The Chicago Yachting Association had its genesis in 1959 when Mayor Richard J. Daley requested that the boating community organize Chicago's First Venetian Night Parade of Boats. Colonel Riley, who at that time headed what is now The Mayor's Office of Special Events, met with representatives from a majority of the Chicago yacht clubs to discuss how this task could best be accomplished. The yacht clubs soon realized that only by working together would they be able to organize and effectively create the kind of event that Mayor Daley had envisioned as Venetian Night. This first parade was held in Diversey Harbor, consisted of over 200 boats, and lasted until past midnight. The Mayor was greatly impressed with the yachtsmen's "spectacular" participation and expressed his appreciation in a letter to them.
Prior to 1959, yacht clubs would have races in which members of other clubs would participate. Winners would have to attend awards dinners at various clubs in order to receive awards won in the individual club races. Thus, one of the first actions taken by this fledging organization was to inaugurate the Chicago Yachting Association Ball to centralize the bestowing of awards. At this gala event sailors and power boaters, each participating in their own port-to-port, closed course sail races and predicted log contests, came together to salute each other as they were honored. Venetian Night winners also received their awards at this event.
The magazine of the Association, Yachting in Chicago, was created as a vehicle for recording the awards ceremony. The magazine has been printed annually since 1959 and contains information on all the member clubs, as well as the race results and Venetian Night winners. The CYA “Boat of the Year” contest is announced in the magazine along with the "Yachtsman of the Year." Also included are a Special Awards Section, articles on maritime interests, and a message from the CYA Commodore.
Over the decade, the Chicago Yachting Association grew to include all yacht clubs located within the city's limits. It continued to advise and consult informally with Mayor Richard J. Daley and Colonel Riley on harbor and boating issues.
As time went on, yacht clubs located outside of Chicago expressed interest in the activities of the Association. The Great Lakes Yacht Club, for example, petitioned to award its prestigious "Cutlass Award" at the CYA Ball. All requests for award presentations were honored and became part of the program.
Eventually, CYA established a relationship with Area III of the Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation, and “Boat of the Year” honor was based on select Area III races hosted by CYA member organizations.
In 1989, the First Annual Inter-Club Frostbite Regatta was formed. This very popular and competitive event has created a healthy rivalry among member clubs. Even some of our strictly-powerboat clubs have participated.
During this decade rowing and kayaking gained in popularity. In support of the trend to expand human-powered marine experiences, CYA invited the Lincoln Park Boat Club to become a part of the organization of yacht clubs. Their acceptance began a new focus for CYA.
The Chicago Yachting Association has had a good relationship with Chicago politicians since its inception, and through the years became the voice of the boating community. In the mid 1990s CYA was very instrumental in helping defeat the first attempt at a Mooring Tax. Through conversations with political leaders, other methods of obtaining revenue without taxing the boaters were identified.
In 1996, the Chicago Park District privatized their harbor system and awarded the contract to Westrec Marinas. Over time, the CYA has developed an excellent relationship with Westrec and offers its input and assistance into the many harbor issues that arise.
Early in 1998, the officers of the Chicago Yachting Association recognized the need for one organization whose mission would be to foster greater coordination between the public and private sectors regarding marine activities in the greater Chicago area. The Association also identified a need for a forum in which to exchange ideas, discuss and resolve common problems, and facilitate effective initiatives designed to further the maritime interests of Metropolitan Chicago.
This realization was the catalyst for a subsequent reworking of the purposes and aims of the Chicago Yachting Association and culminated in the adoption of a broad set of By-Laws in August 1999.
Further broadening of the By-Laws in February 2001 resulted in the creation of four categories of membership to serve the diverse organizations in the marine community. (Please refer to our By-Laws, Article 4, for more details.) The new By-Laws allow for the Association to take a more proactive stance on matters affecting the Chicago boating community. It allows the Association to more fully interact with government agencies, commercial boating businesses, and marine organizations. It participates in task forces and attends hearings that help influence the formulation of policy.
We hope that you feel your organization will want to be part of the future ofChicago’s boating community. Becoming a member of the Chicago Yachting Association will help you attain that goal. We have the opportunity to move forward in the Twenty-First Century. It is now up to us to take that challenge and meet it.