Calgary Yacht Club

Copied From "A Home For All Seasons" - Copyright 2005

As Chestermere Lake is one of the few bodies of water near Calgary large enough to provide space for boating, it seems likely that water sports would flourish here. Chestermere Lake was formed in 1910 as it became part of the Western Irrigation System. The earliest sailboat, in present memory, appeared in 1923 and was the "Gleaner" own by Morris Shyback. In 1924, Roy Lea purchased a 15' dinghy and then attracted Mike Sullivan to join the sport. These three men formed a group called the Calgary Sailing Club, which was the forerunner of the Calgary Yacht Club. They raced their dinghies. Each of the three obtained a 22' cabin cruiser, which they raced and pleasure sailed on Chestermere Lake. No doubt the appearance of those white sails on blue water attracted others to participate.

In the early thirties, motor boats became a more common sight. Some of the power boaters on the lake back then were Billy Brock and George Hoffner. Rowboats and outboard motors could be rented from both Hoffner's store at the NE end of the lake and from the pavilion pier on the west side. Naturally some of those boaters also became interested in a club as a base from which social activities and storage could be obtained.

The Calgary Yacht Club was incorporated as a not for profit society in 1933 and provided for both sailing and motor boat members in its constitution. Mr. A.B. Himmelman, a sailor and boat builder from Lunenburg, NS was commissioned to build a clubhouse at the northeast end of the lake, south of the bridge, close to where the Chestermere Landing now stands. A marine railway of wooden tracks for the launching or beaching of watercraft was added, plus piers and later boathouses for shelter. Some of the members at the time of incorporation were A.B. Himmelman, Alf Lea, Bill Morrison, Norman Shaw, George Harris, a Mr. Clark, and Otto and Kurt Wolf. Mr. Himmelman was elected the first Commodore of the new club. Membership grew during the 1930's to about thirty families but dropped to about twenty during the 1939 - 45 war.

Following the war, the club decided to move to a less active area of the lake and obtained lots midway down the east shore, where the club is today. The clubhouse was moved in 1951 and is still use, as the nucleus around which additions and improvements have been made. The pier was also floated down and put to use again.

As membership expanded, so did the clubhouse. First, kitchen facilities were added in the fifties, followed by a lounge and fireplace in 1966. As well, much more pier space was built until the club could boast of having 1492 linear feet of dock. This was put to good use for many large inter club and inter city regattas. Grass and trees were planted to enhance the appearance and to provide shade for picnic activity. Still more trees were planted to commemorate Canada's 1967 Centennial. The CYC was, and still is, considered to have one of the finest sailing facilities in Western Canada.

In 1974, the club sold some of its land to finance the building of a larger two storey clubhouse. This would be complete with showers, toilets, lockers, kitchen and social area. It had been intended to then remove the lower, older clubhouse, but it was still found to be useful for the summer sailing school and winter boat storage. It later became a focal point for the new and popular sport of wind surfing. With the increased usage, the lower clubhouse has evolved to become the hub of most activities, and enjoys a complete refurbishing each spring. The newer, upper clubhouse has now become the home of the sailing school.

Over the years, the types of sailing vessels seen at the CYC have remained, with a few exceptions, in the smaller dinghy classes. These have remained reasonably affordable as home built or purchased boats ranging from 12 to 20 feet in length, which can be conveniently hauled onto shore for storage when not in use. From a number of miscellaneous designs used in the early days of the Club, those interested in racing tended to use similar boats to allow more equitable competition. The International 14 was popular from the late 1940's until 1957. The first "one design" boat of identical dimensions was the Y-Flyer introduced in 1958. It had the appeal of being easily home built "plywood construction", and thus inexpensive. It was also a very stable and fast craft, thus suitable for family use as well as racing. At about this time, similar fleets where built at Wabamun and Pigeon Lakes, and this similarity of boats greatly expanded the keen inter-city rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton based sailors. Other "one design" classes also achieved popularity for periods through the sixties and seventies. These were the Flying Dutchman, Flying Junior, Fireball, Enterprise, Sprog and Sabot, all having their peak period before their decline. In 1972, the successful single handed Laser class was introduced and gained widespread popularity. It was then followed by the Laser 2 and the Taser. During the late seventies and early eighties, some larger cruising classes also made their appearance on Chestermere Lake. At this time, CYC also saw the enthusiastic introduction of sailboard classes, and on most summer days one could see several of their colourful triangular sails darting back and forth in front of the club.

Today, the wind surfer classes have all but vanished and seem to have been replaced by the Hobie Cat. The club currently has nine one design fleets racing. These are the Hobie 16, Hobie 17, Hobie 18, Laser, Laser 2, International 420, BYTE, Opti and the Lightning (a 1938 design).

Power boaters have always been an active part of the CYC membership and have ranged from modest outboards and inboards to some very sophisticated and powerful motorboats. As well as being used for water skiing and other recreational use, the powerboats and their skippers have given welcome assistance to the sailors as judges, officials and rescue craft. Many Calgary Yacht Club members have graduated from Canadian Power Squadron courses, various CYA courses or ISPA courses, and some continue to help as active instructors.

In 1959, the Calgary Yacht Club welcomed a sister club to the Calgary area. The Glenmore Sailing Club, located on the south shore of Glenmore Lake, has also become a source of keen, accomplished racing competitors. The two clubs complement each other nicely and still enjoy several inter-club regatta meets each year.

It has been said that Calgary has trained more sailors in its sailing school program than any other city in North America. This is primarily due to the sailing school operated by the City of Calgary on Glenmore Reservoir. The CYC, along with GSC once provided the board of directors for this school and were, as well, the base for all their instructors. At this time, the Calgary Yacht Club also had its own sailing school for both children and adults but on a much smaller scale. This school was originally staffed by volunteer instructors and then later was incorporated under the large City of Calgary program.

In the past, the Club provided free lessons on Saturday mornings or any interested children, whether Club members or not. This program and the maintenance of the training boats was for many years under the energetic supervision of Ed Lowney. These efforts have produced some very capable sailors from the Calgary area. These include a National Junior Champion and a National Sea Scout Champion.

Dave (Shorty) Shaw crewed aboard Canada One, the Canadian entry in the America's Cup and was also a two time Canadian Olympian for Montreal and the boycotted Moscow Olympics. David Shaw also went on to sail with the infamous Tom Blackhaller with whom he won a Star World Championship. Keith Hern won the Canadian Hobie 16 championship in 1991, and also represented the club in two world championships. Another CYC member, Steven Reichenfeld, won the Canadian Masters Windsurfer class in 1996. Michael Hooper, also from the Lake, raced internationally, winning Western Regional and National Championships and at one time was rated as one of the top Laser sailors in North America, placing at many international regattas. All these sailors either learned or honed their skills right here on Chestermere Lake at the Calgary Yacht Club.

For the past five years, Steve Reichenfeld has been the driving force behind the Sailing Education program. The club continues to pursue a very strong and committed junior training program as we believe this is where the members and Olympians of the future will come from. To this end, the CYC employs a full time Junior Co-ordinator/Club Manager while a level 4-5 coach and three instructors are brought on for the summer. Programs include preseason training camps, Summer Sailing Camps, Adult Learn to Sail, Women's Only Night, Thursday Night Racing and Supervised Saturday Sailing for the kids. Currently, enrollment in the Summer Sailing Camps is full (all taught to CYA standards) with around 125 children taking part.

Through funding from corporate donations and several granting agencies, the CYC has been able to rejuvenate the dock system and purchase new training boats for the youth oriented activities. The Club 420's, BYTES and Optis have all replaced the older Flying Juniors, which the club had been using for so many years. The new boats have mainly been provided through grants obtained from the Calgary Flames Foundation, Albert Sport, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Calgary Community Lottery Board. We are thankful for their support in this pursuit of excellence.

With the assistance of some of the above mentioned grants the CYC in 2001 sponsored a North American Championship for the handicapped, with sailors from as far away as Puerto Rico, California and Toronto. Some sailors from the community with disabilities such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, stroke, cerebral palsy and amputation have taken part in regattas or training at CYC.

Some schools have taken sailing as a part of their physical education outdoor activity at CYC with our qualified instructors and sailboats.

Socially, the club provides pleasant shaded grounds for family gatherings near the water and a club house where dances and social evenings are held. Annual events include the Commodore's Sailpast and Tea held in June, where the fleet of the club sails by in review, which is followed by tea and champagne in the club house. There is an awards banquet held in the fall to acknowledge the racing skills of the year's winners. These two events are the only "dress" affairs at the club, the rest of the activities are very informal.

The Calgary Yacht Club is a "working" club. This means members provide the building repairs and maintenance on a volunteer basis. It would be unfair to attempt cite any individuals amongst the many who have contributed so much to the club over the years. The following list of past Commodores is provided to acknowledge their help and to place names with dates. Many more members have also contributed in other ways, and to them, the CYC tenders its eternal thanks. Acknowledgement is made to Larry Himmelman and Alf Lea for much of the historical information, and to Ken Penley for penning the original article.

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Contact Us

635 E Chestermere Dr, Chestermere, AB T1x 1A5

(403) 272-3300

manager@cyc.ab.ca

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