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Beverly Yacht Club at 150 Years

Published on July 27th, 2022

Located toward the northern end of Buzzards Bay, Beverly Yacht Club sits alongside Sippican Harbor in Marion, MA. In this report by R. Gregg Nourjian, he celebrates this jewel of the New England region:

It is all too common for a private club to be formed by people who want an exclusive place to congregate, where they don’t need to be exposed to the “outside” world. These clubs often have beautiful buildings with fences and gates, strict guest policies that limit non-member access, and rules and guidelines designed for the sole benefit of the club’s membership.

Ours is another kind of club – a community born for the love of a sport and for the good of the sport… 150 years ago.

A selection from Marion Historian Judy Rosbe’s book says: “The Beverly Yacht Club, one of the oldest yacht clubs in America, was founded in 1872 by young men who summered in Beverly. They were upset that the newly formed Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead refused to recognize yachts under 30 feet in length on the waterline for the races that they held.

“Thus, Edward and Walter Burgess (the famous yacht designer), at a supper party at their home in Boston on February 24, 1872, formally launched the Beverly Yacht Club. The first regatta was held by the club on June 22, 1872, in which 11 boats, 10 catboats, and a sloop started in three classes.

“For the first 23 years, the Beverly Yacht Club had no fixed abode; they held races and regattas at ports most convenient to the members. In 1913, the club moved to Marion, where it has been located ever since.”

This excerpt, and Judy’s book, recount great stories of the history of the Beverly Yacht Club, but it is the character of the club that has fed the sailing community, made it what it is today, and cements it in the hearts and minds of mariners around the World.

It is not just a clubhouse or body of water – although it’s hard to beat the sailing on Buzzards Bay – but rather a community in which all well-intentioned sailors are welcomed, to gather and enjoy the sea and each other’s company. BYC is a family – one with scores of sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandkids, great grandkids and, most importantly, friends.

I have spent 54 of my 56 summers in Marion. At a very young age, I started immersing myself in the BYC family and became a fixture at the club, spending long days in sailing classes and traveling to junior team races at clubs around the Bay, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard.

By 12 years old, I was using my 17’ Boston Whaler to set marks for BYC adult races, doing odd jobs around the club, and even cooking in the snack bar. A couple summers later, I took over as captain of the Race Committee Boat and filled in driving the launch during the summer and on weekends while attending Tabor Academy.

As is true with many yacht club kids, my summer friends were a second family to me. In a club truly committed to youth sailing, it was so easy to make friends that shared common interests – many of whom remain as close today as when we were 13 years old.

The BYC community has a passion for hosting sailors and sailing events. I remember when my parents’ friends used to come to Marion for Buzzards Bay Regatta and local sailors in each fleet would house the visitors and show them a good time. Those were the days of large fleets Shields, H-12s, Lasers, and PHRF boats – crews who sailed hard all day and celebrated at the club or at the Boathouse Parties into the evenings.

BYC also welcomes scores of sailors for the Marion-Bermuda Race every other year and puts on quite an event and race for visitors from around the World.

The spirit of hospitality has also extended to scores of young sailors at BBR, and during team races and the BYC Junior Regatta each summer, where my friends and I met our visiting friends with whom and against whom we would be competing and hosting for many years to come as juniors, thirty-somethings and beyond.

These are the same friends that we still sail with and against in Buzzards Bay, Newport, Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound, Mass Bay, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. These are the same friends with whom we share cruises to Maine and wonderfully happy days on Sunflower rafts.

BYC members have circled the globe, competed in the Olympics, sailed hundreds of thousands of offshore miles, competed in and organized some of the best regattas in the World, cruised to far off harbors, and simply spent millions of hours leisurely enjoying Buzzards Bay and Sippican Harbor. And to add to that, we have weekly racing five days a week and a dozen or so special races and regattas.

As I look back at all these accomplishments and statistics, and the impressive history of the Beverly Yacht Club, I flash back to the memories, particularly of my 13-year-old self… rowing my dinghy home across the harbor after our Labor Day Cups & Flags Awards Celebration.

As twilight descends, the clubhouse murmur of the BYC family fades and I reach my grandmother’s dock with a tear in my eye. I pull the boat up, secure her, and walk up the hill to my waiting parents and sisters ready to depart for Vermont, and a new school year. I wasn’t going to just miss the club… I was already missing my BYC family.

While I’ve only been a part of the club for a third of its life, I’ve gotten more than a lifetime of joy from her. As we celebrated our 150th at the club on July 23, we buried a time capsule filled with memories of these first 150 years.

When the capsule is opened in 2072, I hope that the club that I have experienced, will be the same one my kids and future grandkids will be enjoying… A warm, welcoming, vibrant community of enthusiastic sailors and dedicated volunteers at the friendliest club in the World.

Yes, we have a beautiful location, quaint historic clubhouse, and new spectacular bar, but it is the BYC family and the community it attracts that will be remembered for generations to come.

One of the great benefits of being such a welcoming and friendly club is that the hospitality is often reciprocated by so many sister clubs, as well as individual sailing families who have no club, who have been our guests at some point along the way.

As a passing BYC burgee always elicits a wave and a smile from fellow members, does the same for our friends… whether we know them or not.

For the love of a sport and for the good of the sport, Happy Birthday BYC!

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