In June of 1886 a group of local boating enthusiasts joined together to found what has become a cornerstone yacht club in American yachting. San Diego Yacht Club's facilities had humble beginnings in a number of locations, including an old ferry boat.
SDYC’s first home was in Ballast Point in 1891 on the tip of Point Loma. In 1905, SDYC merged with the Corinthian Yacht Club located between B and C Streets (now Broadway Street) downtown. In 1910, SDYC purchased Silver Gate, an old Coronado ferry, and towed it to the foot of Hawthorn Street. The club built a pier to Silver Gate and installed lockers, office space, a dock and a ramp and got rid of the original clubhouse on D Street. This worked for four years until an extension of the sea wall forced the Silver Gate to move across the bay near the Coronado ferry dock. Silver Gate was sold in 1919 and the club was without a clubhouse for a few years until a new clubhouse was built on Coronado in 1923.
A second "site" was opened in 1924 in Point Loma because the water was deeper compared to Glorietta Bay in Coronado where the clubhouse was located. The second site was open and operating for people to anchor boats, but the clubhouse itself wasn't moved over to Point Loma until 1934.
The clubhouse was then moved from Coronado to Point Loma on January 14, 1934 at dawn. The clubhouse building was placed on two barges, towed across the channel, and maneuvered into position on pilings during high tide. The move in 1934 was to a different part of Point Loma than where the landing was in 1924.
In 1962, the clubhouse was moved to the back of the club's ground and used as temporary quarters while a new structure was built during 1963. The structure from the 1960s is still in use today though it has been remodeled a few times.
The SDYC facilities operate year round and include 600 boat slips, dry storage for over 200 boats, tennis courts, a swimming pool, picnic areas, a full service dining room, bar, banquet facilities, a summer snack bar, gift shop, and an internationally renowned year-round Junior Program. Two-thirds of the members own boats. Over 100 employees maintain the Club facilities to serve the membership and their guests. SDYC members are dedicated to the principles and traditions of Corinthian yachting.
The racing history of SDYC is as significant as the history of its location. Several members were winning races all over the country in the early to mid-20th century, however, SDYC reached a turning point starting in the 1980s when Dennis Conner won the America’s Cup. In the early 1980s, Dennis Conner won the cup once and then lost it the next time to New York Yacht Club. In 1987, Dennis won again on behalf of San Diego Yacht Club. The America’s Cup was won a third time by SDYC in 1992 by Bill Koch on the yacht, America.
In addition to America’s Cup, ten SDYC members have won the Star World Championships. San Diego Yacht Club has also had 13 members sail for their country in the Olympics earning 10 Olympic medals between them. SDYC could almost be considered a country as the club has won more gold medals than some countries. Four SDYC members have been inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame: Lowell North, J.J. Fetter, Mark Reynolds and Dennis Conner.
In 1928, a group of six juniors approached Commodore Joseph E. Jessop about starting a junior sailing program at the club. The initial objective was to teach boat care, racing tactics, and sportsmanship. The Program still follows these principles to this day.
From these humble beginnings, the San Diego Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program has evolved into a year round intense training program including around 200 youth sailors every year. The Junior Program consists of a full time Junior Program Director, coaches, maintenance and administrative staff. Facilities include a junior clubhouse, tool room, sabot and laser storage spaces, sail and boat wash areas and two launching ramps. Members of the Junior Program have access to the junior charter fleet that includes 25 sabots, 18 optimists, lasers (and radials), CFJ's and 420's. Also included in the fleet are the SDYC Jr, Race Committee Boat, the Al Frost Sr., a dozen whaler chase boats, inflatable and multi-boat trailers for travel to away regattas.
Throughout the year, events are scheduled for sailors of all ability levels including fun events, field trips, special racing clinics and a very active after-school program and practices. During the summer months, the Junior Program flourishes. The Program employs the finest instructional staff, recruited from around the globe, to teach an eight-week summer sailing and racing program.
The result of coaching, learning and racing has led to the San Diego Yacht Club Youth Program's success in local, area, national and international competitions. In the recent past, SDYC Juniors have won the US Sailing Youth Championships Single-handed trophy nine times and the Double-handed trophy four times. SDYC Juniors won the Interscholastic Sailing Association's National Championships in 1993, 1996, 1999 and 2001-2005 and have placed in the top three each year. The alumni of the SDYC Junior Program have, and continue, to compete at the highest international levels of our sport. Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists, World and National Champions in several classes and America's Cup competitors are all products of SDYC's Junior Sailing Program.
The San Diego Yacht Club Sailing Foundation was incorporated in 1990. The purpose of starting this charter was to promote amateur sailing through outreach programs and training activities as well as to provide sailing equipment and facilities to those in need. The Sailing Foundation wishes to encourage an awareness in sailing instruction, competition and maritime arts and sciences among those in the San Diego area. In 2004, the Foundation reached a milestone when it granted over $30,000 to aid youth programs under the governance of Staff Commodore Gary Gould.
SDYC is home to several significant Staff Commodores in both the San Diego community and the yachting world. Arthur DeFever, Commodore in 1974, founded the popular high quality cruiser company DeFever Yachts. The Commodore from 1965, Paul Kettenburg, was the President of Kettenburg Marine, which, during its time, was nationally known for the designing and manufacturing of high-grade sailing and competitive racing boats. Paul Kettenburg was also the President of the San Diego Maritime Museum, a position now held by current member Dr. Ray Ashley. Staff Commodore from 1995 Mike Morton and his family own the Brigantine Restaurant Corp., a prominent and well-regarded restaurant group throughout San Diego.