David and Margaret Burnham memories

David and Margaret have recently been awarded an RYA Lifetime achievement award (see this post for why). David has written these recollections of the last few years, along with a few photos. 

David and Margaret Burnham 2011

It makes you feel very old to get a “lifetime achievement” award, but we are very honoured to receive it. We would like to thank Tricia, the others who supported the application and all those who congratulated us.  Like all awards of this sort there are many others who have contributed along the way and it is the members of those teams and committees – general/management, sailing, house, galley, social, etc – and the friendships they created that make the Club successful.

There were a few challenges along the way.  In the early 90s we were without water for much of three seasons, whilst British Waterways were trying (unsuccessfully, twice) to repair the dam.  We became an itinerant Club – travelling to Bala, Pilkington, North Staffs and several other sailing clubs – and, to keep the Club together, we did other things like cycling along the Manifold Valley.  We survived only to find ourselves in the middle of a rent review battle with British Waterways.  This was only resolved when our rent was decided by a legally binding arbitration process.  The arbitrator was convinced by the case put together by Don Muir, the then Commodore, and the rent increased only a little.  We put a lot of late nights into preparing that case, but these challenges helped to strengthen the Club.

Early steelwork goes up

When Geoff Holmes proposed that I became President, he said it’s not a very big job, you just need to chair a few meetings.  But, Alex Stevenson had just put in the lottery bid to develop youth and adult sailing and redevelop the Clubhouse and site to become the magnificent facility it is today.

When our application was conditionally approved there was a mad dash to raise £100,000 in other sponsorship, with Alex and many others using their business contacts to get sponsorship as cash, in kind and loans from members.

Receiving cheque for £20,000

On final approval by Sport England, we went out to tender for the building project only to find that the only valid bid was £150,000 more than we had been awarded!

So, we decided to manage the project ourselves, led by Stuart Walker.  Stuart successfully prepared a supplementary grant application to extract the extra money from Sport England.

Old and new clubhouse December 2001

During the development there were many problems – some technical, many financial and a few people related.  These were managed skilfully by Stuart and our treasurer, Martin Lilley.  There were some worrying times such as when Susan had to hide from the postman with the recorded delivery final demand because we didn’t have enough cash to pay the bills.

Sailing continues during construction works

But throughout this we sailed and raced – based in our portacabins, with showers that didn’t work in the men’s, generating the odd grumble – and held socials more or less as usual but in local pubs and clubs.  Many members contributed during the work – some financially but mainly through applying their skills and knowledge later in the project after the contractors had left the site.  It was a fantastic team effort.

The formal opening of the new Clubhouse by HRH the Princess Royal, organised by the Commodore Catherine Sherwen, was a wonderful milestone which marked the “end” of the construction project, but not of sailing development or our financial problems.  We had this wonderful building which was used 2 or 3 days a week at most.

Before the road was tarmac covered!!!!!

We had endless “marketing” meetings on how to increase use of the Clubhouse and generate some income; one of the main conclusions was that holding wedding receptions would be too risky if things went wrong!  After a few successful wedding receptions, Margaret started to use a wedding website to advertise, but most of the bookings came through “word-of-mouth”.

This reflects the excellent support we have had, and still have, from the bar chairmen over the years so that now the wedding/bar income stream has transformed our financial situation and allows us to develop both sailing and the facility.

Internal building works

Sailing development is obviously an ongoing project, with Trish, Chris Smith and Beric leading the rapid growth of junior sailing helped by our daughter, Susan, and it is slowly feeding through to Sunday racing with more juniors participating than I have seen for many years.  Adult training, led by Larry, has grown and become more effective in retaining trainees as sailing and racing members.

Our family has gained a lot through membership of the Club; from the time we joined in 1985 as novices, introducing our daughters to sailing, through to seeing our grandchildren out on the water at Rudyard or In the Mediterranean and the friendships built over the years.  So, we are very honoured to receive this award, but our achievement would not have been possible without the contributions of many, many other members.  Thanks to all of you.


Margaret and Dave