Text by Don Mills, Club Historian
Photos from the archives of photographer Flash Wheeler
The Ventura Yacht Club, originally known as the Ventura County Boat Club, was organized in 1938. In 2013 we celebrated our 75th anniversary.
Ventura Yacht Club is one of the few clubs on the coast which owns its own clubhouse and slips. The club has a proud history of having started as a do-it-yourself type organization. The club’s official newsletter is the Forecast, which has been published monthly since 1940, one of the oldest continuous publications in yachting.
Ventura Yacht Club prides itself in accomplishments which range from an active racing and cruising program to being one of the prime moving forces in having the Ventura Harbor constructed. The club has long been supportive of the Ventura Port District and Ventura Harbor in matters ranging from lobbying efforts to get the harbor constructed –and reconstructed following devastating 1969 floods– and the breakwater built, to playing key roles in such activities as the annual Christmas Parade of Lights and other functions which help put the harbor’s best foot forward.
Many yacht club members have served on the Port District’s Board of Commissioners over the years and, in fact, the club was somewhat instrumental in the Port District having been formed in the first place. It can reasonably be said that the club has been a moving force in the development and growth of Ventura Harbor.
The club has nurtured many youth sailing programs and has supported youths in regional and national sailing championships.
The club was incorporated in 1940 as a non-profit organization, with an original membership of 60.
From the beginning, one of the more serious aims of the members has been to work for better boating facilities in Ventura County. Among the early activities of the club was the construction of launching and mooring facilities at Hueneme Harbor in 1939. World War II halted this project, and efforts were then centered on clearing the snags from the coastal slough known as McGrath Lake in order to hold regattas for outboards and small sailboats and create an interest in boats and boating.
After the war, efforts were resumed to secure harbor facilities in Ventura County with particular emphasis on the Pierpont Bay area. During the campaign to secure a harbor, one of the highlights was constructing a model of the proposed harbor, which was used extensively for publicity purposes. These efforts, combined with others, resulted in the formation of the Ventura Port District, which eventually built the Ventura Marina.
A year or so after World War II ended, the City of Ventura allowed the club to use a city-owned building on the Ventura Pier where regular meetings were held. When freeway construction caused the demolition of the building, the meeting place was moved to the Ventura Recreation Center on Main Street.
The name of the club was changed from the Ventura County Boat Club to Ventura Yacht Club in November 1960.
The club secured a building site lease from the Ventura Port District in February 1965 and launched plans for the construction of the existing clubhouse.
Membership meetings are now held in the clubhouse completed in 1967 and are located on the peninsula at Ventura Harbor. Here, a well-rounded program of boating and social events fills the club’s yearly calendar.
In 1969, floods devastated the harbor in January and February, and for months the clubhouse was not accessible by land. Members used dinghies or other vessels to make their way to the clubhouse which was on what amounted to a storm-wracked island.
In June 1972, the lease was amended to include the water area. The addition of a small-boat hoist was completed in 1972, and in 1973 the club’s own docks were installed in front of the clubhouse. From the Ventura Port District, the club acquired docks, which had been salvaged from the 1969 floods.
The lease was amended again in May 1976, to allow expansion of the Club’s berthing facilities. In 1981, the slips were further upgraded with the complete reconstruction of D dock. The club now has berthing facilities for some 90 vessels.
Ventura Yacht Club has been a regular member of the Southern California Yachting Association and the United States Sailing Association for a number of years and is a charter member of the Association of Santa Barbara Channel Yacht Clubs.
The club annually conducts the Ventura Cup Regatta, which is the most prestigious yacht racing event in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and annually attracts the fastest boats and crews that area yacht clubs can muster. Every other year the club hosts the Ventura County to Newport Race. An active racing, cruising, and social program offers something for yachting-oriented people of all ages.
A twelve-member Board of Directors oversees the affairs of the Ventura Yacht Club Corporation. Directors are elected by the membership to serve three-year terms. Officers are elected annually.
Looming proudly over the grounds is a flagpole, which seems to be an appropriate reflection of Ventura Yacht Club. The flagpole is old and proud (the 55-foot mast stood at the old Oxnard High School site on C Street from the early 1900s) strong and distinctive. It has been maintained and tended to by a caring yacht club, whose burgee it proudly flies.