A Yachtsman's Delight

"Lake Winnebago is a very fine lake for the regattas. It is big and clear and deep enough and the winds are strong enough and steady. Winnebago is the best lake we have for the races. The yacht clubhouse is a remarkable accomplishment in so short of time given to preparation and other clubs will be able to example by what Oshkosh has done.

-A. R. Beck of the Pistakee Yacht Club, 1903

Oshkosh had the extreme pleasure of hosting the Inland Lakes Yachting Association Championship Regatta this summer. More than 100 boats participated in this year's event - a vast increase from the 22 yachts entered for the great race in 1903, the largest fleet that had ever sailed in a regatta. 

Lake Winnebago has long been a gathering place for yachtsmen looking to partake in some friendly competition, or simply to experience the thrill of battling the elements. The big lake has been a favorite attraction for sailors from yacht clubs throughout the Midwest, with the first recorded race being held at Oshkosh in 1860. Ten scows from Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and Green Bay entered that monumental event. 

As the largest fresh-water inland lake in the U.S., Winnebago’s large open waters allow organizers to plan for more than one race to take place at a time. Another advantage to sailing Lake Winnebago is a steady prevailing wind often lacking on smaller lakes. 

The Oshkosh Yacht Club has been sponsoring annual regattas on Lake Winnebago since its inception in 1869. Since then, summer regattas have been a social event for sailors and area residents alike as yacht clubs from other cities along the lake as well as other inland lakes in the Midwest gather to compete for the coveted prize cups. 

The Inland Lakes Yachting Association was established in 1897 after a meeting of ten northwestern yacht clubs was held at the White Bear Yacht Club in Minnesota, the site of the first annual regatta scheduled for August 1898. At that time the Oshkosh Yacht Club, one of the founding members of the association, was selected to host the second annual regatta on Lake Winnebago. 

Visiting yachtsmen competing in the 1899 regatta, impressed with the conditions of the lake and the hospitality of the host city, voted unanimously to make the Oshkosh Yacht Club on Lake Winnebago the permanent home for the Annual Championship Regatta commencing with the 1903 season. A grand club house was in order to reflect the prestige the races were taking on. 

The property at the foot of Washington Street, owned by Oshkosh architect William Waters, was purchased and Mr. Waters’ design was chosen for the new headquarters. The new club house, regarded as the finest club house in the Midwest, was built in three months and opened two days before the start of the 1903 Sailing Championship Regatta. Restored to its former grandeur in 2008, the historic Waters facility once again is home for the Oshkosh Yacht Club. 

The Oshkosh Public Museum, housed in the historic home of Edgar P. Sawyer, an early member and commodore of the Oshkosh Yacht Club, is the official repository of all Inland Lake Yachting Association material.


Karla Szekeres