News Flash: Norfolk Yacht & Country Club is hiring all levels of it’s 2018 Summer Staff!!
After successfully helping host the 2017 Optimist US National Championship, the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club continues to pursue its mission and offers wonderful sailing opportunities for the Norfolk, VA area community. I was able to gather some thoughts and observations of this great sailing club during my two-week stay. This is one great club!!
From Commodore Rick Sanford, “Norfolk Yacht and Country Club is a warm and welcoming Club where its member families and guests have unique experiences which create lifelong friendships and memories. Our first-class waterfront setting provides a wide-range of social activities and recreational facilities for member enjoyment and perpetuates a culture of camaraderie and fun among our members. NYCC also has a vibrant boating community with recreational and competitive sailing for sailors of all ages.” Our power boaters enjoy cruising our many waterways and the occasional ‘poker run.’”
In the late 1890’s, a small group of citizens sought to establish a place where they might enjoy outdoor activities and the camaraderie of likeminded souls. On April 20, 1896, the group received a charter to establish the Country Club. Leaving the city, the founders leased property in the country, along the banks of the Elizabeth River, in what is now called Edgewater.
Although Norfolk’s city limits did not extend past the Hague at the time, the founders were convinced that others would be enticed to this rural setting to escape the congestions in the city and enjoy the amenities of the Club. The Club grew rapidly, and soon it was necessary to lease more land in order to expand the facilities. Six years later, however, it was apparent that the Club had outgrown this location. In 1902, the Club purchased a 35-acre site several miles downstream, near Sewells Point. A new, larger clubhouse was built, as well as four tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course.
During this time, new neighborhoods sprouted up in Riverview, Colonial Place and Larchmont. The primary access to them was by trolley or automobile. Unfortunately, the trolley service was not dependable, and the roads were often barely passable. The leaders of the Club soon realized they had made a mistake: The new site suffered from poor accessibility. Norfolk, on the other hand, had bold plans for a major redevelopment near this very site. Norfolk was set to be the host city for a seven-month celebration to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. The site for the festivities was Sewells Point. The Jamestown Exposition sparked a surge in constructions as Norfolk prepared to welcome the rest of the country. The Club’s leaders, not wanting to miss an opportunity, sold its Sewells Point property in 1906.
A search for another, more accessible site was begun. In 1908, a location was selected along the banks of the Lafayette River. It was convenient to the trolley line and to the bridge across the river. It had ample space for the Club’s sports facilities, along with a magnificent waterfront view. On February 22, 1909, the Country Club opened with a new clubhouse, four tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course. In 1915, additional land was acquired to enlarge the golf course to eighteen holes. The golf course, regrettably, was short-lived.
As the country prepared to enter World War I, Norfolk’s leaders worked to persuade the US government that the former exposition site was an excellent center for military operations. In early 1917, the Navy leased space in a downtown office building as the headquarters of the Fifth Naval District. It wasn’t long before the Navy decided that it had to have the exposition site, and it bought the property for almost $500,000. To support the war effort and Norfolk’s growing importance as a military center, the government needed part of the Club’s new golf course for a cargo terminal. The Country Club had to give up the land that today is known as Norfolk International Terminals. About ten years later, the Club sold the remainder of its golf course; that land became Lochhaven.
In 1923, Norfolk annexed a huge tract of land that included the Country Club, and, for the first time, the Club was within the city limits. In 1927, in deference to this fact, the Club voted to change its name to the Norfolk Country Club. Within a few years, the Club attracted the attention of yachtsmen who believed that the waterfront location was an excellent place for a marina. In recognition of this popular new addition to the Club’s activities, the Club changed its name once more in January, 1936, to the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club.
In just 40 years, the little Club founded on a small, leased site in Edgewater had become a prominent fixture on the banks of the Lafayette River. In these early years, the Club flourished and faltered, reflecting the fortunes of its membership and the city at large. The next sixty years were times of unparalleled growth for both Norfolk and the Club. Surely, there were more bumps along the way, but Norfolk and the Club prospered under the leadership that had the vision to dream of great things and the courage to implement them.
HERE AND NOW
Ever conscious of our impact on the river, we have a large contingent of members who participate in the Clean the Bay Day every year. We clean our waterfront and the western waterfront of the Norfolk International Terminals where we collect hundreds of pounds of junk. The Club is an Elizabeth River Project “River Star Business” for our voluntary pollution prevention and wildlife habitat enhancement (we incubate several baby oyster hatcheries). We are also a “Virginia Clean Marina” for our voluntary adoption of measures that prevent or reduce pollution.
NYCC hosts High School sailing in the Fall and Spring seasons in the fleet of Flying Juniors and the Club’s coach boats. Three local schools: Norfolk Collegiate, Norfolk Academy and Maury High School share the boats every weekday to practice and most weekends NYCC hosts (actually, one of the 3 local schools host) a regatta. Regional, State and even National high school regattas find their way to our facility. With the prevailing wind from the SW, the club provides an excellent viewing venue for fans and parents to witness “up close racing” without venturing into the elements (this is most important in November and March). Many of our local sailors have reached high school all-state and all-American levels. Many have gone on to race at the collegiate level and beyond. NYCC sailors have also reached the Collegiate All-American level.
The Club’s Junior Sailing Program is the oldest running summer program at the club; with a rich history, spanning over 65 years, the junior program boasts an array of alumni and coaches that range from CBYRA champions, to College All-Americans, and even an Olympic Gold Medalist! The six-week summer camp features the International Optimist Dinghy and The Flying Junior sloop, and offers classes for all skill levels. Sailors range from 8-18 years old and do not need any formal training prior to enrollment. Give your child the unique opportunity to make new friends, learn to sail and gain confidence and independence on the water. Each year we have nearly 100 young sailors participate. Sailing is a sport for life!
Junior Sailing isn’t all about regattas and trophies. Every day at NYCC Junior Sailing Camp incorporates fun activities for all ages and skill levels. While boat handling, safety and wind/weather provide a lot to be learned, Instructors also incorporate fun elements into the daily routine to maximize camper enjoyment. On and off the water, NYCC Junior Sailing Camp provides a great balance of learning and fun.
The oldest, most tradition-rich regatta hosted by NYCC is The Governor’s Cup. Traditionally held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, it is a regatta rich in history which we have hosted for the past 73 years for the Hampton One Design class. The cup itself can usually be found behind the bar in the Lafayette Room of the Main Clubhouse and is a stunning work of art in and of itself. The following description of the Governor’s Cup is pulled from a regatta program produced by NYCC in 1979 and provides insight on how the cup came to exist: The Governor’s Cup (Virginia State Championship for Hampton One-Designs). After the last series of races of the Norfolk Yacht Racing Association in late August of 1944, it was the desire of the Commodore to establish a Virginia State Championship trophy for the Hampton One-Design Class sailboat. In the following week contributions came in from many people who were acquainted with sail racing as a sport, along with contributions from many of Norfolk’s business firms. It was decided after the purchase of the beautiful silver cup, that the appropriate name be Governor’s Cup. After writing Governor Colgate W. Darden, Jr., (a Norfolk native) and explaining that our cup was for the promotion of good sportsmanship among the challengers for this cup, Governor Darden returned a letter on September 6, 1944 and replied that: “I have received your letter of the 5th and I shall be very glad to have a trophy designated as you suggest. “I wish to commend you for your activities in promoting interest in sailing. It is a most worthwhile sport.” We are very grateful that we had a sailboat enthusiast and sportsman to sponsor our cup. This is a perpetual trophy which will always be on display at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, with the name of the winner engraved on a silver plaque at the base. The winner shall be awarded a suitable trophy to remain in their possession. It is our hope that anyone who has a passion for sailing can come and experience this event, our goal is to return this regatta back to its former glory and strive to get as many boats on the line as possible. Over the years, the competing classes have expanded beyond the Hamptons and includes Lasers, Optis, Flying Juniors, Flying Scots, Club 420s, Sunfish and any other class that can muster more than one boat. Five boats will get their own start.
We also have a ‘big boat’ program with Spring and Fall Friday evening Races for the PHRF racers. We host the CBYRA-sanctioned New Willoughby Challenge in July of each year with a course set in the Hampton Roads with a picnic afterword.
The Club is set to embark upon a new capital improvement plan which will be a multi-million renovation and expansion of our current dining and social venues, upgraded the tennis facility and tripling the size of the dock house among other improvements. The Junior Sailing program has a goal of continued excellence in instruction and to expand the youth sailing instruction season into the Spring and Fall months. We will continue to expand the reach of our junior sailors beyond the Chesapeake Bay.