As the story goes, Richmond Yacht Club was established in 1932 by a group of locals trying to create affordable sailing. They built their own boats, sewed their own sails and built their own clubhouse and started running their own races. RYC members are committed to their club and are still all volunteers running it. RYC started out south of their current location on Brickyard Cove Rd at what now houses the San Pablo Yacht Club, home to the El Toro Statue. The history of the El Toro is another story for another time.
“RYC has a sign when you first walk into the club that says This Club Was Built for Fun,” says member Kim Paternoster. “I’ve been a member for over three years now, and I can attest that not only has there been a lot of fun that has been had, but the club is the most ‘sailingest’ club in the Bay Area too. Our junior program is top notch and has launched numerous Olympians and Americas Cup sailors.”
As Kim noted, a driving force in the club’s commitment to sailing is their Junior Program for youth ages 8-18 years old. Junior Program volunteers, Dick Loomis, Chris Nash and John Amen shared their passion about the program with SF on the Bay. RYC has been teaching the junior program since 1951. Chris Nash said he learned to sail early on. His parents built their boat and, joined the club in 1951 and kept the kids sailing. “We all learned to sail as kids and now our grandkids are in the program. Four generations at the RYC.”
“The program teaches beginners, making it fun and then they stick around,” explains Chris. “If they are relaxed, they sail better. The whole point is if we teach people how to sail then they don’t have a bad experience.” So they don’t put the sail up at first. Beginners start out with the boat, tiller, rudder and centerboard – no sail. “You learn how your body moves and turns around in the boat.”
“We are watching juniors as if we are teaching new instructors. That’s how we look at it,” continues Chris. His son is now an advance instructor – a step beyond dad!
All the lead instructors are past junior program graduates. The program is comprised of all volunteers – families are involved serving up sandwiches, coaching, generally helping to keep things running smoothly so the kids have a positive experience.
While Dick was Commodore of the club he was an incredible advocate for bringing kids into the wonderful world of sailing. “The thing is – we concentrate on the kids,” said Dick. There are about 80 young people in the juniors program each year. More juniors are members all year long.
Some go off to college and make extra money during the summer teaching sailing at RYC. It’s a lifelong involvement. “My mother is almost 90 yr. old and her heart her passion is still sailing,” said Chris.
“In the late 60s,” continues Dick, “my father thought. ‘Let’s get the kids involved in sailing – the sailing community’s a good bunch of people.’” And Dick is still involved and known as Mr. Fun.
RYC wants to introduce people to sailing. Each year they have Sail a Small Boat Day the first Saturday in March. Everyone is invited to participate – families and anyone of any age. “We give them life jackets, free hot dogs and then they get on a boat of any size,” explained John.
“The sailing community is fun,” comments Chris. It has a huge impact on young people’s lives. It’s not all about racing. We teach sportsmanship.”
“They learn a life lesson of how to be competitive and still be sporting,” says Dick.“ And we really encourage women sailors.” They all noted that many of the juniors go off to college and become engineers.
Also of note, Richmond Yacht Club, established an after school STEMsail program for Richmond youth. STEM is a curriculum designed to educate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEMsail seeks to reinforce these concepts utilizing sailing as a practical platform for learning with a special emphasis on sustainability and an awareness of our marine environment, according to the website.
STEMsail partnered with US Sailing, the governing body for the sport of sailing in the United States, to initiate a program called REACH at the Richmond Yacht Club. The Reach program has ten modules including wind measurement, buoyancy, water quality and environmental stewardship.
Sailing gives youth the opportunity to get outside and become aware of the world around them. It peaks their curiosity as to how the world works. Besides learning sportsmanship, youth learn about being part of a community and how their contributions matter. “The number of people who volunteer out of wanting to share their own passion for sailing is mind-blowing,” continues Kim. “All of this makes me proud to belong to the Richmond Yacht Club!”
Photography Credits: Ornaith Keane