About - Savannah Yacht Club (2023)

By 1905 the Savannah Yacht Club had an enormous two-story Clubhouse at Thunderbolt which included facilities for storing boats in a large dockhouse, an indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley. Sailboat racing was well organized with 43 yachts participating. Initiation fees had been increased to $30.00 and annual dues had risen to an outlandish $15.00; at that time the Club had 504 Honorary, Non‑Resident, and Resident Members.

Due to the advent of powerboats and World War I, by 1915 the Club had become inactive; although, there was match racing to some extent between Savannah and other cities as well as with visiting foreign crews. By the late 1920’s Mr. Raymond Demere and others were racing avidly in Savannah and neighboring cities in various types of boats. In 1934 several sailing enthusiasts built Larks, a Scow type boat which was 16 feet in length, so once again local as well as inter-city sailboat racing by classes became active. The Club remained dormant until 1936 when it was formally re-organized and the Savannah Yacht Club flag was raised once again by Commodore Raymond Demere. A Clubhouse was built on Wilmington Island. This proved unsuitable and was sold in 1940. During the ensuing years, enthusiasts sailed in Savannah and neighboring cities all along the southeast coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

During the period 1934-1941 the Scow was the most popular type of sailboat. Races were held regularly and the scows varied from 16 to 32 feet in length. One of the features of the inter-Club regattas was the racing of 32 foot inland lake bilgeboard scows by Mr. Raymond Demere of Savannah and Mr. William Sheper of Beaufort.

During the World War II years sailing was abandoned but in 1946 sailboat racing was again revived. There were two major classes, the Lightening and the 18 foot Class D scow. Regattas were held from the General Oglethorpe dock and local racing took place at Isle of Hope, Vernon View and around the Wilmington River.

Since that time the Club and sailing enthusiasm have continued to expand. In 1951 thirteen Penguin Class sailboats were purchased for the junior Members and a Snipe Class of six boats began active racing.

But, the Club lacked a substantial home. In 1950 the Board learned that the Forest City Gun Club held First Right of Refusal to a large tract of Glendenning property at Bradley Point on Whitemarsh Island, and that the property was available for sale. When Member Olin T. McIntosh Jr. learned that the Gun Club had decided that the property did not suit their needs, he purchased their option on behalf of the Yacht Club. However, being short of the funds needed to actually make the purchase, the Board initiated a program to sell bonds to raise the money. Within a month $85,000 in bonds had been obligated and the Savannah Yacht Club had a new home at today’s location.

With the purchase, the Club’s name was changed to The Savannah Yacht and Country Club. Within a short time the site of the long‑awaited Clubhouse and dock were secured as well as a protected slip for mooring boats, two electric hoists for sail and power boats, two rental cottages, a swimming pool, and a sail loft for informal entertaining.

Also significant in the purchase of this land was the acquisition of the island adjacent to the docks at Tom Thumb Creek. The island was, and is today, a bird sanctuary and used for storage of dredge spoils which allow the Club to maintain a deep marina along Tom Thumb Creek.

In order to finance the construction of a concrete bulkhead along Tom Thumb Creek, in the mid 1950's the Club sold parcels of land in the area that was to eventually become Country Club Estates. During this same period the Club conducted a Membership drive to expand the scope of the Membership’s added interests: tennis, sport fishing, power-boating and swimming. To accommodate these new interests, in 1955 an 80,000 gallon capacity, "figure-8" swimming pool was built on a site that overlooks the Wilmington River. Shortly thereafter, a bathhouse was added to complete the pool complex; as well as tennis courts and a dock.

The previously aggressive, although somewhat decentralized, sailing program began in earnest from its new permanent Yacht Club home. The first Deep South Regatta was a new item on the sailing calendar in 1956 and rapidly became an important part of the Lightening Southern Circuit (Savannah, St. Petersburg and Miami). This Regatta began the start of a tradition that has continued for more than 50 years.

In 1962, Lightenings, T-Flyers, Penguins and Moths sailed regularly with an average of 30 boats each weekend. Forty-five boats participated in the 1962 Deep South Regatta and sailors came from the north, east and west to hit the Southern Circuit. The Fourth of July Regatta had been popular since the late 1930’s and the entire South Atlantic Association was invited to attend. Since 1951 the Club had hosted a South Atlantic Championship, several Southeastern District Championships and semi-finals of the Mallory, Sears and Adams cup races.

This same year the Club’s property boasted: fine dockage space, an attractive Clubhouse with an up-to-date restaurant and bar, a protected slip for mooring boats, two electric hoists (one for sailboats and one for powerboats), an adequate parking area, a locker area, two cottages for rental, a large fresh water swimming pool and a screened building which can be used for short-order lunches, oyster roasts and teen-age dances. The Savannah Yacht and Country Club had a Membership of 593 and a planned program of activities throughout the calendar year. Initiation had risen to $175.00 and annual dues to $126.00.

In June 1964, a new larger Clubhouse was built. Programs were instituted for aquatic activities such as boating and water safety and a fledgling tennis program began to mature. There were now numerous indoor and outdoor activities available to the Club's Members.

The year 1969 was exceptional in that it marked the centennial of the Club; a gala event celebrated the occasion. In this centennial year, the Membership voted to once again become, "The Savannah Yacht Club, Inc.".

On March 25, 1969 the Membership approved requests from the Board for extensive capital improvements to Club facilities. In addition to the existing figure-8 swimming pool, a140,000 gallon Olympic size pool was constructed and a new wing was added to the Clubhouse that was adjacent to the kitchen/dining area. The waterfront bulkheads along the Wilmington River were extended and additional floating docks and a new double boat hoist were added. Two additional tennis courts, a backstop and tennis building were included as well as a manager's residence which was constructed at the entrance to the Club.

Economic and environmental conditions worsened in the mid-to-late 1970's causing the Club to sell many of the parcels of land it had initially purchased in 1936 in order to pay for operating losses and fund improvements. This was a significant event the Club has long regretted because the assets will never be fully recovered.

In 1987 the Membership gave overwhelming approval of a capital program to provide for the renovation of the Clubhouse. Endorsement and support of the renovation created a dramatically improved physical environment which is enjoyed by the Members today.

At the 1989 Annual Meeting, the Members voted to renovate the Clubhouse with new furniture and interior accessories; the updates were completed April 1990. The Club now had a facility that was second to none and one in which Members could take great pride.

That same year, the Board of Stewards adopted a practice of holding an Annual Retreat for its board Members for the purpose of focusing on both current and long range planning. This practice gave rise to the formation of a Long Range Planning Committee whose responsibility was to survey the Membership and focus on future needs and desires.

In 1991 and 1993, new high quality concrete docks were installed with improved electrical systems. An observation tower was built that overlooked the Wilmington River docks and the Club’s waterfront property. A plaque at the tower displays the names of the individuals responsible for the financial contributions that made to this landmark structure possible.

In the mid 1990's the Club was able to repurchase some of the property that it sold in the 70's. The Board resolved that the practice of liquidating real assets would not be repeated.

Through the donations of Club Members, two clay tennis courts were added. The names of these generous Members appear on a plaque at the tennis site. A fenced and lighted dry boat storage area was added and the main kitchen was remodeled to enhance Member dining. A short time later the pool bathhouse, Quarterdeck and Dining Room were also remodeled.

In the summer of 1996, the City of Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games. According to International Olympic Committee (IOC) statutes the contests in all sport disciplines were required to be held either in, or as close as possible to the city which the IOC has chosen. This year, an exception was made for the Olympic yachting events, which customarily must be staged on the open sea. On account of this principle, Savannah was chosen for the organization of the sailing events. During the Olympics the Club hosted the British sailing team, VIP boats, special event meetings, and worked with over 700 volunteers that were on the water each day in support of race activities.

At the Annual Retreat in 1997, the Board established an aggressive, comprehensive expansion and improvement plan for the entire Club. The plan called for the addition of a new Dockhouse to include a Sail Loft and Captains' Quarters adjacent to Tom Thumb Creek. A new maintenance building was to be constructed to replace the aging facility near the boat dry storage area. Two new tennis courts were to be added, the tennis shop was to be remodeled, a new playground area was planned and additional parking areas were designed at the entrance to the Club.

The Board of Stewards and Capital Finance Committee formally presented the Long Range Plan to the Club Members at the Annual Meeting in October, 1998. The plan was to be financed through a combination of accumulated cash, future initiation fee reserves and an assessment of the Club's Membership. The plan was approved and construction began.

In July of 1999, the new Dockhouse was completed, along with the two additional tennis courts, playground and the new maintenance building. By the end of 1999, an operating cash reserve surplus allowed the Club to build a new "state of the art" underground fuel farm which was completed in February, 2000.

In honor of the millennium, a time capsule was buried on New Year's Eve, 1999 at the bulkhead near the new Dockhouse; the capsule is to be opened in 2099.

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