CYC - A Modern History …
By Stephen Reichenfeld, Master Laser Sailor and Former Commodore CYC
As CYC membership changes through time I got to thinking that it would be of some value to recall where the club has come from and to provide some “recent history” of the Calgary Yacht Club (CYC), post 1980. For the pre 1980s period you may refer to the link provided for the earlier club history published in the 1981 Chestermere history book ‘Growing Through Time, Stories of Chestermere Lake’ edited by Elaine Peake and the update written by Craig Narraway in ‘Chestermere a Home for all Seasons’ found HERE
I am providing some background about the Club and some insight to the emotional attachment, the pride and sense of ownership many members have for CYC. The information is my recall and based on my approximately 40 years as an active member. (I started very young.)
There are lots of reasons for knowing and understanding history but one that sticks with me goes something like “if you don’t know where you came from, you can’t know where you are going.” It fits with the words I shared when accepting the 2019 Member of the Year award when I said, “all we enjoy here at the club today comes from standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.” I believe it holds even more true today.
The windsurfing era. Thanks largely to the efforts of Commodores like Peter White (1980-1981) and then Gerry May (1982) and others, the 1980s was a period of tremendous growth as the sport of windsurfing took over the waters. Parking in Chestermere even became a problem as the numbers would swell at CYC as we introduced Tuesday and Thursday night racing. It was great fun, lots of effort, and volunteers ran it all. Some of us were kept busy teaching windsurfing throughout these summers and then introducing people to the idea of competition and the racing rules as the fleet numbers grew. CYC had one of the first weekly windsurfing racing series anywhere.
We can thank Commodore Phil Pratley (1984) for his foresight, and his engineering experience from building the Plus-15 system in Calgary, to build the club breakwater that has only required minor repairs over 35 years. He now lives in Florida, where he continues to be an active sailor.
On the personal front, after being very involved in the club through the late 1970s and 1980s running the windsurfing school, starting Tuesday and Thursday night racing split between windsurfers and mostly Hobie Cats respectively, I took a break from membership for a few years while Lesley and I started raising a family.
The Hern era. I was enticed back to club activity in 1994 or 1995 by Keith Hern (Commodore 1996-1997). Keith can be largely credited for saving the club from near bankruptcy as without his efforts and sharp administration the club may not exist today or would at best have less property. Keith now lives in BC and limits his sailing to chartering keelboats but his son, Ian Hern, remains a member of CYC. ( see photo of Keith and Ian at lobster broil)
During this period the idea of having a strong youth group to ensure the future had returned as a focus for the club and Keith along with a few others had a vision to re-start the dormant CYC sailing school to bring in new sailors. The club had some old Flying Juniors, leftovers from the Glenmore Sailing Club program and four wooden Opti like prams; these had been built with help from a Community Development Grant obtained by Doug Bell in 1989. (see below for more of this story). This was all before CYC had an AGLC Gaming License that permitted the club to participate in casino revenue so money was tight. Everything was done by volunteers.
Fortunately, Dave Dawson (CYC Treasurer/Commodore [1998-1999] and a Hobie 16 sailor worked at SAIT and had access to large workshops. A few of us, Dave, Frank Stollbert (Hobie 17 sailor), Tim Hornett (CYC House and Grounds; Lightning) and I went in a number of weekends to repair, spruce up and put a little lipstick on our tired fleet of boats. Come spring, Trish Petch, daughter of members Sue and John Petch and current Laser Masters sailor Lee Nagy’s niece, was hired to run a week-end CYC Learn to Sail program. One of our current members, John David, came out of that program and a number of other youth went on to teach and sail elsewhere. We taught about 15 youth to sail that year with all the bookings and administration being completed via a fax machine at my office. It has proven to be the beginning of great things to come.
Around the same time, Dave Dawson started the annual trek by CYC members to the Pacific West Coast to take part in the ‘Flotilla.’ The group charter keel boats and the experienced members help the less experienced to improve their skills and navigate the tricky tides and waters. This goes on today thanks to the enthusiasm and work of long time member and Laser sailor, Brian Breeze.
Then came the Dalberg era. As Commodore, (2000-2001) Karsten Dalberg (Lightning) along with Keith Hern, was instrumental in getting an AGLC Gaming License for the CYC. This brought new revenue that at the time seemed to rain dollars from Heaven. This allowed the club to replace all the rickety shoreline structures with the docks we utilize today as well as many other capital expenditures. A relative of Karsten’s volunteered to weld all the docks. It was spring and I remember freezing as I held welding rods for him as we worked against the clock to get it completed before the water came in. Most of the steel was procured at minimal cost by a member who worked at Prudential Steel. Again, all volunteer efforts except the club now had a seasonal manager, Fie Hulsker, to run the office.
With access to AGLC casino funding it was believed the club could afford having a manager who would help organize and build the school and the racing program. I think we were the first club in Alberta to have a paid manager. Fie was great with the kids and the parents involved in the burgeoning race program. Having previously been the volunteer manager of the Alberta Racing Team and CYA Canada Volunteer of the Year, she knew everyone in the sailing community and was great at organizing the busy youth programs and arranging billets when we travelled. At its peak there were about 35 youth on the CYC team and they travelled extensively to compete. One of our members, Eric Tulk, won the 2005 Laser Radial Canadian Youth Championships held in New Brunswick. I helped run the club sailing school and race program along with Fie by carefully watching our expenses and having the good fortune to have strong enrollment we were generally successful in providing financially robust programs.
Through these years, coaches were hard to find so through Fie we recruited an experienced Manitoba coach Steve McBride for a couple of seasons. He now runs the program at Royal Victoria YC and has progressed to coach even at the Olympic level. When we couldn’t find coaches in Canada we searched overseas and for a couple of years we hired coaches from the UK. Thanks to Phil Paxton who helped out with billeting and other support, the club youth program, 29’ers and Laser Masters sailors benefitted from some excellent coaching. One of them, Alistair Dickson went on to become a High Performance Manager with RYA in Wales.
Meanwhile, through prudent management and successful fundraising, the club was building a significant bank balance for the benefit of the future membership.
The next milestone came during the time of Commodore Craig Narraway (2002-2003) (Lightning) . We can thank Craig and his tenacity in getting CYC municipal tax exempt status to relieve the club from the financial burden of property taxes under the Community Organization Property Tax Exemption Regulation (COPTER). After applying in 1999 the exemption was refused several times by the then Town of Chestermere. Craig chased this cause down like a dog with a bone and ended up winning the case at a hearing in 2005 where the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs agreed that CYC qualified. This one decision has probably saved the club over $30,000 a year ever since. I estimate more than the value of a $400,000 annuity, maybe more. As another legacy, Craig’s dog, Romeo, left his pawprint in the north launch ramp (built by Doug Bell, Craig, Larry Heald, me, and a local contractor) ( See separate essay by Craig Narraway on COPTER)
Bill Mulloy, another long time member and Laser sailor, served as Commodore from 2003-2004, until work called for more of his attention. He provided extensive experience gained in the oil patch to capital expenditure planning.
Then along comes my time as Commodore (2004-2010). After having served the club running the sailing school, youth program and as Vice Commodore, I stayed in the Commodore position for six years to see through the project of building the new clubhouse we enjoy today. I had the good fortune to be supported by a hard-working and focused executive group that kept the club seasonal operational wheels rolling while design work went on with assistance from a club member architect plus volunteer contributions by zoning expert member Ralf Southwell.
We were fortunate to have Elinor Southwell, currently our reliable Thursday Night Racing Officer, as club Treasurer. She worked closely with Fie and AGLC to make sure we complied with all regulations while we accumulated a balance of over $500,000 allowing the club to complete the new clubhouse with no debt. Phil Paxton oversaw the construction and budget as well as securing a $50,000 grant from the Provincial government. He also donated landscaping and used his business contacts to get sod donated for the lakeside lawn.
The unique bar facility we all enjoy, “Obsession”, was designed and built by Brian Graham and Dave Martin with assistance from other members as needed. A well utilized and much appreciated addition to the club.
Over the past 20 years many of the club board members have come from the CYC Laser Masters, Grand Masters and Great Grand Masters fleet. Enthusiastic members and sailors everyone, collectively they have sailed most of the ‘Seven Seas’ and have missed only one Laser Masters World Championship in over 18 years. They have hosted a “Stampede Breakfast” at a regatta in Florida. Their indefatigable spirit and dedication is to be applauded, and serves as an excellent example to our youth that “Sport for Life” is more than just a catchy slogan.
There are many other names and contributions on which I could elaborate but I think my point is made. Of the current membership, people like Bill Mulloy, Dave Elliott, Lesley Reichenfeld, Mike Hooper, Phil Paxton and many others are the people I look to and am thankful for having been the ones to build the foundation on which CYC currently rests and for members to enjoy for years to come. I encourage the current membership to tip your hat and buy them a drink the next time you have an opportunity as CYC would not be the same without their efforts.
Fast forward to 2020 and CYC members enjoy a fantastic facility and equipment to share with our community, second to none in Canada. The efforts have indeed been fruitful.