Our History

The Husky Sailing Club was Formed

The idea of the sailing club began in the spring of 1948 in meetings between UW Daily sports editor, John Faulkner, and Walt Hardman, an experienced sailor. In a report to the ASUW office the club’s purpose was described as to promote sailing at the UW and to sponsor an intercollegiate sailing team. When activities began in the fall of 1948 the club consisted of 40 members with 25 of them boat owners.

In the first year of the club, experienced sailors shared their knowledge of sailing with beginners who wanted to learn. The club organized races and formed traveling teams in the first year. There was excitement in the membership about the sailing team’s potential to make the UW as famous for sailing as it is for crew racing.

Source: The Tell Tale

Northwest Regional Intercollegiate Sailing Champions

The racing teams of the University of Washington Yacht Club established the UW as the top sailing school in the region wining numerous regional titles and placing high in national competitions during the 1960s.  This Northwest Regional Intercollegiate trophy was presented by the Corinthian Yacht Club.  Many of the competitions were held at their Leschi site on Lake Washington. UW wins were 1949, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1969.

Source: The Tell Tale

The “Husky” Sailboat was Born

The new Husky Sailing Club needed six boats to sponsor competitions and teach sailing to a growing membership. Previously, club sailors had been sharing their own personal boats for instruction. After a successful club membership drive in the spring of 1949, demonstrating the growing interest in sailing on campus, the ASUW loaned $4,000 to purchase a fleet of boats.

A design competition was held by the club asking local boat builders for a dinghy that would be stable enough for teaching and also be competitive in intercollegiate competition. Bill Nightingale of Olympic Boat won the competition, and theHusky sailboat was born.

The “Husky” was a self-rescuing 18’ sloop that featured a mahogany plywood hull with fore and aft deck hatches. It had a bow that was designed to plane like a scow. The sloop rig and single rudder in a deck insert made it like the Geary 18, “flattie” that had been popular for instruction. 

“As I recall the legend, the club wanted something that would be "self-rescuing and plane." The Huskies were that, provided the hatch covers stayed on and the wind blew over 40 knots. When completely swamped they would float deck awash. If you stood on it you would sink to about your armpits.” - Norm Ahlquist (WYC Member 1966)

Source: Salish.com

Husky Sailing Moves to the Shellhouse

The “ASUW” Shellhouse, also known as the UW Canoe House, was constructed in 1918. After the United States entered World War I in 1917, the University of Washington granted the government access to its campus facilities for U.S. naval training and storage. However, the building’s naval use was rather short-lived due to the end of the war that year, and the Navy gave ownership of the hangar to the University of Washington.

The building served several generations of the UW crew team from 1920-1949 until they moved to their newly built Conibear Shell House. The Husky Sailing Club lobbied to save the ASUW Shellhouse from demolition by the Army Corps of Engineers and moved into the building. In 1951, boats were stored with the masts partially dropped to fit in through the large east facing doors. The second-floor landing served as the Sailing Club’s office and the south side of the building was named the Yacht Club Gear Locker

In 1975 the Canoe House became the first UW building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, in 1974 and 2018, the ASUW Shell House was designated as a landmark by Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Bond.

Source: ASUW Shell House & Husky Sailing Foundation

The "Penguins"

In 1955, the Washington Yacht Club (WYC) sought to expand the sailboat fleet to meet student demand to participate in inter-club and intercollegiate sailboat racing. WYC received a loan of $3,300 from ASUW to purchase six Penguin sailboats.

As is tradition, the club once again held an all-University contest to find the best names for each Penguin boat. The winner received a free 1-year membership.

The chosen winners were the names of Santa’s reindeer: “Dasher”, “Dancer”, “Prancer”, “Cupid”, “Comet”, and “Vixen”.

The Penguin fleet was built by Lake Washington Yacht Basin (YABA). We decided to have them coated with fiberglass so they could better survive in the yacht club environment. Of course, we knew they would be heavier than the Seattle Yacht Club (SYC) and other private boats. But we had to have boats for all WYC members.” - Ron McFarlane (WYC Member 1953)

Source: The Tell Tale

The "Frosh Pond" 500

The Washington Yacht Club has a history of sailing boats all around the UW Campus to attract new student members and promote the joy of sailing. Locations have included the Quad, Red Square (outside of Suzzallo library), the Montlake Cut, and most notably – Drumheller Fountain (referred to in the past as “Frosh Pond”).

In 1969, The Frosh Pond 500 race was scheduled – marking the first attempt to sail 500 laps around the pond (a feat that would take approximately 20 hours to complete if successful). The annual race was scheduled as a kickoff to Washington Yacht Club’s Open House recruitment event.

Source: The Tell Tale

The Novice Rating is Implemented

As the Washington Yacht Club grew over its first two decades in operation, the club’s roster grew to encompass not only experienced sailors – but many new sailors as well. The implementation of the Novice Rating helped increase the accessibility of sailing to UW students while also promoting safety on the water and continuous learning.

“When I joined in 1966, we had the same ratings [...] and the winds seemed to be reliably 25+ (knots) in the winters and skipper tests meant something. The “in thing” was heavy (extreme) weather sailing. Winter quarters (the club) had maybe 25 members. In the mid 1970’s, the club had bloated to over 1,000 members and the weather seemed to be more subdued. Certain chiefs were giving skipper ratings in very little wind because of demand. I then invented the Novice Rating (based on the amateur radio licensing scheme) which limited wind and sailing area for the new sailors, and it would expire in 6 months.” - Norm Ahlquist (WYC Member 1966)

Source: The Tell Tale

WYC Moves to the Waterfront Activities Center

The Washington Yacht Club moved into the newly built UW Waterfront Activities Center which contains a sail loft, boat repair shop, and a sail locker to store dinghy rudders and sails. Additionally, the upstairs has locker rooms with showers and saunas – the perfect restoration after a cold day on the water.

Source: Husky Sailing Foundation

65th Anniversary

65th Anniversary celebrations took place during the quarterly Snooze N Cruise camping trip to Blake Island with past and present WYC members in attendance. A birthday card was signed by all members along with the year of their first WYC rating – with the oldest being by two former commodores Tom Schubert (1964) and John Courter (1976).

Source: The Tell Tale

75th Anniversary

75th Anniversary celebrations took place at the Seattle Yacht Club where past and present members of the club came together to celebrate the club's resurgence coming out of the COVID-19 Pandemic, host a raffle to support future club activities, and remember all of the good times had on the water. At the end of the reception, past and present commodores in attendance were celebrated for their time, effort, and contributions to the Washington Yacht Club.

Stories from the Water

The Washington Yacht Club has collected many sailing stories and tips from our adventures out on the waterways of Puget Sound and beyond!  From 2000 to 2013, the primary mechanism for sharing these stories was through The Tell Tale, the official newsletter of the Washington Yacht Club.  

The Tell Tale is filled with lovely (2000’s) gems highlighting the WYC’s adventurous spirit and impact of promoting the accessibility of sailing to the student body and broader University of Washington community. 

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