Burnham's Olympic Champions

Burnham has celebrated three Olympic gold medals and one bronze  for its sailors, which is a considerable achievement for a small Town.

Additionally there are many World, European and National Champions.

The list of honour does not end their as the prominence and skill of our boat builders mean that many yachtsmen who have do not sail in Burnham visit to have boats designed or built in the boatyards.

The story of the Medals is listed below.

1908 London

The sailing events were held in the Solent at Ryde.

Gold medalists in 6 Metre Class

Yacht  Dormy



Gilbert Umfreville LAWS

b 8 January 1870

d 3 December 1918

Royal Burnham Yacht Club

Thomas Mc MEEKIN



Royal Burnham Yacht Club




Royal Burnham Yacht Club


How the Gold was won

The medal was decided over a three race series. Dormy dominated by winning the first and second races and finishing third in the final race.

The 6 metre race was over a 6 mile course in light winds which meant that Dormy took three and three quarter hours to complete the final races.

Strangely each day the wind increased near the end which allowed for racing in the final section.


Details of the Crew

Thomas McMeekin was the owner of the yacht. He was secretary of the Eastern Yacht Club at Burnham

Crichton was the crew member who went on to  join the 10th Hussar and  was awarded the DSO in 1915 which led to his immediate promotion

from Major to Lt Colonel.

Gilbert Laws was the designer of the yacht and was asked by McMeekin to be his helmsman as he knew more about the boat than any other man.

Laws moved to Burnham in 1893 and started the Burnham Boat Building Company with Mr J A Youl.

The Company proved a great success and was became one of the leading  boat building and design firms not only in Burnham but in the country.



1920 Antwerp

The sailing events were held at Ostend

Gold medalists in 7 Metre Class

Yacht  Ancora



Cyril Macey WRIGHT b 17 September 1885 d 27 June 1960

Royal Burnham Yacht Club

Dorothy Winifred WRIGHT b 19 August 1989  

Royal Burnham Yacht Club


Royal Burnham Yacht Club

Robert Henry Schofield COLEMAN b 1888 d 1 January 1960

Royal Burnham Yacht Club


How the Gold was won

The 7 metre class as only contested at the 1908 and 1920 Olympics.

Ancora finished second on the first race and won the second and third to take gold ahead of the Norwegian boat that won the first race.


Details of the Crew

Cyril Wright was the co owner of the yacht with his father in law Percy Machin.

Dorothy Wright was Cyril's wife and was the only female contestant in the 1920 yachting competition.

W J Maddison was a crew member

Robert Coleman was a crew member



1936 Berlin

The sailing events were held at Kiel

Gold medalists in 6 Metre Class

Yacht  Lalage



Miles Aubrey BELLVILLE

b 28 April 1909 d 27 October 1980 Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
Christopher Alan BOARDMAN b 11 June 1903 d 29 September 1987 Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
Russell Thomas HARMER b 5 November 1896 d 31 October 1940 Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
Charles Symonds LEAF b 13 November 1895 d 19 February 1947 Royal Corinthian Yacht Club


How the Gold was won

 After the last race Lalage was in silver medal position with the gold medal going to Swiss boat Yilliam

The Swiss boat was eventually disqualified promoting the British crew to gold medal position.

The gold medal was one of just 4 that were won in these Olympics.


Details of the Crew

Miles Bellville was a member of the Americas Cup challenge in Endeaver in 1934.

In WW2 he served in the commandos as a Major and was awarded the MC and MBE.

Christopher Boardman also was a member of the Americas Cup challenge in 1934. He was helmsman of the Lalage.

During WW2 he was a Corvette Commander in the Atlantic. His brother was an Olympic rower who won medals at the 1930 Empire Games.

Russell Harmer served as a Captain in the Royal Signals during WW1 although he was demobilised after suffering a bad injury. He was a Crew Member.

Charles Leaf was the owner of Lalage.

Leaf served as a Lieutenant with the Buffs in WW1 and enlisted in WW2 serving in the Balloon Command before transferring as a Lieutenant in the Royal marines at the age of 47.Leaf came from a wealthy family and was a noted archeologist donating many important finds to Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.


1956 Melbourne

1956olympics-copyright detail wickipedia

The sailing events were held at Port Phillip

Bronze medalists in Sharpie Class

Yacht  Chuckles



Jasper Blackall

b 20 July 1920 Burnham Sailing Club
Terrence Smith b 18 October 1932  


How the Bronze was won


The Bronze medal was won by Jasper Blackall on the Sharpie two man dinghy at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Jasper was born on 20 July 1920 at Hackney and became a successful illustrator and designer but he devoted his spare time to sailing.

Jasper belonged to the Burnham Sailing Club and bought a Sharpie dinghy from Sir Heneage Ogilvie who was an eminent surgeon. Sir Heneage Ogilvie was a sailing enthusiast who sailed Sharpies regularly at Burnham on Crouch and had built up a small fleet.

Jasper joined forces with Terrence Smith and they were selected to represent the UK in the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne.

On their arrival they managed to borrow a Sharpie which they named Chuckles to enable their participation.

Thirteen boats contested the medals with the home boat a hot favourite.

After three races the boat was in mid table with two 3rd places and a seventh but then things picked up with  a 2nd ,5th and 3rd place putting them into bronze medal place which they held onto in style by winning the final race.