The Oklahoma City Boat Club (OCBC) was originally founded on Lake Overholser in 1930 when a group of sailing and boating enthusiasts formed the Oklahoma City Yacht Club, as it was called at that time. Times were hard because of the Great Depression, but with a great deal of creativity and “sweat equity” from the membership a number of improvements were made to the property, including a two-story clubhouse by 1933, housing a membership of 25. The club burgee consisting of Indian arrowhead of red on a white background with a red border was adopted in 1932. With the advent of World War II many of the members were enlisted or inducted into the Armed Forces and club activities had almost ceased when the clubhouse burned down in 1942 with its furnishings and locker room contents. Severalboats beached nearby also burned.
About this time a new reservoir, Lake Hefner, was being built by the city to take care of future population growth. The design of this lake showed that it would be much more suitable for sailing when filled, so several people from the old Overholser sailing clubs decided to establish a new sailing club on Lake Hefner. Organizational meetings took place in 1943 and the club was incorporated in 1944 under the name of the Oklahoma City Boat Club, Inc. During the next two years before any water flowed into the reservoir, the sites for the harbor, docks and clubhouse were staked out and docks and rip rapping were built. A clubhouse was constructed in 1949. The filling of the reservoir was a very slow process and it was not until 1958 that enough water was in the harbor basin to allow sailing from the docks. Before that boat launchings were from shore points or from the City Harbor docks. For that reason all boats were centerboards during the early days, primarily of the Snipe class.
Growth of the Physical Plant
The club continued to grow and prosper and many projects were carried out, all funded by the membership with the use of club labor wherever possible. Some of the club improvements in the 1960s included an extension of fencing, installation of a concrete ramp at the NW corner of harbor, expanded parking and landscaping, expansion of the north harbor, construction of a retaining wall and ramp and, enlarged the trailer parking lot and lights A breakwater was built for the south harbor, more floodlights were installed, a new south dock and slips were constructed for 52 boats and the east pond was filled to create more parking. Members also constructed a 1000-pound capacity hoist, later increased to 2000 pounds and then to 6000 pounds with a concrete slab.
Improvements to the clubhouse included the addition of a new room to clubhouse with a tiled locker room. Further improvements included the installation of a water supply, which allowed the construction of restrooms, showers, water fountains and a galley. Central heating was installed as well as a telephone. An observation deck was constructed on the clubhouse roof.
On September 14, 1968, fire razed the clubhouse with damage amounting to some $20,000, necessitating a complete rebuilding of the clubroom. Members sustained a complete loss of gear in the locker room. The clubhouse was rebuilt giving us a very improved facility over the old one.
During the decade of the 1970s the north parking lot was paved including the entrance driveway. The flagpole with its decorative foundation was erected.
In the 80s the south harbor was dredged and the clubhouse was expanded to the east. The meeting room was enlarged and a new locker area was constructed. A deck was constructed on the west side of the clubhouse and extensive landscaping was begun.
Several new projects were begun and completed during the 90s. These included building of the north sea wall, purchase and installation of the large west hoist and pad, expansion of the south side with a new fence, followed by construction of a new trailer lot supplied with electricity and water. A large smoker was installed next to the deck and a boat shed was built to the west of the centerboard lot. The latest project, a large and expensive undertaking, involved the construction of floating docks. During the winter and spring of 1997, the City dropped the water level of the reservoir to an unprecedented low level in order make improvements on the City harbor docks on the east side of the lake. The OCBC used this opportunity to dismantle the 50year old fixed docks and to construct a cofferdam in order to pump the harbor dry. The harbor was then excavated to an average depth of 12 feet. New pilings were erected and a west sea wall was constructed. When this was completed water was let back into the harbor and new floating docks were constructed. It must be emphasized that most of the design and labor for these projects was carried out by members whenever possible. All funding for these projects came from member’s dues or special assessments. All debts were paid on or before schedule.
Racing at OCBC
The OCBC has a long and commendable history of racing, starting from its founding. William F. Crosby designed the Snipe in 1931, coinciding with the founding of the Oklahoma City Yacht Club on Lake Overholser. This boat was relatively easy to construct and many thousands were built by individuals and by commercial companies over the next 30 years. Several of our early members became proficient in racing Snipes and entered the Nationals in 1963. Beginning in 1962 Steve Taylor was selected as the Race Committee Chairman for the Snipe Nationals and ruled over that event for the next 14 years. Other centerboard boats, such as the Flying Scot, were raced on Lake Hefner as well.
Because Lake Hefner is situated at or near the highest elevation in Oklahoma County and lack of obstructions to the winds, average wind velocities are high, often too high for comfortable or safe centerboard sailing. For example, for two years running in the 1970s the annual Snipe Regatta had to be cancelled because of high winds. This led several committed Snipe sailors to purchase keelboats.
The first keelboat fleet formed was the Victory Fleet, followed by the Luder 16s and 21s. Then came the larger Kittiwake which grew to 15 boats. (Incidentally, OCBC formed Kittiwake Fleet No. 1). As the boating industry has grown over the years and new designs come onto the market, new one design fleets have waxed and waned at OCBC. In the ‘70s and ’80s we have seen the growth and decline of the following fleets, Irwin 23, Santana 21, Santana 22 and the Santana 20. Very competitive racing occurred within these fleets. More recently, the major fleets have been the J-24s, J-22s, and the Catalina 22, 25 and 27 classes.
Wednesday night races are with out a doubt the most popular series in OCBC’s racing program. The series, run from May through September, draws sixty or more competing boats to the starting line every week. The Race Committee provides four separate starts, grouping the fleets to make for the best, fairest and safest competition for all competitors. With a 6:00 harbor gun and 7:00 for the first start, competitors can get a in a good hour long race, put their boat up, socialize with other competitors (bench-racing) and still be home by 9:30 or 10:00, there is no better way to break up the work week.
In addition to keelboats active centerboard racing has been carried out using the Sunfish and Laser classes. These boats have been popular with the youth program and the women’s program.
District, Regional and National Regattas Hosted By OCBC
The fine wind conditions on Lake Hefner coupled with the excellent national reputation of OCBC’s Race Committees, have allowed OCBC to be chosen to host several important regattas over the years. These include the following:
National Finals for the O’Day Single-handed Trophy – 1977
The Prince of Wales Regatta – 1980
Santana 20 Nationals – 1985
Olympic Festival Regatta (Sailboards) – 1989
Catalina 22 Nationals – 1992
Mallory Cup (National Men’s Championship) – 1994
Prindle 19 Nationals – 1997
Snipe Nationals – 2000
Ida Lewis Regatta (Jr. Women’s Double-Handed Championship) – 2000
Mallory Cup Regionals
Area F Districts
Adams Cup Districts
J-22 Districts (Steven Taylor Regatta)
Race Committee Excellence
Through the leadership of Steve Taylor, the OCBC has trained a number of excellent Race Committee officers. OCBCis noted for organizing races and regattas that ensure all participants will get good course layouts and fair race conditions. OCBC is recognized nationally for its ability to conduct races and regattas and this tradition will continue. Four individuals of OCBC have been selected as judges for Area F.
The OCBC has had an active Junior Sailing Program since 1972. It was started by Jim Mitchell who guided the program for several years. Gary Sander and then David Cheek succeeded him. In 1975 an Explorer Scout program was established using Snipes and Sunfish. This program continued until the middle 1980s. In 1980, George Miskovsky presented a trophy to be given each year to an outstanding youth sailor. He named the trophy in honor of Asbury Smith. This trophy is awarded at the Annual Banquet each November. Most recently, the Youth Program is directed by Kevin Kendall.
Over the past several years women members and wives of male members of OCBC have been meeting on Saturday mornings during the sailing season to sail Sunfish and Lasers. Although the original objective was to teach neophytes how to sail, the program has progressed to where very competitive women sailors compete against each other and against the men in various club regattas. Some also travel to out of state events. Several have graduated to larger keelboats and winning races and trophies on their own.
The OCBC has always sought to be an asset to the Oklahoma City community. In addition to keeping out clubhouse and grounds in immaculate condition, we have participated in the Oklahoma City Beautiful clean-up efforts and also the efforts of the Friends of Lake Hefner Association in cleaning up the shore line of the lake and of the trails and roadways nearby.
Our greatest effort was directed toward the Passageway Regatta. Passageway is a non-profit organization for the support of abused women and children. Over the past 10 years of OCBC’s involvement we have raised $88,000 to help support this organization.
We have also hosted a day in which individual members volunteer selected children and their mothers for a sail followed by a luncheon in the clubhouse. This is the first time many of these children have sailed.