This weekend (May 5/6) sees the historic Sunbeam fleet of classic keelboats from Itchenor take part in intensive back-to-back races competing for the Chisholm Weekend Trophy. The event is always well-attended as the first weekend of two-day racing in the popular Solent Sunbeam Class calendar of racing and it is likely to be particularly so this year as the class celebrates its 95th anniversary. The weekend is in its 30th year and is held in honour of Sir Henry Chisholm.
In 1957 Sir Henry bought Sunbeam V24 Fay from a boatyard in Bosham and restored her to racing-class condition. He ‘fell in love with her classic lines’. In 1964 he was elected Solent Sunbeam class captain, a post he held for 11 years, during which he became a central figure in the class’ history.
In the early 1960s, the Solent division of the fleet was only managing to turn out three or four of the total of eight or nine Sunbeams on the water at the weekly races held at Itchenor SC and membership dwindled to its lowest levels.
But from the moment Sir Henry became class captain, this changed and the class was revitalised.
Tremendous changes and progress were made while he was at the helm. He raced regularly at Itchenor and Cowes Week and served as commodore of Itchenor SC from 1966 to 1969. He rescued many of the fleet from oblivion, finding hulls in obscure locations and ‘encouraging’ a significant number of new owners and regular racers into the class.
Sir Henry was also instrumental in the amalgamation of the Solent and Falmouth divisions into one Sunbeam Class.
He oversaw the building of new Sunbeams, commissioning, at his own expense, new plans which were taken off the lines of one of the existing boats. He donated these plans to the Sunbeam Solent division so new boats could be built to the original specification. The first, Sunbeam V40, was built in 1976 in Cornwall with V41 built shortly after, to be finished by George Haines & Sons of Itchenor.
Chisholm Weekend takes place this Saturday and Sunday at Itchenor SC. Further information can be found at www.solentsunbeam.co.uk