The DEBEN YACHT CLUB in Woodbridge, Suffolk was founded in 1838 at a time when boats on the river Deben estuary were mainly used for trade and transport but some owners started using them for fun. Today it is a thriving club operating mainly with modern dinghies on the upper part of the estuary, close to Woodbridge town centre and local car parks. Its unusual clubhouse is built on piles on the river foreshore and has a substantial set of pontoons as well as particularly fine views of the river and the sailing. The club has a large dinghy park connected by ramps to a modern river slipway, and it administers a number of moorings for dinghies and small cruisers close to the clubhouse.
Each spring the club organises a comprehensive sail and safety boat training programme for aspiring sailors and helpers, with some sessions for beginners and others for improvers, normally at weekends between March and June.
A full racing programme is organised with handicap racing for dinghy and yacht fleets, normally from March through to December. As we operate on tidal waters our races typical take place in the 2 hour window before high tide. The highlight of our racing calendar is our annual Regatta in August. This Open event attracts sailors from other clubs, with as many as 80 boats competing across the week. Our volunteer-run Galley operates after the majority of races and provides welcome hot and cold food for sailors and visitors.
We also offer a programme of leisure sailing, including dinghy flotillas, picnic cruises and yacht cruises. Our “Club Sailing” programme proves particularly popular with teenagers, providing opportunities to get out on the water and just have fun with friends, all under the watchful eye of our Safety Boat Team.
The popularity of Canoeing, Kayaking, Paddle boarding and Rowing by our members has grown greatly over the past few years. We support all these paddle sports and provide special storage racks and dedicated spaces for our members.
The club arranges a wide-ranging social programme to complement the sailing, to add interest through the winter months, and from time to time to celebrate special achievements, anniversaries and events.
There is a long history behind the Deben Yacht Club (DYC) and its location close to the heart of Woodbridge. In pre-history, local maritime activities, skills and traditions grew through centuries of settlement and of technical, transport, commercial and social development. The first date in the club’s own history is 1838, when the owners of local businesses arranged the first of a series of annual regattas and other ‘yacht’ race events. Some of them were trying to make use of their commercial boats for leisure pursuits, and the Coronation of Queen Victoria in that year provided a good excuse for a Regatta. Their ‘yachts’ were usually commercial boats that had been modified by the simple addition of extra seating.
Since then a great deal has happened at the DYC with slow or more rapid pace affected by major events in social and economic history. Significant stages in the story of the sailing on the Deben and in the development of the club are listed below. More details of the 150 years from 1838 to 1988 can be found in “The Deben Yacht Club and Deben Sailing Club – 1838 to 1988” , written in 1988 by the late Geoffrey Brown and published by the club to mark the 150th anniversary of its formation.
- 500AD Settlers fish the ‘White Water’ (Deben) stream
- 800s Deben river is used to transport supplies, for example for the Court of King Raedwald at Rendlesham
- 1200s Mouth of the Deben river is a haven used by travellers on the North Sea
- 1500s River walls were established to control flooding and height of tides at Woodbridge
- 1590s Shipbuilding at Woodbridge and nearby provided ships to combat the Spanish Armada
- 1600s Start of ‘yachting’ as a pleasurable activity for Royalty and the very wealthy
- 1634 Launch of the largest trading ship built at Woodbridge, the 700 ton ‘Goodman’
- 1675 Launch of the largest warship built at Woodbridge, the 663 ton ‘Kingfisher’
- 1700-30 Wartime insecurity limits sailing on the river largely to fishing and transport
- 1730s Emergence of leisure sailing for the wealthy, for example at Harwich
- 1740s Woodbridge working craft are modified with additional seats for leisure sailing
- 1780s Anti-smuggling laws require that boats display their names clearly
- 1784 First Regatta race is sailed from Woodbridge to Bawdsey and back for a Five Guinea Silver Cup
- 1800-1830s Napoleonic Wars and economic insecurity again limit leisure time and the uses of sailing
- 1838 Formation of the ‘Deben Yacht Club’ (DYC) for the Coronation year Regatta at Woodbridge
- 1840s DYC races and Regattas become established as annual Woodbridge events1846 A water colour artist depicts the Regatta at Woodbridge – now displayed in the DYC clubhouse
- 1851 A tragic accident marrs the second race of the DYC season
- 1852 A DYC member sets a local standard in cruising by sailing to Holland
- 1855-70 Races and cruises continue with yachts owned mainly by local businessmen and celebrities
- 1870s Cost of timber rises so boat building slows
- 1879 John Loder pays for ‘Loder’s Cut’ – to ease the passage of cargo boats into the Woodbridge pool
- 1886 DYC enthusiasts encourage small boat owners by reforming under the name ‘Deben Sailing Club’
- 1887 The club flag is agreed by its committee – a dark blue pennant with a white ball
- 1889 Alfred Everson is appointed as timekeeper, using 12-bore shotgun to start races
- 1890 Yacht Racing Association rules adopted by the club, introducing handicap racing
- 1897 A proposal was made to build a clubhouse at Bawdsey Ferry, but it was not implemented
- 1899 Course beacons are established by the river pilots along the length of the Deben
- 1902 Club receives a copy of ‘Lawson’s history of the first 50 years of the Americas Cup’ in recognition of members’ close interest in the international event
- 1906 After a gap of six years, sailing club members resuscitate the Regatta
- 1911-14 The club survives a period of financial difficulty and racing continues until the start of the Great War
- 1914-18 Meetings and racing suspended for the duration of the war
- 1919 Club racing restarts but grows only slowly as a result of the wartime loss of many members and boats
- 1919 An enthusiatic Deben Sailing Club member, Max Blake, becomes shipyard manager in Singapore, revives interest there in leisure sailing, and becomes Commodore of the Singapore Yacht Club
- 1920-30s Post-war economic depression slows recovery of UK leisure sailing
- 1923 Honorary Secretary Leonard Hayward revives interest in the club by offering to train young people
- 1924 New dinghy, the ‘Cherub’, built by neighbouring Everson’s boatyard makes the club more popular again with young Woodbridge people
- 1928 To build interest further the Club reverts to its original name, the ‘Deben Yacht Club’
- 1930 Max Blake returns to Woodbridge from Singapore. His club there has become the Royal Singapore Yacht Club (now called the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club) and sends a gift to the Deben Yacht Club to buy a new sail racing silver Trophy. Club designates it as the ‘Singapore Cup’
- 1934 A small DYC Clubhouse is erected on the present site, supported by 25 piles
- 1939-45 Sailing on the river is largely suspended for the duration of World War 2
- 1948 Another new class of dinghy is introduced, the 14 foot clinker built ‘Kingfisher’ class made by Everson’s.
- 1965 DYC starts collaboration with local authority water sports trainers
- 1969 Mirror class dinghies become established at the DYC.
- 1974 Wayfarer class dinghies become established at the DYC.
- 1976 The Clubhouse is extended by adding piles and building at both ends.
- 1992 Rising water levels force the raising of the river wall by one metre. The club acquires a slipway and space for a dinghy park adjoining the clubhouse. It also allows the local authority to shares its new launching facilities.
- 1997 High tides begin to flood the clubhouse floor so DYC lengthens all clubhouse piles and lifts the building by one metre
- 2004 Club acquires RYA “Champion Club” status
- 2006 Approval is granted by the local authority for major extensions of the clubhouse and renovation of the slipway
- 2007-09 Global economic conditions greatly increase cost of building materials and slow plans for building
- 2010 Clubhouse balcony extended and new pontoons and access ramp installed with financial assistance of The Crown Estate
- 2011 Club acquires Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) status. Local authority closes neighbouring sail training centre so club negotiates to acquire 15 of its boats, and to take over some of its training work.
- 2012 A new slipway is built with financial assistance of Sport England, establishing a part of the 2012 Olympic Heritage on the river in Woodbridge.
- 2013 Slipway is completed and ready for the club’s 175th season, and is opened on 13 April by Lord Deben
- 2014-15 Clubhouse changing rooms completely upgraded and enlarged to include disabled facilities; opened by the mayor on 10th May 2015. Up to 25 club dinghies now available for use by members.
- 2016-2019 Mains power and water routed into the Dinghy park. Three modern two man dinghies added to the club fleet. Youth training programme expanded.
- 2020 -2021 COVID 19 restricts full program of activities somewhat but with careful distancing arrangements the regatta and racing program went ahead. The social program was stopped. Gate sign erected.