Despite the ongoing Covid restrictions still preventing in-person gatherings, the Solway Yacht Club went ahead with an online season-opener to coincide with what should have been “Craning-In” day, traditionally followed by the Fitting Out Party in the Clubhouse.
Instead, Robert Dinwiddie, the Club Commodore and local historian, gave a great presentation of the Club’s background, intertwined with the Kippford village’s history from the mid nineteenth century. However, what no one could have predicted was how the very sad news of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, and his close connections both with Uffa Fox and his yacht “Coweslip” were so closely linked to the Club’s history in the 1950s.
Kippford, as a local centre of shipbuilding and commercial shipping, goes back centuries and no doubt many local rivalries were played out afloat during this period. Sailing as a sport was first recorded in the inaugural Kippford Regatta in 1885, organised by Agnes Houston, then owner of Hestan Island. By the early twentieth century sailing had become a regular feature with the founding of the Yacht Club in 1904.
Interrupted by the First World War, it resumed in the 1920s with the appearance of a fleet of one-design, Kirkcudbright clinker-built, yachts, “The Solway Dinghy”, all named after local Galloway hills. Flourishing in the 1930s, wartime again put a temporary end to sailing and sadly the end of most of the Solway Dinghies.
By the 1950s, the Solway YC was enjoying growing membership and needed bigger facilities. The old wooden commercial pier had fallen out of use and the Club members took the opportunity to rebuild it with an improved slipway and enlarged hardstanding.
This was a big project, and its opening in 1958 was a special occasion. Uffa Fox, the internationally famous yacht designer who already knew Kippford though the Club’s then Commodore J J Girotti’s connections, was invited. Not only did he accept; he brought his wife and Prince Philip’s Flying Fifteen yacht No 192 “Coweslip”, all the way from the Isle of Wight. “Coweslip” was already famous as Uffa Fox regularly sailed her during Cowes Week with Prince Philip.
Film of them sailing together has been prominent in this week’s many wonderful tributes to His Royal Highness. Once Mrs Fox had cut the ribbon opening the new SYC pier, Uffa Fox and his local crew, Tommy Hutchinson entered the race for the Kippford Quaich trophy and, almost needless to say, “Coweslip” won!
The same period saw the founding of the Club’s Cadet Fleet and ever since sailing for young people has been a big part of SYC’s success. By 2004 the Club was celebrating its centenary with another highly distinguished yachtsman, Sir Chay Blyth as special guest.
Bringing his talk up to the present day, Robert Dinwiddie reflected on the Club’s continuing strength, recognised by RYA Scotland’s Club of the Year 2018 award. Covid has been a major setback but with the enthusiastic membership and hopefully the end in sight, the Club’s future is assured. Of the boats, “Coweslip” is now a precious museum piece elsewhere but SYC continues to be home to a strong fleet of Flying Fifteens. We believe one Solway Dinghy survives; last known of in Castle Douglas in the early 2000s but unheard of since. There are a group of SYC members still very keen to restore her and see this historic local class back on the waters of the Solway once more.