A History of Llangorse Sailing Club

The Club is based on Llangorse Lake,  situated within the Brecon Beacons National Park between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. The lake and much of its surroundings are a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has now become an EU Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Sailing began on the lake prior to the 1939-1945 war and the Club was formed by a few enthusiasts in 1952.  The Club’s objectives are laid out as being...

To promote and facilitate the sport of sailing, which shall include racing, on Llangorse lake. As one of its objectives, the Club will promote sailing for young persons. The Club will do all in its power to protect the natural amenities and beauty of the lake.

On its formation, the club became tenants of a family who ran pleasure boats on the lake and then in 1968 the club was able to buy the site.  At that time only a small area was usable as much of it was at water level and subject to flooding after heavy rain and for much of the winter and also without an adequate access road.  Despite this, soon after the site was purchased a machine was brought in to dig two channels and a lagoon to get enough spoil to start raising much of the area. The unstable spoil was covered with a layer of soil brought in from near-by and wooden piles were driven close to the banks by club members to stabilise them.

During the 1960’s and 70’s membership grew and further land was made available for dinghy and car parking by dredging new creeks and the lagoon and bringing in many hundreds of tonnes of soil to raise the ground levels.  A clubhouse was built in 1973, followed several years later by changing rooms.  The club was connected to the electricity, water and main sewer on the other side of Llangorse Common and these improvements were mainly financed by the membership, although the club did receive a grant towards building the changing rooms.  The club still relies on members for maintenance, small developments and projects to improve the infra-structure and facilities.

The Club became affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) very soon after it was first founded and is a member of the Welsh Yachting Association.

Although Llangorse Lake had been open to all and sundry from time imm emorial, in the 1980s a local family was able to prove ownership.  After a long period of protracted negotiations, the club reached an agreement with the Llangorse Lake Conservation and Management Company in 1987 for its members to be licensed to sail on the lake.

More latterly the club played a leading role in the establishment of the Llangorse Lake Users Group (LLAG).  The group consist of the lake owner, The Countryside Council for Wales, The Brecon Beacon National Park Authority, the Brecknock Wildlife Trust, lake-users and other interested organisations.  The group drew up a code of conduct for the use of the lake to protect the environment and acts as the monitoring body.

The Club has always sought to keep subscriptions and dinghy berthing fees plus the cost of training courses low to make the sport and Club accessible to all.  Currently there are around two hundred and fifty memberships, which include family and their children.  Members ages currently range from 4 to 87, with a great proportion of the members under 18 or students.  The club attracts members from a wide area and as it is arguably the best sailing facility within reach of most of south Wales, the English / Welsh border and Herefordshire.  Development of the site and Club continues to this day with new concrete ramps going in, developments to the lagoon, launching facilities, Clubhouse and training provision:  In 2005 the club began a massive project to improve the club site with re-piling, dredging and creation of the site as it looks today.  It involved construction of a new jetty in front of the clubhouse and a new launching slip and concreted the area above it.   What had been the west creek was filled with topsoil and re-seeded and hard roadways were laid around the site. In 2008 the old wooden jetty out onto the lake was replaced with a more substantial structure with the help of a grant from Powys County Council.

There is a thriving junior sailing scene at the Club with a regular cohort of junior sailors going on to join the ranks of the WYA (Welsh Yachting Association) and National Youth Sailing Squads.  When the Royal Yachting Association training programmes were introduced, training was put onto a formal footing at the Club and was granted official RYA Training Centre status.  Alongside this and supporting the RYA training schemes, year-round coaching and support is provided at the Club.

Testimony of the Club's success to make sailing accessible to all has also been the support and recognition given to the Club.  In the early 1980’s the Sports Council for Wales helped the Club to obtain six Topper dinghies for training. These were augmented by the purchase of six Optimist training dinghies for young children, enabled by a grant from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts.  In the early nineties the Club began its Cadet Week training initiative for juniors over the school summer half term and to this day still attracts around 60 Juniors of all ages and capabilities.  More recently in 1997 the Club received a Sportlot Grant and a grant from Powys County Council to purchase four Comet Trio dinghies, an extra safety boat and more safety equipment to increase the scope of the Club’s training initiatives.  The club has also received some small training grants to increase the number of qualified instructors needed to be able to satisfy the demand for training and to update some of the training facilities.  As mentioned the Club uses this enviable level of facilities to provide a comprehensive programme of training throught the sailing season.  Notably, all instructors are members of the Club, undertaking activities voluntarily and at no cost to the Club.

Llangorse Sailing Club makes its facilities available to members of other sailing clubs, schools and youth organisations and holds open sailing events which attract members of other sailing clubs from across the country. The club plays a pivotal role in running the annual Welsh Yachting Association/Acorn/LSC Youth Regatta.  The WYA OnBoard Regatta as it is now known has become the biggest youth sailing event in the Principality with in excess of 100 junior sailors participating.

In 2006 Llangorse Sailing Club received the Powys Sports Council’s Club of the Year Award and Mal Jones a previous club Commodore and National Sailing Coach for Wales received a Royal Yachting Association Life Time Award from HRH the Princess Royal and a Sports Personality Award from Powys Sports Council.  Both have also been received by John Morgan, the club’s longest serving member and Club President.

The future aim of the club is to attract and encourage membership, particularly junior members.  The Club will do this by continuing to evolve, and by listening to the needs of its membership and those wishing to get involved in sailing.  The Club will continue to improve the facilities and the infra structure of the club site and improve how this facility is used.  With the continuing voluntary efforts of its members Llangorse Sailing Club will continue to be an unrivalled resource for sailing, in one of the most beautiful settings in the country.

John Morgan (Past President)

John Morgan was our Club President until his death in September 2014.  Without him - as you'll find out below - the Club wouldn't be what it is today and this is why we named our new training facility the John Morgan Training Centre and commissioned a portrait of John, which now hangs there.

John joined Llangorse Sailing Club in 1957.  He bought his first boat in 1959.  It was a 17' 6" Tornado (a marine ply monohull) from a club member.  It was the actual dinghy that had been part of the London 1951 South Bank Exhibition. John sailed that for several years before changing to a Fireball (sail number 1278).  This was the boat exhibited on the Chippendale stand at the 1966 London Boat Show.  Much to the horror of Jack Chippendale, John took his DIY trailer constructed from the rear end of a Mini and a bit of 6 x 6 timber as the drawbar into the show to collect it.

John was part of the team that was responsible for purchasing the site and was a member of the group that took part in the protracted negotiations with The Llangorse Lake Conservation and Management Company on behalf of the Club in later years.  John was the person that the newly formed company initially wrote to in October 1986 telling him that they had taken over the management of the lake and that as our use was unauthorised we must stop sailing forthwith and could only resume doing so by members obtaining a licence from the company...  An agreement was eventually signed in March 1989 thanks very much due to a lot of hard work by John.  Much of the research into the background and use of the lake used in the discussions and legal arguments was also undertaken by Brian Cornelius (another long time and key member of the Club at that time).

John continued to be involved in discussions with various public and conservation bodies about their desire to restrict the activities on the lake which resulted in an understanding (if not encompassing everyone's desires) which is a good workable compromise.

John always put great effort into encouraging youngsters to sail and countless juniors learnt to sail (and swim) while crewing in his Fireball.  Many moved on to become crews or helms at the highest levels in the class.  John also bought a keelboat (and later an even bigger one) and gave a lot of the junior members some wonderful times sailing in the Channel and trips to the Channel Isles and France.  In the latter years John gave up his Fireball for windsurfing which he continued to enjoy into his eighties!

Right from the start, John was one of the mainstays at Cadet Week.  Encouraging and patiently cajoling the youngsters to have a go.  To see him with a group of very young juniors in the Optimists around him, often up to his neck in the water, was a great sight (now captured in his portrait) especially when he took them, despite disapproving looks from some senior members, on an expedition down the lake, convoy fashion.  I am quite sure that to many of the children he was the epitome of a cross between Toad of Toad Hall and the Coot Club.

All who never managed to see the Club site in its early years will have no idea of what John has did for the Club (see photos in our Club History page for an idea).  Apart from a small area, it was mostly a reed bed with access to the lake down the Llynfi river.  Little of the site was above the normal lake level.  The late Geoff Taylor brought a Hymac excavator onto the site and dug the creeks, mainly with the intention of getting enough spoil to increase to amount of useable area by raising the ground level.  John subsequently scrounged soil from all over the place to cap the grey pudding like slop that was dredged up from the lakebed.  Fortunately it was at the time that the Brecon bypass was being built which became a source of very good material.  The only issue was that there was no road across the common and there was a problem with the mess that the transport was making...  The Club was told to stop.  The result was (after more negotiation) an agreement with the council that the club would build a rough road across the common and when the project was completed the council would take it over, surface it and maintain it.

John, often on his own, shored up the sides of the new creeks with stakes, sheets of corrugated iron or anything else that John thought appropriate that he could lay his hands on.  He constructed and repaired walkways and built the jetties.  Those who knew what he did at the club during that period can only marvel at what he achieved.  For days on end he plodded around the muddy creeks and the lake, usually on his own, in his wetsuit like some aquatic super-being.

Before the old clubhouse could be built, the area on which it was to be erected had to be raised above flood level. A dragline was brought in and under John's supervision the area that was in between the arms of the two creeks was dredged to find the material, thus forming the lagoon.  By the time the building was erected the area around it was an unbelievable mess and Dennis Fletcher (father of our Rear Commodore Colin) told John in no uncertain manner "You have finished the club!".  John's retort was "No we haven't, you just wait until the daffodils are blooming around the building next spring".  John's trip to the Far East was his inspiration for the safety boat 'wet-shed' that he built.

That all seems a long time ago now, but for many years John went on doing what needed to be done around the site to maintain and improve what we now have. That we have such a site is due to John's diligence and hard work, hard work that has made the Club what it is today.

Thank you John (1910-2014)