In 1967 a group of sailors mainly from Belfast and County Down came together to form a new family orientated sailing venture – East Down Yacht Club. During the year they found a five-acre site at Moymore just north of Killyleagh, on Strangford Lough and started discussions with local landowners and the National Trust about slip ways, club house and access routes. On 30th November these keen yachtsmen met with an air of excitement in Saintfield to formally set the club up and agree what it was they all wanted. Over the coming weeks agreement was reached and early in 1968 EDYC was formally born. One of the decisions was that the annual membership fee would be £10
Three activities had to start quickly, in time not only for the sailing season which commenced in May 1969, but for the event which was to put the club on the sailing map – the inaugural regatta, scheduled for Saturday 7th September. From just 20 families the membership rose to 572, including 220 children, in the first year and everyone joined in creating a route to the site, building a slip way near the current flag pole and erecting a club house with their own skills and energy, ready for Opening Day. Racing was promoted in GP14s, Enterprises, Mirrors and Cruisers and to help promote family sailing, the Wayfarer was adopted as the class of choice. In those days 23ft was considered quite a big boat! The Regatta saw over 138 boats on the water from Cadets to Wayfarers, Lightnings to Dragons and with visiting classes which included Rivers, Glens, Clippers, Wychcraft, Herons and small and large handicap.
The 1970s brought with it a time of trouble for Northern Ireland, but one which saw the Club continue to grow and become a haven for families. Members came for the weekend and stayed in caravans which were parked across the site. Children could run free, enjoying the easy atmosphere and parents could relax over the odd glass or two. But it wasn’t all fun and frolics, the sailing was keen and competitive and at the beginning of the decade over 200 boats came for the regatta and in the 80’s numbers were still high at around 140.
In 1970 East Down and Strangford Lough Yacht Club combined to run Round-the-Lough races for cruisers and the club is always very well represented in the Strangford Lough Racing Cruiser Association events. In 1973 the Leisure 17’s arrived at East Down and over the years the class continued to grow in numbers to become one of the largest participating in Club racing.
The GP14 fleet at the time was very strong, no doubt partly due to having a local GP14 builder, Gerry Duffin of Duffin Marine as a founder member and this also gave the Club access to deep knowledge of how to set the boats up for success. In 1977 Malcolm Crone and Bryan Jess won the Irish National Championships held at East Down having previously come 2nd in Ireland and 12th overall in the World Championships in Perth, Australia in 1974.
Throughout the 1980s the members donated their skills to maintaining the club in a true self-help approach, this included building the McRobert Room and adjoining kitchen, which was a major construction project. This was opened in 1980. East Down continued to grow and in 1984 everyone came together again to construct the two-story building which forms the heart of the club today. “Work parties every Saturday for years – a very good ethic” to quote a past Commodore.
The eighties were not just about building, in 1984 the Club hosted, amongst others, the GP14 Irish Championship, by all accounts a time of dynamic racing and of course great craic.
The club cruisers also had many successes in regattas and further afield, for instance when Stephen Lynn was 1st overall at the Impala National Championships in Cork in 1986. EDYC cruisers continue to race at a very competitive level with Jay Colville ……….. At West Highland Week in 2017 Frank and Michael Pettigrew had a very successful event, coming 1st in their Class 5. (Action PHOTOS OF Forty Licks & Magdaleyne?)
1985 saw the construction of the pontoon, another major project, with members collectively working together and using a wide range of skills. To mark the event the Templemore Brass Band was invited to play at the opening. The original access to the site ran along a track beside the inlet and during the decade the current route was established, but not before some members after a good night got their cars stuck in the water!
Much of the film December Bride was shot on Island Taggart just opposite the club in 1989 and the club house was commandeered for wardrobe and make-up. Some members even participated as extras.
During the 1990s there was a key push for youth training, based mainly on the well-known Mirror dinghy and the expanding Optimist fleet. These training weeks were hugely popular with 30 or more children taking part, with their families staying in the caravans and enjoying evening barbeques.
Topper training started for Junior sailors during the early 2000s and our Junior sailors have competed with distinction in Toppers not only throughout the UK and Ireland but also into France, Italy and beyond.
The Club’s 30th Anniversary was celebrated in in 1998, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Wayfarer Class. The Wayfarer had a strong presence at East Down from the outset and a special “floating cake” was made for a Sail Past. The strength of the Wayfarer fleet led in 1999 to East Down hosting the Irish National Championships.
Having celebrated the new Millennium, the club successfully bid to host the Wayfarer International Sailing Championships in 2001. It was the first time the event had been held anywhere in Ireland. Eighty-four boats from the US, Canada, Denmark, the UK and Ireland took part, largest fleet of Wayfarers ever to participate in the Class International Championships since 1974. The event is still talked about within the Wayfarer class world-wide.
Cruising is also a vital part of the club, with members venturing not just around Ireland and Great Britain, but also further afield to Europe and Norway amongst other countries. In recent years members participated in the Tall Ships Atlantic challenge, Round the World Clipper Race and Tall Ships Race from Norway to Sweden
For many years particularly in the 1990s, the Old Gaffers Association held events at EDYC, with visiting boats from all over the UK and Ireland. More recently there has been an annual fixture with the National Drascombe Association which, in 2017 celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a weekend rally at EDYC.
Kayaking has become a popular activity at East Down with regular club-organised paddles on Strangford and other locations.
2018 The Year of the Viking – EDYC 50th Anniversary
This was a major celebratory year to mark the Club’s 50th Anniversary. Opening Day on 28th April was celebrated with the unveiling of a pictorial exhibition of the history of the Club and a wine and cheese reception attended by many of the past Commodores who were warmly welcomed back to EDYC.
At the Midsummer Summer BBQ on 30th June, eighty-five boats participated in a Sail Past, which included dinghies, cruisers and kayaks and a visiting Viking Longship, as represented on the club pennant. Other activities included a challenging game of kayak polo (no rules!) and a Viking battle.
The 50th Anniversary Regatta was held on 4th August 2018 when over 70 boats took part with keen racing in all classes. Finally, the year of celebrations ended with a Members’ Lunch at the Club.
The future is for the young sailors of East Down Yacht Club to shape. At present we have a healthy junior section from beginners up to those training with the NI Youth Squad and also a number of keen and enthusiastic young Instructors.