When Johan Schoeman’s dream about building a dam in the valley of Hartbeespoort became a reality at the beginning of the previous century, a crew of sailors from the Witwatersrand started their dream of an inland yacht club.

The Hartbeespoort Dam was not yet full to capacity when the Transvaal Yacht Club was established on the southern shores of the dam.

Ralph Paterson was recently elected as the new commodore of the Yacht Club.

Ralph Paterson

“I have spent most of my time on yachts since I was wearing nappies,” laughs Ralph when asked when his passion for sailing started. “I went through the ranks as a junior on the smaller yachts. When I got married, I had to let go of the sheets for a while. It was not long after the honeymoon that Ralph and his family got back on the water again, this time on a keelboat. “Our family owned a few Stadt 23s and were national champions from 2006 until 2009.

“Sailing is the best way to clear your head. Time spent on the water is time well spent. It is the calmness and tranquillity, even in strong winds, that makes sailing my biggest passion.” According to Ralph inland sailing is still relatively affordable. “You don’t need a boat to be able to sail. The yacht club has various programs for juniors and seniors that will teach you the theory of sailing. After a few hours on the water you will soon be able to control a yacht. There are always yacht owners and skippers at the club who are on the lookout for passionate crew members. It is not necessary to learn the hard way by jumping into the deep end.”

“The hyacinth on the dam is a problem and does restrict sailing, depending on the wind direction on the dam,. The club is not only a sailing club but also a social club. The club has some of the best recreational facilities with the most beautiful views at Hartbeespoort. One of my roles as the new commodore is to revive the social membership of the yacht club with the residents of Hartbeespoort.”

Ralph would also like to grow the junior membership of the club. “We have an accredited sailing training centre at the club. There are dedicated youth training classes and activities every first Sunday of the month. We have a lot of experienced coaches at the club that are more than willing to share their expertise with the youngsters. ” Two junior members of the club, Rohan Chidley and Adrian Rautenbach, have recently been selected to represent South Africa overseas.

The Yacht Club has a good future. We have a temporary setback with the hyacinth problem but hopefully this will be solved soon. We have a tremendous history at the club and will be celebrating our centenary in 5 years time.
For more information about the club and social membership contact 012 253-1108

The history of the Yacht Club

One of the old boats from 1923 with bowsprit and gaff mast, that are now out of fashion.

Just 5 years short of a century, the Transvaal Yacht Club in Schoemansville boasts a proud and interesting history.

The club was started by a number of boating enthusiasts of Pretoria who regularly sailed at the Hartbeespoort Dam. The inaugural meeting, on 23 February 1923 at the famous old Grand Hotel in Johannesburg, was attended by founding members, FW Knightly, AW Flitton, G Botha, F Alderson, Pritcard, P Jones, AD Holmwood and V Redpath.

The annual entrance fee was determined at £1-15 (R11) and Cyril Poynter was appointed as the first secretary. He later became a life president and remained a link with that first committee until his death a few years ago. The official opening was at the local Hotel Agnes and the cost of the dinner dance was 7/6 (75c).

According to the minutes of the inaugural meeting, the aim of the club was “to promote the sport and past time of yachting and yacht racing”. Membership was restricted to men – women were tolerated only as guests until 1947, when Carmen Stauch, herself a fine sailor and wife of Pretoria-based architect and sailor, Helmut, joined the club. Carmen eventually went on to become the first and only woman president of the club.

And the first clubhouse? A wooden “shack” which cost £97 (R194) to build. An interesting note from the minutes of that time requests members who entertain guests on a Sunday to “please bring extra milk.” (Presumably stronger beverages were in full supply!) Facilities were pretty basic, and women breathed a sigh of relief when ladies’ cloakrooms were built in 1955.

Many members who started sailing at TYC went on to sail the oceans. One of the founders, AW Flitton, circumnavigated the globe twice in his 92-foot yacht, “Cariad” – once in 1947 and then in 1950. Helmut Stauch represented South Africa at the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1948 and at present Pierre and Faith van Rooyen are on a cruise in the Indian Ocean on their 40-foot “Sentra”.

The wonderful phenomena of flying boats or aeroplanes landing on water, was a regular sight in 1947 at the Dam when TYC became custodians of the British and Overseas Aircraft Corporation flying boat moorings for overseas flights.

The boats of the time were made of wood, with wooden masts and canvas sails. Today, boats are built of fibreglass or carbon fibre with aluminium masts and milar or cevlar sails. But also, the classes, designs and rigging patterns of boats change constantly. TYC members cope with this development by constantly trying new fashionable boats and classes. So it’s not only a race on the water, but also one to stay abreast of development.
Details: 012 253-1108