Ullswater Yacht Club

By Sue Giles

All images © Ullswater Yacht Club

How it all began

Sailing conditions on Ullswater were excellent with a fresh breeze from the North-west when seven boats and their crews launched themselves into history on Sunday, July 13, 1958.

Five boats eventually crossed the finishing line off Howtown in the first yacht club race ever held on the lake.

It had all started earlier that year when friends Harold Couzens and Joe Harrison were in conversation at the bar in the Edenhall Hotel, Edenhall. They both loved to spend their spare time pottering around on the lake in boats and decided to form a club.

They placed an advert in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, on March 4, 1958, inviting anyone interested in forming a club to write to them. They were delighted with the response and eighty people, motorboat owners and sailors, turned up at the Queen’s Head, Tirril, on April 10, 1958, to officially form the Ullswater Motor Boat and Yacht Club (UMBYC).

Advert placed in the C & W Herald on March 4, 1958

First race

A temporary committee was formed and the search began for a suitable lakeside site for the club. The Howtown Hotel offered to rent some land next to the landing stage for £30.

And on Sunday, July 13, the historic first yacht club race was held with a 3pm start. Competitors changed in their cars, wet suits for dinghy sailors were unknown at that time and lifejackets were optional.

With a fresh breeze and the notoriously fickle winds around the Howtown area of the lake, there were several capsizes during the race and the winner on handicap was a GP14. Tea was provided on the foreshore after the race.

All the five races held by the club that year were from Howtown and officials soon realised the limitations of the site. Car parking was bad and there was nowhere to erect facilities.

C&W Herald report of first club race July 13, 1958

Thwaitehill Bay - an ideal site

Secretary Harold Couzens was driving home from Howtown one night when he saw Mr Allen bailing hay in his lakeside field at Thwaitehill Bay.

He thought it would be an ideal place for a club, so he stopped and asked the farmer straight away. Negotiations were successful and working parties started on Boxing Day to prepare the new site for the 1959 season.

Founder members Harold Couzens, left, and Joe Harrison on the new Thwaitehill Bay club site over the winter of 1958 to 59

The club burgee

The club burgee had been specially chosen to reflect the range of craft in the club, a golden winged horse on a blue background. The horse represented the motor section, the wings, sailing, and blue, the water.

But in January 1959, after a heated debate, the committee decided to accept no-one to the club with a boat that could exceed 10 knots.

At the first annual general meeting in March 1959, the emphasis was switched entirely to sail and motorboat was dropped from the name, leaving simply Ullswater Yacht Club.

The original badge of the Ullswater Motor Boat and Yacht Club

The first club race of 1959 was held in March from the new Thwaitehill Bay site with nothing there but members’ cars – a car was often used as the race office – and a few benches bought from a village hall.

In early summer, a wooden toilet building was erected for £120. Despite the lack of facilities, membership was up to 119 in July. Members enjoyed the personal and friendly atmosphere and racing was so keen that often there wasn’t a single boat on the shore - they were all on the water.

A club house - built largely by members

During that summer, planning permission was granted for a Lakeland stone and wood clubhouse. It cost around £3,000, most of the money given by members in interest-free loans. Outside contractors erected the new building, but all the other work on site was done by members including laying the foundations, putting in roads, slipways and jetties.

When the sailing season started in 1960, the new clubhouse was ready. It was much admired and is still basically the same today with additions and alterations - and UYC was on the way to becoming a hugely successful sailing club, winner of two national Club of the Year awards.

The new clubhouse opened in 1960
A busy summer day at UYC in the early 1960s

by Sue Giles

Marketing Officer, Ullswater Yacht Club.



Ullswater Yacht Club original minutes

Old photographs donated to the UYC archive

Interviews by Sue Giles with original club members in the 1970s

Research in the archives of the C&W Herald

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