LAGOS YACHT CLUB: 90 years of promoting yachting and boating in Africa

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Sailing and yacht racing is an exhilarating experience but like most sports, you need to understand the game. If you have the ‘need for speed’ and water is your element, then the Lagos Yacht Club is the place for you.

Located at Magazine Point, near Army Officers’ Mess on the beautiful Island, Lagos Yacht Club was founded in 1932. It overlooks the Independence Bridge leading to Victoria Island, an ideal place for a sailing Club because of its picturesque scenery.

After sailing as a sport was introduced to Nigeria in Lagos around the turn of the century, a regatta was held in 1931 that coincided with the visit of H.M.S. Cardiff and the German cruiser Emden. This development generated interest and motivated some expatriate sailing lovers in Lagos who envisioned the birth of Lagos Yacht Club in 1932.

The sailing expatriates include: C.J. Webb, Jessie Horne, R.M. Williams and H.A. Whittaker and the Club had over 20 members at inception.

The first meeting of the Club was held at the original Ikoyi Club on October 4, while the first annual general meeting was held on October 13, 1932. The pioneer officers of the Club were appointed and the first official Regatta was held on 29 through 31 October. The first Sailing Committee was also appointed and numbers L1-L9 were allotted to the boats.

Admittedly, membership of the Club was soon expanded by a surprising and very welcome number of sailing enthusiasts from the Railway. Boats were manhandled over the sand beach on rollers to a bamboo and thatch shelter. It was some more years before the club was able to finance a concrete hard with hauling gear and some sort of Club House.

Despite the longevity of its existence, the basic elements of LYC Saturdays have not changed since inception; the harbor, the sun, the wind, the rush and bustle of crews getting boats into the water, amongst others have become norms. The Club remains a stable feature in the lives of its members, it offers sport, relaxation and a place to meet and make friends outside the confines of employment.

LYC House Committee was formed in June 1968 following the expansion of the Club’s facilities that became substantial. Initially, only the committees were the Main Committee and the Sailing Committee.

Over the years, Lagos Yacht Club, also a member of Royal Yachting Association (RYA), has been fortunate enough to have dynamic and effective committees to ensure the Club continues to be the leading member’s Club in Nigeria.

The Main Committee, led by the Commodore and Flag Officers (Vice Commodore and Rear Commodore) meet at least once each month and receive reports from the Sailing and House committees who also meet at regular intervals. Their primary duties are to serve the club members and to also ensure the Sailing and non-Sailing activities of the Club run smoothly.

Like many other Clubs in Nigeria, LYC Committee members are elected every year from the Members of the Club at the Annual General Meeting which provides a forum for the expression of membership views.

In an interview with Transport Day recently, the LYC Commodore, John Shidiak disclosed that the current members of LYC are no fewer than 300, affirming that many more Nigerians are growing interests in water and are willing to do the minimum requirement to join LYC.

Shidiak who has been a Rear Commodore for five years, revealed that commodore is a non-paid position and has only one year term but the Club’s constitution permits him to stand for re-election. Unlike other clubs where an official cannot stand for election for more than three terms of one year, there is no term limit for LYC officials as long as one is willing to.

Speaking on how to be a member of LYC, Shidiak maintained that it is mandatory for any prospective member to be a sailor before they can be considered.

“We don’t have any social membership; you have to be a sailor if you want to be a member. There are minimum sailing requirements, that is, you have to do a certain number of sails within some months of joining and then continuously over a certain period of time to show your commitment to sailing.

“Because obviously, we have a very nice environment as well, which a lot of people like to enjoy, but the key purpose of the Club is the sailing aspect,” he explained.

Although was unable to get the current initiation fee of LYC at the time of filing this report, becoming a member of the Club is relatively cheaper than other Clubs in this category. The last available information on the joining fee of LYC as at 2017 showed that with N250,000 and being nominated by two members of the Club, the sky is the limit as a member.

Last October, the Lagos Yacht Club celebrated a big milestone of 90 years of promoting yachting and sailing in Nigeria. But no thanks to the world ravaged COVID that obviously disrupted a lot of planning of the big events that lined up for the celebration, according to Commodore John Shidiak in an interview.

He said the committee had tried to plan a lot of things in the last couple of years to mark the nonagenarian event and had to be cancelled on short notice.

“One of the main ones, for example, is that we have a very big event called Sail Around the World, which is a social event, where we have food and drink stands from different countries of the world and music, and it goes on late.

“Usually, we attract around a thousand people to this event. We haven’t been able to have it for the last two years because of COVID 19,” he regretted.

Unlike other Clubs in Nigeria and many other African countries founded by expatriates, Lagos Yacht Club from inception was open to both expatriates and African indigenes as long as one fulfilled the sailing requirements.

Shidiak said the laid down sailing requirements by the founding members, remain till today which have become barriers on its own.

Expectedly, according to him, many people joined the Club as experienced sailors because in their home countries or wherever they schooled, they learnt how to sail and want to continue, but there are a lot of people that learned swimming in LYC.

Typically, the race starts on Saturdays at LYC around 2 pm or 2:30 pm and the Commodore opined that anyone that sails at LYC can sail anywhere in the world.

Apart from the Yacht Hotels located at 17 Admiralty Road, there are some other hotels near LYC with bright rooms, some with soaking tubs and ocean views, in an upmarket hotel with a spa, dining and a bar.

They are; Beni Hotels, 81 Div Officers Mess, De Rigg Place, Ikoyi Fairview Apartments. Others are Virgin Rose Resorts, Morning Side Suites, Atlantic Hotels and Suites, among others.

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