The BYC has a tradition of creating and supporting some of the finest sailing events found anywhere on the East Coast of North America. From the prestigious Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race (co-hosted with our good friends at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron) to our very popular and long-running Wednesday Evening Races to our recent forays into invitational team (Jackson Cup) and match (Marblehead Cup) racing. The BYC is also the organization from which The U. S. Power Squadron was founded. The club has a long history with power boating for recreation and safety. We also provide a welcome mat on "the town side" of Marblehead Harbor for visiting yachtsmen cruising into Marblehead from points near and far.
The Boston Yacht Club was founded in 1866 by three Dartmouth alumni who sought a venue for yacht racing that would provide "that spirit of comradeship, of courtesy and chivalry, of sympathetic joy in a common sport". 90 original members began the club, including the then 18 year old Nat Herreshoff. One year later, Herreshoff drafted the first sailing measurement rule that later became the basis for future handicap rating systems. In 1874 the first clubhouse was opened at City Point in South Boston, membership then numbering 250 with over 80 yachts. Through a series of club mergers, the Boston Yacht Club grew and, by 1910, the club operated from six different stations: Rowe's Wharf in Boston, Hull, City Point in South Boston, Marblehead, Dorchester, and Five Islands in Sheepscot Bay, Maine. Today the club operates from a single station in Marblehead, with 500 members and 400 yachts flying the BYC burgee.
The history of the America's Cup represents, in part, a history of the Boston Yacht Club. Club members Edward Burgess and George Lawley designed and built the successful cup defenders of 1885, '86 and '87. From 1893 through 1920, Nat Herreshoff designed and built the next seven defenders, later teaming up with W. Starling Burgess (Edward's son) who designed the winning J-boats in 1930, '34 and '37. Following the Cup's hiatus during World War II, Ted Hood stepped up to carry on the tradition. As sail maker, and sometimes skipper and designer, Hood held sway through 11 successful Cup defenses from 1958-77. During this twelve meters reign, the two-time contender for the defense, Nefertiti was backed by a BYC syndicate. Even the schooner America has a place in club history. She was bought by member General Benjamin Butler (later Governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate) in 1873. For over 27 years America flew the Boston Yacht Club burgee while she was actively campaigned by Butler and, following his death, his nephew until she was decommissioned in 1901.
The U.S. Power Squadrons
As recreational power boating grew in the early nineteen hundreds, Roger Upton (soon to be elected Rear Commodore of the BYC) was concerned about a general lack of seamanship and navigational skills among this new class of yachtsman. Through 1911 and 1912, Upton created the Power Division within the Boston Yacht Club with 36 founding members, structuring a program heavy on classroom training and on-the-water maneuvering drills. During July of 1912, the club's power boaters were invited to join in the annual cruise; a fleet of 40 sailboats and 20 power boats left Marblehead for Peaks Island, Maine. A horrific storm blew up on one particularly long leg of the cruise, and only two boats of the 60 made it safely into Portland that evening. The power boaters came into their own as they assisted the disabled sailboats, towing many into port. From this auspicious beginning, the United States Power Squadrons were born.
The Boston Yacht Club has always supported charitable causes, giving to those less fortunate. The Boston helped organize the first Hospice Benefit Regatta, now an annual event, to raise money for the Hospice of the North Shore. Our late member Charles Quigley, Jr. founded the Wednesday's Child Benefit Regatta to raise money for needy children through the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange. One of the club's proudest moments was in 1993, when the BYC hosted the first World Disabled Sailing Championship ever held in North America. This event attracted 20 handicapped teams from 19 different countries. In recognition of this accomplishment, U.S. Sailing presented a Special Presidential Award to the Boston that same year. Based on the success of the World Championship, the United States Sailing Association asked the BYC to host the U.S. National Disabled Sailing Championships in 1995.