The Derwent Sailing Club was formed in the summer of 1959 on the initiative of John Ganley, who had realised the potential of the River Derwent at Darley Abbey. At this time the only sailing water available was some fifteen to twenty miles away from Derby.
From the thirty or so enthusiasts who attended the initial meeting at the Broadway Hotel, it was obvious that a demand existed for a local sailing club.
Owing to the particular circumstances of various land owners and water rights pertaining to that stretch of river, some time elapsed before the necessary permissions were granted for the building of a compound, slipways and a clubhouse. These were completed during 1960/61 by the combined efforts of members.
The club quickly became established, being restricted only by the limitations of the site and river capacity. During the summer of 1967 the club was informed by mill owners that, by the following year, they would no longer be generating their own power and consequently would no longer maintain the normal height of water. Faced with the prospect of a drop of some four feet in water level and the inevitable further restriction of navigation, it was realised that a new water had to be found.
During the winter of 1967 many sites were viewed. Only one site was found to be both suitable and likely to be made available and this was at the gravel workings at Swarkestone which would still make it the nearest Sailing Club to Derby, only miles away. Negotiations were immediately commenced to obtain the necessary planning consents and leases. The Church Commissioners Agents, Smith Gore of Lichfield, were helpful but the lease to the gravel company, Steetley Denniff, had some time to run. Although the planning consent was received in December 1968, owing to various complications a lease for the site could not be granted immediately. In the meantime the Club had a temporary licence to sail.
Site works such as approach roads, levelling compound, frontages, etc were undertaken during 1969/70, mainly by the efforts of members and with the support of Steetley Denniff who supplied gravel. As the prospects of a longer lease became evident, application was made for Grant Aid for development of the club and this was awarded in October 1970. However, due to difficulties and delays in the signing of the lease, the building of the new clubhouse had to be postponed and sailing first commenced at Swarkestone in 1969 from a small shed created in the north east corner of the lake (where No. 7 buoy is now) and a temporary slipway of timber shuttering boards was made. A jetty for the rescue boat was also installed in this position.
An earth moving contractor was employed to level the dinghy compound and members installed the land drains.A large shed was purchased from a farm near Loughborough and was erected where the old clubhouse now stands. Planning Approval was granted. This was added to by the purchase of a further shed from the Gas Board where it was located in Deadmans lane, Derby. These were taken apart on site, brought to Swarkestone and re-erected by members. Over 1500 trees were planted around the site by members to comply with planning approval conditions.
The agreement of a twenty eight year lease for the site in 1979 provided the opportunity for an important new chapter to be written into the Club’s history. It also permitted further investigation into the previously postponed building of a new clubhouse.
These plans came to fruition when building commenced towards the end of 1980 and the present clubhouse was taken into service at the start of the 1984 season. A £5,000 grant was obtained from the Sports Council and a £5,000 low interest loan. The clubhouse was mainly financed out of subscriptions and with bank guarantees from members.
Originally whilst on the River Derwent the club sailed Graduates, G.P.14’s. National 12’s, Wineglass, Scorpions and Solos. In their last year there they introduced the Mirror Dinghy and had about 90 boats in total at that time.
When they came to Swarkestone they introduced the Fireball and later the Lark and the Laser. The membership climbed to about 340 members and restrictions were made on class numbers. In 1974 the Staunton Harold Sailing Club was formed and some members drifted away as it was so close. The big exodus happened when Foremark Reservoir was opened for sailing around 1979. At that time we had about 250 members and it was suggested that the whole club move Foremark Reservoir and join in with Burton Sailing Club in one large club. However, a limit was put onto the new club, initially by Severn Trent, of 200 boats and Derwent dropped out. However, 40 members led by John Ganley and the Scorpion fleet left at that time for the bigger water. As a result our Scorpion fleet which was then 40 boats was reduced to two or three.
A problem with silting up of the water became apparent in the mid-seventies and after negotiations the gravel company were persuaded to pump their silt over Ingleby Lane. This left shallow areas in the lake which are still there. This created a problem with maintaining the water level. In 1989 the Club and Severn Trent Water Authority persuaded Steeley to pump water back into the lake from the River Trent to maintain the level whenever the level fell 1 foot below the balance pipe.
We had at least two bad years with weed in the lake which restricted the sailing area and made competitive racing difficult. There were also years of drought where the water level dropped causing areas of shallow. A number of member left as a result. As has been mentioned earlier, this problem was overcome in 1989 and the weed was kept at bay by the application of Cassaron G into the racing area which deters weed growth.
Sailboards were introduced to the Club in the early 80’s and we were initially inundated with applications. As a result a limit if 40 was put on the intake and we remained full to that number for two or three years. Now have diminished to zero.
Further additions and improvements to the facilities and the site have now been made, in particular the access road was surfaced in the Spring ofm1992 and jetties were rebuilt in 1992.
At the A.G.M. in 1992 following a questionnaire to members during the year, the name of the Club was changed from Derwent Sailing Club to Swarkestone Sailing Club. The Derwent logo of the fawn’s head on a blue background was changed to a dinghy and bridge representation in blue.
In 1995 the club applied for a lottery grant, via the Sports Council, to part finance the replacement of six GP14’s currently being used as training boats. The application was successful, and with the help of many short term loans from individual members, the club in 1996, purchased six Comet Trios’s and within two years, with much help form the then Honorary Treasurer, Marge Lawrie and others, had cleared the debt to the club.
In 1999, the club decided to work on a situation where the sailing could be extended to include all sections of the community. The area representative of Sailability outlined what the club needed to pursue this objective and the club applied for another grant from the lottery via Sport England. Lew Dann, a well connected member, with help from the RYA spent much time in ensuring another successful application.
Also in 1999, another member of the club, Grahame Woodward was coincidently President of the Rotary Club for Derby South. This led to a sponsorship which equipped SSC with eight Access dinghies (virtually unsinkable boats suitable for physically impaired sailors).
Other grants were also received from Derbyshire CC and South Derbyshire CC.
Sailability at Swarkestone was officially opened by the Mayor of Derby, Ashok Kalia, on the 25th June 2000.