We are sailing

Lets Talk Magazine, Post on 1st May, 2015
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Whether you enjoy building your own model boats from scratch or making them from kits, or even if you don’t have a boat but still enjoy watching them, you’ll receive a warm welcome at the Gipping Valley Model Boat Club in Suffolk, discovers Rachel Banham.

gb 015 Gipping Valley Model Boat Club 04If you’re a regular visitor to Needham Lake in Suffolk, you’ve probably seen members of the Gipping Valley Model Boat Club sailing their eye-catching creations. Members are often at the lakeside in Needham Market in all weathers – such is their passion for their hobby – and they sail vessels of all shapes and sizes which have been constructed in a variety of ways.

For Alan Phillips, club chairman, model boats are a lifelong interest. “I build ‘scratch’, cut my own timber and I build wooden boats of about 2ft to 3ft long, just like a real wooden boat would be built,” he says.

“I’ve been doing that since my granddad gave me a pen knife when I was seven… I’ve been doing it all my life on and off.”

Alan explains that the Gipping Valley Model Boat Club was formed in 1982. It has a mixture of members, who sail a wide range of boats. “We’ve got all sorts of people. We number usually something in between 65-70 members, that’s typically our level of membership,” he says.

“We have steam enthusiasts in our club, people who actually build their own steam engines, steam plants complete with boilers and all the valves and bits that go with them, and make the boats as well.

gb 015 Gipping Valley Model Boat Club 10“There are others who buy kits, spend their time putting them together and they look very majestic and wonderful, and they make a nice job of doing it.”

He adds: “We get people who come down there (Needham Lake) who have bought things from a model shop in a box and play with them. We have people like myself who make their own things and go the hard way about it perhaps, but we enjoy what we do.

“You’ll find people who sail yachts, people who sail electrically-powered boats, people sailing steam boats. There will be fast electric ones on the pond from time to time, and there will be the graceful sailing yachts. There’s a whole variety of what we do.”

Alan recalls how the club has held several exhibitions around the county in the past four to five years that have proved popular, with generally about 40 to 50 boats on display.

Members have shown their model boats at places including Elmswell, Mildenhall, Brandon, Shotley and Woolpit. Many of the exhibitions they take part in are organised through the Rural Coffee Caravan Information Project/Golden Age Fairs. They also exhibit at village fetes.

gb 015 Gipping Valley Model Boat Club 02“The one here at Elmswell is the Elmswell Fayre in September. We’ve done that a couple of times,” Alan says. “I think there were 56 boats on display there last year.” Explaining the appeal of building and sailing model boats, he says: “It’s just reproducing the reality of what you would normally experience in real life.

“It’s just another thing in miniature. It’s like model railways in a way, I suppose, except that we’re doing it with boats.”

Alan has always loved boats. He got his Yachtmasters qualification in 1970 and recalls how he used to go crewing for other people. Towards his retirement he restored his own boat which he sailed for a few years.

Today, with the model boat club, he specialises in traditional wooden boats, such as work boats and pleasure boats. “One of my smallest boats is clinker built. If you could imagine an 8ft-long clinker built dinghy, I’ve built an 8in-long clinker built dinghy. It is complete as a real clinker built dinghy would have been built,” he says.

“I’ve done it through my own practical learning curve, studying boatbuilding papers and books and things throughout the years. I’ve been a sailor – I haven’t had a career sailing, but I’ve had pleasure-time sailing in my life – and I just love boats.”

gb 015 Gipping Valley Model Boat Club 09Alan, who lives in Elmswell, has been a member of the club for the past nine to 10 years. Fellow members travel from as far afield as Colchester in Essex and Felixstowe and Hadleigh in Suffolk. “We are a very friendly club. We’re non-competitive,” he says. “We are a social club really, we all do our own thing. We have our mardle, as we Suffolk people say, and we just enjoy what we do.

“We seem to be down the lake whether it be raining, snowing, blowing, freezing cold, blowing a north-easterly wind!

“Anybody is welcome. They don’t even have to have a boat if they don’t want to. We’ve got a couple or three members who come down, they don’t float any boats any more but they’re always standing around having a chat with us. It’s open to anybody.”

  • Gipping Valley Model Boat Club members meet at Needham Lake, Needham Market, on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8am until lunchtime during the winter months, and on Wednesday afternoons/evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8am until lunchtime during the summer. Men and women are equally welcome. For more details about the club, visit the website at: www.gippingvalleymodelboatclub.co.uk





Lets Talk Magazine (writer)

the lifestyle magazine for East Anglia with features about local people, local events, competitions plus a nostalgic look back at the way we lived, worked and played.

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