Duluth Yacht Club History

 

A few good men. That's all that was needed back in February 1969 to start the present day Duluth Keel Club. A group of men, who informally raced each other across Lake Superior under the auspices of the Cruising Club, decided to come together formally and solidify sport sailing in the Duluth-Superior area.

The Cruising Club, including longtime sailors Jack Soetieber, Jack Arnold, Dave Poulin, Jim Robinson, and Dale Sola, in the early days would begin their races off Park Point. The group called itself the Cruising Club because they wanted to differentiate themselves and the sailboat from a scow club that raced in the bay.

Because of the success of the Cruising Club, some members felt the Club should be more formal and promoted as an area-wide sailing club. The Apostle Island Yacht Club, which had already been in existence for thirteen years, was established with the help of Jack Soetieber and Dr. John Pierpont - two founding members of the Duluth Club. Duluth hadn't seen a formal yacht club since the 1920's and 30's when Park Point had an elaborate establishment, which operated under the name Duluth Yacht Club.

The Cruising Club drew up a constitution, established by-laws, changed its name to the Duluth Keel Club (DKC) and named Bill Soetieber its first Commodore. The Duluth Keel Club's purpose was "to act in the est interest of sailing; to create, foster and encourage a comradery among all sailors in the Duluth-Superior area; to support that which is in the best interest of sailing and boating as a sport and recreation". Membership was granted to males 21 years of age or older and dues were set at ten dollars. By April 1969, the Duluth Keel Club had 26 paid members.

The early races were more informal than racing today.  Ten races were scheduled for the year with a Spring Series and Fall Series.  The DKC scheduled their races around the Apostle Islands Yacht Club season, which started around the Fourth of July. Because many sailors participated in both clubs, the Spring Invitational Series held May 31 and June 1, 1969, were DKC's first formal races.  Boats ranged from a Cal 20 to a Rhodes 41 with a no spinnaker or family rules adopted for Saturday's race and anything goes on Sunday.

Jack Soetieber remembers the early races as being much more laid back than they are now.  There were more cruising races - racing p to Knife River on Saturday, anchoring for the night and racing back to Duluth on Sunday.  Jack remembers many boats included wives and children, which fostered a social atmosphere.  Soetieber also recalls the early days on the starting line.  All boats anchored, and when the starting horn blew, they would pull up anchor and begin the race.

The Duluth Keel Club initially adopted a high-point scoring system.  The first six places were given points starting at six points for first down to one point for sixth.  The boat with the most points at the end of the season won.  In 1977, the DKC adopted a low-point scoring system.  The first boat received half a point, second boat scored two points and so on  down.  The boat with the lowest number of points at the end of the season won.  Sailboats also received a large number of points for not starting, not finishing, being  disqualified, or finishing last.  Also,  in 1977, the DKC change its rating system.  Before 1977, sailboats were rated based on a modified version of the International Offshore Rules (IOR), developed by Stu Sivertson.  Now the DYC uses the Performance Handicapped Racing Formula (PHRF).

Duluth can boast the beginning of one of the most prominent Lake Superior sailboat races, the Trans-Superior.  The Trans-Superior was a race thought out between Duluth sailor Jack Soetieber and Dr.  John Pierpont from White Pine, Michigan.  The two men set up the race more as a challenge to each other and other Lake Superior sailors.  It was organize before the 1969 conception of the Duluth Keel Club.  The race is a 326 nautical mile race from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to Duluth.  It is held every odd yer and is sponsored by the Lake Superior Sailing Association in conjunction with the Duluth Keel Club and Algoma Sailing Club in Sault St. Marie.  The course was reversed in 1983, but due to finish line logistics, it was changed back to the traditional Sault Ste. Marie to Duluth direction.

The Richardson Cup race is another sailing event the Club has been active in over the years.  The Richardson Cup is a series of match races where boats pair up and race one on one.  The event is the Great Lake's championship of match racing and is held in a different location every year.  In 1980, the Duluth Keel Club hosted the Richardson Cup and Club members have represented Duluth in 1977, 1978, 1980, 1990, and 2001.  The Richardson Cup event returned to Duluth in September of 1977 and 2002.  In 2002, a team of DYC sailors representing Lake Superior Yachting Association won the coveted Richardson Cup.

In 1990, the beginning of a new decade ushered in a new name for the club.  It adopted the assumed name of "Duluth Yacht Club."  Along with a new name came a new clubhouse and docks centered at the heart of waterfront activity.  With the elimination of family rules prohibiting spinnakers on Wednesday nights, the Duluth Yacht Club expanded the Club's sailing expertise.

Another major event, which Duluth had the pleasure of co-hosting in 1990, was the Midget Ocean racing Club International Regatta.  Boats from all over the United States and Canada came to Duluth to compete on an unpredictable Lake Superior.  The event was co-hosted by the Duluth Yacht Club and Wayzata Yacht Club.  MORC sailboats and ratings are built around a measurement system.  Before the boats touched the water, each had to be measured and weighed to determine the rating allotment and were assigned to their respective classes.  Duluth boats fared will earning top places in the Production and Classic Divisions.

2008 was an exciting year with new achievements for club members. Former Commodore Eric Thomas completed the Solo Trans-Pacific finishing first in his class and second overall.  And placing sixth in the U.S. Sailing Women's National Championship was Susan Mattis Turnham and crew Connie Bloom, Amy Carlson and Kari Jacobson Hedin.

In March of 2017, the Club returned to tradition by again adopting the "Duluth Yacht Club" assumed name. The original, legal name of the Minneosta non-profit corporatiion, i.e., the Duluth Keel Club, remains unchanged. The Duluth Yacht Club currently offers family, individual, social, and student memberships and is comprised of male, female, and youth sailors.  The Duluth Yacht Club continues to look toward the future.