The Calgary Yacht Club

by Ken Penley

Copied from Growing Through Time - First printing 1982

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

In the early 1930's motor boats became more commonly seen and some power boaters on the lake then were Billy Brock and George Hoffner. Row boats 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 the club as a base from which social activities and storage could be obtained.

The Calgary Yacht Club was incorporated as a society in 1934 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 a the northeast end of the lake, south of the bridge, close to where the Country Junction now stands. A marine railway of wooden tracks for the launching or beaching of water craft was added, plus piers and later boat houses 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, 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 on the east shore, about midway, where the club is today. The club house was moved in 1951 and is still in 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, with kitchen facilities in the 1950's, then a lounge and fireplace in 1966. As well, much more pier space was built until the Calgary Yacht Club could boast of having 1402 linear feet of dock which 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 Club was 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 2 storey club house with showers, toilets, lockers, kitchen and social area. It had been intended to then remove the old club house but it was found useful for summer sailing school and winter boat storage and later as a focal point for the new and popular sport of wind surfing.

Over the years, the types of sailing vessels seen at the CYC have remained, with a few exceptions, in the smaller dinghy classes, reasonable affordable as home-built or purchased boats ranging from 12 to 20 feet in length and 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 ended to use similar boats to allow more equitable competition. The International "14" was popular in the late 1940's and until 1957. The first "One Design" boat of identical dimensions was the "Y-Flyer" introduced in 1958. It had the appeal of being easily built at home of plywood, thus inexpensive and as well was a stable craft suitable for family use as well as racing. At about this time similar fleets were 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 classes, also "One Design" achieved popularity for periods through the 1960's and 1970's, such as the Flying Dutchman, Flying Junior, Fireball, Enterprise, Sprog and Sabot, all having their peak period then decline. In 1972 the successful single handed Laser class came to the Calgary Yacht Club and gained widespread popularity, and was then followed by the Laser 11 and the Taser. During the late 1970's and early 1980's some larger cruising classes, so popular elsewhere, made an appearance on Chestermere as well. At this time CYC saw the enthusiastic introduction of the sailing surf board classes and most summer days one can see several of their colourful triangular sails on the water, near the Club.

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 motor boats. As well as being used for water skiing and other recreation use, the power boats and their skippers have given welcome assistance to the sailors as judges, officials and rescue craft. Many Calgary Yacht Club members have graduated from the Canadian Power Squadron course and some continued to be active officers and instructors for the Squadron.

In recent years, the Calgary Yacht Club has welcomed a sister club to the Calgary area. The Glenmore Yacht Club located on the south shore of Glenmore Lake, has become a source of keen and accomplished racing competitors and the two clubs enjoy several inter-club regatta meets each year. It has been said the Calgary has trained more sailors in its sailing school program than any other city in North America. This is due to an active sailing school operated by the City of Calgary on Glenmore Lake for some years. The Calgary Yacht Club along with the Glenmore Yacht Club, provides members for the board of directors for this school and as well have provided some instructors. The Calgary Yacht Club has also had its own sailing school for both children and adults on a somewhat smaller scale, staffed by volunteer instructors and then later it too was sponsored by the City of Calgary. In addition, the Club has provided free lessons on Saturday mornings, in the summer, for any interested children whether Club members or not. This program and the maintenance of the training boats, has been under the energetic supervision of Ed Lowney, for many years. These efforts have produced some very capable sailors from the prairie area, including from the CYC, a National Junior Champion, a National Sea Scout Champion, the crew member of World Champion Racing Boat and Olympic Canadian contender (called by Olympic boycott in 1980). All these young sailors learned their skills on Chestermere waters at the Calgary Yacht Club.

Socially the club provides pleasant shaded grounds for family gatherings near the water, and a club house where occasional dances and social evenings are held. Annual events include a Commodore's Sailpast held in June, at which the fleet of the club sails or motors by in review followed by the Commodore's Tea 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 being very informal.

The Calgary Yacht Club is a "working" club, that is members provide most building, repairs and maintenance on a volunteer basis. It would be unfair to attempt to cite any individuals among 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, but many members also helped in other ways and to them the Calgary Yacht Club tenders its thanks. Acknowledgement is made to Larry Himmelman and Alf Lea for much of the information obtained for this article.

PAST COMMODORES

Until 1942 A.B. Himmelman

1943 and 1944 Walter Webb

1945 Gordon Himmelman

1946 and 1947 W.G. Stunden

1948 Fred Pilcher

1949 and 1950 Larry Himmelman

1951 and 1952 Lloyd Webster

1953 and 1954 Spencer Lea

1955 and 1956 Harry Reader

1957 to 1959 Jim Aird

1960 Alf Lea

1961 Gene Strain

1962 Bert Linder

1963 Bob Gilbert

1964  Jack Hooper

1965 Ralph Ford


PAST COMMODORES

1966 Ken Penley

1967 Walter Amos

1968 Richard Mercer

1969 Bill Brown

1970  Peter Roxburgh

1971 and 1972 Jim Lawrence

1973 Bob O'Connor

1974 Norman Weismose

1975 John Anderson

1976 Bruce Kendall

1977 Ken Penley

1978 Don Hill

1979  Richard Mercer

1980 and 1981 Peter White

1982 Gerry May


Contact Us

635 E Chestermere Dr, Chestermere, AB T1x 1A5

(403) 272-3300

manager@cyc.ab.ca

Thank you for your support!





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