To promote and provide support for the sport of sailing, power boating, water safety, and related activities; as well as provide facilities for its members to share common interests in a social atmosphere of mutual camaraderie, both on and off the water.
St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club – The First Sixty Years
A Reprint of an Article in the Autumn, 1994 Issue of Bay Biz
by 1994 Commodore Warren Middlemas, Jr.
The St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is one of the oldest and most prestigious yacht clubs on the Northern Gulf Coast. The club, which had its first meeting in 1933 in the depth of the Great Depression, was formed by a group of prominent business and professional leaders in Panama City. The first commodore was Major Frank B. Wood. Among the charter members was H. L. Sudduth, developer of the Cove residential area, who donated the land where the clubhouse now stands. The minutes of the organizational meeting in August 1933 indicate that future meetings would be held in the Dixie Sherman Hotel on the mezzanine level until a permanent clubhouse could be built. Other charter members were: M. J. Daffin, later longtime Sheriff of Bay County; Thomas Sale, a prominent attorney who also served as major of Panama City; Harry G. Fannin, a leading banker in town; and A. J. Smith, founder of Panama Machine and Supply Company.
The stationery of the Yacht Club in 1937 shows the Commodore to be A. M. Lewis, the father of H. Mack Lewis, the well known Panama City business and civic leader who also served as commodore in the nineteen sixties. Named on the letterhead as Honorary Commodore was Asa G. Candler, founder of the Coca Cola Company of Atlanta; he had a summer home down the street from the Club on Bunkers Cove Road. Candler donated the cup which is competed for in the annual Candler Regatta at which St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is host each year.
St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is a long-standing member of the Gulf Yachting Association, an association of 33 yacht clubs which includes St. Petersburg Yacht Club on the east, westward through the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. There are several inland clubs in the GYA, at Jackson, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Little Rock, Arkansas.
The GYA was organized in 1901 and reorganized in 1920. One of the founding clubs was Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans, which is the second oldest yacht club in North America. The GYA coordinates many regattas and other sailing related activities each year. The big regatta of the year is the Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup event held every Labor Day weekend at the site of the club which won the regatta the previous year.
Over the past 76 years, four St. Andrews Bay members have served as Commodore of the Gulf Yachting Association. They were: Frank B. Wood in 1944 and 1945; Wilton Duncan in 1955; Allen Douglas in 1972; Ted McLane in 1982, and John Morrow in 1995. It is a distinct honor to the St. Andrews Bay Club to have one of its own as Commodore of such a large and distinguished yachting organization.
St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club has produced many excellent sailors during its history. Floyd Davis and Idus Darby were perennial champions on the GYA circuit when the old Fish Class boats were the official racing boat of the GYA. These were wooden, gaff-rigged boats with canvas sails and were quite heavy compared to the fiberglass boats of today. In the old days, when St. Andrews Bay was host to a regatta, the Club would depend on Pensacola Yacht Club to lend some of their fleet of Fish Class boats to augment its own regular fleet of 10 or 12 vessels. These would be towed by a tugboat through the intracoastal waterway from Pensacola to Panama City. The boats were too large and heavy to trailer.
About 45 years ago, the official GYA boat was changed to the Flying Scot. This is a much lighter, more easily handled craft which can be kept and hauled on a trailer, whereas the Fish Class boats were moored afloat at the Club dock. St. Andrews Bay skipper Jack Laird became the master of Flying Scot racing. Laird won most of the races he entered when representing St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club and culminated his Flying Scot career by winning the National Flying Scot championship in 1969. This was not just a Gulf Yachting Association event, it was a nationwide championship.
The St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is not only a boating oriented club. There are many social activities carried on during the year. The Club is also the scene of many private parties and receptions. The Club has a superior dining room and bar that provides for its members excellent fare six days a week. St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is a private club, membership in which is by invitation and approval of the Board of Governors. There are presently approximately 407 members served by a professional manager and staff of 40.