Imagine a yacht club: stuffed shirt-types sip pouilly-fuissé by the water, wear captain’s hats and brag about how much better they are than “the landlubbers,” right? As it turns out, yacht clubs aren’t really like that at all— particularly the North Cape Yacht Club (NCYC). Oh, there’s drinking all right, and maybe a few captain’s hats, but overwhelmingly, the space is dominated by families, water love and good, local people. Particularly, these truisms are demonstrated by their excellent philanthropy events, their excitement to welcome newcomers and above all, their willingness to get everybody out on the water through a myriad of cost-effective sailing programs. Hell, you don’t even need to have a boat to be a member.
The NCYC, out on the edge of La Salle, Mich., sits on a cape jutting into Lake Erie. Say what you want about algal blooms in the Lake, the water looks gorgeous and inviting from this spot. Started over 60 years ago by members of the Toledo Yacht Club who wanted a location closer to the Lake, the NCYC is proud of their admittedly sweet locale. “It’s fair to say we have the shortest distance to open water of any yacht club on Lake Erie,” said Leslie Hill, who is in charge of the race team at the NCYC.
Sailing Olympic style
Offering programs for those interested in a hands-on nautical education, the NCYC’s Learn to Sail classes are divided between their youth and adult programs. “This is really mecca for junior sailing. Sandusky Sailing Club, Port Clinton Yacht Club… Put-in-Bay Yacht Club on this end of the Lake, that’s where the good sailors learn to sail and are competitive on a junior level,” said Hill. “In addition, we have Adult Learn to Sail, which is a pretty cool program. It’s offered three different sessions during the summer. It’s not just go out and sail, it’s organized. Anyone who wants to learn to sail can come to North Cape and learn. As a bonus, we’ll allow them to hang out at our club for the remainder of the summer, so they can get to know what sailing is all about and what North Cape is all about.
The junior program is impressive particularly for one of their former members: Anna Tunnicliffe, the 2008 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist for the Laser Radial single handed sailing class. A member of the NCYC’s jr. sailing team in the early 2000s, She still helps out with the training programs when she can, offering advanced race clinic coaching, so you know you’ll get some fantastic nautical training.
Playing the right notes
The NCYC isn’t just parties and water fun, it’s also about raising money for a good cause. Their annual Race for Hope event, which is open to the public, is a great fundraiser that brings in money for the American Cancer Society. On Friday, June 16, there’ll be a kick-off party at the club with world-renowned guitarist Jim Hurst performing. On Saturday, June 17, the fun kicks into high gear with a sailboat race at 12:55pm. There will be a dinner at 5pm, and live music, auctions and general fun throughout the day.
Dinner is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.
Perhaps most intriguing is the club’s Women on the Water program. Started by Barbara Heldt, current Vice-Commodore of the NCYC, this club encourages women to take command of their interest in getting out on the water by sort of taking a page from “Women’s Night” in bowling leagues. “We work with women. It doesn’t matter what their experience is— whether they’re a novice or whether they’ve had years of being out on the water— we go out with just women. Whether we’re racing or whether we’re cruising, we empower women to work on their sailing,” explains Heldt. “We have a group of women who go out on Tuesday night— a lot of the [club members] have offered their boats, so if we wanna race we can race, or they’ll go out with us and just enjoy the water.”
The program, which began last year started with four women sailing enthusiasts and has since grown to 16. They’re looking to expand their numbers this year. “We can take any women at any time.” Heldt said.
So no matter what you want to do, if it involves boating and friendly folk, a great place to start is North Cape Yacht Club.
The club is open Tuesday-Sunday during the summer season. Noon-midnight, Saturday-Sunday; 6-10pm, Tuesday, Thursday; 5-midnight, Wednesday;
11850 Toledo Beach Rd., La Salle, MI.
For more information on events, membership, classes or to just chat about all things water, call 734-242-5081 or visit ncyc.net.