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Jul 2, 2013 1:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Yacht Club Celebrating Its 75th Anniversary

Jul 2, 2013 2:28 PM
At 7 years old, Tim Rumph loved the feeling of the sea air on his face as he learned the ins and outs of sailing with the members of the Southampton Yacht Club.Fifty years later, he is a seasoned veteran on the water, and Mr. Rumph—a former commodore with the group from 1985 to 1988—comes to the Little Neck Road club in a Lightning boat with his family and friends to enjoy the water.

The yacht club, he said, has become his home away from home, and gives him a chance to experience Shinnecock Bay in a way that not many people can.

“Shinnecock Bay is like our own private bay,” he said. “Sometimes we go out there and we are the only ones there. It is perfect, and the wind blows all the time.”

This summer, the yacht club, which was first established at its current location in the summer of 1938, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. To celebrate, the roughly 124 families who participate in the group are gearing up for a summer of races and barbecues. Last week, they held a special party at the clubhouse, with approximately 160 people attending.

“What is interesting is this clubhouse really started out as a meeting place for locals and summer folks,” Mr. Rumph said in an interview last week. “But it has really turned into a second home for some of these people. I have made some great friends here over the years.”

According to John Halsey, a past commodore from 1991 to 1994, the yacht club was first founded in the early 1900s in Peconic Bay, although it did not last long because the water was too rough for sailing. Shortly after, the group moved to Little Neck Road to be on Shinnecock Bay, and in 1938 the sailors moved down the street to the current location at 96 Little Neck Road.

Once there, a handful of members purchased a small “house kit” and constructed a small structure that served as the yacht clubhouse until 2007, when the club decided it was no longer safe and had a new clubhouse built, he said.

The current clubhouse, a one-story house on stilts set back from the road, is a nod to the original. It features an open common area and kitchen just off a large deck. The juniors, who have their own office in the house, are often seen filtering in and out during the summer. Unlike traditional yacht clubs, the facility does not feature a restaurant or bar, but rather grills out back and a large lawn for relaxing.

“We are not a hoity-toity club,” Commodore Sandy Griffin said. “We are hands-on, and everything is done by the members.”

A key aspect of the club is its being a family facility. A member of the group since he was 7, Mr. Halsey said sailing has been a pastime in his family for years, and that he learned from his father, Hugh Halsey, a past commodore and Lightning racing champion.

“Here, you will learn seamanship and how to understand the dynamics of motion in the boat,” Mr. Halsey said. “Then you can learn the tactics of racing, and that is what makes it really fun.”

According to Ms. Griffin, the yacht club is most known for its extensive youth program, which teaches kids as young as 7 how to sail. As they advance, the kids are entered into regattas both on and off Long Island. On September 21, the Yacht Club will host its own regatta, and it anticipates that more than 150 sailors will compete in 25 boats at the event, which will follow traditional Peconic Gardiners Junior Sailing Association rules. Throughout the summer, the club will also host a variety of smaller events, primarily for juniors to race Optimist boats, geared toward building sailing skills.

One junior member, 17-year-old Sarah Warren, said her years at the yacht club have shaped who she has become, noting that it has given her a greater appreciation for the water and all marine life. Sarah, who has been sailing since she was 8, joined the yacht club with her parents, and is now a competitive sailor.

“I have always loved it,” Sarah said about sailing. “We have such great instructors here and they are always willing to help you out and go the extra distance to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a fun time sailing.”

Now, Sarah, who will be a senior at Southampton High School next year, said she hopes to compete on the water in college. She added that she hopes to study marine biology. “I am a water-oriented person because of the yacht club,” she said. “I have always loved it.”

Last week, Ms. Griffin said the main goal of the yacht club is to encourage sailing and teach sailing techniques in the Hampton community.

“The object of the club is to encourage the sport of sailing and yachting,” the club bylaws state. “To promote the science of seamanship and navigation, and to prove and maintain a suitable Club House and anchorage for the use and recreation of its members.”

Currently, the yacht club has several boats that it owns—including club 420s, and Lightnings—but most boats, like Sunfish and Lasers, are privately owned by club members who use the docks for an additional fee.

Yacht club members pay $1,000 in member dues each year, or $950 for a full junior season. Anyone wanting more information can contact the yacht club at 283-9888.

“I think it is important to note that this is a member-run club,” Ms. Griffin said, noting that club members maintain the clubhouse and host parties on their own. “Everybody volunteers, and we come down here and take care of everything together. That is why I enjoy it, because I feel like it is my club and it has always been that way.”

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