MORNINGTON Yacht Club has come a long way since 11 interested residents met to discuss forming a sailing club in February 1946.
Members of the founding group wanted to sail their assorted collection of boats off Shire Hall beach. In May that year Mornington Council leased the group an ex-Army hut close to the pier. This served as the catalyst for development of competitive sailing in the district.
Now, 70 years later, the vibrant and diverse club with more than 750 members will hold an open day on the weekend of 20-21 February.
The Back to Mornington YC Weekend will be open to the public and past members are being encouraged to attend.
Features will include displays of historic photographs and boats, a 70th anniversary fleet race on the Saturday close to pier and shore viewing places, live music , free morning and afternoon tea, and opportunities to sail.
Back in the early days, the heavyweight Sharpie introduced in 1947 served as the backbone of the club for the next 10 years. Inter-club sailing took place between Black Rock, Mordialloc, Chelsea and Frankston yacht clubs. The Sharpie era culminated in the club holding a successful state championship in 1951.
In those days there was limited training for junior sailors other than learning the ropes as a bailer boy in Sharpies. This all changed in 1956 with the introduction of the Sabot as a training boat for juniors which was supported by a home-building program.
This became the foundation for the club and introduced hundreds of boys and girls to sailing as a sport.
For many years the Sabot fleet was the largest in the state and Mornington members won six state titles and two Australian championships.
In the past 10 years or so the Sabot has been replaced by the Optimist with similar success.
In 1964 the club had 156 members, a number which increased rapidly following a grant of reclaimed land near the pier on which a new clubhouse was built.
New classes were introduced, including the Gwen 12, Cherub, Fireball and Mirror dinghy as a family class.
The first Flying Fifteen in Australia sailed at Mornington and became one of the major classes at the club. Several are still sailing today and share the hard-stand area with a fleet of Etchells.
In the mid-1950s a strong keelboat fleet began at the club and ocean racing flourished with Mornington yachts winning divisions of the Sydney to Hobart, Queenscliff to Devonport, Melbourne to Hobart and Sydney to Noumea ocean races.
Keelboat racing is still important, with weekly races for two divisions of keelboats and for the strong trailable yacht fleet which continues to grow.
Club members have won around 20 state and five national titles and one world championship.
The club has also hosted several state, national and one world championship. Not all the sailing at Mornington is ultra-competitive and the club runs a Thursday evening twilight series in summer.
In 1999 club members established a Sailability program to provide sailing experience for those with disabilities. The program has run ever since with sessions held twice weekly throughout the sailing season. A participant has won a Victorian championship and sailed successfully in national and international events.
Training programs are also run for schoolchildren and anyone who wants to learn to sail.
Seventy years on and Mornington Yacht Club is a vibrant, active member of the Mornington community.
For details of the 70th anniversary weekend call 5975 7001.