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History of Navy Yacht Club Pensacola

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Sailing at the Pensacola Naval Air Station had a rather in auspicious beginning. On 12 April 1931 a challenge by the Pensacola Yacht Club (PYC) was answered out on Pensacola Bay by a team of hardy sailors from the air station. The following NYCP sailors, who are most likely our founders: *A. Dixon winged in 1931,*William Masland winged in 1931, H. Starves winged in 1931 and J.H. Smith winged in 1932.

This inaugural challenge race was sailed in the venerable Fish Class sailboat. This class of boat was inaugurated by the famous America's Cup challenger, Sir Thomas Lipton and is still sailed by the members of the Gulf Yachting Association; an organization that the Navy Yacht Club has been formal member since 1932.

On the day of the challenge, the weather conditions were somewhat less than perfect and the race rapidly turned into a Keystone Cops farce. One crew fell over the side prior to the starting gun. He swam across the starting line and claimed a last place finish. Another Navy crew was only able to sail downwind, for some unexplained reason. A third crew, being advocates of the "discretion is the better part of valor" school, sought the refuge of the Yacht Club immediately after the start. The last surviving Navy crew, undaunted, finished the race in a close last place. On the 19th of April 1932, in an effort to redeem the Navy's tarnished reputation, four Navy Fish boats met four Fish boats from PYC. However, the tide was turned and the Navy managed a clean sweep. At this time, the Navy had four Fish boats as well as two Star class boats which were kept at the Yard Craft basin: a historical nautical area that is still in use today.

On the 13th of June of that year, PYC hosted a regatta to commemorate the opening of the Pensacola Bay Bridge. The Navy took firsts in the ladies Fish class and the Star class. PYC took a first in the team race. At that time a program was underway on NAS Pensacola to train flight students in the fine art of sailing and rowing. Intramural sailing was instituted by the Navy and a club of semi-formal nature was formed. Application was made to the Gulf Yachting Association for formal membership.
Competition continued in 1932. At stake was the new L. S. Patterson Cup that denoted sailing supremacy on Pensacola Bay in the Fish class sailboat. PYC took home the hardware. That summer, the Navy also entered its first Lipton Cup competition. Travelling to the Sarasota Yacht Club they competed against some of the best sailors in Florida. 1933 through 1936 saw continued sailing activity by the Navy Sailing Team, and in 1937, the tempo increased dramatically. Sailing instruction and informal races were held each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with interclub racing on weekends, The Navy hosted the Gulf Yachting Association at a reception at Mustin Beach and races were held throughout the weekend. In August of that year, the club became the U.S. Naval Air Station Yacht Club, with an "Admiral of the Club" and other officers as we now know them, including the designation of a Fleet Surgeon.


In 1940, the Club, now known as the Navy Yacht Club, the Navy finally wrested the Patterson Cup from PYC and swept the race to Ft. Walton Beach in both the Fish and Star class sailboats. 1941 through the end of the War saw a marked decline in sailing activity. Membership in GYA was allowed to lapse and all boats were sold to various clubs, including PYC. Please note we do not have a narrative of the clubs activities from the end of the war through end of the forties, into the fifties and not until the start of the sixties. If anyone has this information from this time period please send it to our secretary or historical archivist so we can update the club’s history.


1962 saw a resurgence of the Navy Yacht Club. After a series of meetings with Vice Admiral Fitzhugh Lee and the Commanding Officer, NAS Pensacola, the club was reorganized and supported financially by Special Services. The name of the club was officially "The Navy Yacht Club of Pensacola." By-laws and a constitution were written and approved.

Five Penguin and two Windmill sailboats were purchased. The Club sailed out of an inlet next to the Sherman Cove fishing area. The official burgee was adopted in this time frame (a burgee with bars of navy blue surround a pair of gold navy wings) and membership in the North American Yacht Racing Union was granted. In June of 1962, the first Navy Cup Regatta was held. Since facilities were still not available at NAS Pensacola, the regatta was hosted at PYC. The perpetual trophy, donated by the Navy, was won that year by PYC with Paul Schreck and Leif Ericson taking individual honors. In October, sailing operations moved to the old "ski beach" at Bayou Grande. The first annual Navy Fall Regatta was held in November and thus the winter Frostbite Series began.

In 1963 the club added a Lightning and another Penguin sailboat to the Fleet. Additionally, a catamaran, the Liki Tiki, and a 44-foot yawl were acquired. Operations were now being held out of Barrancas Beach, but during the summer finally moved to the almost completed present marina and clubhouse at Bayou Grande. In 1964, the Navy Yacht Club participated in its first ocean racing regatta, finishing 1st place in the St. Pete to Venice overnight race. Sailing its newly acquired 44-foot yawl, Challenger, the boat lost her rudder twenty miles from the finish and sailed the rest of the course using her mizzen for steerage.

The 1964 Navy Cup Regatta was sponsored by the Committee for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Naval Aviation Air Station and saw ten yacht clubs and 57 boats entered. The Navy almost succeeded in taking its own trophy by finishing a close second to PYC. The Navy had 19 boats entered in that regatta. In 1964 the Navy Yacht Club rejoined the Gulf Yachting Association and, more recently, renewed active participation in GYA Capdevielle events with the Navy's Flying Scot.

The format of the Navy Cup has evolved over the years from the original offshore regatta with small boat racing in the bay and bayou, to the more recent format of small boat racing in Bayou Grande and PHRF racing on the bay. Although PYC has garnered a majority of the wins since 1962, Grand Lagoon Yacht Club, Pensacola Beach Yacht Club, the Point Yacht Club and Navy Yacht Club have claimed several of the trophies. The Navy Cup regatta has been held every year since 1962, with the exception of the year 2005 following Hurricane Ivan when boats were destroyed and many of the community sailing facilities were under repair.

1964 also saw an historic beginning for the Regata Al Sol sailboat race to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The history of the Regatta Al Sol (Race to the Sun) dates back to 1964 when Victor Skiro (Mayor of New Orleans) decided to honor Mexico by unveiling a statue of Benito Juarez who was President of Mexico in 1940’s. Juarez defeated Maximilian of Austria and formed an alliance with the United States. Miguel Aleman Valdez and Jose de Jesus Lima Gutierrez were appointed by the President of Mexico Adolfo Lopez Mateos to assist at the unveiling on behalf of Mexico. Jose de Jesus Lima decided to also use the opportunity to promote tourism to the easterly part of the Yucatan Peninsula where Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are located. The U.S. and Cuba had ended their political relations nd sailors were not willing to come to Isla Mujeres because of the proximity to Cuba. Mr. Lima, the Federal Government and the Government of Quintana Roo had everything ready to host a “Regata” but no sailboats were willing to participate.


Mr. Lima, through his good friend Admiral Diego Mujica Naranjo (the liaison between the Mexican Navy and the Minister of Tourism) convinced the commander of the Pensacola Navy Base to authorize two sailboats from the Official’s Club (the Navy Yacht Club) to participate in the first “Regata al Sol”. The two boats, the Tail Wind which had the Naval Officials from Pensacola as crew members, and the second boat the Trade Winds (which was flagged as the Mexican sailboat and renamed for the race as Isla Mujeres) with crew members from Merida, Isla Mujeres and the Mexican Navy Officials. The race started in Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola with the sailing vessel Isla Mujeres winning the first Regata al Sol in 1965. Without the help of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, its Commander, the Navy community and the two sailing vessels “Trade Winds” and “Tail Winds“ that were provided by the Navy Yacht Club that first race would never have occurred. In honor of this historic race and other historic moments for NAS Pensacola including: the 100th Anniversary of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the 50th Anniversary of the National Naval Aviation Museum and the 50th Anniversary of the Navy Yacht Club’s Navy Cup Regatta, a special commemorative memento ornament was designed and created by one of Navy Yacht Club’s own club member.

In 1981, Lloyd T. Stagg, OMC, USN, was the Commodore of Navy Yacht Club Pensacola. He and his wife Beverly had previously been stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, and active in the Navy Yacht Club JAX. They were also members of North Florida Cruising Club which sponsored an annual Bikini Regatta to encourage women in sailing and racing. Lloyd thought a Bikini Regatta would have the same positive effect to draw more women into the sailing/racing community in Pensacola. Ron McAffee was the Fleet Captain of NYCP that year and he scheduled the Inaugural Bikini Regatta in the summer of 1981. The rules were simple—a female had to be on the helm of the sailboat throughout the entire race, from 1st warning until finish. There was no restriction on the numbers and gender of the remainder of the crew. The race was a success and it was decided to continue and improve the event the next year. The first winner was Ann McBride from the Pensacola Yacht Club aboard Super Fly.

In 1982, the rules were changed to require that a female should be on the helm throughout the race and that 50% or greater of the crew must be female (babes in arms did not count). Subsequently, throughout the years, the rules have been modified. Although the first regatta was for non-spinnaker class only, later (and at the request of the female skippers) a spinnaker class was added. By the fourth year of this regatta, 41 boats participated and they were broken into classes A through F. There was also special recognition for all-female crews. They were awarded a bouquet of red roses, and this inspired the Pensacola Beach Yacht Club to originate “The Race for the Roses” a egatta for all female crews which was established in 1988 by Ellen Hunt & Karen Kriegel.

The Bikini Regatta has not been conducted without controversy. In 1996, the title of the then - politically- incorrect name “Bikini Cup Regatta” was changed for three years to “The Bev Stagg Regatta”. After that time, the event’s name was restored to the “Bikini Regatta.”

The Point Yacht Club in Josephine, Alabama was inspired to follow in the footsteps of the “Bikini Regatta” and created in 1992 their own version of a women’s race called “The Fast Women” Regatta. The Point Yacht Club also created in 1999 a “Virgin Skipper” award to recognize the accomplishments of a first time skipper and the “Best All Female” award to recognize an all female racing team. First winners were: Savannah Phillips Easy Lady – Virgin Skipper & Kathy Holler Conjure II – All Female.


In 2001, due to the success of the ladies races in the area, Rick Zern from the Pensacola Beach Yacht Club suggested and submitted to the Gulf Yachting Association to create an officially “sanctioned” event - PHRF GYA Women’s Championship Regatta and to tie in the new race championship following the three ladies races in the Pensacola Bay area. To aid in this endeavor and encourage more women participants in the newly created GYA event, representatives from the three area yacht clubs: Kathy Coates from The Point Yacht Club, Maryanne Hayes from the Navy Yacht Club and Rick Zern from the Pensacola Beach Yacht Club helped support the creation of the “Ladies Trilogy Series Trophy” given to the top finishing participant who raced in all three of the established ladies races. The first winner of the Trilogy trophy was Pam Rowell on Cuda been Paris and the first winner of the GYA Women’s PHRF Championship – was Susan Kerzweg.


In 2009, the NYCP chapter of the International Order of the Blue Gavel honored Lloyd and Beverly Stagg by donating a perpetual trophy entitled “The Commodore Lloyd Stagg and Beverly Stagg Bikini Regatta Trophy” which is given to the first place spinnaker fleet and first place non-spinnaker fleet winners each year. The first recipients were: Kriss Ridgeway on “Black Ice”, Spinnaker Fleet and Linda Curenton on “Caddy Wampus”, Non-Spinnaker Fleet. Today, the Navy Yacht Club still holds their Commodore’s Cup Series. In 2008, the series changed from 6 races per year with the first three races known as the Spring "Mr. T" Series and the last three races of the series known as the Fall "Frank Hubbard" racing series. The Spring and Fall Series were are combined to award a Commodore's Cup trophy to the overall winner. Due to scheduling and manpower challenges the series was reduced in 2008 from six races to four races throughout the year with the Overall Commodore’s Cup Trophy for each sailing class awarded at the annual Commodore’s Ball. In addition, other trophies such as the Commodore Tedford Cann Trophy for Excellence in Sailing is awarded to the Top Sailor of the Year as well as Sportsman of the Year, Boat of the Year and Yachtsman of the Year trophies.

  • NYCP continues to honor its Military roots, offering military students the opportunity to compete on the water at a minimal membership cost

  • NYCP was one of the first four charter yacht clubs to form the Florida Commodores Association.  Key past commodores involved were Ted Cann, Claude Mullen, Bill Hayes, E. J. Sacks, Vince Cook, and Lloyd Stagg.

  • NYCP hosted in 1986 the Cradle of Naval Aviation Regatta in honor of the Naval Air Station’s celebration of the

  • 75th Anniversary of Naval Aviation. Again in 2011, NYCP hosted the Cradle of Naval Aviation Regatta honoring the 100th Anniversary. NYCP has been an active member of the State of Florida’s Viva Florida program honoring the state’s 500th Anniversary promoting the state’s history and culture.

  • NYCP says "thanks" to those who have' given so much for our freedom. The originator of Wounded American Veterans Event, WAVE, is "rolling" around Florida, thanks to adoption by the Florida Commodores Association.  This "Day on the Bay" is a labor of love for hosting yacht clubs.

  • NYCP supports the Dan Smith Memorial Youth Sailing Scholarship

Boat types have varied, as has participation in club events and regattas, but the Navy Yacht Club of today is still a busy sailing and social club for active duty, former military, DoD employees and retired military sailing enthusiasts and their families.

 

 

 
 
 
 

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