The ever-growing Solent Sunbeam Class based at Itchenor Sailing Club is looking forward to an action-packed year, the highlight of which is the Centenary Regatta which is to be marked by events in Chichester Harbour from the 7-9th June.

This pretty, classic, three-man keelboat was designed by Alfred Westmacott in 1923 and has been racing continuously for 100 years except for the war years. The very first Sunbeam – ‘ Dainty’, No. 1 – is still actively raced today from the Class’s base at Itchenor Sailing Club. ‘Dainty’ has recently been nominated in the ‘Centenarian of the Year’ Category in the 2023 Classic Boat Awards.

The enthusiasm shown by the owners of these little yachts is remarkable.  ‘Dainty’ has been owned by Bosham resident Peter Nicholson since 1971 and has competed in x Cowes Weeks. After 100 years the Class shows no signs of slowing down. Up to 40 boats are expected to compete at the Centenary regatta with some boats travelling from Cornwall where its sister Class – the Falmouth Sunbeam – is based.

In 1922, a renowned naval architect, Alfred Westmacott, responded to a commission from three Hamble-based yachtsmen to design a racing dayboat by producing a boat that was not only pretty but one that could handle the boisterous conditions of the Solent. 34 Sunbeams were built in the 1920s and 30’s but the number racing were limited by a questionable decision of the Class in 1926 to limit the number of boats allowed to be built. Fortunately, that rule was lifted so that  further wooden Sunbeams were built again in the 1970’s and 9 wooden Sunbeams have been built since then.

In 2011 the Class began building GRP versions so the Class now contains Sunbeams sailing from Itchenor ranging from 100 years of age to new all-GRP and newly epoxied yachts, yet all racing on level terms in a one-design fleet. Regular racing is highly competitive with no restrictions for tides on most weekends and Thursday evenings from March to October.

‘The boats are awesome – the class’s best asset is that in light airs it is just amazing. Sunbeams behave as a boat should’ (Julian Hawe, yacht skipper and Sunbeam crew).

Alongside regular racing in beautiful Chichester harbour, Sunbeams race at Cowes Classic Week and Cowes Week.

The enduring nature of the Solent Sunbeam is summed up by a former owner who said: ‘Helming a Sunbeam is serendipity. You leave all your problems ashore, and surrender to the sensuous joy of reacting to what she tells you.’

We look forward to welcoming many regular sailors at the Centenary Regatta, as well as former and prospective sailors, and members of the sister fleet based in Falmouth.

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