75 years of the Mersey Mylnes

 Alfred Mylne

Howthis for a top opportunity? David Massey, Commodore of the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, Birkenhead, would like to give a 25ft (7.6 m) Mersey Mylne One Design away.

A free boat —though the new owners would have to fulfil certain club conditions. Ideally helike Mermaid to go to young people, he says, by way of them learning some workmanship and boat husbandry on her, plus sailing and racing skills. Direction for this would be provided by members of the club and Massey himself.

The main condition is that they race and sail her, paying the moorings and insurance. He sees this as a good way of celebrating the class75th anniversary this year, of keeping some of the older boats racing and of keeping the class together by bringing in new blood.

To mark the anniversary the Mylnes, with their owners and crew, gathered in July at the club for a weekendracing. Eight of the 14 still-active boats turned up and guests included Susan Ritchie, great-niece of Alfred Mylne, the designer of the Mersey Mylnes.

Compelling clubhouse

The RMYC, formed in 1884, resides in a powerful-looking dark-bricked former merchant navy officerhouse in Birkenhead. The compelling clubhouse interior, with its atrium entrance, is packed with opulent historical memorabilia of merchant ships —their tenders, half models, smoky paintings and artefacts.

 Alfred Mylne

You can surely smell industrious, imperial Liverpool, the schooner-packed Mersey, all the ships waiting for their next cargo of merchandise. First impressions of the Royal Mersey itself are its similarities to an officers’mess but with less of a gung-ho atmosphere and a more democratic entry policy. All ranks made up the family of mechanics and logistics for the dayracing.

It was time, and I could see an excited group of assorted crew coming towards me. out on the slip in 10 minutes, Georgepick you up, hetake care of you even though he can be a bit spiky,”George being the clubboatman.

I tore myself away from the paintings and half-models and joined the crowd of members waiting for George who would deliver crews to their boats. It was gusting a 4-5. David Massey, on board and on duty as race officer, was fighting his tic, which was flapping off his chest with the gusts.

, you got to respect the Mersey and it respects you,”said George while ferrying race information to boats who hadntuned in their VHFs. The Mersey Mylnes are 24ft (7.3m) and with open cockpits, certainly a wet drive but fast and courageous as day-sailing keel boats designed for the Mersey.

Originally designed for tour crew, some Mylnes are now raced with three due to the decline in members available three evenings on weekdays and weekends —but this lot are evergreen keen. The crowd delivered to the boats that morning were mostly veteran members with some guests for this invitation race. Some of the boats had five crew, in some cases with four generations of Mylne sailors. The youngest was seven-year-old Joshua, with his great-grandmother Muriel Colley, who returned for a familiar sail on Mersey Mylnes after a gap of 25 years. Now 95 years old, she was sailing with Sue her daughter and son-in-law John Smith on Mercator. The wind was blowing up, up with the tide on the flood-the sort of tide Inot used to on my East Coast. Being a guest helm race, you could see helmsmen and women being briefed for what would be two hours of sailing in mostly unfamiliar waters.

 Alfred Mylne

More tempestuous

The race surfed the Mylnes down towards Liverpoolwaterfront with a south-south-caster. It is always organised to work with the rationale of commercial ships, although occasionally the Mylnes caused a quantity of distraction for pilots, who leaped out of their bridge to admire the class —at least thatwhat Ilike to think they were doing. In that instance the Mylnes were grouped and giving way to the ship, then using its lee to de-power before gybing round the mark. The weather seemed to become more tempestuous, but T think it may have been contributed to by Georgedexterous driving.

There was a 20-minute hard beat up to the Brazil mark, everyone still keen —you could smell the quiet competition. The oldest and youngest members of crew on board Mercator took refuge from the arduous beating in the lee of the cockpit, leaving Sue and John Smith to sort out their transit.

A controversial new guest helmsman won race one on Merchien, originally built as a wooden cabin cruiser and recently converted to the class racing lines by Graham Hayes. The usually successful boat Meridian came in second place, her crew returning to her mooring, faces like yards of tripe,”David Massey remarked towards me over a relentless gush of tide being squeezed through a gap quickly filled by spray between the committee boat and ours.

As George pointed out the local seal’the second race commenced. With the tide at 18.5ft (5.6m) in the channel at just about high water, the course was amended to keep craft west and inside the Rock Ferry mark. This is where trimming and weight distribution came in handy for some with the wind right on their noses.

 Alfred Mylne

Although closer to shore, closer to home, the tide gives you the impression you arc hours away from land. When it turns it gushes at 6 knots and stays choppy for at least a good hour after high water, the authority of the sea seeming to attract the ebb with such impetuousness. Dr Nicolas Jedynakiewicz helming Merganser with guest Cdr Richard Baum RN in Merle were beating up towards the south mark with sometimes good results set against strong tide, wind and decreasing depth near the shore. Not long, but short and sharp tacks won the race along with accurate leading or expert estimation.

Local knowledge is certainly either learnt fast or therehigh risk for newer guest helms. George stood by in the clublaunch to watch the boats pick up their moorings safely and remarked knowingly, if they canpick up their moorings they shouldnbe here.”If those at the latter end of the trot missed their buoy they ran a real risk of being blown down onto the disused pier.

Ashore, back in the clubhouse, members, sandwiches, gin and tonics were swelling the drawing room as talk of race results prevailed before members and guests repairing for a formal dinner to celebrate the 75th anniversary.

Childhood memories

Susan Ritchie, great-niece of Alfred Mylne, indulged in childhood memories of using the inlets of the Clyde for sailing retreats. She shared nostalgia with RMYC members who highlighted the aim to attract younger participants to this club. Commodore David Massey and the family that is the RMYC arc keen to accommodate younger people; his ownership of three Mylnes is due to his enormous affection for the class and their history on the Mersey. Massey has made the club accessible both from what I can see socially and by amending club rules in order to update the club. With HRH Duke of Edinburgh as patron and the Duke of Gloucester and King Harald V of Norway as recent visitors it is absolutely astonishing that club is not heaving with new members.

I struggle to understand why local Royal Navy personnel arentaking full advantage of the exciting Mersey Mylne class and this historic clubhouse. It is free to organise a sail as British Forces personnel, even if younot a member and it only takes 20 minutes through the tunnel to get there from their patch!

The club currently races three classes of modern and classic keelboats and is active at both club and international levels.