A Brief History
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PACIFIC INTER-CLUB ASSOCIATION
BY THE P.I.C.Y.A. HISTORICAL COMMITTEEE May 15, 2013
The Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association was formed in San Francisco, California May 12, 1896, with
Charles G. Yale (San Francisco Yacht Club) as its first President. For some time prior to this, the major
San Francisco Bay yacht clubs were considering an organization for inter-communication, uniform racing
rules and to encourage yachting. The five charter clubs and the year they were founded were:
California Y.C. (1893), Corinthian Y.C. (1886), Encinal Y.C. (1890), Pacific Y.C. (1873) and the San
Francisco Y.C. (1869). None of the still existing charter clubs has maintained continuous membership in
PICYA. South Bay Y.C. founded in 1888 joined PICYA in 1897
The Five Original Charter Clubs
The California Y.C. clubhouse was originally located on the west side of the Webster Street Bridge on the
Oakland Estuary in Alameda. It was dubbed the “Oakland Navy” at the beginning and this “stuck.”
Dissatisfied with the problems associated with the location, it tried to combine with Encinal Y.C. in 1901
without success. The clubhouse was moved to Brooks Island in 1907. The logistics of transporting
people and supplies proved to be too great and the clubhouse was moved to Key Route Basin in 1916-
1919. Attempts to combine with Oakland Y.C. and Aeolian Y.C. at a Neptune Beach location did not
work out. The clubhouse gradually deteriorated and their members gradually joined other clubs. The
club maintained a listing and various mailing addresses until 1933 in Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts.
J. Porter Shaw was the last Commodore of record. Before 1919, the club had dropped out of PICYA and
efforts to get it back into the fold proved fruitless. The second Richardson Bay Y.C. has adopted its
The Corinthian Y.C. has occupied its present site at Corinthian Island since 1886. The original clubhouse
burned down. The present building has been improved over time and a harbor added. Its Centennial
publication was 1986.
The Encinal Y.C. clubhouse was completed in 1891 at the south shore of Grand Avenue, Alameda. The
property was sold in 1956 and the present clubhouse, on the Estuary in Alameda was built in 1960. The
Centennial publication of Encinal Y.C. was published in 1994.
The Pacific Y.C. clubhouse was in “old” Sausalito at “Hurricane Gulch.” It was disbanded in 1899.
Benicia Y.C. adopted its burgee.
The first San Francisco Y.C. clubhouse was located on a long railroad wharf or “Long Wharf” at Mission
Bay in San Francisco until 1877. After temporary locations, a clubhouse was located in “old” Sausalito
about 1877. This burned down in 1897 and was rebuilt. Storm problems and oil pollution mainly caused
the relocation to its present Belvedere site. The original small clubhouse has developed into the present
one and the harbor was built. Its Centennial publication was issued in 1969 and a supplement was
issued in 1994.
On June 24, 1903, South Bay Y.C. dedicated its present clubhouse. Although the building had been
moved, spruced up with some additions and painted; it is still the original building with its first meeting
taking place at the new location on April 11, 1985. A commemorative plaque was erected in February
The PICYA Burgee
The original five star burgee of PICYA is still used today. There was period when a new star was added
when a new club joined. However, when eighteen stars were reached this became spatially impractical
and the use of five stars was resumed. There is an indication that an adaptation with the two aft stars in
the horizontal was used on a special burgee awarded to early placing racers.
The first major PICYA publication in 1898, after the original 1898 Bylaws were called “Yacht Signal Code
for Use on San Francisco Bay and Adjacent Waters.” It was complied by George G. Edgar. It contained a
code flag designation table with PICYA Member Clubs and Officer’s burgees in a color plate. Past PICYA
Commodore Ward Cleaveland had the original and also had the flag plate enlarged.
An original copy of the 1898 PICYA Constitution and Bylaws had been located in 1990. This is still to be
confirmed as of April 2013. A 1912 revised copy printed by Larry Knight was located and Larry then
started the present Yearbook series with the eleven page “Official Program and Race Instructions for
Season 1922.” The 1923 issue, published simultaneously with the formation of a Pacific Coast Yacht
Association sponsored regatta on San Francisco Bay was a masterpiece for its day. Larry Knight
continued to publish the Yearbook until his death in 1966. It was taken over in succession by Hal Biggar
(1967-1971), Ed Wilder (1972-1983), Burnett Tregoning (1984-1998), John Chalfant (1999-2006) and
Johnnie Owen (2007-present). The Yearbook has improved over the years in format, information and
quality of print and color. As of 2013, it contains a listing of many types of PICYA trophies, awards,
races, boating organizations and listing of over 105 member clubs.
Early Regattas & Trophies
The first PICYA regatta was held on September 9, 1896, California Admission Day. Joseph M.
MacDonough donated a sterling silver trophy in the name of his father Joseph MacDonough Senior, a
prominent yachtsman active in PICYA and Commodore of Pacific Y.C. from 1881-1882. The first winner
of the trophy was “Truant,” (CYC). MacDonough continued to donate cups until 1916 when PICYA began
furnishing its own trophies. He also represented PICYA when the old North American Yacht Racing
Union was formed, (now United States Sailing Association) to develop “universal” handicapping.
Another notable trophy is the 1913 Lipton Cup. Sir Thomas Lipton visited the Bay Area in 1912 and
intended to field a 12-meter boat to compete with a San Francisco Bay boat during the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition in 1915. However, the beginning of World War I made this impractical. The cup
was raced in 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1920. The last three times won by John Hanify. He presented the
cup to the Olympic Club for display but tragically, he lost his life in rough seas in 1922 and this ended
interest in this class for racing along with the knowledge of where the Lipton Trophy was located. It was
‘lost’ for roughly 40 years and ‘discovered’ in the display case of the Olympic club by Paul Marcucci of
the San Francisco Y.C. It was returned to PICYA after negotiation and a new Deed of Gift was written
with approval of the Lipton Estate effective September 1, 1960. The original Lipton Cup was melted in
the St. Francis Y.C. fire of 1976. Irreplaceable, a modern sailboat replica was substituted.
In 1928, the Corinthian Y.C. and the St. Francis Y.C. took over most of the major sail races creating the
Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay. It was also partially sponsored by PICYA. “One Design”
racing was started on the Bay as early as 1887 when the Mosquito fleet competed in races held by both
the Pacific Y.C. and the Corinthian Y.C. Later PICYA fostered and encouraged building of the “Bird”
(1992), “Star” (1923) and “PIC” (1936) class sloops.
As the reliability of the early gasoline engines improved, many powerboats races were held on the Bay,
Carquinez Strait, the San Joaquin and the Sacramento Rivers as well as occasionally in the ocean. PICYA
or individual clubs usually under American Power Boat Association rules sponsored these races. Sail
races were also sponsored by PICYA at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International and the 1939 Golden Gate
International expositions. Such races were also held during the celebrations for the opening of the
Golden Gate and Bay Bridges in 1935, 1936 and the Carquinez Bridge in 1927. Eventually the Northern
California Power Cruiser Association in 1937 and the Predicted Log Racing Association oversaw
powerboat racing in 1953.
Opening Day on the Bay
The largest single PICYA event is “Opening Day.” This was a term used in the early 1890’s when it was
associated with the first activities of individual yacht clubs celebrating the spring season. It gradually
became indentified with the manual opening of the bridge at Corinthian Island, Marin County. This was
an event viewed by yachtsmen and local residents as sailboats and “arks” passed through. These had
been stored in Tiburon Lagoon to protect them from the ravages of winter. Individual clubs held their
own “Opening Day” celebrations either independently or jointly. The first PICYA sponsored coordinated
event was held in 1917 at the suggestion of Gus Dorn (CYC). There is an annual “Theme” for decorated
boats with many trophies awarded along with the “Benham” trophy, which is a competition for yacht
club participation based on boats and distance traveled. Amended in 1968.
Legislative Boating Interests
One of PICYA’s greatest contributions to the betterment of boating has been its effort in the legislative
field. 1965 marked the leap forward when the necessity for an organization to make legislators aware
of boat owners’ needs and to guard against an increasing number of adverse bills being submitted in the
legislature. This resulted in the nonprofit corporation, ‘Boat Owners Associated Together’ or B.O.A.T.
formed by Past Presidents of PICYA as the first trustees. The Southern California Yachting Association
was contacted to bring their half of the state into the field. B.O.A.T. was then reorganized to emerge as
a statewide organization in September of 1968 making it an effective state legislative watchdog. In 1983
the name was changed to ‘Recreational Boaters of California’ or R.B.O.C. Each year nine directors
appointed by PICYA and nine directors appointed by SCYA join in Sacramento to visit with Senators and
Assembly members from their areas. This has been a very effective method of communication. In 1970,
its success was attributed largely to the capable work of Executive Director, Jerry Desmond and his staff.
In 1993, Director George Neil of Richmond Y.C. developed the PICYA “Club of the Year” program to
honor the clubs whose delegates were most effective in facilitating club participation in PICYA events.
Clubs earned points in many categories including attendance at Delegates Meetings and participation in
PICYA seminars and regattas. The member club with the most points at the end of each year would be
named PICYA “Club of the Year.” The first club to win this award was Bel Marin Keys Y.C.
In 1997 Staff Commodore Margot Brown, (1995, first woman Commodore of PICYA) propose a
Wheelchair Regatta. There were 8 boats and 68 veteran participants. Encinal Y.C. with its natural
location and no public service event at that time was a good fit. There was a great deal of enthusiasm
for the event at the time and it has increased in size and participation every year. It continues to be held
at Encinal Y.C. on the last Saturday in September as PICYA’s charity event.
This “Brief History of PICYA” will be updated from time to time as more information becomes available.
Most notably a separate chapter on the many trophies, regattas and awards that were added through
the years. I would like to thank past Historical Chair Lloyd Ryland (1912 – 2006) for his diligent and
meticulous work that has been a main source of information for this document and S/C Peter Nardini
who worked on the Historical Committee at that time and who has been a consultant and member of
the present committee.
If you have any questions or additional material to be reviewed, please contact PICYA Maritime
Historical Chair Donna Duncan. www.picya.org. Thank you.