The Sailing and Cruising Association has its roots in the days when Gay Liberation was the buzz word; the annual Gay Pride March in London was a platform for increasing visibility and several supportive social groups had sprung from the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, especially in London. These groups often had to be discreet about their existence in the days when there was no Internet, no legal recognition of gay and lesbian partnerships and the age of consent for gay men was 21. Initial contact with one's chosen group was often made by writing to a private mail box and members were referred to by first names and / or initials.
In the 1970s most of these groups were general interest and social; a way of meeting other gay and lesbian people at members' homes for coffee evenings and in private bars at pubs. There were a handful of specialist groups but usually these were based upon fetishes and only a very few were based upon a non-sexual interest in sporting or outdoor activities.
In the summer of 1980 a gay yachtsman named Jack had his yacht stolen from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. It was eventually traced to Brazil and Jack had to fly to Rio de Janeiro in order to reclaim his boat and to get a scratch crew together to sail it back to Europe. During that long crossing of the Atlantic he had to keep his sexuality a secret from his crew.
Upon his return to the UK, Jack expressed his frustration to a bridge-playing friend, none other than a subsequent S&CA Commodore, Bob Nairn. The plot was hatched to put an advertisement in the gay papers and see who turned up. The secret recognition code was to carry a rolled up copy of a yachting magazine (there was some confusion as Jack had intended for people to recognise him by the rolled up magazine but it transpired that everyone arrived bearing a suitable nautical periodical!). About 20 turned up at the Dickens Inn in the summer of 1980 and the rest – as they say – is history. We have been fortunate that founder members were able to join us for at the 25 year reunion in 2005, the Silver Jubilee in 2010 and even managed to join us virtually for the on-line Ruby Jubilee celebrations at the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic in 2020! A few of our current members have supported us consistently since those pioneering days.
"Having been disgracefully discharged from the Scouts after they discovered l was gay, working as a very senior Commissioner with very severely disabled boys; a close friend of mine who was a yachtsman got me hooked on sailing. I spent three years fitting out a 27 ft Macron Saber and became a founder member of the S&CA (Sailing and Cruising Association). That, l think, saved my sanity for I made so very many very good friends that I was able to put the past behind me. Thank you one and all so very much."
George Montague, Brighton, 20 March 2017
The original membership list was typed A4 paper using a second-hand manual Olivetti typewriter and photocopied. It stayed that way until it was turned into an A5 booklet in October 1983, when the membership data was held on a BBC “B” home computer. The Newsletter followed the same format until January 1989 when the title “Newsbuoy” was first coined. From April 1987 to November 1988 the magazine went bilingual while we nurtured our sister organisation in France until they reached the critical mass to allow Viole et Croisière en Liberté to fly on its own. At one time the East Coast contingent was almost as strong as the South Coast's. Also, power boats started to form a new force under the late Robert Lloyd, who was skipper of the famed Princess 42 ‘Just Cruising’, also known as “Patio Doors”.
With a successful racing section competing under the banner of the Gay UK Sailing Team (GUST) and a number of women only boats, the Sailing and Cruising Association soon established itself on the world wide stage. We federated with clubs in America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. We also affiliated to the RYA and were recognised in 2011 as runner up in the RYA Club of the Year! and have come a long way since 1980.
For many of us the Club has been a life changing experience, bringing a lot of fun and enjoyment; thanks must go to all those whose energy over the years has contributed to the development of the Club. Sadly, not all are with us now, but many are fondly remembered. Long may its success continue.
AW & CM