Fifty Years of Growing the Sport

Published on July 9th, 2015

Formed in 1965 to comply with zoning laws, the original land for the Wayzata Yacht Club (WYC) was purchased by 15 sailors for $12,000. Over the past 50 years, this private sailboat racing club in Wayzata, MN has evolved from 350-feet of lakeshore that contained a port-a-potty, two parking spaces and buoys and slips for 60 boats to 600-members with two parking lots and a marina that holds 186 boats.

“In the 1960s, boat launches on Lake Minnetonka could not accommodate sailboats with larger keels. The only place to launch a keelboat was at Reed’s Quiet World, a fiberglass sailboat dealership with a small marina,” explains Pat Maloney, past commodore of WYC. “When the city approached them about violating zoning laws, the owner of the dealership contacted mooring rental customers to purchase the land for use as a private sailing yacht club. This was the inception of the Wayzata Yacht Club.”

WYC is family-friendly, non-exclusive and welcomes people of all backgrounds and ages that are interested in learning how to race sailboats. The WYC small boat program, the Wayzata Community Sailing Center (WCSC) and partnerships with the University of Minnesota and several area high schools, have nurtured youth sailing and the next generations of WYC members.

“We have an environment of affordability. Most of the people in the club are middle to upper-middle class,” says Bert Foster, past commodore and longtime board member. “In my judgment, the club has more women sailing, racing and helming, than any other yacht club in the world. I’ll be in a regatta somewhere else with 500 people and they’ll have 30 women. But at Wayzata we’ll have 500 people on a Thursday night and 200 of them will be women.”

“I think one of the biggest successes of the Wayzata Yacht Club is our Thursday night races,” explains past commodore David Onan. “We often have 120 boats and 500 people on the race course. That’s a lot of boats and people. This tells me that folks have a great time at our club. It also points to the success of the yacht club itself.”

To expand awareness of sailing and strengthen the member-base, the club also offers sailing seminars and on-the-water training sessions that are open to the public. Special sailing experiences have also been organized for individuals from the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, disabled veterans and persons with impaired vision. In addition, aspiring sailors with some or no experience can visit the crew waiting for a ride table on any race day for the opportunity to race on a sailboat.

Contiguous land was purchased over several years from various parties. One of these acquisitions, in 1973, included land just west of the club’s original port-a-potty, the Oak Grove Marina, which included run-down family cabins from the late 1800s. The property that is now the east crew parking lot was originally owned by the railroad and was purchased along with a nearby homestead in 1985 for $20,000. The Wise Boat Works and an island pavilion were obtained in 1985 and are now the west parking lot and additional marina space.

“The club’s most crowning achievement is the creation of a culture of passion for sailboat racing,” explains Foster. “Our sailors are crazy, passionate sailboat racers.”

The club is home to many one-design and PERF fleets, including Sonar, Ensign, Opti, 470, J/70, J/24, J/22, S2 7.9, Capri 25, Laser and more. WYC started one-design fleet #1 for J/22 and J/24 sailboats. There are now 56 J/22 fleets in the United States with additional fleets globally and over 40 member nations in the J/24 class.

The club also hosts national events, including the Junior Olympics and several regattas. Many of the WYC racers have achieved impressive results in North American and World competitions as well as Paralympic and Olympic Games. With remarkable stats like this, it is no accident that Wayzata was voted one of the top sailing towns by Sailing World magazine.

Over the years, many members of WYC crewed in Bayfield, WI during race week with the Apostle Island Yacht Club (AIYC). This yacht club offered Wayzata sailors exciting big boat racing, in a beautiful setting on Lake Superior. As members of AIYC began to retire, they approached WYC to pump new life into Bayfield racing. In 1996, the WYC expanded north to create the Apostle Islands Station (AIS) on Lake Superior in Bayfield.

The most recent land expansion for the Wayzata sailing community was in 2007. A home and land next to the west parking lot was purchased using funds from a generous donation by past commodore Denny Sanford and an army of smaller donors. A separate entity from the WYC, this property is now the growing Wayzata Community Sailing School.

For information on learning how to sail, visit wyc.org. To view video excerpts, see photographs and read stories about the formation and success of WYC, visit history.wyc.org.

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