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Interview with Brian Anderson

Below is what I hope turns out to be the first of many interviews with long serving sailors from our District who have supported our sport well.  I am very grateful to Brian Anderson who has agreed to be the guinea pig for this series.  Whenever I talk to anyone about Brian, the words “real gentleman” seem to crop up.  In largely his own words, here is Brian:

Memories from the Past – Interview with Brian Anderson

Hi Brian, tell us a bit about yourself:
Good evening everyone, my name is Brian Anderson and I am a member of the Killingworth model yacht club.

How did you get into Model Yacht sailing?
When I first got into model yachting it was by pure chance as at the time. I was more interested in Model Cars and knew next to nothing about Model Yachts. However, one day in the early 1960’s a friend of mine at work asked me if I would take him and his Model Yacht to sail it on Tynemouth Lake. Honestly, I had never seen anything quite like it. The hull was about 5foot long and a bit rough, the mast I think was part of a broom shank and the sails made from an old sheet.

Marblehead

Whitty Hornet

Being me, I started saying that if I couldn’t make something better I would not sail. Anyway, I had to put up or shut up, so I started reading everything I could in the Model Maker about building yachts.

Rib & Plank built

I bought a Mahogany Wardrobe for Five Shillings (25p in today’s money) and cut it up into planks and eventually produced a Marblehead – a “Witty Hornet” design.

With a clear varnished hull and a gold waterline I was very proud of this yacht with a wood mast and cord shrouds plus Nylet Sails. I also made a moving carriage vane gear.

Homemade Vane Gear

Vane Gear

Where did you sail her?
I sailed this yacht at Tynemouth and had great fun sailing it. This has given me a lifelong love of Model Yachting. It was at this time that I met Derek Greener who helped me enormously. I occasionally sailed at Exhibition Park at Newcastle in Open Meetings, so I then joined the Newcastle club and I met another great set of sailors who helped with tuning, building and a host of other things.

Had you ever sailed full sized dinghies or keelboats beforehand?
No, but hearing what you lads say, I wish I had.

So you were hooked on model boats; how did things progress?
I gradually got better yachts (Marbleheads and Ten Raters ), all homemade including the vane gears. These included the Stollery designed “Popcorn”, a very good boat and later a “Bloodaxe” design (Roger Stollery), a yacht that I found very difficult to sail with any success. So when the chance of a Bill Sykes designed “Sula” hull became available I jumped at the chance to take it.

Marblehead

Swag Marblehead

By now in club competition I had worked my way up from being a complete novice to become fairly successful, particularly after I bought the Sula and later the Dave Creed designed Marblehead “Swag”.

I was now sailing 36r, Marblehead ,10r and A class. The 36r was my own design and became a very good club boat. Until 1998 all my boats were vane steered.

Your club sailing was based around Newcastle Model Yacht Club, but did you take part in Open Events?
I regularly sailed at the Leeds and Bradford club water at Larkfield Tarn which looking down onto the Leeds and Bradford Airport. All of you who sailed at Larkfield in those days will remember the pallets that we used to run around to keep up with our yachts. Many is the time that I stepped on the wrong part of the pallet and ended up with skinned and bloodied legs. The wind could be a bit testing when it blew from the factories side. We would start on a beat, then went onto a broad reach and ended on a full run. Very tricky with a vane boat to know how much adjustment to make. From the airfield side we got a beat and run but all in all great fun sailing and great hospitality.

I also regularly sailed at events at Fleetwood Lake with my Marblehead or 10r, to my way of thinking the best Model Yachting Lake in the country for vane sailing. It could be a hard lake to sail on when the winds really started to blow, and we were glad to have boat catchers at the end of a board. We would travel from Newcastle to Fleetwood for a day’s sailing, a 3 hour journey there, sail all day from 10am until 5-30 or so and by the time we packed our gear away it was the start of a long journey home. We must have enjoyed it judging by the number of times we made the journey across to Fleetwood and back in a day!

You were already sailing Marbleheads, 10R and 36s, any other designs?
In 1977 I built an A class yacht to the Challenge design by John Lewis from a mould by Keith Armour of Leeds and Bradford club that I called “Silver Jubilee” and entered the A class nationals at Fleetwood.

A class

A Class, without keel weight

Unfortunately for me I had built a 59lb yacht when the much lighter A’s were becoming the norm and I couldn’t compete with the lightweights, ah well onwards and upwards. By the time I built a Stollery “Lollipop” we sailed in fleets of 30 to 40 yachts. Great days. I was never very high up in the results but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I also sailed at Gosport when the old clubhouse was in existence and I discovered the penalties of going into the Knuckle half way up the lake. It was during these years that I sailed against the world’s best sailors and when I managed to take points off any of them it made my day. I had great enjoyment meeting and racing against the cream of the A class skippers. It was and still is like a big club, but more importantly I made some great friendships which last to this day.

Tell us a bit about who was your partner (“mate”) when vane sailing.
One of my first “Mates” when sailing away from home was George Johnson of the Newcastle Club. George was always keen to go to the Nationals for a week or away for a day’s sailing. (editor : for those of you like me who have never sailed a vane boat, you need a mate as the boats can travel very fast, particularly downwind, and you might not get to the other end in time to stop it hitting the bank.)
For various reasons I stopped sailing away from home until one day out of the blue I had a phone call from Hugh Shields from Greenock asking me if I would like to act as his “mate” at the A nationals which I did for a number of years and I eventually I ended up acting as scorer at Fleetwood.
About 2009 I had to give up my beloved vane sailing due to age and for health reasons.

RNLI Pennants

So far you’ve only talked about vane sailing; how did you get into Radio Controlled sailing?
Because sailing vane at Newcastle had already become very difficult, we changed over to radio control. I had to start at the bottom again which didn’t come easily, sailing in a large fleet. I bought a second-hand IOM and built a 6m Rocco. I had more success with the 6m than the IOM.

When did you first sail at Killingworth?
In 2006 after 125 years the Newcastle club closed down, and we moved to a new water at Killingworth where I met another great bunch of sailors who I am proud to call friends and club mates. Recently we have had in influx of sailors from the Derwent sailing club (full sized boats), fondly known as the Derwent Mafia! We are not a large club, just over 20 members, but we regularly get 10 or 12 entries and on occasions 15 which shows how keen the members are.

Any final thoughts?
During my time in sailing all the help and advice so freely given to me by so many skippers has been greatly appreciated. Thanks to everyone who has helped me in the past and who continue to do so.
I have sailed for over Fifty years now, and still enjoy it as much today as I did when I first started, so thanks Matty for introducing me to this wonderful sport of Model Yachting.

SEE YOU AT THE LAKE
BRIAN

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