ABOUT MENAI STRAIT’S HERITAGE SAILING
Ensuring the Future of a Unique Vintage Fleet, Creating Work Opportunity, and Encouraging Social Involvement
In 1937 the first of 17 Menai Strait One Design (MSOD or MS) yachts were built in Gallows Point, Beaumaris. The last boat was built was 1952.
In 1938 the boat owners created a club, which became formally acknowledged by becoming affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). Since that time the fleet has sailed and raced as part of the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club (RAYC) programme while continuing to retain an independent Club status.
The MSOD Club has meetings and a democratically elected structure in the form of an Annual General Meeting, Committees and a hierarchy of Flag and Non-Flag officers.
From research it would appear that this fleet is the oldest complete Vintage Fleet of Drop Keel sailing yachts and one of the oldest complete fleets in the world. Most of the yachts are Vintage while the post war ones are Classic** and all will become Vintage yachts in 2027.
While all boats are actively owned and up to 16 are/could be launched for use with minimal work (10 were launched for the 2021 season), the future was looking potentially bleak. Some of the group of enthusiasts from the 1980’s and the Boat Builders who assisted and advised them are no longer with us. In addition, many MSOD owners and enthusiasts are part of an ageing population and their ability to work on the boats is becoming limited. Subsequently many of the boats will require more, generally skilled work in the medium term if routine maintenance cannot be done. Ongoing maintenance is an essential need for ageing wooden boats.
Some younger people have bought boats and enthusiastically maintained them. However, their efforts are hampered by the ever lessening knowledge and skills available coupled with the cost of these skills if available. The deterioration of a couple of boats makes their future sale less likely, so potentially begins the demise of this class of vintage yacht. While the boats are inexpensive to buy there is a skilled labour intensity to maintain them. The number of Boat Builders now in Wales is reported to be 84 down from over 200 in the 1980’s. Additionally the proportion of those with skills and experience of wooden craft is likely much lower with most builders working with more contemporary materials.
As this project commenced in late 2020 we were beginning to enter the 2nd ‘lockdown’ caused by an international crisis due to the spread of a deadly infection. Covid-19 has claimed thousands of lives nationally and millions across the world. Emotional wellbeing has been reported as being at an all-time low with high numbers of people being diagnosed with depression due to the infection itself, the loss of friends and family, and as a reaction to socio-economic changes and restrictions that have been endured. Additionally, North Wales has one of the highest percentages of youth unemployment in the UK.
This Project is an attempt to address in a small way, some of these challenges in a creative and engaging community-based initiative. As part of a national response to the wide incidences of reported poor Mental Health and emotional wellbeing, The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has compiled guidance supporting the psychological benefits of sailing. https://www.rya.org.uk/news/why-getting-out-on-the-water-is-good-for-you yet sailing continues to be viewed as elitist and financially inaccessible for many when it can be an unstigmatized activity for people who are struggling emotionally.
After some months of consultation with boat owners and other interested parties the agreed objectives which are inherently interwoven became:
The development of the requisite skills for boats to be maintained and renovated.
Increased engagement with the local community offering the opportunity for people to sail irrespective of their socio-economic situation with robust policies to support this initiative.
Incorporate the creation of work opportunity into this strategy
The success of the Project will be measured by meeting fundraising targets and the commencement of a boat building apprenticeship. This would be coupled with an increase in boats being actively sailed, by the securing the purchase and restoration of up to 3 guest boats open to be sailed by the wider local community.
The short term (up to 3 years) objective ought to be to see all 17 of the MSOD yachts on the water. The longer-term objective would be the ongoing sustainability of the fleet in conjunction with continued funding of apprenticeship places and/or by ensuring the employment of workers with the skills to facilitate this.
The Project fails if it doesn’t not also meet its wider responsibilities of engagement. Although this may be small numbers by nature of the Project, we must demonstrate successful active canvassing of the community leading to new people from a broad population demographic being introduced to the sport. The Project must develop policies and adhere to governance that overtly supports these objectives.
The Project has developed significantly since then. A group of Trustees has been formed as has a fundraising committee. An exceptional local boat builder has, pending financial support from the group agreed to take on an apprentice. Additionally a relationship has commenced with Llandrillo College to ensure the academic requirements are met and that the NVQ3 in Marine Engineering may be awarded to the successful apprentice.
An application to register as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) has been submitted to the Charity Commission and the requisite bank accounts are being opened. We have been encouraged by our initial approaches to local and central government, local and national businesses, and interested individuals for grants and independent funding.
We are committed to engaging the local and wider community, local youth and educational groups, and visiting yachtsmen and women to give them opportunity to sail the boats with the creation of at least one ‘Guest’ boat.
The success measures for this project would be to meet fundraising targets and the commencement of a boat building apprenticeship coupled with an increase in boats actively owned and sailed. The objective would be to see all 17 of the MSOD yachts together in one race, supported by a robust strategy for a secure future of the fleet.
*For the purpose of this document a ‘Vintage’ Yacht is deemed to be older than 75 years
**For the purpose of this document a ‘Classic’ Yacht is deemed to be older than 50 years