Past and Present Yacht Club History 11/27/2013
In the year 1910, Purnell Saunders established a homestead for his family on Myer Creek at the present site of the Yankee Point Marina. Purnell brought his family, furniture, equipment and livestock to the property by barge. He cut down the trees on the property and used the wood to build the house on the hill above the clubhouse. He spared one oak tree near the corner of the house; a tree that was to figure prominently in the yacht club’s history.
By 1974 a marina, known as the Myer Creek Marina, was owned and operated on the property by the Lerner family. They hoped to develop it into a facility with floating docks. The few families keeping boats at the marina at the time were asked to buy stock in the Lerner’s venture. These boaters, who were to form the nucleus of the future Yankee Point Yacht Club, declined to invest and the venture failed.
That same year Harry Farmer and Randy Walker from Richmond bought the marina from the bank. They weren’t business people trying to start a marina; they were sailors looking for a deep-water property to berth their boats and there was space on what today is “B” pier, for a few more boats. Folks such as Jack Young, Fred Kellam, Doug Harrington and Charlie Heasty who needed a place to keep their sailboats found the place and the Yankee Point Marina was born.
Harry and Randy had little capital, but lots of enthusiasm for establishing an all-sailboat marina. By the end of 1975, about thirty sailboats were docking at the marina. With the aid of a hose and lots of muscle, they were able to add slips to accommodate more newcomers.
Harry and Randy thought it desirable that the thirty or so boat owners should form a yacht club and they asked Charlie and Nancy Heasty if they would take on the organizational responsibilities. The Heasty’s agreed and began talking with their slip mates about forming a club.
On a chilly, dreary, drizzly day in the spring of 1976, the hopeful and potential members gathered in the old crab house for an organizational meeting. Since Charlie had taken the lead in bringing this group together, he was immediately installed as commodore. Fred Kellam, a graduate of Yale and Book Editor of “U.S. News and World Report,” was a shoo-in for secretary. Finally, Bob Jaffee, a Richmond businessman joined the little group as treasurer. The members didn’t know enough about each other to fill out a full slate of flag officers, so the first board had only three members which formed the Yankee Point Yacht Club.
Next came the by-laws. Drawing heavily from the work of other yacht clubs, a set of by-laws was created. The members wanted “Yachting, seamanship, sailing and allied subjects, and good fellowship among the members...” Those words have remained the club’s objective. Also they wanted a social program to become better acquainted with one another. Dues of $25 per year were proposed and Bob Jaffe passed the hat and with $750 in the treasury the club was off and running.
It was obvious that meetings couldn’t be held in the old crab house. The oak tree that Purnell Saunders had spared in front of the old farmhouse was the answer; members met under it for the next three years. Never in those three years did it ever rain on events under the oak tree. Dues went for such niceties as beer, soft drinks, nibbles and members started the practice of providing covered dishes.
Teamwork and cooperation were the glue that held the club together in the early days. Need a shower? Line up in the living room of the old farmhouse on the hill and wait your turn. It wasn’t until 1977 that Harry and Randy finished the heads on the hill.
During the brutal winter of 1976-77, thick ice on the creek pulled the piles of the only docking pier from the bottom. In the words of the Richmond Times Dispatch, “It looks like a leviathan sucked them under, played with them and spit them out like so many Popsicle sticks.” The havoc resulted in the start of the club's annual “Clean-up Weekend.”
In addition to a lot of painting, the members constructed a bulletin board to improve communication, a picnic table and a dinghy rack. A yardarm was assembled from a discarded buy-boat boom. The desirability of having something more than the old oak tree for shelter was a continuing topic of discussion. The solution was to raise the roof of the old oyster house and house the club on the second floor. The cost was estimated to be in the neighborhood of $35,000.
Twelve members came up with the $35,000, which was loaned to Harry and Randy. Jake Rowe, who later served as commodore, was a practicing structural engineer, and Charlie had some expertise in architectural design. On a pro bono basis, building plans were produced and by spring 1979, members held their first social event in a place that didn’t sway when the wind blew. Along with the clubroom came a substantial raise in dues to cover rent. So, there was good news and bad news.
Members felt that the club’s activities should be directed almost exclusively to sailing, rather than to social functions. One of the first sailing events was a Memorial Day race-cruise to Grog Island. Fred Kellam, club secretary at that time, led the fleet until it reached the Bay, but fell behind when he mistook the Stingray Point Light for the Windmill Point Light. Fortunately for him it was high tide.
The club’s racing program had a dual purpose--first, to develop a group of racers who could compete with other clubs in the area, and second to qualify for entrance into the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association (CBYRA). Of course, there was a third purpose -- to enjoy.
An interclub spring, summer and fall series of races was set up. By 1980, the club had been accepted into the CBYRA and members were ready to compete in interclub racing. Attesting to the success of the club’s racing program, one need only look at the result of the Rappahannock River Cup Series, an event established in 1983 and won by Yankee Point 11 times between 1983 and 1998.
In 1989 John McConnico leased Harry Farmer’s half of the marina and within six months purchased it. By 1993, John bought Randy Walker’s share of the marina and activities increased dramatically. Later two additional acres were purchased by John for expansion of the growing boat storage requirements. The Marina stored 175 boats during the winter of 1998-1999.
In 1991, Ruth Bush was elected as commodore--the first woman to serve in such capacity in any club in our area. She introduced “Moonlight Madness,” “Rally on the Water” and the “All Women Crew Race.”
As YPYC members John and Carol Jean created a friendly working atmosphere between the Yacht Club and the Marina but after ten years of owning and managing the Yankee Point Sailboat Marina, voted “Best of the Bay” by its customers, they decided to sell it in December 1999 to Ken and Karen Knull. Following the disaster of Hurricane Isabel in September 2003, A and B piers were completely rebuilt to new and much higher standards, and the marina itself has been repaired and upgraded. Isabel also forced replacement of the Yacht Club Yardarm Flagpole installed in 1977 and repaired many time in past years with a donated aluminum mast which was converted to a Yacht Club Yardarm.
2004 brought new challenges to the Club. With 184 members we were outgrowing the Clubhouse. The concerned was what would happen if they all showed up for an event? About the same time the Marina owners were considering converting the Clubhouse space into a restaurant. The YC Board of Trustees and the Marina owners jointly worked on a proposal to build a new clubhouse on the Marina property that would provide a solution to both problems, space for a growing YC and restaurant space. At the November 2004 Annual meeting the General Membership approved the approach to move ahead with a plan for implementation. However, it was not meant to be, the Marina owners decided that the space set aside for the new clubhouse could be better used as a Snack Bar and pool area, which was constructed in 2005.
From 2005 to 2009 club functions, Cruising, Racing and Social continued as normal. Facing the fact that the lease on the clubhouse would expire in 2010 a Planning Committee was established in 2009 to decide what direction could be taken. The club would have to negotiate a new lease or move off the marina property to a totally new location. During the negotiation the marina owners indicated they wanted to modify the clubhouse property and open a restaurant at the current Club location. Various plans were offered but in the end the Planning Committee and the YC Board of Trustees decided it was in the best interest of the club to move from the marina.
During 2010 the Planning Committee members look at over three dozen properties in Lancaster County. Near the end of 2010 the options available looked rather grim. Waterfront property was very expensive, building a new clubhouse made the problem even worse and the YC treasury could not support the activity but Yankee Point Yacht Club members have a long history of being able to pull together in bad times and having volunteers step up to the challenge.
A long time member Jim Young stepped forward and agreed to divide his personal property on Meyer Creek for YC use. It was the beginning of a long project which seemed at times would never end. A finance committee was formed under Anker Madsen to address how to finance the property and the building of a new clubhouse. With that effort underway Yankee Point Yacht Club after nearly 35 years at Yankee Point Sailboat Marina packed up their belongings and vacated the second floor of the old oyster shack in December 2010.
2011 would turn out to be one of the most interesting and demanding years in the history of the Yacht Club. Having no clubhouse for social, racing and seminars events made life interesting. As usual our members came to the rescue by opening up their homes for various events. Legally YPYC still exists but we are now doing business as Yankee Point Racing and Cruising Club (YPRCC). Under Anker Madsen’s leadership and financial support the Ole Sailors Club LLC was formed to address fund raising. Twenty Six members plus the YC stepped forward to fund the project. On April 27, 2011 four acre’s were purchased by the Madsen Family and leased back to the Ole Sailors Club LLC, in May the Board of Trustees and LLC broke ground for the new clubhouse. The old yardarm flag pole from Yankee Point Marina was moved and installed. It was a new beginning for YPRCC.
Under the leadership of John Henley Chairman of the Planning Committee and George Bott as Project Manager the clubhouse became a reality in a little over 7 months. The 2011 Annual meeting was held in the new clubhouse, with rave reviews as to its location and quality of construction.
After much effort from Board members in 2012 and 2013 the club was able to install it's first boat docking facility. With the completion of the new dock the club moved it's new Race Committee boat "Dwindle Down" it's permanent berth at YPRCC. "Dwindle Down" was donated to the club by Jim Young and Family at Jim's passing in August 2013.
It is impossible to list all the volunteers that made it possible but the measurement of everyone’s efforts is in the number of new members joining since the clubhouse was completed.
YPRCC has a bright future ahead doing the thing we do best, enjoying boating with friends.
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