Club History

Club History from 1872 to the Present


A Legacy of Distinguished Leadership
Staff Commodores Gallery
Perpetual Trophies And Their Winners
Trophy Gallery


1872 - 1920

The original SBYC Clubhouse. A 35 foot x 20 foot building at the foot of Stearns' Wharf. Originally the home of the John Stearns during the building of the wharf
Just seven years following the conclusion of the Civil War, organized yachting came to Santa Barbara. According to the Bible of all things maritime, Lloyd's Register Of American Yachts, the Santa Barbara Yacht Club was formed in 1872, although not formally incorporated until May 5, 1887. This was a time before the first Southern Pacific train reached the city and State Street was a graded dirt thoroughfare with boardwalks and lighted by gas imported from San Francisco. In the world of yachting this was the beginning of the "golden age" with the first race for the America's Cup in 1870.

The proximity of the town to the ocean gave rise to an emerging consciousness of the joys of water sports and sailing, just as it was doing on San Francisco Bay. The sport of sailing rapidly spread to every seaport in the country, from the sophisticated East Coast to the shores of the Pacific and the picturesque town of Santa Barbara. In 1872, stimulated by an influx of Eastern visitors, the businessmen awakened to the area's potential. A Chamber of Commerce was formed under the name of the Immigration Bureau and the first item on the agenda was the formation of a tourist hotel - The Arlington.

A mule car line was established between the water front and the site of the proposed hotel. The long isolation of the community was broken with the completion of a substantial wharf named for its builder, John B. Stearns. Ships could now unload their passengers without rowing them ashore.

The original clubhouse, as far as the records show, was a 35 x 20 foot building at the foot of Stearns Wharf on the West side. During the building of the wharf this had been the home of John Stearns. The southeast corner of the building was occupied by a galley with a wood stove. The southwest corner was a head with a pipe leading to the beach below. A battered piano stood in the Northeast corner. The membership totaled 50.

1921 - 1950

In the summer of 1921 a survey was organized by the Yacht Club to determine if and where it would be possible to have a yacht harbor. The firm of Hill & Co. of San Francisco was hired to make the survey, for which they were paid $3,500 by the club. The Bird Refuge was recommended. An alternative location, opposite Castle Rock where it is today, was rejected because of possible shoaling.

The original SBYC Clubhouse's final days. It was destroyed by a storm in February of 1924.
About Christmas, 1924 in a southeast gale, the clubhouse was washed out to sea. In early 1925 Messrs. Fleischman, Storke, Murphy and Spaulding said they would have a clubhouse built on Stearns Wharf and leased to the Club. This Club House opened in 1926, at the location of the present Harbor Restaurant. From 1921 to 1929 a regatta was held every year. In 1925, the year of the Santa Barbara earthquake, the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA) Regatta was scheduled. SCYA offered to call it off because of the earthquake damage. The club said it was willing to put it on if the visitors didn't mind a few inconveniences. The regatta that year was the biggest and best. The banquet, ball and distribution of prizes was held at La Cumbre Country Club. In 1926 Major Fleischman offered financial help for the construction of a suitable harbor. In spite of previous advice the city recommended the harbor be built in its present location. A bond issue was approved in 1926 for $250,000 for a 1,000 foot breakwater and work started in January 1927. When work was eventually completed the length was 2,435 feet at a cost of $775,000.

 
Yacht Club building on Stearns Wharf.
A few of the yachts owned by the Club members and moored within the new harbor were Haida 128 ft., Invader 135 ft., Faith 106 ft., Malibu 100 ft., Patolita 82 ft., Radio 110 ft., Westward 68 ft., Hafje 58 ft., Navigator 78 ft., Zingara 65 ft., Caprice 65 ft., Wymitch and Bayadere, each about 50 ft. In addition, there were four 8-meters, seven star boats and 12 large power yachts of various sizes.The 1930's were a rocky period for the club. Prior to 1929, membership in the club was held to not more than 100 members. Following the stock market crash and the onset of the depression, membership was thrown open to anyone with the result that the membership jumped up to between 600 and 700 members, few of whom were yachtsmen. Generally poor conduct on the part of a few members, however, threatened to collapse the Club. In 1932, the yachtsmen who had dropped out because of this were induced to come back and the Club was reorganized. Those not interested in yachting were for the most part dropped from the membership.

Presently The Old Yacht Club Inn, this two-story house was an interim clubhouse after the original was destroyed. It was located on Cabrillo Boulevard just east of Stearns Wharf but was later moved to it's present location at 431 Corona Del Mar
1937, however, saw a repeat of the 1932 problem by non-yachtsmen members and the Stearns Wharf Clubhouse was lost for non-payment of rent. Alcohol and the depression had taken a toll on the Santa Barbara Yacht Club.In March 1938 the Club was again reorganized and renamed the "Channel Corinthian Yacht Club". Major Fleischman, Tom Crawford and A. C. Postel were instrumental in reorganizing the Club and merging with the remnants of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. The corporate charter, due to expire after 50 years, had been renewed to retain the name "Santa Barbara Yacht Club." The name "Santa Barbara Yacht Club" was readopted June 20, 1940. The clubhouse was a one room shack on the east side of Stearns Wharf, opposite the old Yacht Club building.

In 1940 the Club was in sound financial condition and the members started to agitate for property of their own. The city was in need of a civic auditorium, so plans were drawn for a building to be erected immediately west of the breakwater. The Southern wing was to be the Yacht Club, the center the auditorium and the northern wing for the Naval Reserve. The city council appropriated $20,000. The W.P.A. was to put up the balance. With construction well under way war arrived. The W.P.A. shut down and the city was stuck with a building less than a third completed. The building was given to the Navy, and the harbor was closed during the war, but a "shadow" club was held together.

1946 - Present

Activities started again in 1946, the first regatta in 1947 was held at the Naval Reserve Armory. Club meetings were held in various member's houses. During February 1949 a suite was leased in the California Hotel. In January 1950 negotiations were opened with the City for a portion of beach for a clubhouse location. In July 1950 there was a "Bill of Sale" from the Union Oil Company for an old office building to be used for a clubhouse. The clubhouse was completed and in use by December 1951. It was in this building that the spirit shown by our Yacht Club today was generated. That building was removed in 1966 and replaced by the current facility.

The Santa Barbara Yacht Club is proud of the contributions that we make to our city, such as:
Playing host to visiting yachtsmen from all over the world and providing a facility for their comfort. Founding and sponsoring the Santa Barbara Youth Foundation and offering sailing instructions to young sailors from the Santa Barbara area. Providing a facility for the Santa Barbara Sailing Club race program. Hosting the starting point and finishing point for the Santa Barbara to King Harbor, Encinal to Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara races. These events are estimated to bring 300 yachts and up to 5,000 people to Santa Barbara. Providing direct support for the Harbor Festival and visitation of US Naval Vessels.


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