Mr. Cottingham taking up the flute!


R. B. Cottingham

(Note: This version of Dick Cottingham’s “History of Arlington Yacht Club” has been retyped from a version found in the AYC archives.  Some minor editing has been done.  The original was read by Dick at the Founders’ Day Celebration in 1989.)

Everyone knows what a good club we have but hardly anyone realizes how active we have been in the sailing scene.

In the twenty-three years of our existence we were host to six National Championship Regattas, three regional, and six state championships.  In all but one of these major regattas AYC provided all of the officials.  We have in the club a dozen members who could handle any size regatta.

We have offered a junior sailing program and an invitational regatta every summer for twenty-three years.  Twenty-six of our present members have chartered sailboats in the Virgin Islands.  We are not just “stock tank sailors”.  There were no serious injuries during any of those events.

All of this information comes from my own log books and the Telltales, a monthly news letter produced by each commodore.

For nearly two years before the AYC was organized, a small group of sailors gathered at the lakeside club named “Fun in the Sun”.  The first organized race in my log book recorded a start of seven boats.  There were three capsizes and a dismasting but no one seemed discouraged and we kept right on racing.

Eventually we got too big for pick-up races and live-wire group headed by Norb and Marilyn Lawrence set about organizing a sailing club complete with charter.

Norb Lawrence was elected the first commodore and there followed numerous attempts to write a constitution, pass by-laws and find a home.  The sailing program was easy, we just continued meeting on Sunday, agreeing on a course and going after it.  We didn’t have a rescue boat or a committee boat but borrowed a fishing boat from the “Fun in the Sun” club.  Sometimes we used a bicycle horn as the starting signal.

Bill Brown was our second commodore and after several organizational meetings a workable constitution emerged.  Meanwhile we were racing a mixed fleet: one Snipe, a couple of Day Sailers, a group of El Toros, three Lido 14s, several home built sloops and a boat Carl Jensen got in a department store.  His little darlin’ had a blunt bow and uncovered foredeck.  When water came over the bow, as it always did, the boat quickly became a submarine.  Carl got plenty of practice going down with the ship.

I was elected the third commodore and we staged the first annual regatta with 38 guests in assorted boats.  It was too windy but we didn’t know that and only 18 boats were around at the finish.

There were two events of note during that time.

We heard through the grapevine that a member of the Arlington City Council proposed a lake fee of 45 dollars for sailboats, to keep the lake from becoming overcrowded, as White Rock Lake was.  This would ruin the fishing, he said.  We invited the Mayor to speak at one of our dress-up parties.  After his few bland remarks he was pelted by questions from our members, most of the flak concerning the proposed lake fee.  His Honor must have noticed the hundred or so voters present, for at the next meeting of the city council, the fee for sailboats was set at five dollars.

In the summer, we staged the State Championships for the Windmill class.  There were nine protests the first day, one of which involved four boats.  Since the Windmill was at the time a home built boat, owners were sometimes unreasonable about collisions.

Carl Jensen followed me as commodore and hadn’t learned, apparently, for the AYC hosted the Windmill National Championships the summer of ’69.  Forty-seven boats competed and 25% capsized at least once.

We had a riverboat party on Lake Grapevine.  No one fell overboard from the Texas Queen.  Leroy Grubb joined the AYC and after some discussion agreed to bring his wife out occasionally, provided we were careful of our language in her presence.

Bob Smith, a spark plug of the Day Sailer fleet became the 5th Commodore.  Under his leadership the AYC hosted the Skipjack Nationals, followed by the Windmill State Championships, and the Scorpion Nationals.  The AYC dominated.  Sixteen year old Tommy Swan won the Scorpion Nationals followed by Lee Cash, not yet of voting age.  Bill Tyler, age unknown, was 4th.  To help out in all this we bought a Boston Whaler, which lasted until early this year.

Incidentally, we staged an Intercollegiate sailing contest between Texas A and M and UTA.  There is no record of results but John Salis who sailed for UTA, claims victory.

Frank Swan took helm in 1970 and noticed that the “Fun in the Sun” club was getting testy about “all those boats”.  So we went looking for a home, found the present site.  The cinder-block building was a bait shop and had been closed for two years with some of the bait still in it.  Imagine the smell!

Commodore Swan was transferred right in the middle of the year and Bill Tyler, vice commodore, took over.  As if all the problems of moving were not enough, the lake went away for the summer.  It was necessary to walk fifty yards from the new docks to get to water.  On our schedule was the Dolphin State championships, the Day Sailer Nationals, the regional Windmill Sail-offs, and our own regatta.  Thanks to firm leadership it all sorted out but the ordeal took a lot out of Bill.  He used to be six foot four and weighed 220 pounds.  Look at him now!

In the midst of the sailing, the building program went on. Fran Eckert surveyed the location for a dock and Eddie Bates supervised construction by club members.  We had no professional help!

To furnish the club, we held an old fashioned box social.  True to their nature, the DS fleet bought ALL the box lunches, leaving the rest of us hungry.  After we’d suffered enough they sold the food back to us for a pretty dollar.  Almost all of our galley equipment was financed this way.

Fran Eckert was out of town at a crucial time, so we elected him commodore.  Immediately strange things began to happen.  For instance, George Bahn and Parks Williams were allowed to join.  There we 90 boats on the lake for the regatta and not one dismasting.  The ladies of the club got tired of the drab interior and a group headed by Mickie Goode painted the club house while the men were appointing a fact finding team.  Teresa Maxwell, a teenager, was the youngest female skipper to qualify for the club sail-off.  It was rumored that everyone gave her extra room after she rammed a couple of big boats on port tack.  You see, her Scorpion had a steel bowsprit, which made a big hole right at the water line of any boat that refused to give way.  Teresa has since married a Laser sailor.

Jack Green, the lake officer, joined the club, bought a Catalina 22, then borrowed a book on how to sail.

Eddie Bates took over from Eckert at the annual ball right after someone tried mixing, from memory, a drink called a “Scarlet O’Hara”.  The resulting fire didn’t do much damage and was soon snuffed out.

Eddie promised a year of building and was he ever right!  Ed loved Pearl beer and construction projects.  At his direction we built the cinder block extension to the club building that became the rest rooms.  A deck was constructed over the boat shed but that didn’t work out right; we couldn’t get a permit to have a wet bar up there.  Air conditioners were installed.

One week before the annual regatta, the lake came up over the dock but Eddie knew how to operate the drain plug and the water receded in time for our regatta with 100 boats in attendance.  During the trophy presentation, the Thunderbirds came over so low and so loud that no one heard my acceptance speech.

Jack Green decided to get married and invited the entire club.  Guests sailed out to a moored barge, tied up and watched the happy couple exchange vows while standing in the cockpit of his Catalina.  Art Cheney played suitable music on his portable keyboard, thereby ruining the fishing for twenty-four hours.

Improvements to the club continued during Gary Williams reign.  That’s the real Gary Williams.  A rummage sale went over big and my good ol’ T-shirt from the Virgin Islands disappeared forever.  Probably some connection there.  The regatta broke all attendance records with a hundred and seven entries, which included 17 Hobie catamarans, and the race captain made a mistake in not restricting the starting line.

It began innocently enough.  The catamarans started first, in good winds, rounded three marks and came roaring to windward, some of them flying one hull as they sliced through the starting line where other boats were just starting.  You see, there is no whoa button on a Hobie since the boat was designed to sail at full speed onto a beach.  Anyway, there was no serious damage and no one was hurt.  A young Lido 14 sailor from Wichita Falls arrived to take part in the Junior division at the regatta only to discover that he was the only entrant.  Miffed at not being awarded first prize he left, vowing to return and ten years later he did, sailing first a Day Sailer, then a Catalina called War Pig, then another Catalina named Full Moon.  C’mon Brad, are you going to be romantic with Full Moon or belligerent with War Pig?

There was a mutiny just at the end of Gary’s term.  He capsized at the jibing mark, nothing new, but during recovery he made a tactless remark to his crew, who was know as “old what’s ‘er name”.  Martha, her real name, had enough.  She swam ashore, got in her car and went home, leaving Gary to recover the Day Sailer and get home any way he could.  Martha, you’ve set a dangerous precedent.

Doug Sowell lost no time in asserting his authority as leader.  Leroy Grubb was warned in the Telltales that one more capsize and the Grubbs would have permanent custody of the wet sponge award.  Have you stopped trying, Leroy?

The club acquired a heater, staged the Dolphin state championship and had 104 guests at the annual regatta.  We had a shooting on the premises.  At the time there were boats on moorings in front of the club and someone came out on the city dock late at night with a rifle.  Four boats were hit and one almost sank.  That took care of having boats on moorings.  There is an ordinance forbidding moorings on the lake and the lake officer had simply looked the other way.

Bill Tyler bought Jack Green’s Catalina, saying he was tired of being cold and wet, not realizing it rains on big boats too.  As far as I know, Bill hasn’t performed any shipboard weddings.

George Bahn took over in ’75.  George is the only member of the club to have a certificate from NAYRU, authorizing him to act in any capacity in NAYRU sponsored events.  It took four years of study and red tape to get the certification.

During this time Pearl got away, was rescued and hauled ashore for a complete refit.  Now, most of my material comes from the Telltales and there wasn’t any scandal in Mr. Bahn’s news letter.  When asked about this, he said he knew I’d be looking for hot items sometime in the future and he wasn’t going to make it easy for me.  He did slip once, reporting that Bob Maguire had been admitted to membership.  Too late, he found out that Bob was a co-owner of a Day Sailer and played the saxophone.

During Wally Terrell’s term in office, the lake rose high enough so that I was able to sail in a borrowed Dolphin across the dock.  Not to be outdone, Mr. Tyler rigged his Dolphin in the parking lot and sailed onto the club grounds through the front gate.  Photograph evidence is available in the club scrapbook.

The water went down during Bob Gooch’s time at the helm.  We found a few dozen old tires, filled them with ballast and placed them around the exposed pilings of our stranded dock.  When the water came up slowly, this desperate measure saved the dock from being washed away.  The tires you see along the shore are our property.  Feel free to take one home.  Take a dozen if you like, Bob might even autograph them for you.  If you should be lucky this way, you will have in you possession, the signature of the 1975 Skipjack National Champion.  The only reason Bob does not dominate the local Catalina scene is that he has other interests and besides, he is much too polite.

Speaking of champions, we have the Catalina National Champion, jib class, among us.  Please don’t say anything to Ray, don’t even look at him, he is easily embarrassed and we don’t want to spoil his evening.  If you want autographs, clear it through Carol.

1978 was the year of the ducklings.  Forty-one little quackers were hatched in and around the club grounds.  Feel free to take one or a dozen of them home for dinner with my blessing.  They keep me from roaming barefoot through the club grounds.

Parks Williams was elected commodore by acclaim, that is, no one else wanted the job.  He was dilatory in his performance of duty and the lake rose again, this time into the club house.  We had just installed wall paneling, just acquired a new barge and now we had to move boats out of the yard.  If a boat floats off the trailer, you see, you have to be lucky to get it to come to rest properly on the trailer when the water goes down.  Several members encountered floating islands of fire ants in the boat yard, a memorable experience.  The regatta had to be postponed a week but we still had 43 boats.

Moonlight racing began, complicated by members pulling out of the race, anchoring and partying, while the rescue boat wandered the lake searching for overdue boats.

Bob Dewey initiated a sailing course.  Three-hour classroom sessions at UTA were augmented by hands-on instruction periods at the lake.  Club members volunteered boats and time.

The sail-off during the Dewey term was a bad luck affair.  It was a cool day and wouldn’t you know it, fog formed over the lake.  Visibility was about a hundred feet.  The committee posted compass courses to the various marks and off they went.  On the barge we could see nothing of the race until Fran Eckert thought to climb the rigging.  From there we could spot the tops of masts and an occasional sail but no boats.  All was silence.  Finally Al Laureyns, skippering a Flying Dutchman with Lloyd Dietert as crew, appeared out of the fog.  “Which way to the second mark?” was their question.  Well we didn’t know, we were just the race committee but something in Lloyd’s expression suggested maybe we should come up with an answer.  So we pointed and they vanished.  Everyone finished and true to the Corinthian spirit we didn’t ask if everyone rounded all marks.

During Vern Delzer’s term, we formed a Windsurfer fleet of 12 boats, bought some prams for junior sailing and had a heat wave.  The Day Sailers became the second largest fleet in the USA with 23 boats and the club was burglarized twice.  Just a coincidence.  We held a successful sailathon for handicapped folks and Parks Williams won the State Fair Regatta at White Rock.  During this heavy air event, June Grubb dropped a mast on Don Cary’s head.  Not to worry, though.  The mast was undamaged.

Chuck Hield presided over a year in which 20 boats contested the Lido 14 state championships and we installed a microwave oven.  The April Fool regatta sponsored by the Catalina fleet featured a team race.  Boats of different characteristics were tied together in tandem with twenty feet of light cord and required to go around the course without breaking the string.  Imagine a Catalina trying to stay with Chuck Anderson’s scow.  Tempers were frayed and string broken.  UTA and AYC collaborated in another sailing course.

Jack Hattendorf designed and built a floating dock during his term.  He also directed Art Cheney, vice commodore, to do something different for the Founder’s Day celebration.  Art decreed that party-goers should wear the oldest clothes they could get into.  Heck, I wore my new suit; my waistline was expanding too quickly for the alterations people to keep up.

The club conducted the District 15 Laser regatta and the race committee heard all about how to run a race from some high school kids.  I often wonder what happens to those know-it-alls when they grow up.  Must go into politics.

One of our members violated the old adage from the military, that is, never volunteer.  Debbie Williams name appeared in the Telltales as eager to help on committees and she will, for sure, have some kind of job at the club from now on.  Bet on it.

Art Cheney took over in ’83 and immediately set the tone for the year by capsizing his Day Sailer.  No wonder, he had a saxophone player as crew.  The club treasurer, Ken Roberson, who had been dismasted several years before, immediately demonstrated loyalty by capsizing close by.  Togetherness, you see.  It was a dangerous situation with only one rescue boat and cold water.  When Art became too weak from the cold to hold on to his boat, he swam and waded ashore to await rescue.  He asked me to pass on this experience as a warning.  Please wear a life jacket in the winter.  Even in Texas, the cold can kill.

Anyway, Art survived to supervise major repairs to the floating dock and push for revisions in the constitution.  These changes, written by Judy Kindall and Kay Cottingham, gave the vote to spouses as well as male members of the club and the sky didn’t fall as some of the old salts predicted.  Another change pushed the election of officers forward in the year thus providing a smooth transition of power.

This was much appreciated by Ernie Grote when he took the helm, for right away there was trouble.  Pearl broke away again and it was a two-day affair for all hands to get her out of the willows.  Then we had to find the mooring somewhere in the murky bottom of the lake.  Some of the windsurfers had wet suits and come out to help.

Ernie left the water running and lake flooded again.  This time the lake stopped just below the club house floor but a bit of hardware on the rescue boat gouged a hole in the ceiling of the boat shed.

The club was represented in the 4th of July parade through downtown Arlington and we are still collecting good will for that.  Marcie Terrell, Fran Eckert, Mickie and Bob Goode were prominent in this project.  I watched our prairie schooner float go by, proud that I was wearing my AYC cap.  Members who labored on this project were too numerous to mention and I apologize if I slighted anyone.  And, Marcie I don’t care what the spectators said, I thought your costume was OK.

Lloyd Dietert accepted the post of Commodore with a long speech, long for him, that is.  “Have fun tonight’” he said.  “Tomorrow we go to work.”  And we did.

The club promoted the Holder Nationals, with good weather for a change.  For our reward we acquired five Holder Twelve’s, at very low cost, to be used in our junior program.

We held another sailathon for the handicapped and one of our second-generation members experienced a change of life.  David Tyler grew up in and around the yacht club, a polite young man, interested in sailing his yellow Catalina fast.  The name Harbort meant nothing to him.  He didn’t notice the pretty blonde daughter.  Of course not.  And she didn’t notice him.  Of course not.  But Dottie began to show up at work parties as a member of the food committee.  And David’s racing performance fell off.  You see, he was trying to sail on the same part of the lake as that other yellow Catalina.  Rita was the first to know, followed closely by Dottie, then David.  Father Bill found out about wedding plans just in time to arrange for a loan.  That’s always the way.  

Ken Roberson, having survived a dismasting and a capsize in his Day Sailer, finally saw the light and bought a Catalina.  Such a sensible person was the logical leader for 1986.  We spent many Saturdays questioning his ancestry, cursing his name and rebuilding the dock.  We finished just in time for the Catalina state championships with 41 boats, one of which tried to climb the port rail of my boat.

At another time, members of AYC led by Mary Ann Jackson, answered the phones for pledge night on Channel 13 in Dallas.  I lost friends that night, as I went down the membership lists of the yacht club, the tennis club, and the Meadowbrook Methodist Choir.  All I was doing was soliciting memberships, for cryin’ out loud.  I didn’t think eleven thirty on a Saturday night was an unreasonable hour to call, it was in a good cause.  Well, no one wrung my neck and I was able to enjoy Jay Mize’s year at the tiller.  We shovel sand, pushed dirt, carried concrete sacks, laid railroad ties.  Fun, huh?  Esther Aquirre thought so.  She got out of the house, away from grading papers, just by making four or five dozen baloney sandwiches for the work gang.  The retraining wall does improve the club and when the water comes back we will have additional tie-up space.  In the meantime, let’s all go and search for the bulldozer jay stuck in the mud.  He left it there on Sunday night; the water came up, and the machine hasn’t been seen since.  It’s probably a coincidence but soon after that Jay put his Catalina up for sale, saying he needed money for an unexpected expense.  Maybe with the new sprinkler system and the boat washing apparatus he installed we can learn to live without moving any dirt.

One word of explanation for our less active members.  In this recital, the word capsize is mentioned often.  To capsize a racing sailboat is not a disgrace nor is it dangerous.  It’s more like being thrown out at trying to steal second base in a softball game.  For every such penalty for trying to sail fast, there are hundreds of average folks who go sailing and aren’t named in the Telltales.

I haven’t mentioned the present administration headed by Garrett Williams since it isn’t history yet but I guarantee something peculiar will happen.  In the meantime, the wind blows, the waves dance, and that highly personal, private love affair between sailboat and sailor goes on. 

As you can tell, the AYC has a rich history.  Dick Cottingham has a regatta named after him (the Cottingham Cup), and was a mainstay at the club for over 30 years!  In the almost 20 years since this speech was written, the club has seen many changes; however, with the fortitude of our membership, we will be around for another 50 years!  

Dick delivering one of his famous speeches

​The ​Arlington Yacht Club