Yacht Club Builds New Fleet of Boats

Members of the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club volunteer their time and talent to build boats by hand for a younger generation of sailing enthusiasts.

A new fleet of boats dedicated to a younger generation of sailors at the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club (HMBYC) is currently under construction, slated for completion this summer and just in time for the first session of sailing camp.

The idea to build six new kid-friendly boats was hatched last summer during a feedback session with the sailing camp instructors.

“The instructors said that they found it difficult to teach the kids in a boat that was too big for them and that it was also difficult to teach multiple kids on one boat,” said Lucy Gillies, a HMBYC member currently serving as membership director on the club’s 2012 Board of Directors. “They also said that it would be better for them to have a boat that the kids could rig themselves and sail on their own.”

With this information, Gillies and HMBYC member Patrick Melley did some research and found a type of boat called an Optimist that is not only a popular boat worldwide but also provides more opportunities for kids to compete against other teams in the Bay Area and is easy to build and find parts for.

Originally designed in 1947 by Clark Mills, Optimists are sailed in more than 110 countries worldwide with over 150,000 registered boats.

“Eighty percent of medal winners at the Beijing Olympics began their sailing career in an Optimist,” said Gillies, who offered up her garage as the construction site for building the boats.

“When we first came up with this idea, we hoped we could actually build the boats at the Club,” said Gillies. “However, we just didn’t have a suitable venue big enough for this project. This was a pity because it would have created a great atmosphere for the members to see the work in progress.”

Still, a crew of dedicated boat builders forged ahead with the project and so far three of the six boats are built, all by hand by Melley and HMBYC member Dave Morris, who was able to get the pieces cut using a CNC wood router, taking a lot of the difficult measuring and cutting out of the equation. Junior club members, brothers Turner and Jake Melley, donated their time and helped build the boats, too.

The Optimist hull is made from marine plywood and epoxy. The plywood was sourced from a specialist store in Alameda. The fittings were bought online from a leading supplier and the boat plans were bought from a company in the United Kingdom. In order to comply with fleet regulations, the hull must measure within tolerances as small as 5 mm.

Donations and support from HMBYC members as well as fundraising efforts at the Club like a chili feed and women’s sailing movie night raised the money needed to buy the plans and parts for the boats.

“We recognized that we wanted a new fleet for the summer camp but the Club couldn’t afford to acquire this overnight,” said Gillies.

A new fiberglass boat costs anywhere from $2,500 and up, and “there are virtually no second-hand boats available,” said Gillies.

The alternative was to build them with the finished cost of a wooden hull with all its fittings costing roughly $1,200.

“This enabled us to get a fleet of six this year without financially compromising the other activities at the Yacht Club,” said Gillies.

Now a crew of parent volunteers are signed up to build the remaining three boats, using a series of photographs and guide notes that were compiled by Melley and Morris along the way, showing step-by-step tasks with hints and tips.

“We hope to make this guide available to the general public to encourage other clubs or parents to do the same,” said Gillies.

Building boats is something the HMBYC has never done before “although you just have to visit the Club to see that they have built many things within the Club House from the bar area and cabinets to boat racks,” said Gillies. “This is a club that likes to ‘make it happen.’”

The Club also has a successful boat sponsorship program amongst the adults so members are not new to rolling up their sleeves and putting their skills to good use, and “believe me, there are lots of very talented people at the Club with all sorts of skills,” said Gillies.

In the future, HMBYC Board of Directors and members would like to have at least two more Optimists, which are race competitive.

In the meantime, Gillies is confident that they will achieve their target of six in time for camp, and “long term we hope to have as many as 12,” said Gillies, who adds that the experience has been “far more rewarding than simply writing a check and receiving a delivery of six fiberglass hulls a few weeks later. I personally feel very proud of this exiting project.”

Half Moon Bay Yacht Club Sailing Camp

Sailing camp will run from June 11 to Aug. 3 with the week of July 4th off. Early bird rate is $290 if you sign up by June or $300 thereafter. Sailing camp is open to nonmembers, too. All kids aged 8 to 18 are welcome. No previous sailing experience is required. For more information, go to www.hmbyc.org.


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