WMBRC Racing

There have been various Water Carnivals on Windermere since the 18th century, but the post war Regattas and Carnivals held in 1923 and 1924 also included events for motorboats and hydroplanes. In between the carnivals a group of friends who owned boats met to race informally and the first trophy was presented in 1924 by Harold Pattinson to add interest to the event. This trophy is still in existence and current drivers compete to win it annually. As more people became interested in the sport and came together the Windermere Motor Boat Club was born on 24th October 1925. 

Initially the club occupied a boathouse situated in Bowness Bay, the original building having been demolished now forms the headquarters of the Lake District Boat Club. The initial design of the burgee had a "W" on the blue, but this was later altered to the red rose that is still currently seen on all the club boats. It was also decided that ladies be admitted to membership of the club and several joined in 1927. They took part in racing and the winner of the first official race was in fact a woman.

In the 1930s they used a shotgun to start the racing, but this was sensibly replaced by a chronometer in 1939. Boats were wooden craft inboard hydroplanes with the crew often sat right at the back of the boat and the engine amidships. In those days the drivers would not get their hands dirty, relying on professional mechanics to maintain the boats. They would literally arrive, cigars in mouth, remove their jackets and start racing….no helmets or life jackets for them!!

World War 2 interrupted the racing for a few years with many of the boats being used in the war effort. Racing was tentatively resumed in 1946 with two races taking place that year. By 1949 racing was fully established and the tradition of the Fitting Out Dinner – where drivers thanked their mechanics - on the evening of the first race was established. The club held its first International meeting that same year which was run over a 3 mile triangular course.
By 1950 there were more than 100 members and with the end of petrol rationing more people became interested in powerboat racing. The original clubhouse in the bay of Bowness was far too small so the members found and purchased Broad Leys on 18th August 1950. In 1951 a second international meeting took place and racing was held at the new premises of Broad Leys.
The club had two of the fastest boats in the world at this time in Norman Buckley’s “Miss Windermere 2” and E.C Giles’ “ Diana” which could register 70 – 80 mph.
Towards the end of the fifties the general pattern of boat building changed. Chris Craft had superseded the individual custom-built boats and they, in turn along with the hydroplanes gave way to the smaller Albatross with Coventry Climax engine, followed by the Whippet (a lightweight hydro) and the Delta which had a similar hull construction, but a 15000cc Ford engine.
The club has played a part in many local celebrations of national events such as the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth when twelve of the club's racing boats escorted the Teal as it took Her Majesty and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh across the lake. More recently, in June 2012 club members sailing in the Queen of the Lake, joined the huge flotilla of waterborne vessels on the Thames to celebrate The Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
In 1964, one of the highlights for WMBC occurred when three boats from the club took part in the Paris Six Hours Race on the Seine. In 1968, following a demonstration by Bill Shakespeare in his Bristol V hull, the style of racing boats took another turn with boats racing with an outboard engine for the first time. Catamarans came and their sleek hulls painted in wild colours took maximum speeds up another notch. It was around this time that the name of the club was altered to WMBRC to include the word racing in it to emphasise the true purpose of the club..
In 1971 the first International Grand Prix took place on Windermere with drivers from Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa and Germany as well as Great Britain. Sadly, the event was to be forever remembered as the demise of Bill Shakespeare who died during pre- race practice.
A plaque to his memory can be found on the terrace wall of Broad Leys overlooking Windermere. Several more Internationals took place and 1973 heralded the arrival of the rotary engine allowing boats to reach speeds of 100mph on the straight.
In the 80s and 90s racing continued on Windermere until the ban came into force in 2005 following the 10mph speed limit placed on the lake. Undaunted, WMBRC took their races to the docks in Barrow. Following successful communications with the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) and other lake users WMBRC was granted exemption in 2013 to hold racing back on the lake for Regatta and the Commodore’s race day. 2018 saw a third Windermere race event added to the club’s calendar and in 2020 a fourth race event was granted. All other races take place at Carr Mill St. Helens courtesy of Lancashire Powerboat Racing Club (LPRC). Ongoing discussions take place on a regular basis to maintain the club’s ability to race on specified days of the year.
To get a glimpse of the many races and social events held annually and keep an eye on the upcoming events visit our Facebook page www.facebook.com/#!/WindermereMotorBoatRacingClub.

Broad Leys Book