LGYC’s Optimist Dinghy sailors are lucky. Besides having a boat that’s fun to sail and popular throughout the world, they can compete at home each year for some very handsome trophies, four of which were donated to the fleet in 2007 by Jane Pegel. Jane, one of the club’s and the Inland Lake Yachting Association’s most accomplished skippers, won these trophies as fleet champion in the club’s M and M16 fleets in 1972, 1989 (two that year), and 1994. Today, Opti sailors receive these particular trophies for the best scores in Series A (day one and two) and Series B (day one and two). Though the Optimist Dinghy was designed in 1947 (when Jane was campaigning her X Boat), it was 1990 before the class was established as a racing fleet at LGYC, and it has been popular ever since at LGYC and at the Geneva Lake Sailing School. Is your name on one of the Jane Pegel Opti trophies? Click here and find out.
“In honor of our friend whose years of unselfish service are appreciated by all.” These words are engraved on a large Revere bowl as a salute to Marie Kramp, who was a valued employee at Lake Geneva Yacht Club for more than four decades and is remembered to this day with great affection. Mrs. Kramp retired in 1990 and died in 2009. In 1980, members donated the Marie Kramp Award to the Yacht Club to honor her and to recognize a member or members for outstanding service. The trophy’s first recipient, in 1980, was Melville C. Jones, commodore in 1950 and 1951, esteemed A-Scow and iceboat sailor, and a gracious and soft-spoken individual whose service to the Yacht Club was varied and generous. Mel Jones was a creative gardener, and for many years he was a member of the House, Grounds, and Waterfront Committee, usually in charge of landscaping. A tribute to him noted that “Our club’s beautifully kept shrubs, trees, and flower beds are the result of his long hours spent planning, preparing the soil, planting, cultivating, watering, and keeping a watchful eye over all.” To read the names of the members who received the Marie Kramp Award after Commodore Jones, click here.
“Recovered from the depths of the lake”? Yes, the Whitewing Trophy sat at the bottom of Geneva Lake, possibly for decades, until 1974 when divers found it and brought it to the attention of members of the Lake Geneva Yacht Club. There are no clues about how it got there. The club restored the trophy, engraved its history on its base, and in 1982 dedicated it for overall second place in the Class C championship series. We do know that the trophy was donated by the Lake Geneva Branch of the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) for a race on September 3, 1883, “open to all yachtsmen on Geneva Lake.” The winner was the sandbagger Whitewing, owned by Samuel Waters Allerton (1829 – 1914), a prominent Chicagoan who had worked on a farm until he was 18, became successful in raising livestock, was president of Allerton Packing Company and instrumental in establishing Chicago’s Union Stock Yard, was a director of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, was the author of “Practical Farming,” was a director of the First National Bank and the Chicago City Railway Company, and was described in a book about Chicago’s leading citizens as a man who “has built his fortune on the sure and honorable foundation of industry, economy, sound judgement, and resolute action.” In 1891, his son, Robert (1873 – 1964), a benefactor, honorary president, and trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, was the first winner (also in Whitewing) of LGYC’s Folly Prize, which had been donated by his sister, Kate Allerton Papin, and named for the family home. (The Folly Prize has been a Class E trophy since 1927.) Laurie Morrissy was the first winner of the Whitewing Trophy in modern times; Frank Davenport is the 2013 winner. Is your name on the Whitewing Trophy? Click here to find out.
When Katie Freytag won the Sheridan Prize in 1981 in Gene Trepte’s Invader, she was 22, fresh out of college, and had a sailing resume packed with racing aboard X-boats, M16s, M20s, E-Scows, and Class A. Katie had also been an instructor for two seasons at the Geneva Lake Sailing School and had just completed a summer as head instructor at Delavan. “I was not a regular crew on Invader but just stepped on for that race,” she said of the 1981 Sheridan. Also on board were co-owner John Porter (who had won the Sheridan on Invader in 1980), his brother Brian, Katie’s brothers Billy and T, and John Kiefer. “Why don’t you steer,” John Porter said to Katie, and so she did, from start to first-place finish in the three-boat fleet. The only other woman to have her name engraved on the Sheridan Prize is Miss C. L. Ford, who was the owner of the sandbagger Geneva, the winner in 1879. Her skipper’s name was not recorded.
The trophy for winning the Sheridan is called the Sheridan Prize, and at first it was to be a silver cup. After further thought, however, those in charge opted for something unusual, even though they had to wait more than a year for it, and they commissioned Chicago silversmiths Giles, Brother & Company to design and produce a sterling silver 10-inch model of Julian S. Rumsey’s topsail sloop Nettie, the 21-foot sandbagger that won the 1874 race on corrected time over six other boats. The detail on the model is remarkable. Notice the filigree reef points, the tiny blocks and mast hoops, the perfect cleats, and the blue rectangular “Champion” flag on a staff at the masthead. (A photograph in the1913 Sheridan Race program shows Nettie also flying Old Glory from a flag halyard at her mainsail leech.) The Nettie sits on a flat oval surface engraved with the names of winners through 1884. Names through 1933 are engraved on a larger flat oval surface set on a black wooden base. In between these two surfaces, probably added along with the glass dome soon after the second surface was filled up in 1933, are four silver bands that are attached in vertical rows to an oval core. (Katie’s name is engraved on the third silver band.) After the 2008 race, the engraver filled the final space on the fourth band, and since then the winners’ names have been recorded on a wooden plaque, decorated with a drawing of Nettie flying the LGYC burgee. The winner may keep the plaque until the following year.
The Sheridan Race, described in a Chicago newspaper in the late 1800s as “an event of great social magnitude,” has a rich history and has generated colorful prose. A reporter for the Chicago Herald in 1892 wrote as follows: “The race was as pretty as any that imagination could picture, and was seen almost from start to finish by hundreds of persons on the thirty-odd little steamers, on sailboats, or on the piers and landings. Scores of folk came from the country round about to witness the contest, and at times the waves of excitement were far higher than the sea.”
The event also has its share of anecdotes. Is it true that General Philip H. Sheridan came to the Geneva Lake area in 1874 to fish, not to watch boats race? Yes. Is it true that John Beamsley’s local bottling company changed its name in 1875 to Sheridan Springs Mineral Water in honor of General Sheridan, who had praised it, and that a former LGYC commodore has one of those old bottles in her collection? Yes. Is it true that the Civil War bugler who was the first person to play Taps (1862), settled in Chicago and won the Sheridan Prize in 1892? Yes. Is it true that Class E replaced Class A in Sheridan competition for four years in the 1970s? Yes. Is it possible that your name is engraved on the Sheridan Prize or the Sheridan Plaque? Yes, it is possible, but click here to find out.
Age and charm make the Expert Trophy quite special. Originally called the Expert Challenge Cup, it is an ornate silver pitcher, 8-1/2 inches tall, that was donated to the Yacht Club in 1892 by Julian M. Rumsey. Julian M., the son of Julian S. Rumsey, the first Sheridan Prize winner, designated his trophy for challenge racing between cat-rigged sandbaggers in the 21-foot class. The first race was on August 27, 1892, and was won by Captain John Johnson Jr., who was challenged to a race after two weeks, as the rules permitted. He lost. The next race was in 1897, and a few years later the winner transferred his boat, her equipment, and the trophy to L. H. Stafford. That was the end of competition for thee decades, but in 1927 Mr. Stafford returned the trophy to the Yacht Club in response to convincing correspondence from Commodore William Nelson Pelouze. Club officers then selected the relatively new Class E to compete for the trophy and held a match in July of that year. Two years later, the Yacht Club abolished the challenge-cup system and designated the trophy for fleet competition, as it remains today. Every inch of the Expert not covered with flowers or leaves is covered with the names of winners; the base that bore the names of the most recent winners is missing. As of 2012, winners receive a plaque for one year, not the trophy itself. The skipper with his name on the Expert Trophy the most times is Brian Porter, who between 1982 and 2011 won it 13 times. In 2012 Brian’s nephew, Vincent Porter, won it with crew Coye Harrett and Griffin Rolander. Is your name on the Expert Trophy? Click here to visit the Virtual Trophy Room and find out.
In January 1906, the year the Lake Geneva Yacht Club moved into its Cedar Point home, Martin Antoine Ryerson (1856 – 1932) donated a handsome sterling silver cup for competition in the club’s new class of 18-footers, listed in the yearbook as Class D. Within a few years, as permitted by the deed of gift, the Yacht Club awarded the trophy to the growing Class C fleet, where it remains today. Mr. Ryerson, a life member of the Yacht Club, is not included among the 12 Class D owners of record in 1906, but his name occupies a prominent position in the steam yacht section of the power fleet of the time. He was the owner of the 73-foot steel-hulled Hathor, which he built in 1898, and which one can assume graced the edges of the race course on a regular basis. Hathor’s second, third, and fourth owners were LGYC members Garnet W. McKee, Alben F. (Peter) Bates Jr., and, from 1972 to 2004, William H. Sills III, commodore in 1988 and 1989, who used the boat frequently for Yacht Club and Sea Scout events. Today, thanks to an extensive restoration by her fifth owner, Larry Larkin, Hathor is again active on Geneva Lake and provides an ideal platform from which to enjoy the annual Ryerson Trophy race. (Larry and Sue Larkin are the parents of LGYC member Lieutenant Commander Patrick Larkin, United States Navy.)
Martin A. Ryerson was a remarkable and accomplished individual who directed his intellectual and philanthropic energies to numerous cultural and civic causes in Chicago, most particularly to higher education and the world of art. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1878 and practiced law before joining his father in the family lumber business. Mr. Ryerson was among the founders of the University of Chicago and one of its original trustees, serving as board president for three decades; he was a founding trustee at the Art Institute of Chicago, a valued board member until his death, and a major donor to its collections; he was a trustee and officer of the Field Museum of Natural History from its earliest days. The Ryersons gave most of their American, European, and Asian art, sculpture, and textiles to the Art Institute, and Mr. Ryerson endowed the Art Institute’s library, which bears his name. At the Lake Geneva Yacht Club in 1906, G. K. and James R. Offield were the first winners of the Martin A. Ryerson Trophy; in 2012, the winner was Erick Youngquist, the Class C season champion. Is your name on the Martin A. Ryerson Trophy? To find out, visit the Virtual Trophy Room by clicking here.