Waikiki Yacht Club
has been good for the state

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (4/25/98)
By Ray Pendleton

Fifty-four years ago, on April 20, 1944, as the war in the Pacific was drawing to close, a small, group of recreational sailors gathered at a boat dock on what is now the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor to found a new organization, the Waikiki Yacht Club.

Those boaters had been forced to remain on shore since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but they had finally received permission to reestablish yacht racing in what they knew was the best sailing venue in the world.

There were just 37 charter members, but Hawaii's legendary waterman Duke Kahanamoku was among them, and he was on the original board of directors.

In its first three years, the WYC not only organized numerous adult sailing regattas, but established one of the Islands' first junior sailing programs. Since then, the program has taught hundreds of Hawaii's young people boating skills and a respect for the sea. In fact, two of those sailors, Mike Rothwell (the club's present commodore) and Dave McFaull, went on to win silver medals sailing in the 1976 Olympics.

In 1947, the WYC became involved as a host for the first post-war running of the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. That involvement continues to this day in a biennial race that has introduced Hawai`i and the spirit of aloha to thousands of sailors from around the world.

In 1978, with sponsorship from Pan American Airlines, the WYC attracted international entries by conducting the first of four biennial Pan Am Clipper Cup Yacht Races, which evolved from the club's earlier "Around the State" races.

When Pan Am ceased its operations in the Pacific, the Kenwood Corporation took up the role of major sponsor in 1986. With assistance from the WYC, the specially-created Royal Hawaiian Ocean Racing Club put the Kenwood Cup International Offshore Series among the world's top individual and team yachting competitions.

Not a club to rest on its laurels, the WYC has now established itself as one of 16 yacht clubs, worldwide, that in 1999 will have an entry in the challenger selection race series for the America's Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. If its Aloha Racing Team should edge out the competition and defeat the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's boat, the race for the oldest trophy in sports would next be held in Hawai`i.

It should be stressed that WYC's involvement in national and international sailing competition should be seen as more than a benefit to its members alone. Attracting thousands of the world's best sailors, aboard hundreds of boats, to Hawai`i has created a rich source of revenue - and publicity - for the state.

A 50-boat regatta - with perhaps 400 crew members - may in turn bring an additional 400 family and friends, and all will be in need of food, lodging and entertainment.

The attendant press corps will need the same, and they, of course, will be telling the world about their experiences.

In the early 1950s, the WYC signed a 40-year lease with the Territory of Hawai`i for the property and mooring area it occupies today. That lease has long expired and now the legislature is considering a resolution that would allow the Department of Land and Natural Resources to reissue a lease for the submerged portions of the property.

Given the WYC's history, and plans for the future, of promoting activities that repay the state with much more than just lease fees, it should be hard to consider a better tenant for that small portion of Hawaii's waterfront property.

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