Brand new on the Fontana waterfront this summer is the handsome home of two historic organizations: the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, with roots that reach back to 1874, and the Geneva Lake Sailing School, founded by the Yacht Club in 1938. The property that they and various outbuildings occupy, which runs between the lake and South Lake Shore Drive and the east and west boundaries, has been named the Buddy Melges Sailing Center in honor of the Yacht Club’s most accomplished member. It covers close to eight acres of land and has 260 feet of shoreline.
“This project is the culmination of years of effort going back to the farsighted acquisition of the Geneva Lake Boat Company site in 1988, through many administrations and boards of directors,” said Michael K. Keefe, Chair of the Design Committee and former Commodore. “It is our belief that the new building will carry the Yacht Club and the Sailing School through many successful years to come in the promotion of sailing on Geneva Lake and the enjoyment and education of members and students.”
Lake Geneva Yacht Club built its first clubhouse in 1906 on the wooded lakefront at Cedar Point. In 1926, the Club moved to the south side of the lake, directly across from the mouth of Williams Bay, to a building that had been a private home, and it was here that members started the Sailing School. In 1968 and 1969, the Sailing School and the Yacht Club constructed a new home on adjacent property—a two-story building with approximately 4,000 square feet of enclosed space. In 1988, they bought the Geneva Lake Boat Company buildings and land next door. In 1991, the Sailing School moved into its own 1,000-square-foot building on part of that land. Within two decades it was clear that the Sailing School needed more space and the Yacht Club building was becoming increasingly challenging to maintain. In 2011, both organizations agreed to improve the property and collaborate on a single modern facility that they could share.
After designers and architects at BSB Design in Arlington Heights, Illinois, produced preliminary drawings, Briohn Construction Corporation of Brookfield, Wisconsin, a general contractor and builder, began construction of a two-story building designed to be functional, efficient, and attractive and to meet the unique requirements of the two organizations. Work began in October 2014.
The new building has a concrete slab foundation and contains approximately 12,000 square feet of enclosed space on two floors. The exterior siding material is polymer shake shingle, the roof is asphalt shingle, and the entry roof and tower are covered in standing seam metal panels. Landscaping includes a rain garden bio-filtration basin as part of a storm water management plan.
The Geneva Lake Sailing School, on the first floor, includes six state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor classrooms, a race committee and conference room, office space, a display and trophy case, locker rooms, restrooms, showers, and storage areas. There is a children’s recreation area outside the building.
“All of us are enthusiastic about our new facility at the Buddy Melges Sailing Center,” said Thomas Freytag, President of the Geneva Lake Sailing School and Co-Chair, with Past Commodore John D. Simms Jr., of both the Buddy Melges Sailing Center Funding Committee and the Building Committee. “The expanded number of classrooms will enable our instructors to simultaneously teach multiple classes, from novice to advanced sailing, in an innovative and enjoyable environment. The new classroom and on-the-water audio/video technology will allow instructors to more effectively teach the art and science of sailing to students. The ability to video and track a student’s performance on the water will allow for precise feedback, review, and improvement. Kids and adults learn very differently today—the chalkboards of the past have evolved into technology that engages and inspires learning. We are very pleased to be on the cutting edge of this new approach to teaching sailing.”
In 1938, the Geneva Lake Sailing School completed its first season with 40 students; in 2014, the School awarded more than 400 certificates. Thanks to the teaching skills of many directors and instructors and the commitment and generosity of parents, alumni, and board members, the School has become a valuable community resource with programs designed to encourage teamwork, instill confidence, and provide students with a thorough understanding of sailboats and equipment.
Sailing School staff includes an executive director and 15 instructors who oversee beginning and intermediate sailing camps for children as young as four years of age, advanced racing classes, family sailing, charter-certification programs, and lessons for adults. The School’s fleet includes prams, Optimist dinghies, 420s, X boats, O’pen Bics, Windsurfers, Lasers, Sonars, an MC scow, and powerboats for the coaches. The Sailing School has its annual Dinghyfest regatta scheduled for July 6 to 9 this year, and expects to host some 150 boats in five classes of sailboats.
The Lake Geneva Yacht Club, on the second floor of the new building, includes display space for trophies and pictures, offices, a lounge area, dining room, kitchen, and restrooms. The layout design responds to the needs of the members and their guests and serves as welcoming areas for sailors and their families after races, during regattas, and for social functions. In a touch of nostalgia, the décor features a 28-foot 1970s wooden Class E scow hull suspended from the ceiling near the dining area and a 1930s Class C scow wooden mast and gaff, securely planted behind the bar. An exterior deck of finished concrete on the lake side of the second floor provides more than 3,000 square feet of space, partially covered, with exterior staircases on its west and north sides. The view is spectacular.
“It is a privilege to have been instrumental in the completion of a project that has been in the conceptual stages for many years,” said F. Terrence Blanchard, Lake Geneva Yacht Club Commodore and Chair of the Yacht Club’s Long-Range Planning Committee. “Our new facility will bring together not only our members but sailors from all over the country to experience Geneva Lake at its finest. They will enjoy a world-class sailing facility along with numerous amenities and social activities. We are optimistic that our new facility will help us to increase participation in the sport of sailing in the Midwest, and we are excited to make this happen.”
The Yacht Club’s 2015 racing schedule runs from May to mid-October and includes fleet races for the 38-foot Class A, 28-foot Class E, 20-foot Class C, 16-foot MC, Melges17, Melges24, and (for juniors) 16-foot X boat and 7.6 foot Optimist Dinghy, all run by volunteer Race Committee members.
A highlight during the next three years is the Annual Regatta of the Inland Lake Yachting Association (ILYA)—a championship that for more than 100 years has been central to the enjoyment of the sport for sailors young and old. This year’s ILYA Regatta, August 19 – 23, marks the 16th time Lake Geneva Yacht Club has hosted this event, and it is expected to attract more than 200 boats in five classes from the ILYA member clubs. Participants will particularly enjoy seeing the displays in the new Bilge Pullers ILYA Hall of Fame room near the main entrance.
And there are more activities on the 2015 calendar. Every Wednesday evening in July, along with its regular racing, the Yacht Club will hold an Open Fleet Challenge, an event for keelboats on the lake, regardless of ownership, skipper, or club affiliation. On the Fourth of July this year, members will compete for the Blake Burton Parent Trophy in Class X, parent steering, child crewing. On the last Saturday in August, the 29th this year, the Club will hold its traditional length-of-the-lake Sheridan Prize Race (“the great race of our Club”), first held in 1874 to celebrate Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan’s visit to the area. Initially, sailors competed for the Sheridan Prize in over-canvassed boats called sandbaggers, but in 1899 the sandbagger was replaced by the graceful Class A scow.
On September 7, Labor Day, the Class C and Melges 24 fleets will have their own length-of-the-lake races. On September 13, the Yacht Club pier will be the site of the Club’s Annual Wooden Boat Show. On October 3 and 4, the Club will host the Melges 24 Fall Championship Regatta.
The inaugural year for the new home of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club and the Geneva Lake Sailing School promises to be busy, colorful, and rewarding thanks to the determination, collective efforts, and ongoing generosity of many volunteers and friends—“the culmination of great labor” it was called when the 1906 clubhouse opened its doors. The completion in 2015 of this fine new home represents an important legacy for future generations and a welcomed milestone in the long history of these two organizations.
The Buddy Melges Sailing Center – the home of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club and the Geneva Lake Sailing School – was named to honor the accomplishments of Harry C. “Buddy” Melges Jr., a respected competitor, a formidable opponent in Inland Lake scows and international classes, and an individual who continues to inspire sailors of every age. A top Cub sailor at the Yacht Club in the 1940s and an instructor at the Sailing School in the 1950s, Buddy is a three-time US Men’s Sailing Champion, a two-time Olympic medalist, a Pan American Games gold medalist, a world champion in the 5.5 Meter and Star classes, a winning America’s Cup helmsman, a three-time US Yachtsman of the Year, a seven-time International Skeeter Iceboat Champion, the recipient of awards for sportsmanship and service to the sport, and a resident of numerous Halls of Fame. Buddy Melges is a sailor who remembers every race he’s been in and may tell you about some of them but not until he helps you launch your boat.
For information about the Lake Geneva Yacht Club:
Telephone 262-275-2727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the website lgyc.com for details about membership, racing, social activities, and the club’s calendar and history.
For information about the Geneva Lake Sailing School:
Telephone 262-275-8489 or email email@example.com. Visit the
Website glss.org for details about classes and programs, registration forms, staff, and events.
For information about Buddy Melges, the Buddy Melges Sailing Center, and the naming opportunities in the new building, contact Tom Freytag firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the website, buddymelgessailingcenter.org
Address: 1250 South Lake Shore Drive, Fontana, WI 53125.