The roots of sailing go back many years in the Beaufort area. A Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club was organized as early as 1884, according to records found in the 100-year time capsule that was opened at the County Courthouse in 1984. It is known that the Beaufort Yacht Club was chartered on August 28, 1908. Its purpose was to sponsor sailboat racing and to serve as a social club for the local citizens. From that time until World War I, sailing was a very popular sport and many exciting races were held in the Beaufort River.
During the war, the sport declined and formal races were discontinued. There were many informal races among the oyster boats, however, and since sailing was a popular form of transportation between the islands, there were many impromptu races. In 1929 the Beaufort Yacht Club purchased a 25-foot scow, the “Betty B,” and sponsored the first formal races in years. Five boats, representing Charleston, Rockville, James Island, Savannah, and Beaufort, participated. Since then, regattas have been held in the Beaufort River at least once a year.
During the 1930s, the annual regatta was the big social event of the year. The regattas were three-day affairs, Wednesday through Friday, with dances and banquets each night for the participating sailors. The South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association (SAYRA) was organized during a meeting in Beaufort in 1936 or 1937. The Beaufort Yacht Club was an original member. The late F.W. Scheper of Beaufort was SAYRA Commodore in 1939.
During the 1950s, however, the Club lost all interest in sailing events. It came into financial difficulties, failed to pay the annual SAYRA dues, and was dropped from membership. Sail boating reached a low ebb in local waters, and at one time, the only active participants in competitive races were five high school boys who owned Moths. These five, Michael Jones, Ricky Pollitzer, Kemper Powell, Tommy Stokes and Jim Thomas Jr., refused to give up and, through their insistence; interested citizens organized the Beaufort Sailing Club in 1955 and sponsored local races.
In 1962, the club was issued a charter by the State of South Carolina. During this period the Beaufort Sailing Club petitioned for membership in SAYRA and was accepted, taking the place earlier held by the Beaufort Yacht Club. The popularity of local sailing increased even more when the Municipal Parking Lot was constructed on Bay Street. The city allowed the Sailing Club to build boat racks for the storage of Sailfish and Sunfish. (This property is now a part of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and overlooks the downtown marina.) This made sailing more accessible, and boats no longer had to be stored on the river bank or on shore near the homes of friends. By 1964 the club had well over 100 racing sailboats registered in its membership—seven Y-Flyers, six Moths, thirty Sailfish, and eighty-five Sunfish! And its only headquarters was the parking lot.
In 1967 the Beaufort Sailing Club was selected to host the SAYRA Championship Regatta in August. James G. Thomas Sr. of Beaufort was SAYRA Commodore that year. The Beaufort Sailing Club officers realized that theirs was the only club that did not have a club house. So the wheels began to turn, and in a few weeks adequate pledges were in hand to purchase a 12-acre tract on Lady’s Island, two miles below Beaufort on Meridian Road, for $32,000. The property included the former home of Mr. and Mrs. Irving E. Kinghorn, built about 1940.
The Beaufort Sailing Club was renamed The Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club and became the local SAYRA organization, whose purpose was “to further sports and sportsmanship. ” Within a few weeks a letter was sent to the Corps of Engineers requesting permission to build a dock; the boat racks were moved from the downtown parking lot to the new location; a screened porch was added to the river side of the house, a flagpole raised, and by August all was in readiness to host the big SAYRA Regatta! Twelve thousand dollars had been spent on renovations and construction. The original BYSC dues were $50 per year; and, as of October 1967, there were 82 stockholders.
The massive anchor and chain, resting at the foot of the flagpole on the front lawn of the club, were a gift during the early years from the Shipman family in memory of Mr. E.A. Shipman of St. Helena Island. It is believed that it was lost by a four-masted schooner that burned and washed ashore on the south end of Fripp Island in the late 1800s. Shipman Seafood Company retrieved the anchor in 1953 about 500 yards off the beach when it became tangled in the nets of one of their trawlers. When recovered, a part of the wooden stock showed signs of being charred. As recently as 1930, the remains of a wooden schooner still rested in the sand about one-half mile from Skull Inlet. The ribs and backbone, still intact, had been burned. The flagpole in front of the clubhouse once stood at the entrance of the USO Building on Harrington Street, on the block where the County Health Department now stands. The USO was demolished in 1962 and the flagpole put in storage until BYSC obtained it in 1967. In the late 1960’s the design of the official club burgee was conceived by Russell Harley and approved by the board of directors.
The white dolphin represents “Carolina Snowball,” an albino bottlenose dolphin that once lived in Beaufort waters. She was later captured and taken to the Miami Seaquarium, over the objections of many Beaufortonians, where she died. According to the August 9, 1962, Beaufort Gazette, Senator Jim Waddell sponsored a bill to prevent the capture of this unique porpoise from our Beaufort County waters. It was found that there was only a ten million to one chance that an albino porpoise would survive in its natural habitat, so she was truly unique! However, her captors allegedly enticed her into Colleton County waters, and captured her there. The blue field of the burgee represents the beautiful blue waters of Beaufort County in which “Carolina Snowball” lived and where so many of us have untold hours of pleasure.
As each subsequent year passed, improvements to the property continued to be made. By the summer of 1968, a Junior Olympic swimming pool with a diving L had been added. Including the pool furniture and the sliding board, the costs were $34,688. Two hard-surfaced tennis courts were completed in May 1971 for $10,871. Lights were added in 1972, making nighttime play possible. The late George Madlinger, architect and club member, was in charge of the clubhouse renovations that were completed in 1974 for $33,400.
When the property bordering the north side of the club became available, it was purchased from Capt. and Mrs. C.C. Champion for $125,000 in June 1977. The home there became a dwelling for the club manager, and the club property was enlarged by 12.5 acres. The east portion of both properties was subdivided into 14 building lots and named Yacht Club Estates. To date, all lots have been sold and ten residences have been built. Two more tennis courts were built in 1978 at a cost of $19,425. The dock was also extended during that season.
Although sailing, swimming, and tennis lessons had been offered off and on, it was not until 1980 that an official Junior Activities Program for school age children was begun. These summer programs have been held each season since then.
Improvements to the club facilities are constantly being made. All four tennis courts were resurfaced in 1985; and in 1986, a new $48,000 bathhouse was constructed. Additions to the sail shed and to the boat launching ramp were made in 1987. In preparation for the 1990 swimming season, the pool deck was resurfaced. Over $100,000 was spent for major clubhouse renovations designed by architect Jim Thomas Jr. (a club member and the same active sailor who was mentioned earlier in the third paragraph of this history). A grand reopening gala was held on September 22, 1990.
In 1991 the manager’s residence was partially renovated including a new bathroom, an addition with a closet and laundry room, and new back steps. The cost was $13,000. A new septic tank system was installed for the clubhouse at a cost of $4,000. In 1992, two tennis courts were resurfaced and 1000 square feet of deck were added to the pool.
March 1993 brought the storm of the century with winds estimated at 65 knots in front of the club. The south float was damaged beyond repair and was replaced at a cost of $7,300. Many trees were damaged and several Sunfish were cracked when a rack blew over. July 1993 saw a severe lightning storm strike the club with damage to several trees, all the telephones, and many of the power circuits. In 1994, 400 square feet was added to the pool deck. In 1994, eight kayaks were purchased to supplement the Junior Activities Program. 1994 and 19 95 brought the purchase of four new Sunfish to replace aging sailboats, and the addition of three JY-15s to provide a sloop sailing opportunity for members.
In 1996 & 1997, major pool and bathhouse improvements were undertaken. 1997 saw the addition of three Optimist sailboats for junior sailing. In early 1999, a large deck was added to clubhouse. Late in 1999, the club’s dock was replaced. In 2000, the activities pavilion and an extension to the sailing building (maintenance shop) were added.
2006, at the cost of $198,000, found the Club refurbishing the swimming pool, replacing the pool equipment, the fence and deck furniture. The children’s pool was relocated to the west side of the adult pool. Membership cards were incorporated for members. The boat launching ramp was widened and extended deeper into the river. At the same time, an extension was added to the west end of the dock and 6 moorings installed. Approximate cost of this work was $200,000. In 2008 a playground was built next to the Clubhouse, and the lighted tennis courts were resurfaced. In 2009 the Clubhouse was tastefully furnished and a keyless access system installed so BYSC members could enjoy the facilities as desired. The sail shed was expanded, and an additional fire hydrant installed. In 2010, six additional mooring buoys were permitted, constructed and installed in the Beaufort River, and the two unlit tennis courts resurfaced.