The 40th edition of Weymouth will take place next weekend from 21-23rd July, with the country's tops players looking to etch their name on the coveted leader board. As the longest standing tournament in UK beach volleyball, we asked local organiser Graeme Sawyer to share some insight into the history of the event:
"Back in the early 1980’s we were playing for Weymouth in National League One and one of our team mates, Paul Moss who had holidayed in California came back and told us about how he had seen people playing volleyball on the beach and that surely this was something we should be trying.
We had a few attempts at this new sport on Weymouth beach using scaffolding posts to set
up the net and so in 1983, I decided to try to run a tournament. We invited rival NL teams to
come and give it a go, and once they had got over the concept of only having two players in a team, we attracted 20 teams to the inaugural event and Beach Volleyball in GB was born.
The event was won by Steve Pincott and Martin Hodges who played for Speedwell and
England indoor teams so straight away the concept of attracting the best players England
Since then the Classic has run every year except London Olympics 2012 and Covid year. The event had grown quickly and a ladies event was added in 1985, by the 1990’s it was well established and sponsored by Jose Cuervo.
By then there was a small tour of about 6 events around the country and the standard had rocketed with players such as Vince Joyce,
Andy Jones, Simon Golding, Ian Fairclough, Grant Pursey, Rob Kittely, Richard Dobell
being the dominant personalities in the men and in the women legends such as Mo Glover,
Audrey Cooper, Denise Austin, Mandy Sheaf and Vanessa Malone were the stars.
In 1996 Beach Volleyball became an Olympic sport and everybody was delighted in the
small British Beach Volleyball world when Audrey Cooper and Mo Glover competed at the
Atlanta Olympic Games .Our connection with the Olympics came again 2012 when Pete was
appointed to the role of Field of Play Group Leader - Beach Volleyball and myself, Lyle
Harmon Beglan and Jules Stout were all Field of Play attendants.
It was quite a moment when I met Seb Coe and was able to explain that I had set up the first ever Beach Volleyball event in GB and now here I was working at the Beach Volleyball Olympic Games in Horse Guards Parade!
In the early 2000’s although Weymouth continued, the tour around the country dropped
away and for a few years there were very few events around the country, which in a way
made Weymouth even more special . Volleyball England ran the tour for a few years but
again it was struggling to get going and I attended a meeting with Andy Jones and Freda
Bussey in 2017, when it looked like there would be no tour that year. This meeting I believe
stimulated the idea of what was to become UKBT and since then the growth of the game has
been staggering and we have been very proud to have been part of this journey."
Check back here next week to hear more from Graeme about the Weymouth events, as well as a preview from last years winners!