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Boat club hits 175 years


July 10, 2014
Following its annual sailing regatta, the Detroit Boat Club recently hosted a special celebration to honor the organization's 175th year of boating in Detroit.

The Detroit Boat Club was founded in February 1839, 63 years after our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, 22 years before the Civil War began and two years after Michigan became a state. The stockade which marked the fort of Detroit had only been removed a dozen years earlier, and the city's population was less than 9,000.

It is the oldest continuous rowing club in the world, the oldest boating club in the United States and the oldest social club in Michigan.

"This is a milestone that no other boating club in the United States can claim," said Karen Fink, Detroit Boat Club Commodore. "The continued success of the Detroit Boat Club is a testimony to the love of the water and the enjoyment of boating that has always been a hallmark of the Detroit area."

More than 70 sailboats from clubs around southeast Michigan participated in the DBC's annual regatta, held under sunny skies with light wind conditions on Lake St. Clair.

Following the race, sailors, DBC members and guests enjoyed a summer party on the banks of the Detroit River in celebration of the Detroit Boat Club's 175th anniversary, and its 120th annual sailing regatta.

The club's first of six boat houses was a small structure with wells for three boats in back of the Campau family warehouse at the foot of Randolph Street. Founders included some of the most recognized names in Detroit history: E.A. Brush, James A. Armstrong, John Chester, J.H. Farnsworth, A.T. McReynolds, Alfred Brush, Alpheus S. Williams and S.H. Sibley.

A group of picnicking DBC members is credited with coining the name "Belle Isle" for the Detroit park as a welcome alternative to Hog Island, in honor of Miss Isabelle Cass, the daughter of Lewis Cass, former Michigan territorial governor and, later, U.S. Senator.

Originally founded as a rowing club, sailing also has a long tradition with the Detroit Boat Club. The DBC was one of the three clubs that founded The Detroit Regional Yachting Association in 1912.

As it has for decades, the DBC owns a fleet of Flying Scots which are used for pleasure sailing and to continue the long tradition of instructing future sailors.

Each year, the DBC hosts a DRYA-sanctioned regatta on Lake St. Clair, with 2014 marking the Club's 120th Annual Sailing Regatta.

The DBC enjoys a special relationship with the Friends of Detroit Rowing, whose members row under the Detroit Boat Club name as the "Detroit Boat Club Crew."

Friends of Detroit Rowing continue its operations in the former DBC clubhouse on Belle Isle in Detroit under a special arrangement with the city of Detroit, which assumed ownership of the building in 1996.

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