THE HISTORY OF THE CBYRA
The Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association (CBYRA) is an organization comprised of over 50 member clubs, 30+ classes of racing sailboats, and hundreds individual members. CBYRA represents these clubs, classes and individual members to the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING). CBYRA is one of the largest such Associations in the United States.
CBYRA was founded in 1914 to promote fair yachting competition by supporting standard yacht racing and measurement rules and by coordinating racing schedules and regattas for the Chesapeake Bay region. These functions are still central to CBYRA’s tasks. CBYRA also provides an appellate function for protests for all sailing events in our region.
Our office manager runs the CBYRA office, handles numerous member service tasks, and provides assistance for CBYRA volunteer efforts. Volunteers conduct the majority of CBYRA’s work by serving on the executive and other committees, performing member services, scheduling races, and coordinating with classes.
CBYRA is divided into four Regions to provide representation over such a large area. Each Region has an elected Officer (Regional Vice President) serving on the CBYRA Executive Committee. Collectively, Regions 1, 2, and 3 are known as the Northern Bay and Region 4 referred to as Southern Bay.
Region 1 is located on the Chesapeake Bay north of Tolchester, Maryland. The Region includes Havre de Grace and the entire State of Delaware. Region 1 also serves small portions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (home to CBYRA member clubs).
Located between Tolchester and Sandy Point, Region 2 includes Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore, as well as the Magothy River, Corsica River, Chester River, and other rivers on the Maryland’s eastern and western shores.
Region 3 extends from below Sandy Point to the Virginia state border. There are numerous racing venues in Region 3 including (but not limited to) Annapolis, Saint Michaels, Oxford, Solomons Island, Washington DC, and the Potomac River.
Region 4 includes all the Chesapeake Bay south of the Potomac River, including such racing venues as Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Mobjack Bay, and Hampton. Region 4 also includes the rest of Virginia and portions of eastern North Carolina.
While the first sailboat race on the Bay took place the first time two boats found themselves sailing next to one another, guessing when organized Bay racing occurred is less easy. However, much of the history of sailboat racing on the Bay is found in the records of the organization known by the short acronym “CBYRA.” CBYRA is the face of sailing in the mid-Atlantic area and the Bay region’s representative of the national governing board for sailboat racing – US SAILING.
Within a decade of the beginning of the 20th century, Chesapeake Bay racing had become sufficiently organized that a half-dozen boat clubs were looking for a way to schedule their annual regattas and other events without conflicting with one another. Their informal discussions that year amounted to the Bay’s first association of clubs. This association helped the clubs plan and run races until the First World War brought pleasure boating to a halt.
After the war, sailboat racing took a while to get started again. By 1930, several fleets of Star boats had been formed and events again began to overlap and conflict. “Big boat” sailing was making a comeback, and several smaller “one-design” boats, such as Snipes and Comets, began to gain popularity.
These interests came together in October 1934, when representatives of several yacht clubs formed a committee to draft the by-laws for the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association. CBYRA’s first elected leader was Henry duPont Baldwin of Chesapeake, Virginia. CBYRA was – from the outset – conceived as an organization of clubs. The tradition continues today, with each member club having equal representation within the organization.
The CBYRA’s initial by-laws outlined missions that have not changed to this day. They include educating new sailors, promoting boating safety and furthering the development of sailboat racing in general. The association is strongly oriented toward junior training. CBYRA was instrumental in allowing racers to compete on a Bay-wide basis as affiliation in a CBYRA member club allowed reciprocal acceptance of their race entries by other CBYRA member clubs (something we often take for granted today).
In 1938, a “High-Point” award system was created in order to recognize racing excellence throughout the Bay. Other important early developments of the association included the establishment of Bay wide championships in men and women’s divisions, as well as for junior sailors.
One of the organization’s greatest contributions has been in helping clubs to develop a unified calendar of non-conflicting events. In 1978, this schedule was first published in a book of “sailing instructions” and information on post-race parties. Known popularly as “The Green Book,” it is now the basic season planner for many sailors.
CBYRA has maintained a steady growth over the years. Today, working with our member clubs, CBYRA sponsors or supports regattas throughout the Chesapeake Bay and adjoining waters.
At one time or another, sailors sponsored or supported by CBYRA have won most of our Nation’s major championships and international competitions. CBYRA members who have won major events include Gary Jobson (America’s Cup), Al Van Metre and Jack King (SORC), Arnold Gay (Newport-Bermuda Race), Jim Allsopp (Star Worlds), Charlie Scott (J/24 Worlds), Steve Phillips (Farr 40 Worlds), and many others.
And this success is not limited to adults – anyone who attends one of the many junior regattas around the Bay have no doubt that even more national and international champions in the future will be wearing the CBYRA emblem.