Biz Extra

Published: March 6, 2022 | Updated: May 24, 2022

John Chilvers and the fascinating history of the Royal Motor Yacht Club and Q&A with Shelley

By Andrew Diprose, editor

This month Coleman Marine Insurance catches up with long-time client and the Royal Motor Yacht Club Director and Chair of the Sail Committee, John Chilvers.

We talk sailing and also learn more about the fascinating history of the Royal Motor Yacht Club.

We also find out more about Shelley Barnes, Yacht Servicing Manager with Coleman Marine Insurance.


John Chilvers, Royal Motor Yacht Club Director and Chair of the Sail Committee

Tell us about yourself

I’m married to Elizabeth and we have two children Charlotte, 31, and Thomas, 35.

We’re keen sailors and own a Cornish Crabber 24, named Charlotte Elizabeth. We frequently take her to the West Country and up to the Solent.

We regularly race in the harbour and race with the Old Gaffers Association in the Solent. Every year we compete in the ‘Round The Island Race’ which is the largest yacht race in the world, attracting 1600-1700 contestants each year.

I have a varied career background, having worked in the water industry, then moving into the brewing industry for seven years which was much fun and, finally, set up JTEC Environmental 18 years ago, which I still run to this day.

Tell us a little about the history of the Royal Motor Yacht Club

The RMYC was founded in 1905 by the Royal Automobile Club and was originally known as ‘The Motor Yacht Club’. It was viewed as the marine section of motoring and was established to ‘encourage and foster the sport and industry of motor boating and yachting’.

The Admiralty Warrant to wear the blue ensign was granted to the club the following year, and in 1910 the ‘Royal’ prefix was bestowed on the Club by HM King George V.

The RMYC led something of a nomadic existence in its formative years, but in 1936 it finally settled on Sandbanks and opened the doors to its new clubhouse. Today it has around 1600 members, which are evenly split between those with an interest in motorboats and those who enjoy sailing.

On the water, the RMYC has been outstanding in promoting the sports of sailing and powerboat racing and has hosted some of the most prestigious national and international races. In addition to its on-water activities the club also has a very active social calendar with around 100 events each year.

Whilst the RMYC is proud of its long tradition, it is also keen to move with the times. In recent years its facilities have been boosted considerably by the addition of a 112-berth yacht haven, together with an extended clubhouse.

The club is always keen to welcome new members and there are a range of membership options available to suit families and individuals of all ages.

John’s Cornish Crabber 24, named Charlotte Elizabeth.

When did your involvement start with the club?

I’ve been a member for over ten years now and became Chair of the Sail Committee and a Director last year after having served on the Sail Sub Committee for several years.

It involves organising the busy racing calendar over the year, prizegivings and any other activities associated with racing.

Thursday nights are known as ‘RM’ or Royal Motor night in the harbour and racing is open to anyone, not just RMYC members. Anyone can apply to race, must obtain a handicap rating, pay the entry fees and then you are allowed to race.

We regularly have 30-40 boats on a Thursday covering four classes.

We also have Tuesday racing evenings for Flying 15’s and an active Cornish Shrimper fleet too.

We hold an annual end of season prize giving event which is a great celebration of achievements of the winning boats over the season and trophies are awarded accordingly, many of which go back many decades. There is always a great deal of pride with our members to win a trophy, we’re a competitive lot!

Tell us about the social side of the RMYC

The club prides itself on its extensive calendar of social events and activities.

This year we’re bringing back the popular RMYC Boat Jumble, it takes place on Easter Saturday 16th April in the Boat Shed from 10.30 – 15.30.

It’s a great opportunity for club members to clear the garage!

We urge people to bring along their unwanted boat bits, odd lengths of rope, fittings, tools, charts, inflatable dinghies, oars, shackles, screws, nuts and bolts, fenders, anchors – in fact any of those widgets and thingies you no longer need! The sale price is up to each individual vendor.

Tables are supplied at a cost of £5, which will go to the Commodore’s Charity which this year is Routes to Roots, a charity which supports homeless adults and rough sleepers in the Poole area.

We also do a series of harbour litter picks. We love the harbour and want to help retain it as a beautiful place for people to go and enjoy. It’s a mixture of being on foot and also getting on the club’s rib to get dropped off at different locations around the harbour.

We hold many social events including quiz nights in the bar, ‘Travellers Tales’ guest speaker events and a vintage party night, to name a few.

Last summer we enjoyed a ‘Music on the Water’ evening where everyone anchored up together and were entertained by an opera singer singing from the fly bridge of one of the members boats, it was a perfect evening.

I also run the fly fishing and clay pigeon shooting events within the club and there is also a golf society and so the RM is not just about boating, with many other peripheral activities.
As you can imagine, membership is highly sought after at RMYC, as we are a premier club in the harbour.

We’re extremely proud of our heritage, history and the community that we are.


Getting to know our team at Coleman Marine Insurance

Name: Shelley Barnes

Role: Yacht Servicing Manager

How long have you been in the business?

I joined Coleman Marine in January this year but have been involved with marine insurance for almost 30 years.

What’s your marine career background?

I started my career in May 1992 with a Lymington-based underwriting agency and quickly became involved with underwriting yacht and motorboat risks.

I continued with this after the company was sold in 1998 but also became involved with integrating two other marine businesses until I left in 2001.

I then joined a start-up company in Lymington where I dealt with new business, renewals, claims and general enquiries, alongside helping to run the office. The last couple of years were spent broking so I have a wide experience of all aspects of the marine insurance world.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The people I work with.

Use 3 words to describe yourself

Active, meticulous, loyal.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A police dog handler.

Who do you most admire?

My Dad! Anything that was broken, he could generally fix. I have amazing memories of being with him on his boat and we had many adventures from rescuing people in trouble to travelling from Poole through the French canals to Corsica – our favourite place.

Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know

My dog and I trained for a few years to be an operational team for Dorset Search Dogs. I qualified but she didn’t. I am no longer operational but I will still on occasion ask her to find friends and family in the forest. Just for fun!