A Brief History of Llandegfedd Sailing Club
Sor Brook ran peacefully down the valley past Pettingale Farm and the local children used to come and pick the wild daffodils of the adjacent hillsides. Then in 1960 along came the developers following the Government enquiry!
In order to provide water to the growing population of Cardiff, Cardiff Corporation put forward a scheme to build a new reservoir with the dam wall in the vicinity of Llandegfedd Village. The completion of the geological surveys established that the rock structure at Llandegfedd was not adequate for the enormous design loads for the dam wall. Thus it was that the reservoir was moved "upstream" to the site that we now recognise! Impounding began in 1964 and sailing started in 1966. Just 5% of the water comes from surface water catchment, the rest is pumped from the River Usk into the reservoir which, when full, holds 5300 million gallons of water and forms a lake 434 acres in area and measures up to 1.5 miles long and 1 mile wide.
Cardiff Corporation produced a booklet in the 1960's relating the story of building the reservoir. Here it is: Building Llandegfedd Reservoir (pdf)
The Club was formed in 1968 with the founder members coming both from the Uskmouth Club and from the locality. The list of Founder Members shows 115 names. As of today, we still have one founder member (Gareth Edwards) regularly attending the Club. Membership flourished and the 1970's were seen as a major growth period for sailing clubs everywhere. In 1974 there was even a waiting list with membership peaking at 300 in 1980. Membership declined during the years of our disagreements with Welsh Water and perhaps later with the advent of other distractions such as satellite TV and home computers. Our declining facilities could not have helped either (more on that later). Through the noughties we retained around 60 - 70 Members but in 2015, following years of work to get a new clubhouse to call home, the club has turned a corner and hopes to capitalise on what we now have.
The Club has always been run by a Commodore assisted by a Vice-Commodore and sometimes a Rear-Commodore. The "flag officers" (as they are known) are supported by various committees in order to run all facets of the organisation. Officers names are listed on the club website under “Honours”. They have been incredibly busy over the years trying to improve the sailing facilities which we effectively offer to the South-East Wales conurbation of about 1.75 million people.
Clubhouse and Facilities
The clubhouse you see from 2015 onwards is the result of many years of negotiating with Welsh Water. To see how we got there, let me take you back through time. Our original clubhouse started life at Beachley during the construction of the original Severn River crossing, so had been well used by the time the reservoir construction crew got hold of it. On completion of the Dam wall it was donated to the sailing club and was relocated to a site right at the top of the first car park you come to on entering the dinghy park. From '68 - '69 work began to fit it out and after the plans had been passed by Cardiff Corporation, a balcony was fitted at the front by the Army Apprentices. It was all made ship shape, curtains and all.
Sadly, over the years, time took it's toll on the wooden construction and the building was finally condemned in 2006. This left the club without a place to call home and made it far less attractive to new members. It also led to an explosion of steel shipping containers so that we had secure storage for our kit.
Plans evolved to get a replacement, and all manner of fund raising activities took place, but we were unable to reach agreements with the land owners (WW) and town planners. After exhaustive Herculean efforts by a team of the membership Welsh water finally agreed a lease on a plot of land close to the race hut. Plans were drawn up and approved by the planners and a business plan was presented to the banks. After years of negotiation we finally had the go ahead from the bank and were ready to break ground. Right then a miraculous thing happened. Just as the club was about to saddle itself with a considerable debt, WW had a change of heart and committed to providing us with a facility. Pressure off! There were, of course, some caveats. The location of the building would change. No longer at the point by the starting hut but instead at it's current location. The sailing club would not control use of the building. It will be shared among other watersports users. It would be smaller than our planned construction too, but to make up for that they would construct a second building, a Visitor Centre close to the access gate. There are also to be some new barn type constructions added to provide the user groups with space to store equipment securely, and this should allow the last of the steel shipping containers to be removed from sight (and site!).
Some say that we missed an opportunity to capitalise on the available view, others that the proximity of the facility to the dinghy park makes it more useful than ours might have been. Either way, we have been given shared use of a top class facility and as a club, we do not own the debt. That is a result worth waiting for.
Slipways of a limited nature were available in 1968 but it is on record that they were extended in 1970 with assistance from some boys from H.M. Borstal at Usk. Since then, they have been extended many times and we can thank John Waddington, a previous Head Ranger, for much of the low water facility that we enjoy today.
In 2011 a European rule was passed that meant water companies could be fined if they allowed their water levels to drop below X% and since then we have not experienced very low levels. How much of this is down to that European ruling and how much to climate change, who knows? The author suspects that WW will want to keep attracting users to help pay for the facility and keeping the water level up will be instrumental in that. There is talk of them expanding the concrete apron in front of the watersports centre. That would be great if it happens.
The Starting Hut began life half way along the East bank and was then moved to a site about 50 yards North of it's present position until the WWA built the existing facility for us in 1974. The electronics that drive the starting, finishing and recording system was designed and built by Phil Jones in 1973. Observant members will have noticed that there are coloured lights on the outer end of the transit poles. These were originally connected into the starting sequence but became obsolete when the system voltage was increased from 12 to 16 volts !!!
Starting Hut and Committee Boat
Our shore based starting hut began life half way along the East bank and was later moved to a site about 50 yards North of it's present position until the WWA built the existing facility for us in 1974.
Former member Phil Jones is credited with installing the original starting sequence equipment in 1973, though this has subsequently been replaced. In 1999 we updated the starting equipment with some very simple electrical bits. We have an "Autohoot" controller that sequences through 5, 4, 1, GO hoots which virtually guarantee that the sounds come at the right time. We also have a simple control box that has three switches. This lights rotating beacons on the OD Hut mast. Yellow, Green (we did not dare have Blue) and Red. These can replace flags for club racing, and make running a race very simple. The control box also has on a large Sailing Watch and the Autohoot controller. A fixed UHF Radio is in the OD hut which saves worrying about collecting the radio, charging and carrying a mobile one around. The electrical equipment is powered by a wind turbine, and for calm summer weeks this is backed up by a solar panel and charger.
Heating might be nice too for those colder days! This would clearly require mains power to the hut and that was left out of the scope of the watersports centre works.
In 2003 the club bought a 21ft Wilson Flyer fishing boat (named Doris) to use as a floating starting hut. She didn't have a "proper engine" though she can be moved using an auxiliary outboard or a safety boat to other locations to improve course setting. In 2015 the club committee bought a newer boat, "Penelope" which now has a small engine, and the same race controls as the OD hut. Another fixed UHF Radio is there enabling communication with the safety boats. Over winter 2020/2021 an electric winch was fitted allowing a single OD to drive to a point int he reservoir, lower the anchor and set up for race management. The winch will pull the anchor up and then one can drive back to the pontoon near the Vistor's centre and walk home in a very civilised manner.
From the beginning, sailing was never restricted to Sailing Club members and there have always been a wide miscellany of craft using the water. As a club though, racing has always been at the heart of our activities. We presently race Wednesday Evenings and on Sunday. Over the years, the Club has tried hard to encourage fleet racing with varying degrees of success.
The Principle fleets have been
Fireball, Laser, Albacore, Heron, 5-0-5, Solo, Mirror, Merlin Rocket, Kestrel, 470, Enterprise, GP14, Scorpion, RS 400, and General Handicap
Sadly we rarely see many of those classes now, but in 2015 we have the UK's biggest fleets of International Asymmetric Canoes and RS Vareos though they are slowly giving way to the newer RS100. In 2021 we have an RS Aero fleet starting up so we are bang up to date.
Recollection is that the largest fleet was in the late 1970's when our Laser Fleet regularly exceeded 20 starters. The demise of this fleet occurred principally when the Sailboard "revolution" hit the imagination of the nation.
Key sailing events in the year are:
- Regatta weekend in midsummer
- President's weekend (historically at the end of October, now Mid September)
- Llandegfedd Pin (historically sailed at 3pm on Regatta Sunday)
- Open meetings for the most popular local classes
- Area championships
Over the years, the Club has been fortunate in producing a number of Champions namely:
- Jack Harper; National Javelin Champion 1968
- Tony Trego; National Kestrel Champion 1976
- Alan Titmus; National Youth Champion, Laser, 1979
- Ian & David Jarrett; National Youth Champions, 420, 1980
- Robin Wood; National Moth Champion 1983
- Robin Wood; World Moth Champion 1983 & 1984
- Robin Wood; National International Canoe Champion 1985 & 1993
- Robin Wood; World International Canoe Champion 1994, 1997
- Phil Hillier; National Kestrel Champion 1990, 1992 & 1995
- Martin Stickland; National Youth Champion, Laser, 1989
- Giles Drewitt; National Youth Champion, 6m Sailboard, 1990
- Catherine Williams; National Womens Champion, Supernova 1998
- Merrick Stanley; Optimist Regatta Champion, 2006
- Nigel Tinkler, RS Vareo Inland Champion, 2007
- Dave Timson; World International Canoe Champion 2010
- Merrick Stanley represents Llandegfedd at the 2013 Laser 4.7 Worlds in Hungary and was third Briton
- Kahla Delahay represents Llandegfedd in the Europe Class 2013 World Championship in Denmark, was first Briton!
- Andy Howard; RS Vareo Master, 2012
- Clare Williams; UK Ladies Championship, Youth Champion in RS Vareo Class 2013 National Championship
- Robin Wood; European International Canoe Champion 2015
- Andy Howard; RS Vareo Grandmaster, UK Travellers Trophy winner, 2015
- David Jarrett; RS Vareo Nationals, held at Llandegfedd SC, 2016
Having been without facilities for so long the social aspect of the club has relied heavily upon Apres Race at the local Public house. It is envisaged that this will improve during this and the coming years. Nevertheless, the Club has always held an Annual Dinner Dance or Christmas meal which includes the annual prize-giving ceremonies. This is usually held at a location central to our membership populous. Come hail, sun or snow, members can now congregate in the clubhouse to socialise and perhaps hold the occasional post mortem on a race day!
Defining Events in our history
1968 Club formed
Fish disease restricts boat movements
1969 Electricity and sewage available on site
Winter sailing application refused by Cardiff Corporation (CC)
Open meetings cancelled because of fish disease
Veranda built on clubhouse
First application for a lease for the sailing rights on the water
1970 Request to C.C. for showers in the changing rooms.
Lease request turned down
1971 Problems experienced with low water levels
C.C. considering an Amenity Centre under the Country Park scheme
1972 First rescue boat purchased assisted by Sports Council grant
New changing huts erected behind clubhouse
C.C.P.R. training week-ends started
Amenity Centre plans available
1973 Club entered Southport 24 hour race
1974 National Water Development Authority (NWDA) took over responsibility for reservoirs in Wales
1975 Report prepared by the Club on the facilities and amenities at Llandegfedd for the NWDA
1979 Relief pipeline laid along East bank. Entrance widened and new road laid
1981 WWA agreed in principle to the granting of a 21 year lease on a plot of land to the club for a clubhouse
1983 Lease documents still with WWA solicitors
1985 WWA decided to appoint a licensee to run all sailing activities at the reservoir
Gwent Adventures (GA) awarded the license from April 1985 to Nov 1987
1986 Ongoing discussions with WWA regarding clubhouse ownership & use by GA
Name changed for a while to Llandegfedd Dinghy & Board Sailing Club to encourage sailboarders to join in our activities.
1987 Notice to Quit issued by WWA on us as a result of breakdown in negotiations
WWA imposed a ban on all racing activities on the water
1992 WWA resumed responsibility for running sailing activities
1992 £5000 raised to promote youth training. 6 new Optimists purchased
Winter sailing trials run on alternate Sundays under ornithologists' observation
1993 Winter sailing started on Southern half of water after successful trials
Silver Jubilee celebrated with dinner dance attended by sailors from 25 years
1994 Club again sent team to Southport 24 hour race after 21 year break !!
1995 Toppers bought to improve training facility
1996 Asymmetric spinnaker boats make their appearance
1998 Teenagers re-appear and sail competitively - but still cannot win Llangorse Challenge!
1999 Llandegfedd appears on two Web sites as an experiment.
2000 Club registers for its own e-mail and RYA supported web site.
2003 Doris comes to the reservoir. She is a 21 foot Wilson Flyer to be used as a permanent committee boat at the middle of the top end of the reservoir.
2004 Electronic age has really arrived as all Club Newsletters are delivered by e-mail
2006 Clubhouse condemned by its owners, Welsh Water; see early section for news and direction of activity
Early 2000s Optimists have returned, and we now have a competitive fleet that represents the club, and Wales at UK and National level
2007- 2012, Been on the brink of getting new facilities. Membership numbers hold steady, though not with the same members. Need to work on retention but without clubhouse, proving difficult.
2013 - Sailing season cut short. WW break ground on new facilities and wont allow users on site during the works. Sailors disperse into other local clubs, primarily Llangorse and Tata or use it as a moment to retire from sailing.
No Sailing apart from a photoshoot on November 30th
2015 - New season. Started a month late due to works running over. New clubhouse. New visitor centre. Site is transformed. Public access granted - including dogs! Start of new chapter for the club.
2015 Club hosts RS Vareo Inland championships with 18 boats (only 7 at the Nationals!)
2016, Training goes from strength to strength. Club hosts RS 100 Inlands and RS Vareo GBR National Championships with 26 boats, which is the largest Vareo fleet for a few years. Winner is David Jarrett who will also compete in the prestigious Champion of Champions "Endeavour Trophy"
2017, We yet again have a World Champion in our midst - congratulations again to Robin Wood in his International Canoe
For future updates, results, lists of our activities, newsletters and many more things see the club website. Better still, come and join us!
The multiple authors apologise for any errors, inaccuracies and omissions.
The Clubhouse Saga is available only to our Members in the secure section of the web site. It is too sad and dreary to bear sharing any more.