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San Clemente Journal

The Dana Point Yacht Club - Hidden Gem in the Harbor

Dec 23, 2016 11:40AM ● By Jim Kempton
by Jim, Kempton

The greatest race in the sailing world is the 165 year old America’s Cup. 
This year when the almost Grail-like America’s Cup trophy was displayed, only one sailing entity was bestowed with that honor: the Dana Point Yacht Club. It was a statement of respect for an organization that has won Yacht Club of the Year three times. As it prepares to celebrate its 65th year of activity in 2017, the Dana Point Yacht Club has earned that respect in many intriguing ways. 

Take this one, for instance: How many yacht clubs in the world can claim that one of their members was inducted as an initial member into the National Sailing Hall of Fame? The list of initial inductees was pretty formidable: Dennis Connor, Ted Turner, Betsy Alison (one of America’s most renown women sailors) Olin Stephens II (the most famous yacht designer of the 20th century) and – Hobie Alter. 

The Hobie Cat, a design Alter invented, revolutionized sailboat racing with an entirely new class of racers that took the world by storm. And it started right here at the Dana Point Yacht Club. 
A member since the 1960s, Alter is just one of many renowned yachtsmen to have called the Club their home. In fact the racing prowess of the Dana Point Club is legendary. There is the longstanding record of winning the world-famous Newport to Ensenada race more times than any club in history. But here is another of the clubs almost astonishing achievements - it is one of the great racing clubs on the globe. In the internationally-prestigious 2009 TransPac race DPYC member Jack Taylor's Horizon placed first and second in class, member Relentless placed 2nd in class and 1st in double-handed. Club vessels Far Niente placed 2nd and Relentless II placed 4th. That same year DPYC Junior Brian Bolton got an invitation to the US Junior Olympics in the 29er Class, winning a Gold Medal. 

Those are but a handful of the trophies won by the club.

As far back as 1992, the Club supported member and sailboard sailor, Lanee Butler, in her efforts to become a member of the U.S. Olympic team.  Butler finished 5th in the Barcelona Olympics. 
In 2010, Taylor's Horizon, a Santa Cruz 50, took 1st place honors across the board with a “Clean Sweep” in the Pacific Cup: 1st to Finish, 1st in Fleet, 1st in Class, the Latitude 38 Performance Trophy, and crew Jon Shampain won the Navigator Award.  

Just this year Paris Henken, a San Clemente native, and her racing partner, Helena Scutt represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the newly formed 49erFX class sailing competition. Both were residents of San Clemente where Paris learned to sail at the Yacht Club. Henken learned to sail at the Dana Point Yacht Club.
But racing isn’t what the club feels is their strongest suit.

“We call ourselves the friendliest yacht club in the world, and we really think we are,” says Melissa Perdue, a vivacious, long-time member of the DPYC. “The camaraderie is so strong and it builds on itself”, she says. Once again there is plenty of evidence for this. Over the last two decades the club has consistently fielded the most boats in the local Newport to Ensenada Race, a testament to the club member enthusiasm. Fishing tournaments, Regattas, a welcoming hand to stand up paddle boarders and great rapport with other sailing clubs worldwide has helped make the DPYC a very popular destination for both members and visitors alike. Jazz nights, ‘Thirsty Thursdays’, Avalon Cruises, a wine club and a Commodore’s Ball help keep the membership connected.
Melissa’s husband, Bob Perdue the current Commodore had a visionary agenda when he took command in 2016. Many at the club think it has helped take the facility up a notch. A major clubhouse improvement had come in 2012 with club volunteers constructing a huge, marble top bar in the main dining room. Member Bert Donaldson was the “project manager” the new bar became affectionately known as Bert's Bar. Bob Perdue saw the need to build on that improvement and more.

“We wanted a premiere restaurant to match that,” said Perdue. “Now we feel like the food and drinks are at the level of excellence we wanted since the beginning.” For anyone who has sampled the menu, there can be no doubt – the food is top notch.

Yet for most of its history the Dana Point Yacht Club has taken its enthusiastic, ambitious membership and done something for the community as well. 

 “You just can’t just be a friendly, highly competitive race club says John Berry, who was Yachtsman of the Year in 2014. “You have to give back too.”

Programs like the Clean Marina program, Junior Sailor training courses, contributing to the Ocean Institute, and the Richard Henry Dana Charity Regatta are just a few of the efforts that have set the mark.

“Thanking our military service men and women remains a strong component at DPYC,” mentions Berry, a veteran himself and a dedicated club member. The Club sent invitations out to Camp Pendleton Marines for fishing and sailing days, as well as a prime rib dinner to feed our team of warriors and their families.”  A special Marines event also remains a key day of the Richard Henry Dana Charity Regatta.

What started as a group of yacht racers getting together to enjoy a day on the water and raise some money for local charities has grown into a fundraising effort that involves a wide variety of events and people from the community. The club even rents the facilities for weddings and other events, helping introduce the facility and the membership to an expanding local audience. And truthfully, it would be hard to beat the location, view and quality of the club’s premiere spot. 
So what does the club see for the future? Mike Hatcher, the current Vice Commodore who will be taking the reins in 2017, sees an increase in activities, membership and youth involvement in the club’s robust sailing programs. That’s not hard to imagine given that Mike was a successful promoter and now a local yacht sales agent. 

“There is a lot of renewed energy in the DPYC over the last several years,” says Hatcher. “Good leadership has taken us forward. I hope to make the next step for the Club using my expertise and energy.”

For anyone who would like their kids to grow up with sailing as part of their life experience, the Dana Point Yacht Club is the perfect place to consider. A storied heritage, great camaraderie, a sense of ocean stewardship, community philanthropy and an outstanding junior sailing program makes the Club a great connection to the world and the future. 

“We have worked really hard to make this a place for the world to be proud of,” says Commodore Bob Perdue. “We have won Yacht Club of the Year three times already. I think we are due again.”

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