Sailing is the focus at Bayview Yacht Club
The reason sailors join Bayview Yacht Club differs for each member.
For some its the camaraderie, for others it may be the restaurant or its location on the banks of the Detroit River. Most agree, though, that it's the club's rigorous focus on sailing that sets Bayview apart from other clubs.
For Lynn Kotwicki, it was the club's legacy of racing champions.
"I knew the history, I knew the reputation. I knew the America's Cup sailors and sailors across a number of classes that were members," says Kotwicki of Royal Oak, who became a member in the early 2000s. A competitive sailor, she grew up around powerboats, but focused on sailing around age 10.
Kotwicki developed the yearly Women on Water regatta at Bayview in an effort to draw more women to the sport. She says Bayview is known globally because members like herself travel the world's waterways leaving behind the club's flag, known as a burgee.
"When I compete, whether it's in Portugal, Brazil or Sweden, or wherever, I always take the burgee and leave it there at that club. It's one of those things that ties you to home, but then again it makes notoriety for the club around the world, as well."
This year, Bayview celebrates 100 years in Detroit. The six-acre club at 100 Clairpointe, off East Jefferson, offers members access to boat wells, banquet facilities, a bar and restaurant and plenty of social activities. For all the stereotypes that may be associated with yacht clubs — exclusivity, old money, polo shirts — Commodore Hanson Bratton says Bayview aims to be inclusive and welcomes anyone interested in the sport of sailing.
"Bayview, as far as private clubs go, has a pretty narrow focus in terms of sailing," says Bratton, who will serve as commodore for one year, per tradition. "We don't have a lot of powerboats here ... we don't have a swimming pool, we don't have racquet courts and all that, so a lot of it is truly focused on sailing."
Bayview hosts regattas regularly. Besides a Thursday night series, the annual Summer Match Racing Invitational will take place this weekend, and, later this summer, the yacht club will host the Detroit Cup Aug. 27-30. The international sailing competition — which partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit — is spectator-friendly and has onsite commentary to add to the excitement of competition.
Bayview is best known for creating the annual Port Huron to Mackinac Boat Race, which began in 1925. Frank Kern, a member since 1996, has collected extensive history on the race. Kern says when Bayview opened, there were only six members. Today there are around 1,000.
"Bayview started 100 years ago in 1915 and it was literally a fishing shack on motor boat row, which today is the boat basin owned by Gregory Marina (two miles west of Bayview)," Kern says.
One of the most popular aspects of Bayview in terms of boating is the adult and youth sailing programs, where people of almost any age can learn the basics of the sport. The Junior Sailing Program is open to youths ages 8-18 and offers a two-week "Learn to Sail" program ($450) or a summer-long program ($1,150).
Sailors are not required to be members of BYC, nor do they need to own a boat; they just need some close-toed shoes, a life vest and sun block.
Jessica Dodge of Grosse Pointe Park started her fourth summer in the sailing class last week.
"When I came in, I didn't even like sailing, but I love it so much now," says Dodge, who will be a freshman at Grosse Pointe South High School after her summer on the water. "The community is so nice and everyone is really helpful. I've learned so much about sailing. They teach you everything."
"And it's not just sailing; we play games and you make a lot of friends."
The final youth sailing class begins Monday, adult classes are under way, and a second wave of the program starts in mid-July.
Bridget Nutter joined Bayview as a junior member of the sailing program in 1997. She said Bayview offers a great way to make lifelong connections.
"I grew up in the junior sailing program and I was lucky enough to meet a lot of people who are still some of my closest friends today," says Nutter of Grosse Pointe Park.
"We've always been a club that prioritizes racing over anything else, although the social aspect is a close second. You can walk into the bar almost any time and see someone dressed up for work talking to another member covered in paint, and they're both equally at home because the love of the sport is what brought them in the door."
In addition to beginning sailors, Bayview also is home to champions, as demonstrated by the many shelves stocked with trophies throughout the club. Bayview even supports Olympic sailors. Two Olympic sailing teams — Bora Gulari and Solvig Sayre, and Alex Hume and Matt Graham — are working with the club to compete in the 2016 summer games.
Bratton stresses that while it can be costly to maintain and house a big boat, sailing can be for people in all economic situations.
"People think that it's a rich man's sport. The fact of the matter is that there are people that have money here and lot of what happens requires that financial support — owning a big boat — but people that don't have a lot of money also are very much welcome here and are needed to support sailing," Bratton says.
"All these boats need people to crew, and everybody here is willing to take on somebody and teach them what to do, and not even in the adult sailing program, just one of the regular boats that go out, we'll take them out and teach them how to sail and see if they're interested in it. Eventually, if they think they can become members, they do, but there's no obligation to become a member."
Bayview Yacht Club
100 Clairpointe, Detroit
Clubhouse summer hours: 3-10 p.m. Mondays; 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sundays.
Membership: Adults ages 35 and older: $2,500 initiation fee, plus $145 monthly dues. Lower rates available for ages 25-35. Bayview Yacht Club is seeking new members, especially younger ones.
Adult Sailing: This year's remaining seven-week programs runs July 28-Sept. 1 and July 29-Sept. 2; orientation on July 23.
Junior Sailing: The remaining two-week Learn to Sail program will start Monday.
Visit byc.com to download applications.