How we came to be...
History of Owasco Yacht Club 1889 - 2005
by William F. Whiting
The Beginning - 1800's
During the 1870's and 80's, several Auburn gentlemen developed an interest in the sport of sailboat racing. The boats were of a miscellaneous and nondescript character, this being long before any one design class had been thought of. There was no formal organization at this time, but Wheeler Case in “Along Owasco Water” writes of a triangular course at the north end of the lake. He says the entire course could be seen by people from Auburn who would gather in carriages and on horseback to view the weekend events.
In 1889, some of these local sailors felt that their sport had grown to an extent that some formal organization was required and, on April 1, the first Owasco Yacht Club charter was approved. There were 42 male members and 25 yachts listed. The initiation fee was $2 and the annual dues were $1. At this time, the Yacht Club was simply an organization that provided a framework of racing rules and handicap formulas. The members neither owned property nor occupied a clubhouse. The first Owasco Yacht Club regatta was held on May 30, 1889.
In the “Owasco Yacht Club Rules, By-Laws, and Regulations” dated 1892, Col. Frederick T. Peet was named Commodore. Col. Peet has always been considered the patron of boating on Owasco Lake, and current Club members still vie for a Fourth of July trophy bearing his name. The Colonel’s boat was a magnificent 50-foot schooner named Ouananiche, a French-Algonquin word meaning landlocked salmon. The vessel carried two lifeboats and full equipment, including a saluting cannon. She required two seamen as crew and the Colonel as skipper.
In the early 1890's, the Owasco Yacht Club also had a presence at the southern end of the lake. As reported by the Auburn Daily Advertiser, sailing races were conducted from Ensenore to Casowasco to Glenwood. This new activity was undoubtedly related to the fact that many of the Owasco Yacht Club members held dual membership in another l889 lake organization, the Dolphin Point Association.
The Dolphins, as the members of this group were known, were once athletic rowing enthusiasts. Now, some 20 years after their prime, they were ready for some more leisurely lakeside pursuits. Forming the Dolphin Point Association, this assemblage of 30 stockholding members purchased Dolphin Point on the southeast end of Owasco Lake. After constructing a large clubhouse, which still stands, the member interest soon became focused on golf, tennis, lawn bowling and sailboat racing, the latter under the auspices of the Owasco Yacht Club sailing rules and handicap formulas.
In 1896, the Dolphins laid out golf links on farmland adjacent to their property. This resulted in the organization of the Auburn Golf Club, which later changed its name to the Owasco Golf Club and moved to the north end of the lake in the Town of Owasco in 1901.
Although the first Owasco Yacht Club represented a significant development in organized yachting at the turn of the century, it appears that in the early l900's the interest in competitive sailing dwindled for about two decades.
Resurgence in Yachting: 1920's - 30's
In 1920, races were again held at the north end of the lake with the race committee taking post on the Pump House pier. This renewed interest in sailing prompted a group of ten sailors to reorganize the Owasco Yacht Club, and in 1923, the members rented the farmhouse of Miss Mary McDowell on the south side of Buck Point. In 1926, as interest and membership increased, it was decided to rent, from Charles D. Osborne, the Four Mile House, located directly across the lake from the present Yacht Club. It was in 1926 that the present Owasco Yacht Club first became incorporated with Thomas Richardson as Commodore.
Four Mile House - 1920s
At this time, the Yacht Club was still an organization established by men for the pursuit of their own yachting interests. Additional lakeside pursuits were always secondary to the principle goal of sailing. Other types of boating, swimming, and picnicking occurred only at times when there would be no conflict with sailing. It is recalled that on race days, no one was allowed on the dock unless they were skipper or crew of a competing yacht. The race committee, adorned in blue blazers, white trousers, and blue nautical caps, added to the element of sailing importance. This “strictly sailing” emphasis persisted until the early 40's.
An important development in interclub racing occurred in 1930. A group of Central New York sailors, under the leadership and direction of Lithgow Osborne of the Owasco Yacht Club, organized the Central New York Yacht Racing Association. The third annual race of the new association was held on Owasco Lake with about 40 boats participating. This active organization currently has over 20 member clubs and still hosts the largest annual regatta in Central New York.
The War Years and a New Clubhouse: 1945-50's
The post war years saw an immediate increase in club participation and sailing. In the summer of 1945, there were 23 sailboats moored in front of the Club. What was now seen as the biggest problem confronting the organization was the condition of the clubhouse and grounds which had generally deteriorated during the early 40's. Up until this time, the Club had always rented their property; but when an offer to purchase the Four Mile House was turned down, a committee was formed to investigate properties around the lake for possible purchase.
"The Anchorage" 1940s
Robin Whiting water skiing in the foreground, 1950's
Bibliography - click here
Henry M. Allen, A Story of Cayuga County, 1958
Henry M. Allen, Snap Shot of Owasco Lake, 1945
Auburn Daily Advertiser, 1889-1893
W.C. Case, Along Owasco Water, 1950
Certificate of Incorporation, Owasco Yacht Club, 1926
Dolphin Point Association Constitution, 1893
Owasco Yacht Club By-Laws, 1892
Owasco Yacht Club Minutes 1936-2005
Title Map, Town of Owasco, 1944