Monday, March 16, 2009

Gulfport Yacht Club

Great People, Great Facility, Great Sailing

I recently drove to Florida to pick up my Blade F16 from Falcon Marine in Cape Canaveral. While in Florida, I enjoyed three great days of sailing. Two of those days were spent sailing at Gulfport Yacht Club (GYC) and I felt compelled to write about my experiences there.

GYC is located in Gulfport, Florida, on Boca Ciega Bay, South East of St. Petersburg just off of I-275. Boca Ciega Bay has beautiful aqua waters generally running 8-10 feet in depth with lots of open areas for sailing. I participated in their first club race of the season on March 7th, and then sailed again as a guest of the club on March 8th.

Great People
My first experience with the club officers was contacting Commodore Mary Ann Robertson and Secretary Bill Prater via e-mail concerning sailing in the Saturday, March 7th club race. They were quick to respond to my e-mail and very welcoming. Together they helped me with accommodations, relayed the schedule for the Saturday races and confirmed that as a guest with an attending sponsor, I could sail again at the club on Sunday.

Upon arrival, Club members were quick to introduce themselves and helped me with where to park, where to set up and even helped me rig my boat. Throughout the day, other members went out of their way to offer pointers, direct me to where things were around the club and helped me move my boat. After racing, there were good conversations about sailing and many other topics. Overall, there is a welcoming, easy going vibe here that is great for an outsider and sailing in general.

Commodore Mary Ann Robertson

Great Facility
The club itself consists of a clubhouse, areas for storing your boat, a beachside cabana and a launching beach with a boat ramp. The clubhouse is small, but includes a front porch with tables and a grill, a dining/meeting room and a kitchen as well as restroom facilities.

Boats on trailers lined the perimeter of the property with many being secured by tie down straps anchored in the ground. There were all kinds of cats there and some monohulls. I saw F16, F18, Hobies, Tornados, Darts, and many other boat types. While there were a large number of boats there, I was able to trailer my boat in, take it off the trailer and wheel it to a setup area with no problem, despite it being a race day.

The noon skippers meeting was held in the beach cabana with tables and chairs and what also appeared to be a sail storage tube area.

The beach area is small as well, but featured soft sand and had plenty of room for main sail rigging and launching for all the day’s competitors. The slope of the beach is not too great as I was able to move my boat to the launch area by myself. Beach wheels were left on the grassy area just up from the beach. There is a well marked channel leading out of the beach area for access to the bay. During my visit, I also saw several mono hulls launched via the boat ramp which is also in the beach area.

Another handy feature is there are numerous hoses positioned all around the club so you can wash the salt spray off your boat after you sail.

Great Sailing
Sixteen boats raced in the first club race of the season, starting at 1:00. A variety of boats participated as GYC scores using Portsmouth. About half the competitors were A-cats with the other eight being primarily F16 boats (Blades, Vipers Taipans) with a Dart and an H14 rounding out the fleet.

A pontoon boat was used as the RC boat, but there was also a chase boat that was positioned at the windward mark. Overall, the RC was very responsive to wind shifts and moved the starting line and buoys accordingly during the afternoon.

Three races were run in what I would estimate to be 6-8 knot winds, all sausages. While all boats started together, the line was long enough to ensure there was not overcrowding. Right after the race, results were posted on a blackboard on the clubhouse front porch. A-cats finished 1-8, with an F16, the H14 and another F16 taking the next three positions.

I returned the next day as a guest to sail in the afternoon and winds were up at around 8-10, with some pretty good gusts so it was lots of fun, especially flying the spinnaker. Other members were also sailing so we sailed with an H16 and a Prindle.

GYC, A Great Place to Sail
The combination of the people, the facility and the well organized racing make GYC a great place to sail. Add to that very reasonable membership dues and guest launching fees, and you really can’t beat this gem of a club.

GYC will be hosting 2 Regattas in 2009 on Gulfport Beach. The GYC Multihull Regatta is April 18th & 19th and the F16 Global Challenge November 10th through the 14th. Their website features more information about the club including a race and event schedule, fees and contact information:

If you are in Florida, plan to visit, or looking for a warm place to sail, I’d strongly encourage you to check out GYC.

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