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The Squib class - You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave?

by Magnus Smith 22 May 2022 04:00 PDT
Squibs East Coast Championship in Burnham © Sandy Miller /

With the Squib East Cost Championships coming up next weekend, Magnus Smith of spoke to Dan Wastnage, Squib class captain at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, about why he has returned to this class after being away 35 years.

Magnus Smith: First of all, Dan, what sort of sailing have you done over your life?

Dan Wastnage: I'm a fourth-generation Burnham sailor. Here's a photo of me as a toddler sitting in the Town Cup - the overall trophy for Burnham Week, back when it was a huge events, second in size only to Cowes Week. I was a cadet at the Royal Burnham Yacht Club in my youth, dabbled with dinghies, and then had my first Squib in the 1980s. I went to the Nationals at Lowestoft where there was a staggering 95 entries (I managed a fifth overall). I then did a lot of offshore sailing with EAORA (the East Anglian Offshore Racing Association) in its heyday, finally owning a Dragon, Hunter 707, Royal Burnham One Design and an RS Elite.

Magnus: So you're the type of guy who can afford a Dragon, yet you now prefer the Squib, which has a reputation as a very low-cost keelboat to race?!

Dan: What got me back into it was the RCYC has a class boat and I did Burnham Week in it, just before the pandemic; suddenly I realised "I need to get back into this!" because it was such good fun and competitive. They are good low-cost boats to campaign and sail at a national level, so youngsters can afford them too. You can pick up an old boat for £3000 to £5000 and still be competitive. New sails are only approx £1500 ex vat from a choice of three sailmakers.

Magnus: As a dinghy sailor myself, I always assumed it must be a pain to transport them and crane them in? The queues muse be terrible.

Dan: The beauty of RCYC is that they have their own crane - and some members can even get a licence to use it themselves. Then dry-sailing them is feasible. At open meetings and championships, visitors get their craning for free, and priority in the queue - we make sure all the local boats are put into the water the day before.

Magnus: Wow, this really sounds like a club looking after people and making their lives easier!

Dan: Yes, they also have sailors camp on lawn or stay with a local member, and the club does breakfast, opening up early for your convenience. As I've got involved, I'm very keen to make sure the social side is fun, as that brings the youth into the class. When we get together at national events we are all pleased to see each other. We are out there to be friends, really.

Magnus: That's a lovely thing to say! Now, you've stayed in Burnham all your life; and in many ways this is the home of the Squib too?

Dan: Yes, designed in 1968 by Oliver Lee in Burnham-on-Crouch. He came up with a gem of a boat, one of the first to be made in fibreglass. Burham used to have six sailing clubs; there's still three left, and we all communicate together and socialise at each other's clubs. They all have something different to offer, and this communication is very important.

I have recently acquired a Squib called Firecracker, number 14, originally purchased from Oliver Lee in 1968 by a local chap, Richard Cosens, who is still alive and kicking today; he was thrilled to see her back in Burnham. She was renovated and I raced in the Gold Cup a few weeks ago, proving that her age is no handicap. Now we are looking forward to the East Cost Championships, where Jenny, daughter of the original designer will be presenting trophies.

Magnus: You have the East Cost Championships and the 150th anniversary for the club and the Jubilee weekend... there's a lot going on!

Dan: Yes, come down and see how it goes! For any help and guidance on buying a Squib please do not hesitate to contact me. I'd delighted to take people out in 'Woody' the club boat. Elsewhere in England and Ireland you can contact club reps via the class website.

Magnus: You mentioned the 'Otters' at RCYC earlier. I understand this is the youth fleet, almost run as a separate organisation?

Dan: They are extremely active, and have huge amounts of support from parents and members. The chairman of the Otters, Bryan Haynes, contacted me this year, saying, "We need to get date in the diary - the Otters are pestering me." So we ran a series of Saturday mornings with five short little races, with one Otter aged 12 to 15 helming and one Squib owner crewing. I think we had nine boats out, with a round robin system to keep 30 Otters rotating around and having a turn!

Magnus: It's great the boat can appeal to the youth, and I guess in time some of them will turn into the older members that have been with the Squib class for 30 years or more. Or maybe they will take a detour with another class, but find themselves back with the Squib again eventually! I hope the class enjoys another 54 years of fun socials and close racing.

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