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A Lake Minnetonka Sailing Tradition Since 1882

Minnetonka Yacht Club’s long-standing history and island location make it unique

In 1882, a group of yachtsmen established the Minnetonka Yacht Club (MYC), which is one of the oldest yacht clubs in America. MYC started with 25 members and has grown to over 500 members today.

Some of the most prominent Lake Minnetonka area residents were early members of the MYC. Its first commodore was George A. Brackett. The namesake of Bracketts Point, he founded Minneapolis’ first fire department and served as the mayor of Minneapolis.

Sailing was a very popular activity on Lake Minnetonka in the early years. In fact, in the late 1880s, there were competing yacht clubs on the lake. In 1883, the Excelsior Yacht Club (EYC) was established. After years of competition, the EYC and MYC merged in 1889.

MYC is located on Light House Island in St. Louis Bay in Deephaven. Light House Island was created by dredging. In 1889, MYC member Sir Charles Gibson of Northome offered the island as the site for the club and donated $3,000 to build the foundation of the clubhouse. Gibson also owned the Hotel St. Louis on St. Louis Bay.

The original pagoda-style clubhouse was built in 1890. It was designed by architect Harry Wild Jones of Minneapolis. Sadly, it burned to the ground in 1943. A new clubhouse was rebuilt on the same site and still remains today. To reach the island, you must arrive by boat.

Lake Minnetonka became known for its boat builders. Boat builder Arthur Dyer of Excelsior designed and built the Onawa for Ward Burton of Chimo, which was the first class sloop champion in 1893.

The Onawa was a 24-foot canoe-like sailboat without a ballast that sailed over the water instead of through it. Burton won every race he competed in with the Onawa.

Eastern yachtsmen began to seek Dyer-made boats. This signaled a change in focus from Eastern-produced boats to boat builders in the Lake Minnetonka area. The Onawa is on display at the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society Museum (ELMSH) in the old Excelsior Depot on Water Street in Excelsior.

The rich sailing tradition continues today. MYC still hosts weekly sailing races, as well as social events for its members. The Lake Minnetonka Sailing School (LMSS) offers sailing programs for beginning to advanced sailors at MYC. For more information, visit www.lmss.us.

From August 11-21, MYC will host the 2011 Inland Lake Yachting Association (ILYA) Championship Regatta. Over 1,000 sailors from throughout the U.S. are expected to attend this highly competitive event. For more information, visit .

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