Wiltshire Publications

Westbury sailing group vows to fight back after £100k arson attack

Nick Cross and Chris Wheeler.

Nick Cross and Chris Wheeler.

WESTBURY’s sailing centre is coming to terms with the devastation caused by arson and burglary, which resulted in over £100,000 worth of damage. Wiltshire Police is appealing for witnesses or anyone with any information, to come forward.

A member of the public alerted the emergency services who attended the West Wilts Youth Sailing Association in Station Road, Westbury, at 3.57am on Thursday 24th April.

Senior instructor and principal  at West Wilts Youth Sailing Association, Nick Cross said, “Someone had broken into the sails store, taken the outboard motors and other sailing equipment, and then set fire to it. This store was destroyed in the fire along with two rescue boats, four sailing boats and other equipment,  and the club hut was damaged.

“We’re very angry, as you can imagine, not just for us but for the kids. We are normally open four nights a week with about 20 children each night, so now 80 children can’t sail and we will have to close for at least six weeks. It’s not fair to them.”

Chris Wheeler, senior instructor and bosun added, “The club has been going for 46 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. All the work here is done by volunteers and money is raised through fundraising. It is such wanton vandalism. We will, however, be back up and running as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson from Wiltshire Police said, “The suspect/s are believed to have entered the charitable trust’s premises between 8.30pm on Wednesday April 23rd and 4.00am the following morning.

“Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact DC Jane Hughes at Melksham CID via 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously.”

Louise Knox, Media and communications manager at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service said, “A crew from Westbury and one from Trowbridge were initially mobilised, with a crew from Warminster being requested once the first firefighters were on scene.

“The boathouse, which was approximately 5m x 4m in size, was well alight when crews arrived and was completely destroyed by the fire. Firefighters used three main jets and a high pressure hosereel jet to extinguish the flames and stop the fire from spreading.”

West Wilts Youth Sailing Association is a charitable trust whose primary aim is to introduce young people between the ages of 8 and 18 to the sport of sailing.

The association started in 1967 and is self financing and run completely by volunteers. They are a Royal Yachting Association recognised teaching centre with a team of RYA qualified instructors.