The Book of George
It is difficult to imagine that so much time has gone by. We are celebrating our fortieth year! It is also difficult to believe just how much the Club grew and changed since that time. My hat off to all my successors, Commodores and their officers, for all the hard work they did to get us to where we are now: a strong Club, recognized by the Lake Michigan racing organizations. This Club, whose members have participated in many major sailing events in the Chicago area, is now well know in the sailing community.
I came to the Chicago area in 1968. Around that time a group of people whom I did not know at that time, were discussing the possibility of founding a Polish yacht club in Chicago. A few years later I ran into Henryk Luber at a boat show. I heard Polish spoken and this is how we met. I became aware of the group of Polish sailors.
At that time, I just began establishing myself in the area North of Chicago, in the town of Waukegan. I was on my first job, and with a young family, and not quite in a position to own a reasonable size sailboat. Having sailed most of my adult life prior to coming to the US, I had strong motivation to somehow make this happen.
My first effort was to put together, with help of some of my friends, a twenty foot sailboat over the winter of 1969. A few years later I replaced this boat by a real one, as opposed to a home made one, a Santana 22. I kept her in the Waukegan Harbor, joined the Waukegan Yacht Club and met lots of people of same interests. Since my family did not sail with me, I got involved in racing. Soon the Santana was replaced by a Cal2-27, a much larger boat, which turned out to be a capable racer and we started getting some results. At one point I was invited to be crew on bigger boats and I sailed my first Mackinac Race.
My friends who lived in Chicago at that time were my link to the newly formed Joseph Conrad Yacht Club. The Club was small at that time and the fleet was also small. Henry Luber’s Fraja, a 48 foot vintage yacht, was the flag ship of the Club. I remember many great sails we had on Fraja. There was plenty of good sailing, good company and good partying.
The yacht Fraja was originally property of King Olaf V of Norway Sweden. King Olav V was an accomplished Olympic sailor in his youth.He won gold medal in 1928 olimpics in Sailing. He and his crew sailed Fraja to the US where they eventually sold the boat. Henry owned her for a number of years. Fraja was a wonderful boat. She sailed like a dream, but she was wooden and getting old. She required a lot of upkeep. At one point we learned about the upcoming trip of King Olav’s to Chicago. We saw an enormous opportunity for some significant public relations.
The King would most certainly be moved and pleased that his old boat is well maintained and loved by someone. We planned a reception at the Waukegan Yacht Club for the King and his entourage. The boat would be well cleaned and dressed up, sitting on the wall in front of the club. There would be TV cameras and a lot of hoopla. We forwarded a carefully written letter to the King inviting him to be our guest at this event. We ran into a wall in the Embassy. I doubt if the King was ever informed of this. It never happened.
In 1977 I began serving the Club as the Commodore. One of the factors that were considered here was that in spite of me living not quite in the City, I was connected with a local Club and with people in the racing circles. I was, at that time, the first club member to sail the Mac, at first as crew and eventually on my own boat.
The major problem for the Club was always the fact that we did not have a permanent site. In the early years our members were mostly new arrivals from Poland, and very few could justify paying club dues allowing us to own real estate on the Lake Front. We held our meetings and other activities wherever we could. One of the places was a room at the Navy Pier, where we had our classes. I had put on a sailing course for beginning sailors who joined the Club.
Things are better today. We have a sizable fleet and many accomplished skippers. We still need to establish a residence and that ids just a matter of time. We are looking forward to a bright future.
I am grateful to the people who had trust in me in 1977 and who made it possible for me to become part of the Club’s history.