Commodore Steve Harris – January, 2017
Over the past couple of years, I have written a bit about Frank H. Miller. Although never an officer at BLYC, he did go on to become Commodore of Put-in-Bay Yacht Club in 1952 and of I-LYA in 1964. This “missing Commodore” however, is not necessarily the interesting part of the Frank Miller story.
The July, 1981 issue of the Log celebrated BLYC’s 75th Anniversary. Among other features, the issue included the recollections of BLYC Past Commodores on their years at the Club, and those of Frank Miller, as he had been a member for many years. From his recollection…
“1912/13 Harry Freeman, 5th Commodore as I recall was the first member interested in Junior Sailing. In 1916 he invested in some Dinghies but there was no one to sail them. So Max Slaughter and I became the first Junior members in 1917 after using my father’s membership since 1914.”
So there you have it! 100 years ago, BLYC had our first Junior Sailors. In those days, BLYC was still very much a “man’s club” and Juniors were certainly limited to the sons of members. However, as the years went on and the Club became more family oriented, sons and daughters participated in the program – learning to sail and racing at Buckeye Lake on the weekends.
The first organized “BLYC Race Team” wouldn’t come about until the 1950’s. It was then that the North American Yacht Racing Union (now US Sailing) began inviting teams from around the country to compete for the Sears Cup – which had long been a coveted junior championship in the northeast. I-LYA was allowed to send one team and, of course, not to be outdone by our northern, “big lake” neighbors, BLYC sent a team to compete for the honor of representing I-LYA. Our team, consisting of skipper Jerry Cooper along with crew Jeff Dum, Jim Dressel, and alternate Don Wilson traveled to Sandusky along with Junior Training Governor Cliff Dum to compete for the right to sail in these new National Championships. Averaging in age at about 12-years old, they were 4-5 years younger than their competitors. They didn’t win, but they learned a lot. Having tasted competition at this high level, BLYC Juniors were determined to be successful.
1955 was the “coming of age” season for BLYC Juniors. Our team again traveled north to compete and… tied. They didn’t get to go on and compete at the National level, but they were determined to return the following year and win… which they did! In 1956, the BLYC Team of skipper Jim Dressel and crew Ed Ballenger, Jeff Dum, and Tommy Davis competed at the first ever I-LYA Junior Bay Week. They won that regatta and the Wakefield Trophy and earned the right to compete for the Sears Cup Junior National Championship – the first ever team from an inland lake to do so!
In the years that followed, BLYC would be well represented in the Junior Sailing world. BLYC Juniors would bring home many trophies both for their on-water performance and for their sportsmanship. Many world-class sailors got their start as BLYC Juniors – Greg Fisher with 20+ National & North American Championships and winner of the 2008 J/22 Worlds – Matt Fisher, winner of several Championships in the Lightning & Interlake Classes, the 2009 Lightning Worlds, and the gold medal in the 1991 Pan-Am Games – Mike Hein, who crewed on America3 which successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1992 – and many, many more.
BLYC’s greatest success, however, without doubt came in the 1977 season. That year, BLYC swept both Junior Bay Week and the Area E qualifiers for the National Junior Championships – Lon Moyer (Smythe – singlehanded), Mike Hein & Steve Beeson (Bemis – doublehanded), and Willy Petersilge, Dan Roshon, & Dan Dressel (Sears – triplehanded). The triplehanded team of Petersilge, Dressel, and Roshon would go on to win the Sears Cup – the first I-LYA Club in decades and the first ever inland lake team to bring home the trophy!
Through the past century, participation and accomplishments have ebbed and flowed, but Junior Sailing remains a vital part of BLYC. Many of our juniors have gone on to serve in leadership roles in the Club, and in the sport of sailing, and remain active to this day.
In the coming months, we will continue to celebrate this rich history.