Club History

California Yacht Club was started in 1922 in Los Angeles harbor by a group of dedicated yachtsman - most from Los Angeles Athletic Club and the rest active in other early yacht clubs of the day. They built a magnificent clubhouse with an anchorage of several hundred sail and power boats.

Offshore speedboat contests and long distance cruising were active pursuits as well as sailing ' round the buoys. CYC's trophy case was filled to bursting early on and the Club contributed many of the leaders of Southern California's early yachting organizations. The Clubhouse was the scene of many Los Angeles area social activities and drew visitors from around the world.

Fleet Service Awards


The first Star class fleet on the Pacific coast was the Southern California fleet - the first charter granted to Ben P. Weston, Frank A. Garbutt and S.C. Hall. California Yacht Club built the first three Star boats which were purchased by Owen Churchill, Ben Weston and Ed J. Nordoff --- numbers 108, 109 and 110. In 1922 Churchill and Weston ventured back to Long Island Sound for the Star Boat National Championship series. With the sails of 108 and loan by the host club of Star boat number 47 Weston and Churchill took second in the National Championship series. Owen Churchill subsequently purchased MAIA, number 47, and in 1923 won the Pacific International Star Championship at Vancouver, B.C.

In 1922, the speedboat fraternity at CYC invited the incomparable Gar Wood to race in Los Angeles. As expected, his hydroplane MISS AMERICA roared off with all the honors. A pioneer in speedboat racing, CYC awarded the first trophy for auxiliaries and power cruisers and, at this time, launched an unlimited speedboat class for the historic DeMille Gold Cup and the Dan Pratt Trophy. The Catalina Challenge for offshore speedboats was later hosted for many years by CYC out of Marina del Rey, three quarters of a century later

The first power boat Predicted Log Race was proposed by imaginative naval architect D. M. Callis in the fall of 1929. It turned out to be a marathon long-distance trip negotiated in three legs: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara to Monterey, and Monterey to San Francisco. A one-day layover was scheduled between legs. Among the early entrants for this race were CYC members Goetz and Wilson, who installed a Liberty engine in their BLUEBOY and pounded their way to the Golden Gate. Arriving with the boat leaking like a sieve, they raced across the finish line and headed straight for the nearest boatyard to avoid sinking. The Coast Guard cutter ALGONQUIN was the patrol vessel on that race and Retired Admiral Frank Higbie was its Executive Officer.

CYC boats made news even when they weren't racing. After the completion of the breakwater in Santa Monica Bay, A. N. Kemp, a CYC Staff Commodore, moved his schooner AMARILLO (now SERENA) to the harbor where she dropped her keelbolts and nearly capsized. Fortunately, she was otherwise sound, proven by the fact she has raced successfully ever since.

In the early days, after the single stickers proved too fast for them, a club within the Club was formed: the 45' Sailing Association for schooners and ketches only. These boats raced under a handicap system similar to the present PHRF.

In 1929, the Santa Barbara Island Race was inaugurated by Commodore J. Park Dougall. DIABLO (W. W. Pedder) won it for split rigs, and shortly thereafter, the famous silver trophy model of DIABLO was struck. The trophy is now one of the most beautiful of the Club's present collection. In that same race the Six Meter CLEA (Russ Simmons) won the prize for single stickers, and a model of this boat was also made at that time.

CYC hosted and helped inaugurate the first Midwinter Regatta. Owen Churchill and his fellow racing skippers encouraged eastern sailors to bring their boats to the West Coast for this new series of races which featured Six Meter, Eight Meter, "R" and Star boats. Free shipping was arranged with cooperative freight lines. During the Depression, the Club ran the Midwinters without charging an entry fee, assuming all expenses involved.

Also about 1929, another famous trophy was acquired for the Club. From King Alfonso XIII of Spain, Walter Horne obtained the beautiful silver model of Columbus' SANTA MARIE, known as the King of Spain Trophy. It was designed to promote Eight Meter racing on the West Coast. Owen Churchill, who won most of the Eight Meter races for this trophy, rededicated it to CYC.

Near disaster struck the Club on Thanksgiving Day in 1930 when a fire of undetermined origin started in the second story of the clubhouse. Paul Hiller and his wife were eating Thanksgiving dinner at their Wilmington home when they were called. They rushed to the Club and saved all of the beautiful trophies which now grace our clubhouse. Thanks to their quick action, only the famous Nordlinger clock trophy had to be refinished.

In 1931, Club members inaugurated the famous Sunset Series that lasts to this day. The first year all manner of skiffs, even pointing punts, were used. Later came the Fellows and Stewart "A" dinghies, catboat rigged 14 foot punts. One year the sleek Rainbow class boats came up from Alamitos Bay, adding zest to the Series. A highlight of the event, Staff Commodore Erwin C. Jones recalled, was the unforgettable steamed Finnan Haddie and boiled potatoes served by CYC's chef George after the Saturday night races. Later, the Sunset Series sailors used a new class of Potter-designed 12 foot "B" dinghies, lapstrake catboats built by Club member Donald Douglas at the Wilmington Boatworks.

Several CYC and Los Angeles Athletic Club members were most influential in bringing the 1932 Olympics to Los Angeles. At the Games themselves, Paul Hiller was General Chairman for Olympic yacht racing events, CYC Commodore A. N. Kemp organized the financing, and Owen Churchill won America's first Olympic gold medal in his eight meter ANGELITA.

Owen later took ANGELITA to Newport Beach to defeat PRELUDE, YUCCA and SANTA MARIA in a very close race to win the famed San Diego Lipton Cup. ANGELITA challenged from California Yacht Club. (A heartwarming bit of nostalgia was replayed when 1984 Olympic Chief Peter Ueberroth purchased the now nearly half-century old ANGELITA with his own funds. Ueberroth restored this historic vessel and dedicated it to Owen at CYC's Marina del Rey clubhouse as the official yacht of the '84 Olympics.)

Speaking of the good old days, early Club Manager Louis Ruff reminded us that the old Wilmington facility featured fresh lobster fetched right under the dock. The Club was famous for its apple pie. For 55 cents, members could enjoy a melted cheese sandwich, apple pie and a cup of coffee. Those were the good old days!

In 1941, America went to war and CYC's facilities in Wilmington were taken over by the Coast Guard. Members continued to fly the Club burgee, but after World War II, the facilities were so run down that CYC was forever gone from its birthplace.

After searching many years for an appropriate new venue, a group of previous CYC members and other prominent yachtsmen were encouraged by the development of Marina del Rey. Sensing the need for a major club there, they reactived California Yacht Club in 1961. "Fritz" Overton, CYC's 1923 Commodore, was chosen first Commodore of the "new era." Membership grew to 100 in the first year.

On September 22, 1963, the Club moved into new quarters at the Sheraton Marina del Rey Hotel. A full schedule of events was established including a Junior program, the popular Sunset Series (or "Wet Wednesdays"), the Overton Series for ocean racers, Matt Walsh Series for Midget Ocean Racers, Women's Auxiliary races and many others. These were all part of an active program of competitive Corinthian events for the Club's many famous trophies. The California Cup, a new trophy donated by members, quickly became a coveted prize for match racing between famous yachts. Social events became an important part of the calendar, and the monthly newsletter, CYC Breeze, was started.

October 1, 1966 saw the great move to the exciting and beautiful new clubhouse. An armada of the Club's fleet moved into the 230 slips at the present site at the head of Marina del Rey's main channel. The completed new facilities were formally dedicated on June 10, 1967.

With the Club still growing, the Fred Harris Series was started in 1973. This fall series is one of our most popular. Another popular series was started in 1974, the Charles Tanner Series for PHRF boats. Again in 1975 the Lyle Series was started to provide challenging and more equitable competition for smaller yachts. These series grow every year and are considered the most prestigious in our area.

In 1976, President Charles Hathaway rowed his dory FRITZ from Catalina to the guest dock at California Yacht Club to celebrate his 50th birthday. In 1977, the row from Catalina became known as the "Great Catalina to Marina del Rey Rowing and Paddling Derby." The Derby, coupled with our July Celebration of Henley Regatta, launched new enthusiasm for recreational rowing in the Marina. Our early rowing history would be incomplete without mentioning another member, Stan Mullin. Stan's technical rowing knowledge and charm enabled CYC to develop two rowing houses where the Club's rowing activities are centered. CYC's rowers are consistently top Master's medal winners in America's leading rowing events.

Still another first ... The California Corinthian Foundation was organized under the leadership of Commodore Tom Armstrong and fifteen other founders. They purchased a Six Meter boat, naming it CALIFORNIA I. California Yacht Club chartered the boat from the Foundation and campaigned it for the first time in the California Cup races to take second, the North American Six Meter Championships to take first and the World Championship Cup at Newport Beach to also win. San Francisco was next for the Australian-American Cup Challenge; however, we had boat problems at this one. CALIFORNIA I was under the able leadership of our own Ben Mitchell, Jr. with an all-CYC crew.

Because of our continued excellence in race management, California Yacht Club was selected to help run Olympic Circle "A" for the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles and the Olympic Trials for the Tornado Class in 1992.

As we moved into the past few years, the accomplishments of our Club have literally exploded. Our Power Fleet garners more than its fair share of Cruiser Navigational Contests, winning the North American Championship in 1995. The Rowing Club is paced by Olympic medal winners. The committees have grown to eighty in number, making our overall club life varied and most enjoyable. And the racing sailors roll on and on and on.

We've won the coveted Lipton Cup. Peter Isler, Bill Peterson, Rod Davis and Kimo Worthington were mainstays of the 1987 Americas Cup Challenge with the first two being members of the victorious Sail America Syndicate. We sponsored the Santa Monica Bay Challenge and have almost always won this team sailing competition among the yacht clubs of Marina del Rey and King Harbor.

Jim Kilroy was honored as the titular head and 1987 world champion of the Maxi Boat international circuit. The late Robert Nordskog continued adding to his unparalleled forty-five world records in offshore power boat racing. Roy Disney served as president of the ULDB 70 Association, with the "sleds" becoming favorite competitors in Cal Cup. John MacLaurin continues to bring home prestigious trophies with his brace of winning sailboats. Dick Hampikian and Mike Braney were recent North American MORC victors with Ray and Cheryl Mahaffey hard on their heels.

In 1984, Rod Davis was an Olympic Gold Medal winner in the Soling Class. 1988 saw Hal Haenel awarded an Olympic Silver Medal in the Star Boat Competition, and in the 1992 Barcelona Games bring home the Gold Medal. J.J. Isler garnered a Bronze Medal at Barcelona in the Women's 470 and repeated with a Silver Medal in Australia's 2000 Olympics. Peter Isler was the 4th ranked match racing skipper in the world. CYC's Juniors continue to represent us well at world class regattas. Two Junior alumni, Bob Little and Mike Sturman, were members of the 1992 United States Sailing Team. Our rowers regularly garner top honors in national and international competition, and CYC's paddle tennis teams boast members among the nation's best.

CYC's women sailors captured the Bettina Bents Trophy in 1993 as America's top yacht club women's sailing team. "The men," following soon thereafter, won the United States Yacht Club Challenge in 1994 as America's top yacht club sailing team. CYC was awarded the St. Petersburg Trophy in 1996 for conducting America's best-run regatta that year. The Club has once again been honored by being asked to host the Star Class World Championships for the second time in 2002.

The Radio Amateur Group has been officially designated as an emergency disaster communications center for Los Angeles County, and through Winlink, the world. The CYC Women's Association is extremely active in its own right and excels in hospitality for many of our activities. The monthly Thursday Yachting Luncheons are widely known as the unofficial "Town Hall of Yachting." Our Epicurean Society and Wine Appreciation Society are well known for helping satisfy another dimension of members enjoyment of the Club. Club Adventure draws active younger members to the ski slopes, white water rafting and other active pursuits.

We enjoy a rich history of providing leadership for local, national and international yachting and sporting organizations ranging from the Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs and the Southern California Yachting Association to the National Boating Federation and the United States Olympic Committee.

California Yacht Club has members sailing in literally every major regatta in the world. Our clubhouse has become one of Marina del Rey's best-known landmarks. CYC is a modern organization steeped in tradition. Its 1,250 members range from neophyte Juniors just gaining their sea legs to Olympic champions. Young men and women just beginning business careers enjoy the Club's outstanding cuisine a table away from heads of international corporate conglomerates and other well-known public personalities.

Having passed three quarters of a century since our founding, CYC's volunteers continue to work diligently to provide our members and the sport of yachting with the leadership and competition that emanates from one of the world's finest yacht clubs.
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