Club History

In 1925, local yachtsman decided to organize a club and call it Southwestern Yacht Club. The group located space at the foot of Grape Street. By the Fall of 1926, the first clubhouse was completed at a cost of $700.  In 1949 the Club moved to Harbor Drive and in1950 to its present location.  The Clubhouse now in use was completed in 2010.


Staff Commodore Graham Shand left the Club with a quote we still use today:  “Southwestern Yacht Club was born from a desire of several yachtsmen to organize a yacht club where they could meet, exchange good fellowship, and promote the sport of yachting on San Diego Bay.  May we say that we have lived up to our ideals of many years ago; a Corinthian Yacht Club, where regardless of station in life, we meet on a common ground – our favorite pastime – yachting. May it ever be so!”

Please click on links below for more history of our club.


1925: Grape Street

In 1924, there were no yacht clubs on the San Diego side of the bay, the San Diego Yacht Club having moved to Coronado. Mud flats extended from the Embarcadero all along the shore. A year later, Dr. Ernest Percy Chartres-Martin and Stanley Hobson, disgusted with the lack of facilities for yachtsmen in San Diego, decided to organize a club and build a pier for yachtsman only, because commercial fishermen had priority for the best locations on the piers already in existence. Chartres-Martin and Hobson called the meeting in March, 1925.

According to Sea and Pacific Motor Boat, the charter members of Southwestern Yacht Club were: Dr. E. Chartres-Martin, J. Stanley Hobson, Graham Shand, Dr. McKellar, R.G. Fenn, Al Stewart, and Michael Eff. However, according to the memory of Graham Shand in 1947, the charter members were: Dr. Chartres-Martin, Graham Shand, Dr. McKellar, Earl Mencke, Roger Bryan, Bob Bowman, and William Rolfe. Because no records were kept during the years previous to 1947, accurate data is not available. Perhaps the first group consisted of the original organizers and the latter were the true charter members.

The first meeting was held in a shanty at the head of Mancke's pier. Ways and means were discussed; Shand and Hobson were appointed to locate a site for the club, and to get the approval of Joe Brennan, who was Captain of the Port at this time. Eventually, Hobson suggested the club be named the Southwestern Yacht Club.

Subsequently, while exploring the bay and shore in a skiff, Shand and Hobson discovered that the only feasible spot in which the club would be able to locate was at the foot of Grape Street. Upon further investigation, it was decided by Brennan that this site was available for a rental charge of $1 per month.

Through the influence of Chartes-Martin, the Street Railway Company donated rails for construction of a pier. Heavy timbers and 2 x 4's four feet long were purchased from Whiting-Mead Company for $27. Club members obtained additional timbers needed to complete the pier from the sea wall originally built by the city. Shand recalled, "We decided that the timbers would serve a better purpose on our pier than holding back the tide water on the flats, which were fast filling anyway".

Within one month, the pier was completed and ready for operation. In the late fall in 1926, the first clubhouse, 20' x 40' enhanced by a large fireplace and a tower housing a flashing light, was completed at a cost of $700. Consequently, the club membership increased to 42 by the end of the year. Dues of $3 per month were established, and a second 100 feet of frontage added.

In January, 1927, the club ground was landscaped by member F. A. Bode. (Bode had been responsible for landscaping at the 1915 Exposition in Balboa Park.) The club grounds were San Diego's first landscaped waterfront area. 

At this time, Southwestern Yacht Club applied for and was granted membership in the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA).

In 1934, the San Diego Yacht Club proposed a merger for the two clubs. Their proposal was turned down by one vote. Nevertheless, many of the larger boat owners were allowed to join the San Diego Yacht Club without paying an initiation fee.

With the start of World War II, Port Captain Brennan hinted to the members of the Southwestern Yacht Club that they would have to relocate. As a result, members requested that the new site be at the foot of Qualtrough Street in Point Loma. This request was denied because the site had already been leased to sport-fishing groups.

1941: Harbor Drive

In 1941, the members chose to move to a location near what later became the Harbor Boat and Yacht Yard. On October 31, 1941, the clubhouse at the foot of Grape Street was sold to the Lemon Grove Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for $550 and was moved. With this money and a loan from the San Diego Trust and Savings Bank, the building of a second clubhouse began.

However, progress was impeded due to the rationing of material brought on by World War II. Construction had barely begun when members were notified that they would have to relocate for the third time. Consequently, the building was constructed on skids with flexible utility connections in anticipation of a future move. In 1946, the land on which the clubhouse was located was leased by the City to the Harbor Boat and Yacht Yard, and the Southwestern Yacht Club moved 400 feet westward. In 1948, with a membership of 160, a 20' x 50' addition to the clubhouse was constructed.

In 1947, the Club reapplied for membership in the Southern California Yachting Association and was also granted fleet charters for the Lightning and Thistle Class. This restarted Fleet racing at Southwestern Yacht Club and various perpetual trophies were obtained for the events.

Graham Shand, a Charter Member, Staff Commodore, and past Club Historian wrote a brief history of the Club. He said, "SWYC was born from a desire of several yachtsmen to organize a yacht club where they could meet, exchange good fellowship and promote the sport of yachting on San Diego Bay. May we say that we have lived up to our ideals of many years ago; a Corinthian Yacht Club, where regardless of station in life, we meet on a common ground--our favorite pastime--yachting. May it ever be so!"

Clubhouse on Barge

1951 - Present: Qualtrough Street

On March 27, 1951, the clubhouse was relocated by barge to its present site at the foot of Qualtrough Street. Rent was established at $1 per member or $250 per month, whichever was greater. In 1954, the Club entered into a new 5 year lease with two options to renew. A provision of this lease was the development of a Penguin Fleet by Junior Members within one year of signing. The Club grew to 250 members by 1955, the construction of a fifth dock began, and an electric hoist was installed. The Clubhouse was remodeled in 1958 adding much needed space.
  Opening Day 1951

On May 22, 1960, the largest earthquake of the Twentieth Century occurred off the coast of Chili in South America generating a large Pacific Area Tsunami which caused widespread destruction. Without prior notice strong currents estimated to be in the range of 20-25 knots swept two sections of our docks off their pilings due to the extreme high tides. One section, complete with all the boats moored to it was towed to the fuel dock by a member. It was later towed back and replaced on dock pilings which were lengthened vertically. The other section broke up into several pieces with boats still attached. Coronado Yacht Club advised that they had space available, and members with functioning boats towed other boats that had lost their mooring down to CYC. These were later returned, after the docks were reassembled.

1964 was also the year that the San Diego to Ensenada Race was inaugurated by Southwestern Yacht Club with 55 boats on the starting line. This popular race continues today.

In 1966, a new fleet of yachts was formed called the "Coronado 25 Class". It was a small cruising type vessel with a galley, five berths and an enclosed head. This latter feature allowed women crew a large measure of privacy previously not available on small yachts and resulted in young couples with families participating in all types of racing without embarrassing situations occurring. In a very short time, this fleet became the largest one design fleet in Southwestern Yacht Club with the yachts competing in all types of racing from Class Racing to Handicap and Offshore Ocean Racing.

1967 was the year that the Coronado 25 Fleet was approached by contacts at Windjammers Yacht Club of Marina del Rey with proposal to co-sponsor a race from Marina del Rey to San Diego on the July 4th weekend every year. The first race was scheduled for 1968, and 49 boats sailed for San Diego. The entries ballooned to 148 in 1970.

SWYC also hosted the Coronado 25 World Championship with 35 entries from all yachting areas and an entry from France.

By 1969, SWYC needed a new long term lease with the San Diego Unified Port District, and negotiations began. The project also included a new seawall. To obtain the lease we were required to improve the property and build a new Clubhouse. A provision was written into the club's new 40 year lease with the Port District recognizing the values of the club's recreationally oriented activities and calling for a rental charge of one-half of the normal commercial rate on their leased tideland property. 

In 1970, with the lease approved by Southwestern Yacht Club and the Port District, SWYC members began to implement new building plans. However, before a loan was procured, a title search was necessary. Major insurance firms in San Diego refused help when it became known that Southwestern's property had never been recorded in the official records of the County Recorder. Eventually, however, assistance was obtained from the First American Title Insurance Company of Los Angeles. The title company's investigation proved that Southwestern's lease was clear. With the title company's guidance, members sought to make sure that the lease was in conformance with the laws of California regarding the leasing of public lands to private concerns. It was then necessary to present Club by-laws to the State Lands Commission for review and approval. The Commission requested the Club that change certain sections of the by-laws considered not in accord with State laws. After these changes were made, the Commission declared the Club's lease valid and a Title Insurance Policy was granted, thus enabling the club to borrow money successfully. 

The new Clubhouse and the "L" shaped building housing lockers, maintenance, the heads and showers were completed in 1972 along with a new seawall. With a membership of 400, Southwestern Yacht Club prepared for events to commemorate their Golden Anniversary in 1975.

A special emblem was selected to commemorate SWYC's 50th Anniversary. It was used extensively on special burgees, the 1975 Roster, Mooring Line issues; take home trophies, and various items purchased by members. A grand 50th birthday party was held in March. The theme was 1925 with flapper costumes and Dixieland music. Mayor Wilson attended and was given a key to the Yacht Club. This generated a great deal of favorable publicity which resulted in a large increase in membership. In November, A and B docks were replaced comprised of 76 slips, and 92 additional slips were added. A slip waiting list was started which continues to this day. The Club was well poised for its start on the next 50 years of existence. 

SWYC sponsored the Muscular Dystrophy Charity Bay Race in 1983 with over 300 entries and thus started an annual series of events to raise money for charities. Currently, the event features an Angler's fishing event and a Charity Auction and Black Tie Dinner in addition to the Bay Race supporting ElderHelp of San Diego. SWYC has raised over $500,000 for local charities.


There was to be a challenge for the America's Cup in 1992 in San Diego. San Diego Yacht Club, having won the Cup in Perth in 1987, and having successfully defended it in 1988 in San Diego against a challenge by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club, planned to defend the Cup in the waters off Point Loma. Louis Vuitton was to host the America's Cup Challenger Selection Series (CSS). In December, 1990, Southwestern Yacht Club was selected by the Challenger of Record Committee (CORC) from all of the San Diego based yacht clubs as the club from which they could effectively manage the challenge.

The facilities of the Club were more than adequate, but questions arose over the capabilities of the Club to provide an effective race committee both in terms of quality and in terms of the large number of volunteers that would be required. Expectations were that two racecourses would be required needing close to 200 people and somewhere in the vicinity of 40 boats each day. Sufficient personnel and boats were obtained, with the help of volunteers from other yacht clubs up to and including Dana Point, but when the races began, only one course was necessary because the number of Challengers dropped to 8 and 4 matches were conducted on one course. Our actual needs were 30 boats and 90+ people each day. There were 50 days on the water over 3 months to determine the actual Challenger. 

Racing was interrupted one foggy day when Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln wandered onto the race course. Fortunately, the arrival of the carrier had been picked up on radar so racing was suspended until it cleared the area.

There were three round robin series of races to select four semi-finalists. Then the four semi-finalists conducted one round robin during which each yacht match raced against each of the other three competitors twice. Finally, there was the last Challenger match to determine the actual Challenger. This was a seven race series and the Challenger became the yacht that won first four races. San Diego's Defender successfully defended Stars and Stripes against the Italian Challenger, II Moro de Venezia. 

At the beginning of 1994, the Louis Vuitton Challenger of Record Committee made an offer to SWYC to expand the meeting space within the Clubhouse for the 1995 event, rather than rent portable offices as was done in 1992. They would have the full use of the addition during the Louis Vuitton series and the newly completed area would be returned to SWYC. In the event of a future Louis Vuitton series in the San Diego area, the CORC would be allowed to use our facilities again.

The members quickly approved this generous offer and construction soon began adding the "Challenger of Record Room".

The start of 1995 again saw the Louis Vuitton Cup being raced to determine who would challenge San Diego Yacht Club for the America's Cup. After two weeks of racing, Team New Zealand and their yacht, Black Magic was the winner, having lost only one race to the Australian entry, One Australia. One Australia subsequently sank during a race with a spectacular fracturing of the hull, the only yacht to sink during any America's Cup qualification race.

Through these efforts Southwestern Yacht Club established itself as one of the premier Race Management Yacht Clubs in America.

All docks were replaced in 1993. Prior to this time, we had a combination of wooden and concrete docks, some of which had been purchased used. A Dock Replacement Committee was formed in 1990. They first surveyed the members as to their boat purchase plans. This resulted in a decrease of 30' slips and an increase of 36' slips. Detailed plans were obtained and bids sought. After membership approval, the contract was awarded in 1992. At the same time new slip assignments made were temporary in preparation for installation. Multiple permits were sought and obtained, and the work was scheduled so as not to interfere with the Least Tern nesting season. Due to the detailed planning by the Dock Replacement Committee, and the cooperation of the members, the weather, and the contractor, the actual installation went smoothly and was completed on time.

In 1996 the SWYC Anglers designed, obtained all permits, and built a grow out pen for white sea bass to help restore depleted stocks as a result of overfishing. To date, this facility, funded entirely by the Anglers, has released 30,000 healthy white sea bass. To read about this program, go to the Anglers section of the website.

The Melges 24 Nationals were held at SWYC in 1996. We had 32 boats from across the country...including three World Champions. The winners were from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

In 2003, Southwestern Yacht Club won the prestigious Sir Thomas Lipton Cup in two exciting days of racing, May 17-18. In accepting the Cup, Commodore Wachtler said, "It is the most fantastic thing that has happened to Southwestern Yacht Club...the biggest honor one of our sailing teams has ever achieved".

The Olympic Pre-Trials were held in Southern California in 2006 under the organizing authority of U.S. Sailing. The Finn Class was at Newport Harbor Yacht Club; the Star Class was at Cal Yacht Club; the Toronado was at San Diego Yacht Club; and Southwestern Yacht Club hosted the Olympic 49ers. Former SWYC Junior Tim Wadlow with Chris Rast won the Pre-Trials.

This regatta was actually a multi-year commitment as SWYC held the Olympic 49er class National Championship in November, 2007. Racing was initially very close until SWYC's Tim Wadlow and Chris Rast gained the lead mid-regatta and sailed away with the right to represent the USA at the 2008 Olympics at Quindao, China.

US Sailing, the national governing body for the sport of sailing, awarded its prestigious trophy for Race Management, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Trophy, to Southwestern Yacht Club. Our Race Management group was honored "for its outstanding organization and execution of the 49er Olympic Trials from October 3-14, 2007."
With the lease with the Port Authority set to expire in 2011, a negotiation team was set up in 2003. Meetings were held with the Port's Real Estate, Engineering and Architectural groups, and with other Yacht Clubs having the same lease expiration date. Any new lease required substantial improvements to the property by the tenant. In 2004, the Economic Evaluation Team, and in 2005, the Renovation Evaluation Teams, were formed. The work of these groups produced the $8 Million Five Year Plan that was approved by the membership (11/05), the banks and the Port. With these approvals, work began on a new Clubhouse in 2008. During construction, a temporary Clubhouse consisting of three trailers was utilized. Though small in size, the members utilized it to continue traditional Club activities. The Port also required that public art be included in the project. A mural along the entrance wall was selected by the members. The parking lot was regraded and resurfaced to make sure all runoff went into the storm sewer system, not into the bay. 

The new clubhouse opened in 2010 to the delight of all who entered. With 784 members and active programs in Sailing, Angling, Cruiser Navigation, Cruising, Juniors, and Social Functions, Southwestern Yacht Club looks forward to its Centennial Celebration in 2025.

Commodore Hemond receives the St. Petersburg Trophy