Frensham Pond History

The book 'Frensham Pond Sailing Club - The First Fifty Years', written by Don Videlo to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary in 2003 is available to download in several parts:

Frensham Great Pond is artificial, having been created in the early Middle Ages by damming the Whitmore Stream at what is now the west end of the Pond. The Bishop of Winchester stocked the Pond with carp and drained it annually to trap the fish. These were then transferred alive in barrels to local monasteries and kept in 'Stew Ponds' to provide Friday lunch for the monks and local population.

Paintings from the 18th century show boats sailing on the Pond, and in the period between the world wars, sailing boats were hired out by the local hotel using a jetty built by the hotel. A suspicion that the Luftwaffe was using the lake as a navigational waypoint caused it to be drained. With peace the water returned. By the late Nineteen Forties local residents had launched a dozen sailing craft with some impromptu racing.

After the war some local people started sailing on the Pond and in February 1953 Frensham Pond Sailing Club was formed. Mr Abott Anderson was the first Commodore. Handicap races began that April with 10 boats racing, in which no two boats were alike. These races, held in gusting conditions, were often chaotic, with broken masts, collisions, and only a sketchy knowledge of the rules. Something needed to change. The club secretary, Norman Morley, was appointed to oversee all activity on the water. Norman had raced dinghies since the 1930's and had been a founder of the National Twelve class. He had long seen Frensham as the ideal safe training ground for youth sailing. On his advice a Cadet section was formed and accepted racing classes introduced. National Twelves, Fireflies, Cadets, GP 14's, and Graduates predominating.

The Club occupied an area of around half an acre obtained on lease by agreement with the hotel in 1952. The 'Club House' consisted of an old corrugated iron building probably in use previously as a cow shed. This served as the men's changing room and a shelter from teh weather in which tea could be brewed on a primus stove. A smaller shed was used as the ladies' changing room. The facilities were clearly inadequate and as membership increased, plans were laid to obtain more land and build a new clubhouse.

In 1964 ownership of the land passed to the local council and a company called Frensham Pond Sailing Club Ltd was set up by the Club to hold a sixty year lease with the council for the existing grounds (3 acres) and the use of the Pond for sailing and boating. The main club house was opened by Mr Stewart Morris in April 1965. Since that time there has been a steady improvement to facilities with extensions to the main building, provision of a bar and the opening of the 'new' changing rooms by the Club's then president, Dr Hugh Lankester, in November 1989.

To attract sailors to Frensham open meetings were staged. A bold decision for a club based on a grass field, a makeshift hut, and the local pub. These meetings were planned with meticulous attention to detail; Frensham's reputation for high standards and good racing grew with each event. In 1955 the Graduate class held their national championships at Frensham. September 1960 saw an OK meeting with an international field. In 1970 the Pond was the venue for the finals of the RYA Team Trophy, with the Duke of Edinburgh attending, and presenting the prizes. More recently the club has organised the National Junior Enterprise championships, and the Comet National Championships. Enterprise and OK dinghies were added to the club in the Nineteen Sixties, followed by a thriving Solo class. Increasing costs saw a decline in the National Twelves, and in the late 1960's they were replaced with a highly successful Lark fleet. By the 1970s the OK class was in decline faced by the popular world-wide rise of the Laser. Lasers today form the largest and most popular single-handed fleet at Frensham as elsewhere.

With a new century came the arrival of Frensham’s first asymmetric dinghies. RS400 and 200 began racing in the handicap fleets boosted by visiting winter sailors. The introduction of the 2.4 metre mini-keelboat in the late 1990s was significant. The 2.4 originally developed in Scandinavia was taken up as the International single-handed Paralympic class and came as such to Frensham through Sailability. The boat soon attracted a big following of both disabled and able bodied sailors and Frensham boasts one of the most competitive fleets in the UK. National 2.4 champions: Steve Bulmore and Peter Cook were Frensham sailors

Frensham’s top sailors today include: Nick Craig, Roger Gilbert and Keith Videlo who with Olympic women’s contender, Andrea Brewster, have given Frensham something of a golden era. Nick Craig has won the Enterprise Nationals three times, in 2004 crewed by his sister Sheena, and has taken every available title in the OK class including consecutive world titles in 2005-6. In addition he took the Finn national title in 2005. Roger Gilbert four time RS400 champion moved to the Olympic 49er Class where he dominated the Silver (2nd fleet) in his first season. Both Roger and Nick are winners of the Endeavour Trophy, Nick winning it in consecutive years. The Videlo family who have contributed so much to the club over thirty years were represented by Keith Videlo: former World Cadet, UK Laser and National Solo champion, who with Nick Craig and Roger Gilbert sailed Frensham to second place in t he 2005 Top Club Trophy. Frensham’s top woman competitor, Andrea Brewster, won the Europe Class Nationals in 2002 and represented Great Britain in the pre-Olympic regatta in 2003.

Two early young Frensham sailors were to go on to outstanding careers. Richard Hart, became OK, National champion, twice Finn National champion, and open German champion. While at the 1984 Olympics, Cathy Foster, National 470 champion, became the first woman Olympian, since 1908, to win a race against an all male fleet. Frensham sailors have been world, European, and National champions, in most of the classes racing at the club and in others beyond.

Training is an important part of Club life. The Club became an RYA Recognised Training Centre in 1984 and formal training programmes are provided by the Club's RYA-qualified instructors on a voluntary basis. Individual classes also arrange their own popular training sessions. Taster sailing is available on Saturday mornings during the summer months for anyone over eight years of age.

Sailing for people with disabilities started at Frensham in 1982, run by Farnham and District Sports Association for the Disabled (FDSAD). Following a £325,000 fundraising and site investment programme, Frensham Pond Sailability, a partnership between the Club and FDSAD, was officially launched on 22 September 2001 by Lord Wakeham. Frensham Pond Sailability can now provide disabled sailors with a wide range of small boat sailing, from cruising in traditional Wayfarers to fully competitive racing in Paralympic class 2.4mR mini-keelboats.