galley, then redecorated everywhere.

K1 dinghies became very popular and this year's Inland Nationals will be held here. Adult and Cadet (now called 'Ospreys') sailing courses and powerboat courses are now held throughout the year, often by instructors who began to sail at WSC. The closure of Dulverton school led to the demise of the canoe section. Wellington School sea cadets make good use of the club in Summer.

Sailability continued to increase its activities, mostly in motor boating which was made possible by purchasing a second Pioner. The old Hawk dinghy was replaced with a brand new one. Funded by the club and Sailability, a new quiet area with large awning was created to ease congestion at peak periods.