The roots of sailing in the Beaufort area date to 1884 — the year the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club was organized, according to records found in the 100-year time capsule opened at the County Courthouse in 1984. More than two decades later, on Aug. 28, 1908 — the Beaufort Yacht Club was founded with a mission to sponsor sailboat racing and serve as a social club for local residents.
Sailing was a very popular sport and many races were held in the Beaufort River. During World War I, the sport declined and formal races were discontinued. However, informal races among the oyster boats continued. In addition, 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 revived formal races. Five boats, representing Charleston, Rockville, James Island, Savannah, and Beaufort, participated in the regatta that year. Since then, regattas have been held in the Beaufort River at least annually.
During the 1930s, the annual regatta was the biggest social event of the year. Running from Wednesday through Friday, the regattas included dances and banquets each night for participating sailors.
In the mid-1930s, the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association (SAYRA) was organized during a meeting in Beaufort and the Beaufort Yacht Club was one of the charter members. The late F.W. Scheper of Beaufort was SAYRA Commodore in 1939.
Little Appetite for Mid-Century Saling
Interest in sailing waned in the 1950s, and the club was beset with financial difficulties. It even lost membership in SAYRA for failing to pay its annual dues. At one point, the only active participants in competitive sailing races in Beaufort were five high school boys who owned Moths, small, fast home-built sailing boat designed to plane. These five, Michael Jones, Ricky Pollitzer, Kemper Powell, Tommy Stokes, and Jim Thomas Jr., kept sailing alive. In 1955 they encouraged local residents to organize the Beaufort Sailing Club and sponsored local races resumed.
In 1962, the club was chartered by the State of South Carolina. It petitioned for membership in SAYRA and was accepted, taking the place earlier held by the Beaufort Yacht Club. Interest in sailing climbed when the Municipal Parking Lot was constructed on Bay Street in Downtown Beaufort.
The city allowed the Sailing Club to build boat racks for the storage of Sailfish and Sunfish on a property that is now a part of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, overlooking the downtown marina. This made sailing more accessible because boats no longer had to be stored on the river bank or at the shoreside homes of residents. By 1964 the club had well over 100 registered racing sailboats — seven Y-Flyers, six Moths, 30 Sailfish, and 85 Sunfish … even though the club headquarters was nothing more than a parking lot.
Club House Created
The Beaufort Sailing Club was selected to host the 1967 SAYRA Championship Regatta, Beaufort’s James G. Thomas Sr. serving as SAYRA Commodore. The Beaufort Sailing Club officers, anticipating the August event, realized their club was the only participant without a clubhouse. Within a few weeks, they corrected that oversight. They generated enough pledges to purchase a $32,000, 12-acre tract on Lady’s Island, two miles below Beaufort off Meridian Road. The property included the former home of Irving and Jennie Kinghorn, built about 1940.
The Beaufort Sailing Club was renamed The Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club and became the local SAYRA organization, with a mission “to further sports and sportsmanship.”
The club secured permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 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 riverside of the house, a flagpole was raised, and by August the club was well-positioned to host the SAYRA Regatta.
In addition to the cost of the property, the club invested $12,000 on remodeling and renovations. Original BYSC dues were $50 per year and, as of October 1967, there were 82 stockholders.
Anchored for Success
The massive anchor and chain, resting at the foot of the flagpole on the front lawn of the club, was a gift from the family of the late Ezra 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 its trawlers. When recovered, a part of the wooden stock showed signs of char.
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 in Beaufort 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.
Official Club Burgee
In the late 1960s, 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 over the objections of many Beaufortonians to the Miami Seaquarium, where she died.
According to the August 9, 1962, Beaufort Gazette, Senator Jim Waddell had sponsored a bill to prevent the capture of this unique animal from Beaufort County waters. She was truly one in 10 million — because that’s the odds of an albino porpoise surviving in its natural habitat.
However, her captors allegedly enticed her into Colleton County waters, where she was captured. The blue field of the burgee represents the beautiful blue waters of Beaufort County where “Carolina Snowball” lived and where so many of us have enjoyed untold hours of pleasure.
Improving the Property
As the years passed, the club continued to fund improvements. By the summer of 1968, it added a Junior Olympic swimming pool with a diving L. It cost nearly $35,000, Including the pool furniture and the sliding board. Two hard-surfaced tennis courts were completed in May 1971 for $10,871 and lights were added in 1972 to accommodate nighttime play.
The late architect George Madlinger, a BYSC member, oversaw the clubhouse renovations completed in 1974 for $33,400.
When the 12.5-acre property bordering the north side of the club became available in 1977, the club purchased it from Capt. and Mrs. C.C. Champion for $125,000. The home became the club manager’s residence. The east portion of the new and original club properties was subdivided into 14 building lots and christened 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 and the dock was also extended during that season.
Sailing, swimming, and tennis lessons had been offered off and on at the club. But in 1980 an official Junior Activities Program for school-age children began. These summer programs have been held each season since then.
Keeping Up the Club
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.
Architect Jim Thomas Jr. — one of the original five high school boys who championed sailing in Beaufort — led a $100,000 clubhouse renovation in 1990. A grand reopening gala was held on September 22, 1990.
In 1991 the manager’s residence was partially renovated for $13,000 with a new bathroom, an addition with a closet and laundry room, and new back steps, and a new septic tank system was installed at the clubhouse for $4,000. In 1992, two tennis courts were resurfaced and 1,000 square feet of deck were added to the pool.
Storm of the Century
March 1993, the so-called storm of the century hit the club with winds estimated at 65 knots. The south float, damaged beyond repair, was subsequently replaced at a cost of $7,300. Many trees were damaged and several Sunfish cracked when a rack blew over.
In July 1993, a severe lightning storm struck the club, damaging to several trees, all the telephones, and many of the power circuits.
In 1994, the club added 400 square feet to the pool deck.
In 1994, eight kayaks were purchased to supplement the Junior Activities Program. Between 1994 and 1995 the club bought four new Sunfish to replace aging sailboats and added three JY-15s to provide sloop sailing opportunities for members.
In 1996 and 1997, major pool and bathhouse improvements were undertaken. The club bought three Optimist sailboats for junior sailing in 1997.
In early 1999, a large deck was added to the clubhouse, and later that year the club’s dock was replaced. In 2000, the activities pavilion and an extension to the sailing building or maintenance shop were added.
In 2006, at the cost of $198,000, the club refurbished 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 introduced and 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 six moorings installed. The improvements cost around $200,000.
In 2008 a playground was built next to the clubhouse and the lighted tennis courts were resurfaced. The next year the club invested in interior furnishings and added a keyless access system so BYSC members could enjoy the facilities as desired. The sail shed was expanded and an additional fire hydrant installed.