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History of the West Dennis Yacht Club

The concept of a yacht club was conceived in 1958, with the incorporation on January 9, 1959. The West Dennis Yacht Club was officially opened on July 18, 1959 with a ceremony attended by families of the charter members, several town officials, local builders and developers. The “Fingers” were in their early stage of development and the yacht club was considered a significant amenity. The initial cost of the building was $19,679.69 with an additional $8,000 for the land. The original docks and launching ramp was another $1,102.32. A total of 137 non-interest bearing bonds were sold at $100 each, providing $13,700 of capital. The first year 109 members paid $48 in annual dues! In the first summer, the club purchased 8 moorings, renting them out for a total of $110 for the season. The building was pretty “bare bones” in the first few years; much of the interior finish of the clubhouse was completed on a volunteer basis by members. Also completed in the first year was the design of the WDYC burgee featuring a white map of Cape Cod on a red background.

Volunteerism and social activities have been the foundation of the West Dennis Yacht Club since its inception. The first professional club manager was hired in 2000; prior to that volunteers and club officers did everything from organizing social activities – dances, dinners, parties – to bartending, cooking, and maintaining the property. Members raised money to purchase furniture, equipment, kitchen appliances and everything else needed for the club. The club’s first annual report cited 27 boats owned by club members, only 6 of which were sailboats. The power boats were generally less than 19 feet and had outboard motors. The club’s season was initially from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend.

The original club membership was 109. In 1969 the Board of Directors voted to limit membership to 125, which was achieved the following year. Also in 1969, the club was sufficiently stable financially to hire its first full-time steward/bartender. Today the WDYC employs a full-time Manager, a part-time Book Keeper, a part-time Function Manager, a Sailing School Director and sailing staff, and several bartenders, as well as providing food service on a contract basis.


Experiencing growing pains in the early 1970’s, the WDYC completed an addition to the west end of the building to accommodate the Junior Yacht Club. At that time the lounge was relocated to the east end of the building where it remains today. What had been a porch facing the waterfront was enclosed and incorporated into the lounge and ballroom. The main entrance was extended out toward the parking lot and an office was constructed. In 2007, an extensive renovation was completed, which raised the ceiling in the ballroom, as well as refurbishment of the lounge, ballroom, kitchen and bathrooms. The work also included central heat and air-conditioning which has enabled the club to operate year-around.

The Junior Yacht Club, officially created in 1962, has been an integral part of the club. The JYC essentially mirrors its parent organization, electing a full set of officers, hosting numerous social, recreational and charitable activities. Membership is open to the children of the WDYC members from ages 12 to 18.

The WDYC Sailing School began during the first summer of the Club’s existence. It has evolved into an outstanding program, teaching junior sailors from ages 5 to 18yrs in recreational and racing skills.

Currently Optimist Prams (Optis) are used for those skippers age 12 and under, and the “420” class, two crewed boats, for older students.

Sailing School members may participate in 420 Team racing events. Weekly races are held between several local junior yacht club teams both at home and away.

A premier event each summer is the WDYC Invitational Regatta. Junior sailors from many regional yacht clubs come to race in several divisions of Optis and 420s for trophies.

Several junior sailing cup races, sponsored by WDYC members are also held throughout the summer.

Many of our WDYC graduate racing sailors have continued their sport as members of collegiate sailing teams.

In the early decades, Sunday series and special cup sailboat racing for senior members were very popular. Beetle Cat Boats, Cape Cod Knockabouts, and Sunfish were the classes raced.

After some really great years, class racing interest declined. Many families purchased cruising class sailboats, and for several years these boats were raced.

Traditions play a big role in the development of any social organization. While many WDYC traditions have come and gone, many still remain. Harkening to the days when the club closed for the winter months, the Commissioning is held on Memorial Day weekend to mark the beginning of the summer season and typically features dinner and dancing. The Commodore’s Ball, typically Labor Day weekend, marks the passing of the flags to the new officers of the club for the coming year. This event is also normally marked by a dining and social event. Finally, the De-Commissioning, typically held on Columbus Day weekend marks the traditional end of the season with another social gathering. Each of the more “formal” activities, particularly the Commodore’s Ball, features the “striking of the colors” accompanied with the firing of the WDYC cannon.

Other traditions at the WDYC include the Junior Yacht Club-sponsored community dances, the WDYC Invitational Regatta, the King Fishing Tournament, watching the Dennis fireworks from our deck, a full slate of social activities between the 4th of July and Labor Day, as well as Sunday Cookouts.

The WDYC is approaching 300 membership units (approximately 500 individuals) with a very wide variety of backgrounds and interests. Despite having full and part-time staff, the organization depends on volunteers to plan and organize activities, participate on budget and long-range planning committees, supervise the waterfront and the sailing program, as well as attend the many social events held each season. Everyone’s participation is needed to assure that old traditions are maintained and new ones are begun. We invite you to respect your fellow members and join in the fun! Our slogan: SAIL at the WDYC

S – Serve, volunteer, reach out and become involved

A – Advertise the club, tell your friends and neighbors; ask them to join the WDYC

I – Introduce yourself to everyone and say “Hello!” Make WDYC a place where “everyone knows your name.”

L – Leave the club better than you found it! Pitch in, help out and share the workload!

The WDYC looks forward to years ahead of having our members SAIL at the WDYC!