The arrival of the 20th century saw a yachting hotbed on the Detroit River. Two popular type craft, the twenty-one foot sloop and the catboat, dominated the scene, outnumbering all other classes combined. Yacht designers, builders, and sail makers worked with yacht owners for the fastest yacht on the course. This made for keen competition as well as highly skilled skippering and boat handling.
The competition spread to the clubs, who wrote their own racing rules and regulations for class designations. The three main clubs at that time were the Detroit Boat Club, the Detroit Yacht Club, and the Country Club of Detroit (later the Grosse Pointe Club also known as the "Little Club"). Many conflicts developed between the clubs as they fought for the most favorable race dates and wrote rules and regulations that had some favorability for their club members.
Leading yachtsmen of the period began discussions about an organization of the clubs that would standardize the rules and regulations for all yacht racing in this area as well as establishing a racing calendar without conflicting dates for races. Commodore Harry Austin of the Detroit Boat Club and Commodore Harry Kendall of the Detroit Yacht Club were determined to make such an organization a reality. Their efforts led to the birth of the Detroit River Yachting Association in 1912. Membership was to be composed of "active and recognized Corinthian American and Canadian Boating and Yachting Organizations which are located and maintain suitable premises on the water that connect Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
Under the leadership of Com. Harry Austin in 1912 and Com. Harry Kendall in 1913, DRYA immediately exceeded the expectations of the organizing clubs: Detroit Boat Club, Detroit Yacht Club, and the Country Club of Detroit. A regatta schedule was accepted eliminating all conflicts, and the member clubs adopted a uniform set of racing rules as well as class determinations. The DRYA was such a success that new clubs applied for membership as soon as they were organized. Some of our early additions were: Grosse Pointe Yacht Club - 1914, Edison Boat Club - 1914, and Bayview Yacht Club - 1915. Wyandotte-Delray Yacht Club, Lake Shore Yacht Club, Corinthian Yacht Club, and The Old Club (Harsen's Island).
For its first 27 years, DRYA was just an organization of member clubs that functioned to eliminate conflict in sailing dates and to formulate uniform policies and practices in the conduct of sailing races and their supervision. However, with the increase in the number of member clubs as well as regatta entrants, the job of record keeping became too cumbersome for most clubs. In 1939, the member clubs charged DRYA with responsibility for record keeping at each member Club's regatta. This responsibility was quickly expanded to include yacht registration with standardized forms for each regatta listing the yacht, owner, class, rating, sail number, club affiliation, etc.
Consistent with its commitment to speak for the member clubs, DRYA was instrumental in the 1939 establishment of a Coast Guard Divisional Station in Detroit. It also successfully opposed an attempt on the part of promoters to make a landfill along the shipping channel adjacent to Peche Island.
The Second World War brought few changes. However, in 1945, DRYA severed its relationship with Inter-Lake Yachting Association and became an independent member of the North American Yacht Racing Union (now the United States Sailing Association). With this independent status, DRYA formed its own Appeals Committee, has a Delegate on the Council of Sailing Associations, and assigns offshore yacht sail numbers. In 1947, Past Com. T. B. Farnsworth recommended to Com. Joseph A. Summerlee that DRYA establish a Race Week to be held during the week of July 4th. This event was held annually from 1947 through 1950 with 16 to 22 starts daily on two courses with distances from 3 to 15 nautical miles. The event was very popular but a crowded regatta schedule forced its cancellation after the 1950 season.
The DRYA Constitution was rewritten in 1956 imposing some minimal requirements for new member clubs. (DRYA is strongly oriented towards sail yacht race activity as an important criterion in evaluating clubs for membership.)
Additionally, the 1950s saw an ever increasing presence in providing race committee staffing for the member clubs. In 1960, the DRYA established an invitational regatta for small-yacht, one design racing held in mid-May. The strong participation in the invitational regatta showed increased interest in small boat sailing which helped lead to the establishment of the small boat DRYA Standard C Course in 1965. The following year the A-B Course was modified from a fixed triangular course to six fixed marks in an attempt to provide weather starts for the handicapped yachts. The A-B Course was further modified in 1983 with eight fixed marks to provide a trapezoidal course for the A Course and a triangular course for the B Course. In 1987, the B Course was separated from the A Course and moved off Gaukler Pointe to provide an Olympic course configuration for the smaller handicapped yachts. In 1992, the A Course was moved to the B Course location off Gaukler Pointe for handicapped rated yachts with an Olympic Course, and the B Course was relocated below the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club to provide windward/leeward starts for One Design Cruising Boats. Participation reached a record of 250 – 300 participants in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Participation began a slow decline until total participation was between 75 – 125 boats. In 2007, the sailors on the B Course, Offshore One Design classes, requested merging with the A Course boats. The merger was approved by all participants with the new A-B Course located off the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club with a windward / leeward course. The course had proposed legs of 1.5 km or 2 km legs and either 4 or 5 legs. The new course was well accepted by all and continues to be in use today.
While all this moving around was going on, in 1984 to be more precise, the DRYA purchased its first computer to more quickly and accurately process race results, coordinate mailings and store the myriad pieces of information used for handicapping and classifying yachts. The office, then on Marter Road in St. Clair Shores was now fully computerized with Jane Rupp being hired as Office Manager in 1986. Prior to this, results were processed at Modern Business Services on Schafer Road in Detroit. Preliminary results were available at 10:00 pm on the day of the regatta with final results available on Wednesday. With our own computer, results were available between 6:00 – 8:00 pm. As laptops became available, results have been made more readily available and starting in 2012, we are attempting to have them made available as soon after the regatta is finished with the results published on the DRYA Website and Face book. The DRYA Website was established in 1995 providing a constant flow of information to the membership.
A merger between the Offshore Racing Club of Detroit and DRYA was approved in 1991 bringing the handicapping function and racing functions into one organization; and (re)named the Detroit Regional Yacht-racing Association. More importantly, this merger brought the voice of the sailors (Offshore) together with the voice of the Clubs (DRYA) in one unified organization so that all interested parties are communicating and working together for the best sailing and racing anywhere in the country. This streamlining appears to be popular with both the clubs and the sailors. As a result of this merger, DRYA was Incorporated as a Non Profit Corporation under the laws of the Sate of Michigan on January 30, 1992 and we received tax exempt 501 (c) (3) status from the Internal Revenue Service on November 16, 1992. In 2007, the building on Marter Road was torn down for a new building. The office was relocated to a more functional office at 23915 Jefferson Ave., Suite #1, St. Clair Shores, MI.
In January, 1958, the Executive Committee established the "DRYA Hall of Fame”. This award is given to a member in recognition of his/her participation and cooperation in the growth and well being of the Detroit Regional Yacht-racing Association and by his display of Corinthianism, honest rivalry, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results. Through the 2011 season, a total of 69 individuals have been inducted to the DRYA Hall of Fame.
Com. Thomas St. Peter, 2003, proposed a winter seminar series to help introduce sailing to people newly interested as well as existing sailors. Com. Timothy Rumptz picked up the torch and developed this highly successful program. Sessions are held at various member clubs and appropriate off-site locations. Under the direction of the Rear Commodore and Dr. Steve Liroff, the program has become a great success with attendance at 150 - 200 people per session.
In the 100 year history of the DRYA, it has conducted over 40,000 separate starts and finishes for its member clubs. In addition it has a most enviable reputation for expertly conducting area, national, and international championships. With its 27 member clubs, the DRYA is a respected voice in sailing affairs on a local and national level.
During its existence, DRYA has been served by 101 different Commodores who were members of 19 different clubs. That broad base of club and sailor representation in the management of DRYA has provided the stability and communication needed to continue to meet the needs of both our member clubs and sailors, now and in the future.
Note: The preceding “History of the DRYA” was constructed from notes given to the late Commodore Herb Mainwaring by Com. Edwin Theisen and has been reprinted with minor freshening for obvious changes in dates, etc. Known simply as “Herb” to the least and greatest of his friends, Commodore Mainwaring devoted thousands of hours to the betterment of the sport of competitive sail racing. He was Commodore of Crescent Sail Yacht Club in 1962 and the DRYA in 1984, and was elected to the DRYA Hall of Fame in 1994.