A History of the Cal Sailing Club
March 29, 1995
(revised June 23, 1997)
Most universities that are located near large bodies of water have a single sailing facility which serves multiple functions. These usually include sailing instruction, recreational sailing, and intercollegiate competitive sailing. Up until about 1970, this was the case at U.C. Berkeley. A single organization served all the sailing-related needs of the University community. But at that time the U.C. Racing Team, the U.C. Physical Education Department's sailing classes, and the Cal Sailing Club split into three separate organizations, each using their own equipment and located miles apart.
This split was due largely to the rigorous environmental conditions that prevail on San Francisco Bay. The Bay is famous for its strong sailing breezes - but these conditions, along with cold water, steep waves, and dense fog, place unusually stringent requirements on both instructional standards and on boat maintenance procedures. Friction inevitably developed between the Racing Team, which needed their boats in top competitive condition, the U.C. Sailing Classes, which consistently damaged boats during instruction but had insufficient resources to maintain them, and the U.C. Yacht CLub, as it was then called, which had volunteers to maintain the fleet but was primarily interested in recreational sailing.
So the Racing Team went to Richmond Yacht Club with their best racing boats, the U.C. sailing Classes went to Aquatic Park where they rented smaller boats from a dealer there, and the U.C.Y.C. was transformed into the Cal Sailing CLub. The Cal Sailing Club (CSC) became an independent, non-profit corporation, and took over ownership of eight 14-foot boats and three 22-foot boats, among others. Within a year or two, as the Berkeley Marina neared completion, CSC moved from the old location near the Berkeley Yacht Club to the present site at the South Sailing Basin. Three berths for the larger boats were provided on the newly-completed J-dock. In 1974, a small building was designed and built by club members to supplement the maintenance shed provided by the City.
Between 1970 and 1979, CSC's membership was limited to students, faculty, and former students of any U.C. campus. It was felt at the time that the predominantly student character of the membership had to be maintained in order to qualify as a Student Activity, and to be included under U.C.'s blanket insurance coverage. Even so, non-U.C. affiliated people were unofficially encouraged to join anyway. Membership peaked at 300 to 350 members during these years, probably about two-thirds of them students. Dues gradually increased from $12.50/quarter to $25/quarter. A full program of instructional, recreational, and low-key competitive sailing was offered, not unlike the present operation. Little if any subsidy was received from either the U.C. or the A.S.U.C.
In 1979, several events combined to prompt a major change in the Cal Sailing Club:
- Many members were expressing interest in drawing on the public at large for membership. This was partly due to the feeling that non-student members often stayed in the Club longer and generally had more time to devote to volunteer teaching, maintenance, etc.
- The Berkeley Marina required proof of substantial insurance coverage.
- It was determined that CSC was probably not covered by U.C.'s insurance.
- The University began to proceed with plans to re-establish a consolidated sailing facility at the Berkeley Marina.
The last item was a particularly strong motivator. Early proposals by U.C. suggested that CSC would come under the control of U.C.'s Department of Intramural Sports and Recreation, which would have resulted in the loss of nearly all of CSC's autonomy, along with ownership of the boats and much of its character as a volunteer- based organization. CSC opted to remain independent. The result was that CSC found its own insurance and opened its doors to the public on an official basis. Dues were increased to $35 for a three month membership to cover the additional insurance costs (although U.C. students were still allowed a $5 discount).
U.C.'s plans eventually took the form of a sailing school operated by Cal Adventures, located on a site leased by the university adjacent to the Cal Sailing Club. The U.C. Racing Team shared the Cal Adventures site until 1994, when they moved to Encinal Yacht Club on the Oakland Estuary. The Cal Adventures program differs from CSC's in that it has paid staff and is almost exclusively oriented towards instruction. It is somewhat better organized and significantly more expensive. Participation appears to be predominantly U.C. students, and opportunities for recreational sailing outside of scheduled classes are limited.
Relations between the two organizations have been good. The redundant rescue facilities have proved to be extremely valuable, and the leases have designated dock and hoist usage so as to minimize overcrowding of these facilities. Early fears of competition proved to be unjustified - the market for inexpensive sailing opportunities is far larger than both groups could ever handle. Unquestionably, the public is better served by having the two organizations to choose from.
The next five years (1979-1984) saw a steady stream of major improvements to CSC, with a significant increase in membership. The boat storage area was paved and fenced, which reduced the theft problem and allowed the use of better trailers. CSC's fleet of boats was expanded to include a 26-foot cruising sailboat and approximately 10 sailboards or windsurfers, as well as a variety of high-performance dinghies. Membership in 1983 reached a high of about 670, probably about one-third student. In 1982, the Cal Sailing Club was granted tax-exempt status under IRC section 501-C(3) as and educational organization.
By 1984, the eight 14-foot boats used for most of CSC's instructional activities were nearing the end of their useful life. Built in 1958 and 1962, they had been used continuously under extremely rigorous conditions, and it was determined that they could not withstand even one more re-build. By borrowing from Club members under terms very favorable to CSC, the Club was able to purchase a fleet of eight new boats custom built to CSC specifications and then heavily modified by members' volunteer labor. Dues were increased again to $40 for a three month membership, with the $5 discount now extended to seniors and minors as well as U.C. students.
By 1988, the number of sailboards owned by the Club had increased to approximately 20, and during the summer approximately half of CSC's activity is devoted to windsurfing. A new storage locker for sailboard equipment was acquired, and a new commercial-quality rescue skiff was purchased.