Club History

Royal Bengal Yacht Club is the name taken by the Clark Lake Yacht Club on its founding in 1931 in the basement of Pleasant View pavilion, later the Clark Lake Lodge. At that time, the basement was a bar and bowling alley under the ownership of Larry Miller, a supporter of the Club.

In 1933, the organization moved to Eagle Point, and changed its name to the present Clark Lake Yacht Club. The facilities were two lake cabins built in the early 1890’s, among the first built on the lake, according to Eldred (Bud) Kennedy.

In these early days of the Club, boats ranged from 12 to 16 feet in length. Four classes were set up for racing purposes. Most popular among the boats was the Lark, a cat-rigged, jib headed scow about 15 to 16 feet long, that raced in an almost one-design class of six or seven boats, according to Kennedy.

In 1937, the Club moved back across the lake to Kentucky Point, into a house then known as the Graziana cottage, just on the Point. In the same year, Kennedy purchased a Mower which had been built by Chuck Burbach, of Burbach, Kestler in Fruitport, Michigan.

Designed by Charles D. Mower in New York city, the boat was 18 feet, 9 inches in length, and carried 204 square feet of sail on its sloop rig. Kennedy’s boat was built of mahogany planking fastened on oak ribs with copper rivets and had a spar made of mahogany.

Also in the same year another club member commissioned local boat builder Charles H. Wilson to build another. Wilson’s shop was the second floor of a building at 217-21 N. Jackson, and next door to McConkey-Keehn Motor Co. Wendell McConkey, of the DeSoto-Plymouth dealership, was also a Club member, and former commodore.

As construction proceeded, it was apparent that the boat would exceed cost estimates, and Clifford Sparks took over ownership. This boat was cedar planked on oak ribs with brass screws and a spruce spar.

The boat comfortably held four persons. The boat was popular. With a local builder, it was accessible, and, each boat was built the same way with similar materials. Wilson eventually built 13 for Clark Lake sailors.

Mowers were raced as one design boats in 1938, according to Kennedy. It was typical, he said, for 10 to 12 of the boats to race on a weekend. With three for four persons in each, most of the Club members participated every weekend.

In 1943, the Club moved to the Timberlake Cottage, a house adjacent to the Pleasant View Hotel, and just West of the Clark Lake Lodge. But interest waned during World War II, and the Club disbanded.

Following the war, there was little competitive sailing on Clark Lake. Former members, instead, joined with Wolf Lake Snipe sailors or Lightning sailors at Devils Lake. “Mowers had drifted apart,” Kennedy said, “and had ended up with people who weren’t interested in racing them. Although they had been a success, they weren’t the boats to reorganize around. They were awfully expensive boats to build.”

In 1950, Kennedy and former members decided the Rebel, a boat built in Toledo out of glass fiber and plastic epoxy resin, would be the boat they would use to reinstate competitive sailing on Clark Lake. Six were purchased by the members in late 1949, and in 1950 the Clark Lake Yacht Club began racing again, this time from Eagle Point.

The fleet grew rapidly with 10 to 12 boats in the next few years. A few other “odds ‘n ends” sailed with the fleet, Kennedy said.

A second class was started in 1955 or ’56, when Bob Cornell, a Snipe sailor from Wolf Lake, who had joined the Rebel Fleet at Clark Lake, brought an Interlake boat from Toledo. Two fleet racing began, and the Interlake fleet “gradually grew to a good competitive class,” according to Kennedy.

During the late 1970’s , Hobie 16 catamaran racing became well organized. Fleet 58, which was not connected with the Club, was founded, and fittingly, sailed out of the basement of Clark Lake Lodge, the former Pleasant View. The catamarans sailed Sunday mornings before Yacht Club races.

During the more recent years, other classes of boats formed fleets. They included Lightnings, (which became inactive in 1978); Penguins, (prams that were purchased for a training program and intermittently raced); a so-called “Board Boat” group (consisting of Laser, Sunfish, Starwind and other small boat classes), Buccaneers (started by John Strawbridge in 1973 and active until recent years), and the Starcat 5.6 catamarans (started by George Carr as a fleet in 1980).

In 1994, the Sunfish sailors (with Reed Lowden as fleet captain) obtained a Sunfish Int’l charter for Fleet #676 . The same year the fleet promoted and was awarded a Regional regatta. The Sunfish Fleet grew rapidly and, along with the Rebels, constituted the two main fleets in 1998. Also, interest has been shown in a Laser fleet.

In 1957, the Club returned to Pleasant View.

Desiring more spacious quarters and better grounds, the Club in 1960 purchased the Hayes summer home, the present location, from former member C.B. Hayes’ daughter.

The corporation was originally organized as a Michigan non-profit corporation on a non-stock basis. The Club was to be financed through membership fees and the sale of both interest and no interest bearing bonds to members. The bonds had a ten-year maturity date and, if funds were available, were redeemed immediately upon the holder of the bond terminating his membership. Each member was required to purchase one non-interest bearing bond. It was better to proceed on this basis than to issue stock to members which would have required the members to have their money tied up until they withdrew from the Club and sold their stock. Since the early 1970’s we have charged an initiation fee, which is non-refundable, in lieu of the non-interest bearing bonds. Due to a six year statute of limitations, any outstanding bonds are no longer redeemable.

The Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws do not provide for the distribution of assets upon dissolution of the corporation. It would therefore be necessary for the membership at that time to decide how to distribute the assets. Since this is a non-profit corporation, the assets would have to be distributed to some other non-profit or charitable organization.

The present facility is among the finest of any inland lake sailing clubs, and even big boat sailing clubs, according to members who have sailed out of other facilities.

Although not directly connected with the Club, in 1976 when the Rebel company, which had been purchased by a Chicago firm, languished, many of the sailors at Clark Lake Yacht Club formed Rebel Industries, and moved construction to Jackson, in order to insure continuing production. The Rebel is currently manufactured by Nickels’ Boat works in Fenton, Michigan.

During the late 1970’s, Hobie 16 catamaran racing became well organized. Fleet 58, which is not connected with the Club, was founded, and fittingly, sailed out of the basement of Clark Lake Lodge, the former Pleasant View. The catamarans would sail Sunday mornings before Yacht Club races. Interest in catamaran racing has died and fleet 58 is no longer active.

This photo of the Hayes Cottage was taken in 1947 and is now the Clark Lake Yacht Club.

Hayes Cottage Old Color