Members and guests of Cockle Island Boat Club, Groomsport at a civic reception in Bangor City Hall marking their 50th anniversary. The event was hosted by the Mayor of Ards and North Down Jennifer Gilmour and councillor James Cochrane.

THREE of the founding members of Cockle Island Boat Club were amongst those celebrating its 50th anniversary at a reception held at Bangor Castle last Wednesday. The club was formally established on March 4, 1974, by 39 local boat owners of whom only Jim Gibb, Jim Howell and Willie Wickens are still alive. The three men are former Commodores of the club (CIBC) and remain members to this day, with many memories to share at the Bangor Castle celebrations.

CIBC was possibly the first boat club in the British Isles to elect a female Commodore when Pat Kerr was elected in 1993, electing a further two women to the post since then.

They are amongst the 41 Commodores in the club’s 50 year history and of these, 21 past post holders are still members and the club remains in contact with the further five who are still alive. From those beginnings of 39 founding members, the club now has 130 honorary, full and associate members. Most of them moor their boats in Groomsport Harbour and Bangor Marina and a few others in Belfast, Donaghadee and Glenarm Marinas. The Club does not have its own premises, but uses the boathouse at Groomsport for meetings and other activities which require a physical location.

The Club also doesn’t have staff and relies on an elected committee of 12 which meets monthly, as well as volunteers who organise and manage activities. These include a summer programme of over 50 sailing races in the period May to September, mostly in Groomsport bay, but also races around Belfast Lough, and around the Copeland Islands, to Glenarm and to Portpatrick. There is also an annual regatta, usually in July, which is open to yachts from all clubs which are members of Belfast Lough Sailing Conference, and an annual Commodore’s Cruise to a destination of the Commodore’s choice.

From October to March there is a winter Programme of talks by guest speakers on Wednesday nights, with excursions to places of interest to the members. The Club also runs two annual social events, a spring supper in April at which Cruising Prizes are presented, and an annual dinner in October or November at which the racing prizes are presented.

CIBC is affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association and is a member of the Belfast Lough Yachting Conference, the nine sailing clubs on Belfast and Larne Loughs and Belfast Lough Sailability. The club keeps in touch with members through three newsletters which are published each year and distributed to members, a Facebook page, and a web-site, www.cockleislandboatclub.com.

The current flag officers of Cockle Island Boat Club are: Commodore Harry Patterson, Vice-Commodore Gemma McCoubrey, and Rear Commodore Michael McSorley.