Sarasota Model Yacht Club History – by Craig Collemer

Sarasota Model Yacht Club

1996 – 2016

“I know there is more to life than sailing,

just let me know when you find it!”

Anonymous

It seems that the 20th anniversary of the Sarasota Model Yacht Club (SMYC) is a suitable occasion to put to paper a brief history of the club.
While the SMYC is a fairly young organization, its history is worthy of preservation. This is the first attempt to bring our history together in written form and will, hopefully, provide a basis for the recording of our ongoing history. In twenty years from now, we hope those who follow us will find this history helpful and that our contributions have enriched their sailing experience.

The Early Years: A Vision of Two Sailors

“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.”

Webb Chiles

Like most worthy endeavors, the SMYC started with a small group of individuals, two in fact, and slowly evolved into the great sailing club we enjoy today. In 1996 Milt Thrasher and Dick “Sherm” Sherman, yes, our own Sherm, decided they wanted to sail radio controlled sailboats and would be open to others joining them. They each built their own boats and began sailing in the lake behind Milt’s house in Huntington Pointe on the south side of Sarasota. Sherm went to The Sports Authority, purchased some ducks for marks of the sailing course and they were off and running…or we should say, sailing (those ducks are still there twenty years later). While they enjoyed their time together, Milt and Sherm wanted to share the fun and decided to invite a crew from Sarasota’s television station, the Suncoast News Network, to come to their lake and present a piece about their little group on the evening news. The station sent out a crew to interview Milt and Sherm and film their sailing adventures. When it aired they included a telephone number interested individuals could contact. Well, the phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing with a number of interested persons contacting them. (I think we should do this in the near future and list Curt’s cell phone number in the piece.)

Soon, the lake behind Milt’s house wasn’t large enough for the growing fleet and they moved all the way across the street to the lake behind Sherm’s house. Quite a bit larger, this lake accommodated this growing group for a number of years. Eventually, however, it became apparent that a larger and more convenient venue was needed. For a while the members gathered at a lake at Camelot East off Clark Road, then the members made the move to the lake behind The Meadows Shopping Village. Our current Race Director, Al Sefton, who joined the club in 1999, built a dock in 2004 and the group had a new home. Following races, the members would retire to a restaurant next to the lake. This location served their needs for a number of years. Eventually they moved down the road in the lake next to the Meadows Community Center and offices. The Meadows constructed a dock for ease of launching and retrieving boats. We continue to use this lake. As a reflection on the “good ol’ days,” this was before there was a need for liability insurance for the club.

In these early years the group used a tape recording and “boom box” for the count down clock.  The records indicate that Trevor Lambert, the treasurer, purchased a “boom box” for the grand sum of $30. The major problem with the “boom box” was that races were often postponed until someone could secure fresh batteries to replace the ones that had been drained of all power. Without a doubt, the most frequent expenditure entry in the treasurer’s report that time was the purchase of batteries! We also have a record of Jack Norris buying new ducks for marks for the grand sum of $16.00.

An interesting piece of our history is that in the early years the boats and transmitters were crystal controlled. Your “frequency number” was more important than your sail number. In the roster, you were listed by your crystal frequency number and not your sail number. Eventually, the club bought the crystals, and distributed them to the sailors. Can you imagine having to remember a crystal number as well as a sail number?

As early as 2002, the club was joining other clubs and joined by other clubs for regattas. The Golden Triangle Model Yacht Club, for instance, invited our club to join them for a regatta at Freedom Lake in Pinellas Park in St. Petersburg and the University Park Club joined our club for The Meadows Regatta.

The first treasurer was Jack Peters. Trevor Lambert succeeded Jack and continues to this day.

A couple of our longest tenured members are Trevor Lambert and Al Sefton who joined in 1997 and 1999 respectively. Adam Lawall was not far behind in joining the club.

Reflecting on these early years calls us to express our deep appreciation to the two gentlemen who are responsible for the founding of our club. While Milt’s health is failing, we are delighted Sherm is still an active member of our club and has a great deal to teach others about Soling construction (he’s built over a dozen boats) and sailing technique. We salute our two founding members: Dick Sherman and Milt Thrasher!

The Formative Years: The Vision Grows

“Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.”

Kenneth Grahame

Of course, any sailing club needs a leader. As we know, managing a group of sailors can be like herding cats. So, those early sailors elected Jack Norris as the club’s first commodore. Subsequent commodores include Sam Montondo, Al Sefton, Bob Nichols, Jay Conlon and our current commodore, Curt Kasten.

Likewise, it was deemed appropriate in 2000 that the group should have a governing document. Sam Montondo was charged with writing a constitution (see a copy in the Appendix) which, to be honest, has largely been ignored ever since. For instance, our constitution states:

  1. Any member not racing one series of the five or more races per year shall be determined to be a “social” member and shall forfeit his/her radio frequency.
  2. The officers shall be a Commodore, Vice-Commodore, Rear Commodore and Secretary-Treasurer.
  3. There shall also be a Regatta Director (which it would seem is our Race Director).
  4. There is to be a Board of Directors.
  5. It state that “All members shall play fairly by the racing rules and by the unwritten ‘Golden Rule’” (an earlier version of The Corinthian Spirit, I would say).
  6. I also noted that nowhere in the constitution does the term Jackwagon appear and does not, implicitly, give the commodore the authority to declare anyone to be said Jackwagon.   Of course, it doesn’t forbid such liberties on the part of the commodore either.

Finances, thankfully, are but a small part of our life as a group of sailors. Like any volunteer organization, however, there are inevitably some expenses incurred. To meet these expenses, annual dues have been assessed.

Since the earliest years, the annual dues have been kept minimal to cover expenses:

1996 = $5 annually.

2004 = $10

2009 = $10 ($15 for new members)

2015 = $20 ($25 for new members)

2016 = $20 for all members

These dues cover such expenses as ducks and marks, liability insurance coverage, awards, caps for new members, materials, etc.

Our esteemed treasurer, Trevor Lambert, keeps a steady hand on the till as he fulfills his responsibilities of our growing clubs. The financials records are available on Quicken software.

In November 2009 the club secured a “Count Down Starter” which was made by Trevor Lambert.

The record of dues paid indicates that the first woman to join the club was in 2004 when Susie Whitmore joined. Since then several other women have joined the club…all are welcome!

The Present: The Vision is Alive and Well

“I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust the sail.”

Ricky Skaggs

The last six years have been a time of many changes that have led to significant growth in the club’s membership and laid a solid foundation for the future under the leadership of Commodore Curt Kasten. Some of these recent developments include:

2011

With support from Denise Hodgson, in memory of her husband Bob, the club donated a bench at The Meadows Lake for all passersby to enjoy and to enable sailors to take an occasional break from the “stresses of sailing.” Bob Hodgson, who was the editor of Trailer and Sailo” magazine, was an active member and sail boat number 314, which was called “Pi.”

To lessen any potential damage, bumpers were mandated on the

bow of all boats participating in races.

2012

Wind indictors were purchased and installed on the dock at The

Meadows.

2014

John “Boatyard” Stryhn joined the club in 2014 and quickly became the “go to guy” for boat repairs, paint jobs, etc. His boatyard, that is, his house – with Patricia’s gracious consent – is the place to go if a member wants to buy or sell a Soling or have a boat repaired.   John’s expertise and willingness to help his fellow sailors have kept many sailors on the water rather than in dry dock.

An expenditure of $200 was contributed by the club for the construction of a new dock on the east shore at The Meadows. Now the club has a dock on the northern and eastern shore of the lake.

Tutorial sessions were held at The Meadows for new sailors and those wishing to “brush up” on their tuning and sailing skills.

These were often held the first hour of sailing on Tuesdays. Sometime was spent teaching and then there was time for one-on-one help offered by more experienced sailors.

An enjoyable new event added in 2014 is an annual “Classic Boat Day.” This annual event is an opportunity for club members are encouraged to bring non-Soling classic boats to sail and even race. These boats have included Marblehead class, US 12’s, and EC 12’s.

2015

With several new members who had a variety of sailing experience joining, the club began a one-on-one mentoring program in February. A seasoned sailor works with a new member to learn the basics of tuning, maintenance, and the basic rules of racing. This has proved to be a valuable program for new sailors. Members who have served as mentors include Trevor Lambert, Jerry Callahan, Tim Peat, Dave Janes, and Craig Collemer.

Several members of the University Park Soling Club joined our club as their club ceased as an active club.   It has been great to have them sailing with us.

A club locker of Soling supplies was created by John “Boatyard”Stryhn. Since the local availability of Soling supplies is limited,having these supplies on-hand has been a great benefit for members needing to make repairs.

Club member Dave Kerrigan donated a radio-controlled tugboat (a mighty one at that!) to help with setting and retrieving marks and rescuing distressed boats. This makes like much easier for all. Thank you, Dave!

A major development for the club came with the agreement between our club and Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, Inc. (SANCA is the operator of the Nathan Benderson Park) for use of one of the northern lakes at the park for our practice and racing. Our commodore, Curt Kasten, negotiated this new venue for our fall, winter and spring sailing series. In the summer we will sail at The Meadows in order to take advantage of the shade provided by the trees. A couple of advantages come to our members with this move: 1) as the larger trees at The Meadows often create a “fluky” wind situation, the Benderson lake provides a venue with much steadier winds, and 2) it offers an alternative venue (The Meadows) for members who do not want to race but enjoy getting together and sailing. This “cruising group” has grown to more than eight sailors and sails the same time as the racing group.

SANCA and the SMYC are pursuing several joint ventures in the near future, including the club’s participation in Benderson Park’s Community Day and a summer camp for young sailors.

While SANCA looks forward to further developments at the lake we currently use, there were no docks available for our use for launching and retrieving our boats. One of our new members from the University Park club, C. David Wilson, graciously volunteered to make two docks for our use. We now have docks on the north and west sides of the lake. These docks make our time at the lake much more enjoyable…and are safer to use!

Several new members have joined as a result of the increased visibility of our sailing at the Benderson Park lake. As of February 2016 we have 58 due paying members, which makes us one of the largest Soling sailing clubs in the country. New members now receive a SYMC cap and a number of documents outlining the club’s sailing procedures and general racing rules the club follows.

The Suncoast Model Yacht Club of Punta Gorda and our club have developed a friendship that led to four of their members joining us in Sarasota for a day of sailing and tuning lessons led by Art Hawes and Jack Ward, both national Soling champions.  Art also bought his US 12 so our members could take it for a sail. Several of our members have gone down to their club in Punta Gorda for regattas and for Soling sailing lessons.

The SMYC continues to have a website (www.Sarasotamyc.com) that enables anyone to learn of our activities and encourages their participation.

The ongoing dedication and appreciation of our members has been evident by the generosity of several members and their families who have donated boats and supplies to the club. These boats were often repaired or upgraded and then sold with the proceeds donated to the club treasury. We are grateful for their thoughtfulness.

On going technical issue often faced by club members is maximizing their servos pairing with their transmitters. A “servo adjuster” was purchased by the club and with the technical assistance of Nick Morgan club members have been able to get the most out of their servos.

As the club has grown in numbers, the race director and the person tabulating the scores found their work increased. The more sailors we have the more scores to record. Jerry Callahan volunteered to computerize the scoring process in 2011. In 2012 Curt Kasten further enhanced the computer program and in 2015 Nick Morgan and Folk Brower took it a step further. The efforts of these three members have helped to streamline and improve the efficiency of the scoring process.

For these five years of growth, the club members have greatly benefited by the leadership of our commodore, Curt Kasten; our treasurer, Trevor Lambert; and our steadfast and patient race director, Al Sefton, scorer Nick Morgan, and “Boatyard John.” We are grateful that they are at the helm of the SMYC.

Awards/Regattas:

“The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail itself.”

John Rousmaniere 

Over the years the club has presented several ongoing awards: 

The Commodore’s Award – At the annual banquet the Commodore’s Award is presented to a sailor who has made a significant contribution to the club during the previous year. This recognition is one of the highlights of the annual banquet. It is interesting to note that the sculpture on the top of the award was designed and made by Howard Garnitz. Howard was an internationally recognized sculptor who studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art, the Chicago Art Institute and the University of Illinois. His work has been featured in fine galleries in the United States and abroad-and in museum collections such as the New Britain Museum of American Art. Additionally, numerous publications have pictured his works including National Geographic’s America’s Spectacular Northwest, Art in Seattle’s Public Places. We are fortunate to have such a special award presented each year. Howard was a club member for several years.

Past recipients of the Commodore’s Award are:

  • 2004 Bob Nichols
  • 2005 Al Sefton
  • 2006 Denise Hodgson
  • 2007 Jack Norris
  • 2008 Jack Norris
  • 2009 Trevor Lambert
  • 2010 Jerry Callahan
  • 2011 Jay Conlon
  • 2012 Al Sefton
  • 2013 Curt Kasten
  • 2014 Jerry Callahan
  • 2015 Tim Peat
  • 2016 John Stryhn

The Skipper of the Month Award – This award is presented each month to the winner of the Skipper of the Month Regatta. Regardless of the fleet any sailor sails in during this regatta, the sailor with the most 1st place finishes wins this award. The following month the recipient of this award serves as the race director for the next Skipper of the Month Regatta. This award is presented in honor of our first commodore, Jack Norris. In 2015 Nick Morgan made an appropriate case for this award that is passed from recipient to recipient each month.

The Camelot East Regatta: In April 2001, a regatta was held at the lake off Clark Road where the club was sailing at that time. Trophies were awarded to 1st and 2nd place sailors.

The Meadows Regatta Award: For many years The Meadows Regatta has been held in March. The Meadows management has offered to sponsor this regatta with awards presented to the top three finishers in each fleet. As early as 2004, members of the University Park Soling Club joined our club for this regatta.

Lakewood Ranch Regatta: A regatta was held for several years in the Summerfield section of Lakewood Ranch with a trophy and awards presented.

A Charity Regatta: For the first time, a charity regatta was held in March 2016 to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation comprised of two challenging fleets: the Snowbirds and the Florida Crackers. The first charity regatta was developed by Tim Peat who also served as the regatta chairperson.   The trophy for this inaugural event was present to the Snowbirds who sailed to victory under the command of Tim Peat. The club members not only had a great time at this regatta, but a significant bonus was that $1,676 was raised to benefit The Southwest Florida- Tampa Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It is anticipated that a charity regatta will become an annual event of the club.

Non-sailing Events:

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail from the safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Several non-sailing events have evolved over the years that have enriched the experience of club members. Many of these events involve not only the club members, but also spouses and significant others. Here’s a sampling of some of these events that have served to provide fellowship and entertainment for all:

  • High Tea at the home of Trevor and Jennifer Lambert in Lakewood

Ranch

  • A luncheon with spouses and significant others was started in 2011 through the efforts of Jerry Callahan. This luncheon has been held at the Whetstone Restaurant at the Manatee Technical College on State Road 70 in Bradenton. This fine dining restaurant is a teaching site for the culinary students at the college and provides excellent meals in an intimate setting.
  • A fun event began in 2014 when Trevor and Jennifer Lambert hosted a pot luck supper for club members and spouses/significant others. Such a great time was had by all, John and Patricia Stryhn hosted a pot luck supper in March 2015 at their home in Lakewood Ranch with the able assistance of their neighbors, Will and Sue Parry. This was followed by an equally wonderful gathering in 2016 at the new Lakewood Ranch home of Sue and Will Parry.
  • One of the highlights of the club is the Annual Banquet. This banquet for club members and their spouses and significant others has been held at a variety of local restaurants. Most recently it has been held at the Lakewood Ranch Grill. At this banquet awards are presented, including the coveted Commodore’s Award, stories are told, a good meal is enjoyed, and a great time is had by all.
  • One of the most enjoyable ongoing events is the after-sailing gathering at the Square One restaurant on University Parkway. This provides an opportunity for the sailors to gather for drinks and refreshments (usually the onion rings) and an occasional lesson on the rules of sailing led by our commodore and other capable sailors. It is at this after sailing gathering that many helpful connections are made among snow-birds and year-round sailors. Square One has become our unofficial “club house.”

In March, 2016 the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper sent a reporter and photographer to the lake to interview our commodore and several members as well as photograph our boats on the water. On Wednesday, March 16 an excellent article appeared in the paper highlighting our club. This was great publicity for our activities. (See the article in the Appendix)

In April, the club was saddened to learn of the death of one of our founding members, Milton Thrasher following a long illness. Milt was an avid sailor, built several large boats as well as half-models, full models, and radio-controlled boats in addition to being a founding member, along with Dick Sherman, of the SMYC.

Sailing On: A Vision for the Future

“My goal in sailing isn’t to be brilliant or flashy in individual races, just to be consistent over the long run.”

Dennis Connor

The Sarasota Model Yacht Club is in its 20th year and it has been a great 20 years! The current members are in debt to those early visionaries, Dick Sherman and Milt Thrasher, as well as our current leadership. Without their love of sailing and a vision, the members would not be enjoying the club as we know it today.

Sailing is our reason for coming together, but it is not the only benefit of membership. Making new friends, learning skills and strategies from one another, helping new sailors learn basic skills and the rules of sailing through mentoring, participating in a charity regatta, and enjoying the fellowship offered through non-sailing experiences are just some of the benefits of being a member of the Sarasota Model Yacht Club.

In conclusion, taking a bit of writer’s prerogative, I would like to suggest that if the club were to have a theme song it would not be one of any number of sailing and maritime themed songs most members would know. Rather, I would suggest With a Little Help from My Friends, for I have found the SMYC to be a group of sailors willing and eager to help the radio controlled sailing novice learn everything from tuning to boat repairs to the rules of racing to racing strategy. This amazing gathering of sailors who adhere to the Corinthian spirit are pretty remarkable; particularly for a bunch of Jackwagons.

Looking to the future, our little club sails on stronger than ever with strong leadership at the helm. We trust future is bright and fair winds will guide us in the years ahead.

Craig Collemer

March 2016