• Bonnie Hawk Barney

Part 10: A time of building

The renewed energy of the Keuka Yacht in the "twenties" brought to mind her Golden Age a generation before. With 100 members going into the 1928 season, plans were discussed for doubling the membership that one year. Having sailed for two years from the Keuka Hotel dock, they were seeking a permanent home for the KYC. The Elmira Club (in a building 3 miles south of Keuka, also at times housing the Keuka Lake Club and the Corning Club) would welcome the sailors into its membership. Paul Garrett offered at a nominal fee the rental of a stone building not far from the foot of his new road on Bluff Point on condition that the lease could be canceled at will. Of most serious interest to the planners was a pledge fund of $35,000 for the establishment of a residential club at Hammondsport, to utilize the old Wadsworth Hotel property.

The yachters of KYC were putting Keuka Lake on the map. Governor Alfred Smith, entertained aboard Commodore Wagener’s yacht, ran sailing and motor boat races off the Bluff, donating two silver trophies to be known as the Governor’s Cups, and to be up for perpetual challenge. While officiating at races in Florida, during his winter south, Commodore Wagener interested several 151 Class boats, such as the 60-miler Miss California, to come to Keuka for a three-day race over July 4, 1928, sanctioned by the Mississippi Racing Association. Locally great interest centered on the Baby Gars, Gar Wood Specials, Hacker Sedans, and Penn Yan Boat Company Super Baby Buzz Boat. Crowds always assembled to watch the twin Baby Gars of Messrs. Joe Eberle and Paul Garrett...displacement boats put out by American motorboat champion Gar Wood of Detroit, which had greater speed (50-60 mph) than the hydroplanes of former days.

One hot summer’s afternoon more than a score of these spectators were stranded on the outer platform of Alley’s Inn dock when the stringers collapsed under their weight. Evacuation was hampered by the many cars parked blocking the way, necessitating the summons of State Police for prompt handling of the situation. It appeared that day that Joe Eberle in his boat "Joe Junior" had won the race: he crossed the finish line a full minute ahead of the next boat. The judges announced, however, that Joe wasn’t registered to race; he’d been engaged to follow the boats around the course.

The local sailors of A’s, confident that their racing sloops were the fastest boats made, issued a defy to any sailors of the U. S. or Canada to race them. A solid gold trophy or purse of $500 was offered. Sailors on Seneca displayed some interest, but were discouraged by the necessary portage from Dresden to Penn Yan. Commodore Wagener assured them that if they took up the challenge, our sailors would go to their lake to race, it being of little effort due to ownership of wheel-mounted cradles for drawing boats. Their excuse gone, their confidence followed.

Owasco Lake sailors were luke-warm in their effort, too. From the Hammonds-port Herald: "Strange about these sailors over on Owasco Lake. They have had challenges addressed to them by Commodore Wagener of the KYC on more than one occasion without deigning to reply, but when they decide to start something, their challenge to Keuka comes through the columns of the press and addressed to no one in particular. That is a detail one may overlook, the more difficult matter is that they say nothing about the type of craft that they are accustomed to sailing. Keuka’s sailing craft are racing shells, probably the fastest small sailboats in the world. Their masts and booms are about as rugged as split-bamboo fishing rods, and in any sort of breeze they are as tranquil as a kitten chasing a piece of cork." The trophy, "one made of real gold and without tricky perforations around the edge," could be purchased "for a mere thousand smackers, a hundred each for ten plutocrats of the region." The challenge was never met, and the gold cup never procured. The $35,000 pledged building fund wasn’t invested, either. During the season the feeling was to gain boats, to better the fleet, rather than acquire an expensive clubhouse and so-called "pink-tea sailing". "Put the money in the sport," they said, as sailing itself continued to be the raison d’être for KYC.

William J. Tylee & Charles Herman (President of Penn Yan Boat Company)

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