Hollowshore Cruising Club

Minutes of Annual General Meeting on Zoom

Thursday December 17 2020

This “virtual” AGM was held on Zoom because of Covid restrictions. About 30 took part on screen, plus another nine who contributed by sending in their voting intentions by post and e-mail. All the AGM reports and recommendations were circulated in full in advance, and all proposals were seconded and approved by a show of hands without dissent. Commodore Dick Holness welcomed everyone and thanked them for taking part.

1:- The meeting accepted the first item on the agenda, a change to Rule 62 in the old set of club rules, to allow an AGM to take place electronically if it was impossible to hold a physical one.

2, 3:- Minutes of the 2019 AGM were approved. There were no matters arising.

4:- Accounts: The meeting accepted the Statement of Accounts and Treasurer’s Report. Retiring Treasurer Des Cross reported that we had a surplus for the year of £7,138, and the balance sheet funds were £36,957. Income was markedly impacted by Covid 19 restrictions and Government assistance. Membership increased by 2 to107, a remarkable achievement in the circumstances, bringing in £5,190.  However, with annual rent being £6,000, power costing just under £500, and RYA membership, insurance and maintenance costs adding further to the bills, the membership alone was insufficient to cover the bills. More members were needed along with more fundraising activities and increased fees should be considered. Bar turnover, given the constraints of the year, were excellent at £1,480 although catering was understandably badly hit.  It was important these income streams were maintained. Faversham Oyster Fisheries had returned a reliable income of £216.  Additionally this year, we received a grant from the government of £10,000 thanks to Viv Valentine’s application. Overall, total income was £8,187 up on last year, a very healthy increase – all down to the government grant more than offsetting the decline in revenues from other activities. The main expenditure was annual rent of £6,000. There were also a few one-off items of expenditure: £1,000 contribution to the toilet refurbishment and £814 to purchase an outside gazebo and bar card-reader. In summary, strangely, a good year for the club from a financial point of view but the club still needed to solve the underlying issue of membership, event and bar income versus expenses. He thanked Rod Akhurst for auditing the figures. Later in the meeting, Rod was also appointed to review next year’s figures.

5:- Subscriptions: The meeting unanimously accepted a committee recommendation that membership fees be unchanged at £50.

6:- Commodore’s Report: DH said the pandemic had dominated all our lives and of course had dramatically affected operation of the club. When the first lockdown came over the horizon we had barely begun the new year of events, but at least we had managed to hold a Quiz Night (huge thanks to the Keeler family), the Club Walk and a Fish and Chip Night, all well attended. The club closed on March 17 and lockdown itself started a week later, effectively blocking the whole programme of club events from then onwards.

“Your committee, however, had already started work, in particular with a small sub-committee set up to look at club futures with open minds and free rein to kick around new ideas, under the able chairmanship of Rear Commodore Bob Todd. To help get this initiative going, we invited Steve Mitchell, the RYA’s Regional Development Officer, to visit the club one evening – he showed a lot of interest and came up with many suggestions. The main committee itself had a couple of ‘proper’ meetings before lockdown, then had one go at running a sort of offline meeting using email, but it wasn’t very satisfactory and later on we adopted the use of Zoom which proved to be a much better way of doing it.” At the end of March we lost Mike Torode, one of our oldest members, a fixture at the far end of the bar on Sunday mornings. Roger Josty wrote a fine tribute.

Our Sunday opening resumed early in April in a ‘virtual’ way, with Zoom-based chats available to all and it was indeed good to see familiar smiling faces and be able to exchange news of what we’d all been up to. As time progressed hints of release started to appear, and the sub-committee was asked to look at how we could re-open within Government guidelines. As a result, the club invested in a fine gazebo, which was brought into use when we re-opened on July 12. During the glorious summer weather, a crowd of members enjoyed some East Coast cruising, visiting familiar haunts across the other side of the Thames Estuary. Mike Riches, our Secretary, kept members up to date with his weekly emails. Mike Robertson helped Mike with the website, keeping that up to date, and 60 of you regularly used the club’s Facebook page, contributing and reading snippets of news. Our Sunday gatherings  remained outdoors using the gazebo until the weather turned colder, when regulations allowed us inside in ‘groups of 6’ which worked well until, of course, the second lockdown. It was good to see so many members support their club during the open period, and of course it all helped turn over some bar stocks and brought in a small but much-needed income.

Treasurer Viv Valentine stood down early in the year for health reasons, but remained on the committee. Her place was taken by Des Cross, who nobly agreed look after the accounts for the rest of the year despite his many other commitments. We are very grateful to him, but he has asked to be replaced as soon as possible because of his workload, and we very much welcome the offer from Carole Grater to stand in his place. But before Viv stood down, she was successful in securing one of the £10,000 grants that Government made available this year to small businesses, community projects and others such as village halls. Although the club did already have good cash reserves, the continuing pandemic showed that we simply did not know what to expect in the future. We had already donated £1,000 to Terry Young’s planned refurbishment of the main toilets in the building, a step which was taken by the committee after receiving good support from a straw poll of members. The refurbishment is a huge improvement. Terry Young is actually no longer the club’s landlord. Many of you will know that a fine café has been created in the north end of the building, owned and run by Terry’s daughters, and he has now passed ownership of the entire building to them. While our lease has a good number of years to run, all this is significant change that may affect the clubhouse’s long-term future, and something that the present and future committees must bear in mind.

The Commodore said the proposed major update to club rules was to keep in line with the RYA’s recommended rules model, and enable a successful application to HMRC to become a Community Amateur Sports Club, or CASC. The main advantage had always been a mandatory minimum 80% relief on business rates. At the moment, HCC had 100% relief anyway but these days there was no guarantee that would always be the case. Also, because CASC status raised a club’s taxable income threshold, our tax liability on this year’s Government grant would at least be reduced if not nullified altogether. CASC status would also enable us to benefit from Gift-aided income, a possibility which should be explored. Club membership levels had remained stable during 2020, lost some and gained some, but now was clearly not the time to think of raising the subs. Subscription income no longer met rental payments and our numbers had declined steadily over the last 10-15 years. We had to try harder to grow that membership again.

“We have a great little club here, let’s all encourage other boating friends to join us. The massive house-building programme in Faversham is an obvious target for us,” he said. He expressed a huge thanks to the officers and committee for their support and hard work during a difficult year, and thanked all the members for keeping faith in our club.

7:- New Club Rules and Constitution: The meeting accepted without dissent the proposal to update club rules. Dick said the new rules looked much longer, but this was because we had followed the RYA’s layout, and much of the old rule book was unchanged. The main differences were that the accounts would have a reviewer rather than auditor and the committee would “admit” new members rather than an applicant having to be proposed and seconded. But membership acceptance was still down to the committee and it was just a slightly different way of doing it. Wording concerning Trustees had been considerably expanded to afford them and the club greater protection should things go awry.  

8:- Secretary’s Report: The club ended 2020 with a higher membership than we started with. Total membership, including partners and hon members, was 182, representing 107 actual payments, a rise of two over the 2019 AGM figure thanks to the club attracting several new members. Not a single member who failed to renew had a bad word to say for the club. The leavers were mainly down to age, ill health, or simply having given up boating and no longer visiting the clubhouse. There had been a lot of building in the Faversham area in the past couple of years, and this could provide one valuable source of new, younger membership. The various lockdowns rather put paid to a membership drive, but once things get back to normal this would again be a priority. Word-of-mouth to other boat-owners had in the past produced the best results, but a paper by Rear Commodore Bob Todd  and his sub-committee came up with a raft of ideas. We had a lot going for us: we were much cheaper than many other clubs, and were very friendly indeed, with newcomers approached and welcomed on arrival.

 Bob, who was also club bosun, and his sub-committee had been a tower of strength during the various stages of lockdown, and in addition to the purchase of a gazebo and bar card-reader, also planned and introduced the Covid safety procedures.  Bob asked me to pass on his thanks to those who helped keep the area around the clubhouse neat and tidy.

9:-  Bar Report:  Mark Sanders said the bar was supported well at the beginning of the year and a complete redecoration carried out by volunteers.  During the first lockdown the commodore instigated a sub -committee in preparation for re-opening in a Covid-safe way. Zoom meetings took place managed by Bob Todd and attended by Mike Robertson, Beryl Brooke and yours truly. Measures were put in place to make meeting at the club as risk free as possible, and meeting Covid legislation.  Those members that were able to attend prior to second lockdown saw the gazebo which enabled members to sit outside with some protection from the elements whilst temperatures allowed. A one-way system and table service with a maximum of six per table was introduced in order to enable social distancing, which gave a maximum attendance of 22 members. Contactless payments made running the bar easier and Covid-friendly. Attendances were in line with annual trends and in some weeks ahead of normal as many members were not able to go on extended cruises. The kitchen remained closed for safety reasons and there was a loss of income there, as well as reduced turnover due to two lockdowns which also stopped social events. Profits from the bar and social events had not suffered as much as expected; however the contribution to the bottom line was reduced by a couple of thousand pounds. There was renewed interest from several members in doing bar duties, which was very heartening as we look forward to 2021 and a full social and sailing calendar.

10:-  Officers and Committee: There were no new nominations, and the meeting accepted the names previously circulated. New line-up for 2021: Dick Holness (Commodore); Mark Sanders (Vice-Commodore and Bar Management); Bob Todd (Rear Commodore and Bosun); Mike Riches (Secretary); Carole Grater (Treasurer); Angela Holness (Social Secretary). Committee: Beryl Brooke; Chris Lovering; Caroline Robertson; Mike Robertson; Jose Sammut, and Viv Valentine. Trustees: Dick Holness, Mike Perkins and Paul Smedley had agreed to continue as Trustees.

Viking Cup: Mark Sanders said the committee had decided not to award trophies this year because of the limited sailing season, but there was a unanimous verdict that the Viking Cup for the outstanding member of the year should be awarded, and that it should go to Commodore Dick Holness for his dedication and service during a very challenging year. In reply, Dick thanked the committee, and said the year had been a bit of a struggle for everyone and he thanked the committee and club for their support. We had a good team and we would go forward to better things in 2021. Mark and Beryl held up the cup on screen to make a mock presentation!

Date of next AGM: TBA