Club History

1966 and all that!

During 2016 the club celebrated a successful 50 years of sailing at Hollowell. The club has never faltered in improving the site and always had a steady growth of membership. The biggest honour most of course, go to our founders Johnnie Leach and Don Howard who negotiated the lease with what was then Mid Northamptonshire Water Board. They and a small group cleared the site and converted a builders shed into a clubhouse. Working tirelessly over the winter of 1965/66 they launched for the first race springtime 1966.

To mark our 50th birthday we published a book which relates passed events and gives a light-hearted review of the the passed half-century. Copies are available free from the club house but if you can't wait for that it is available in online magazine form, just click

The Founders
In the winter of 1965 I received some inside information from the offices of the Mid Northamptonshire Water Board: "A group of Northampton businessmen are negotiating for the sailing rights at Hollowell." The leading lights apparently were Mr C J (Johnnie) Leach and Mr D A J (Don) Howard.
Both were shopkeepers. Johnnie was a butcher on Wellingborough Road and Don a newsagent and tobacconist at St Leonards Road, Far Cotton. Talk about chalk and cheese! Johnnie was full of fun gregarious and generous, he loved people, he did not suffer fools. Don was quiet, a very shrewd thinker, strategic, diplomatic and totally organized. They were the best of pals. The chemistry between these guys created the foundation of Hollowell Sailing Club. Johnnie became our Founding Commodore, Don was our Founding Secretary. Shopkeepers in those days had Thursday afternoons off-half day closing. Thursday sailing remains an important feature in our calendar. This gets better year on year.
Later at Hollowell I met two more key figures, Brian Farey and Dennis Wright . These guys were keen and competitive dinghy sailors. Brian and Dennis became our Founding and joint Sailing Secretaries . We now know there were seven founders. However my receipt for my first year's subscription was numbered 007. No doubt Don caught up with that seventh founder in due course!

The Old Boathouses
This sturdy wood-framed building was handed over to the Founders in the original lease. Tidy on the outside, on the inside it was dark and dusty, home to a million spiders. Light, ventilation and outlook were provided by opening the large double doors. Amenities included were a single toilet, a heavy iron coke stove and a single gas ring. That old boathouse has survived . Today it is at the centre of our splendid clubroom .

Helping (and learning loads from) Brian and Dennis, we mapped out the lake. The position and the names our six race marks fell naturally into place. Initially all the starts and race timing were shore-based. We built a very small balcony race cabin on the front of the boathouse . Our present race office followed many years later. Corrected time calculations involved a lengthy session with the slide rule. This improved massively when John Walrond calibrated the clock in deciminutes.
Gate starts were popular for class racing: in the winter, when Race Officers hibernated, the competitors would sort out a course, nominate a gate boat and then set a start time. Once all the starters were in the area the gate boat would set off from the start mark on port tack. The gate boat was free to tack after the fleet had crossed "the line" on starboard tack.
Brian and Dennis were keen competitors and good ambassadors for Hollowell. Inter-club fixtures and our Ice Tankard soon featured in our programme . Water Board boss, Alan Simkins, lived at Guilsborough and was a regular visitor. He wanted The Board to provide us with a trophy which would commemorate a former Water Board Chairman. It would be contested between the local clubs sailing on Water Board reservoirs - The Warwick Trophy was launched.

Committee Meetings
Hazardous, pretty cold, and fairly brief. Would the torch hold up for the tricky ascent back through the trees to the top car park? They were very small meetings by today's standards - a dozen folk was a big meeting.

Safety Boats
Our original selection of boats were all round bilge and 2-stroke powered. A Seagull motor with its 1 in 10 oil to petrol mix could asphyxiate its driver downwind. For a time one of the Founders lent us a Fletcher Arrow speedboat... Wow! Totally useless for rescue, for work or as a committee boat, a serious hazard to dinghy sailors ... but Wow!
What a relief when we discovered and collected some Dory work boats. They could and still can do any task we can possibly set for them. The standard of our power boat fleet is now truly 50 years improved. Nice to see the workhorse qualities of the Dory hull can still help on occasions.

Charles Brett

1973 -Note, no car park!.........................................And a summers day 2018.

Above two pictures 1968 and 2019. Taken from the same spot.

There has been a lot of technical changes to windsurfing over the years.

Optimist still remain a popular starter boat.

Lasers have taken over from Mirrors (1967 - 2014)

group shot

Hollowell Sailing Club has been crowned RYA Club of the Year 2012. The club received their award from Team Volvo and Skandia Team GBR's Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills and RYA CEO Sarah Treseder, at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show, London.

At the eagerly awaited awards ceremony, Hollowell SC were picked as the overall winners from amongst five strong finalists including Chichester Yacht Club, Leigh and Lowton Sailing Club, Salcombe Yacht Club and Staunton Harald Sailing Club.

The short-listed sailing clubs were selected by an awards panel who judged them on the range of quality and safe activities they provide, how they encourage people to get out on the water and how well they engage with the local community.

The pessimists complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails

CG Leech 1966-1968   Don Howard 1969-1972  AH Lane 1977-1979  LE Humphries 1980-1982  A Grundy 1986-1987  SR Edmonds 1988-1990

charles brett
Charles Brett 1973-1976
Roy Richardson 1983-1985
Bill Warden 1991-1992
Simon Cray 1993-1995
Mike Playle 1996-1998
Martin Hudson 1999-2001
Ian Hall 2002-2005
Larissa Barker 2005-2008
Mike Pipes 2008-2011
Russell Brayshaw 2011-2012
Nicola Wilkinson 2012-2016
Rob Dunkley 2016 -2017
Clive de la Fuente 2018-2020
Graham Smith 2020 -

The RYA Volunteer awards; the MBE's of our sport recognise the outstanding contributions made by volunteers throughout the UK.

Recipients of these gold medals and their guests were invited to a special presentation ceremony and luncheon in London. Over the years volunteer Hollowell members have been recognised for their exceptional dedication and achievements in boating when they received an RYA Volunteer Award.

The awards are presented by HRH The Princess Royal.

Mike Playle ..many years ago! Ian Hall ..2010 Mike Pipes ..2012 Derek Bunting ..2013 Peter/Jill Betts ..2014 Stewart Elder ..2014  Larissa Barker ..2015

To get in touch either send us an email or pop down to the club when we have activities happening (check the sailing programme).