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Historical Records


Founding and Mission Statement

The Mendota Yacht Club was founded on April 25, 1903. W.B. Bates, Fred M. Brown, G.F. Minnick, Henry H. Morgan, E.C. Tillotson, L.M. Hanks, R.S. Groman, A.B. Morris, E.B. Rose and C.M. Putman signed the original Articles of Organization. Article II states, "The purpose of this association shall be to encourage and foster the sport of yachting among young and old ... to sometime, somewhere win an Inland Lakes Regatta, and to do all other things agreeable and necessary to carry out the purposes of this corporation." The first meeting was held on April 29, 1903, at which time the club had 30 members. By 1938 there were 157 members.
Today the Mendota Yacht Club has an ever growing membership and the number of fleets has increased from two to six. However, the purpose of the club remains the same: to encourage the sport of sailing among young and old.

Mendota Yacht Club - The first 30 years

c.2006 Don Sanford 


On April 25, 1903, a group of sailing enthusiasts met to sign the articles of incorporation for the Mendota Yacht Club. By then, sailing and sailboat racing had been taking place since 1839, 17 years prior to Madison's founding as the Capitol of Wisconsin. It was in 1839 that the first sailboat to appear on Lake Mendota, the Lady of the Lake, was launched. Naturally, if there are more than two sailboats within hail of each other, they need to race to see who's the fastest. It's as true today as it was in the summer of 1856 when the first regatta was held on Lake Mendota. The trophies were the Madison Flag and Cup. It's not known who competed, what "go-fasts" they used or who won, but this certainly marks the beginning of more than a century of organized sailboat racing on Madison's largest lake.

In 1870, another step was taken with the incorporation of the Madison Yacht Club by the consolidation of the Mendota and Lake City Yacht Clubs. The club was granted a charter by the State Legislature and, for a time, became one of the area's most prominent clubs. Unfortunately, by 1880 interest in sailing had declined and the club faded into obscurity. An unsuccessful effort was made to revive the club in 1898.


By 1903, interest in our sport grew and local businessman Fred M. Brown felt that the time was right for Madison to have a yacht club. Brown, one of Madison's civic leaders, would become a director and officer of Central Trust, the French Battery and Carbon Company and later one of the founders of the Maple Bluff Country Club. G. F. Minnick, Henry H. Manchester, E. C. Tilltson, L. M. Hanks, R. S. Groman, A. B. Morris, E. B. Rose and C. M. Putman joined Brown in signing the articles of incorporation at the home of Harry. H. Morgan, 10 Langdon St., on April 29, 1903.
Everyone in the room that day knew about the Inland Lakes Yachting Association, founded just a few years earlier in 1897. In that short time, the ILYA had already gained recognition as having the best skippers and being on the cutting edge of yacht racing. Our founders felt strongly about the club's potential and included the following language:

"The purpose of this association shall be to encourage and to foster the sport of yachting among young and old and to sometime, somewhere win an Inland Lakes Regatta, and to do all other things agreeable and necessary to carry out the purposes of this corporation."

MYC members have done just that over the years. In fact, MYC members have achieved success in competitive sailing far beyond an ILYA Championship. Our members are national champions in many one-design classes; have won the Mallory Cup and have been won Olympic medals. MYC members with their sailing roots here on Lake Mendota have served on the crews of America's Cup campaigns, sailed at the collegiate level, and competed on the international and offshore circuits as well. However, we're jumping ahead of the story. Let's get back to 1903. 


During MYC’s first summer, 1903, 13 boats were registered.  Fred Brown was elected Commodore, Wilfred B. Bates, Vice-Commodore.  Capt. George Patterson. skipper of The Mendota, one of the Lake Mendota’s proudest steamers was our first PRO.  He apparently had a keen interest in “yachting” as the sport of sailboat racing was known then.  Races were started and finished from the pier behind his home at 618 E Gorham St.  Marks or "stakes" were set out to provide a measured course.  This was not one-design racing but a handicap based on time and distance.  

  Capt. George Patterson at his boathouse
618 E. Gorham Street
1903 marked the appearance of the first scow-type boat, the Peeps, owned by Winfred B. Bates. Capt. Patterson provided the start and finish line from the end of his pier and MYC’s clubhouse was any member’s pier.


Fred Brown felt that it was time MYC had it’s own clubhouse and the opportunity presented itself in 1906 when a soft drink factory owned by John and August Lindstrom came on the market.  The Lindstroms had been in business there since 1870. They lived upstairs with their families with the factory on the lower level.  Times changed and by 1906, they were ready to sell.
The Lindstrom Soft Drink Factory at 409 N. Blair St.
Brown approached the Club about purchasing the building but MYC was a young organization, short on cash and the members were reluctant to outlay the $5,000.00 for the purchase and remodeling.  Recognizing that this was an opportunity not to be missed, Brown purchased the building, then organized a group of members who formed the Mendota Clubhouse Association. Stock was sold, money raised and remodeling of the old soft drink factory began.  There were about 10 stockholders in the Clubhouse Association.  Included on that list were many well-known Madisonians like George Burrows, William Freeman Vilas, Hanks and Brittingham.
  By 1907, the building was remodeled and open for business.  It was billed as “Madison’s Summer Social Center” in the Wisconsin State Journal.  The lower floor of the building would be used for workrooms.  The second deck will be used for assembly rooms.  Brown served as commodore from 1902-1910.  In 1909, Brown was honored by the Club for his leadership and service.  The club now boasted 125 members, the maximum membership, plus a waiting list of "impressive members."  The fleet consisted of 17 boats.  Fred's son, Tim, was frequently named as a winner in club races.
Under the leadership of several commodore’s including Lew Porter, Mendota’s reputation as both the home of great sailors and one of the midwest’s best lakes grew.  The club continued to host local races and participated in special events like the popular Venetian nights.  MYC sailors competed at the ILYA regattas and someone in the club, possibly Porter, saw to it that their escapades at out-of-town regattas were chronicled in the Madison papers.  
MYC Clubhouse decorated for Venetian Night
In 1914, all of this promotion paid off when MYC hosted the Northwestern Regatta.  In the past this had only been sailed at the long-established clubs like Oshkosh, Delevan and Oconomowoc.  Bringing the regatta to a newly formed club like MYC was a real coup.

Unfortunately, 1914 also was the beginning of World War I.  Interest in sailing faded with the country at war and by 1923, the Mendota Yacht Club had faded into oblivion.
A few races were held under the Madison Yacht Club in the years 1917-1933 but there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm or leadership for our club at that time.  One significant event did happen during that time however. Gamecock, owned by Dr. Carl Harper, was the first Class E Scow on Lake Mendota.   E’s had been developed around 1919 but until she arrived here, Mendota had been populated by C’s, B’s and A Scows.

By 1933 the country had recovered from the “Great War” and the depression.  MYC was about to recover as well.  Under the leadership of Tim Brown the club was re-organized in the spring of 1933.  With much fanfare it hosted the 1933 ILYA regatta.


While Scows remain as the perennial classes on our race courses, during the next 70 years, MYC has grown to include boats that could not have been imagined by our founders back in 1903.


During the 1930s and 40s MYC members were at the forefront of efforts to develop a public marina.  That effort, the Madison Marina Foundation, called for the creation of a public boat harbor between North Butler and North Franklin Streets.  By 1946, more than 2,700 people had signed petitions supporting the project.
In the 1940s many sailors stored boats at a the Tracy Boat Company, located on North Franklin St.  When City of Madison purchased the property in 1941, a group of MYC members raised $3,000 towards the purchase price with the understanding that the property would be the beginning of a public boating facility. 

In 1953, the club approached the city with a request to establish a rail system along Butler St. in the southwest corner of what is now James Madison Park, referring to the public-spirited efforts of 1943 and the continued need for a facility for "live storage of sailboats".  The club purchased, designed and installed that first rail system.
About 1938. Scows stored on the Tracy Boat
 Company's Rails. East Gorham Street and
 Nichols Station are in the background

In 1974, at the city's request, the Mendota Yacht Club was asked to relocate its rail system to Burrows Park.  By the summer of 1975 negotiations were concluded between the city and the club. Club members provided the manpower to move all equipment from James Madison Park to Burrows Park.  Under the terms of that agreement, one-quarter of the spaces on that rail system were to be reserved for City of Madison residents, a policy that continues today.


In 1978, the city announced that it would be closing a sailboat storage facility it operated adjacent to the old Hoover boathouse. Several sailboats would lose access to the lake with the closing of that facility.  Again, MYC and its members stepped up.  A crew of volunteers removed several hundred feet of rail and other equipment to be installed in Burrows Park to meet the increased demand for sailboat storage.

We’ve hosted ILYA and national championship regattas.  We’ve taken leadership roles promoting public waterfront facilities, sailing schools and community sailing centers.  Throughout the years though, our purpose has remained true to that vision of our founders.  To promote the sport of sailing and the good things that go along with it.



1938 MYC Directory

We have located a copy of the 1938 club directory and converted it to pdf for your viewing. This is Bob Beck's copy of the directory and, if you look closely, you will see that he was the junior fleet captain that year. This directory was a registry of who's who in old Madison. View the 1938 MYC directory in pdf.
Club member Don Sanford is working on more history about the Yacht Club so check back often. If you have any stories or MYC memorabilia at home, please let us know and we will help you share it with the club.

May 21, 2008 New Tradition Begins on Memorial Day

The MYC Memorial Day race has always been a trophy race recognizing those who have died in service to our country. This year our fantastic membership chair, Carolyn Curry, approached the board with a suggestion to honor those MYC members that are no longer with us but still sail with us in spirit by give them their own start. The board thought it was a great idea and the motion passed unanimously. Starting on Memorial day 2008 we will run the first start in a rolling sequence to honor our past sailing friends and to those who have died in service to our country. As a salute to their memory, we would ask that boats please keep clear of the line during this sequence in recognition of our friends that are still in our hearts. The MYC Board hopes that you support this recognition and that it becomes a long standing tradition.

Payton Regatta History

Jim Payton flanked by his crew Peter Barrett (L) and Charlie Miller (R) at the 1962 Mallory Cup trop
Jim Payton flanked by his crew Peter Barrett (L) and Charlie Miller (R)
at the 1962 Mallory Cup trophy presentation. 

Jim Payton Will Be Remembered

Jim will be missed in and around sailing circles. He spent the better part of a lifetime sailing and helping others enjoy his passion. My first acquaintance goes back to the mid ‘50’s when I met him on the ice. The yacht he sailed was the Mary B, a legion among stern steering ice yachts. The Mary B is a A-class ice boat with 350 square feet of sail, built in the late ‘40’s of sitka spruce. Many consider the Mary B to be one of the finest and fastest A boats ever built with Jim at the tiller. After the large A boats gave way to the smaller skeeters Jim began judging ice boat races. He would stand out in frigid temperatures and howling winds with a checkered flag and note pad, for untold hours while the boats came whizzing by for the checkered flag. He carried out winter judging for over 30 years, missing the last several due to health problems.
Jim’s summer activities began at an early age of eight. He was skipping E scows on Lake Mendota at 14. “ Irish Pennant” was his boat, and perfectly named for a big hearted smiling Irishman. He won many local events and grew up on the shores of Lake Mendota in a house once owned by the Mendota Yacht Club. It was located on the present site of James Madison Park. His home was the center of MYC sailing and socializing. After race parties were regular events on his cement patio. Back then the local newspapers gave regular coverage to sailing, often with full page stories and pictures at the Payton residence.
Jim’s sailing skills continued to improve, carrying him to the coveted 150 year-old Mallory Cup in 1962 at Newport Beach California. This cup is awarded to the North American Men’s Sailing Champion. Asked about the cup he modestly said, “I didn’t really expect to win the cup but just wanted to see the country”. The competition began locally, then progressed to the regional in Pine Lake Illinois, then to Buckeye Lake in Ohio and on to the finals in California. This round-robin competition pits eight boats at each level, with the single winner progressing to the next level. The boats were the ones chosen by the hosting clubs. They included the E scow, Raven 24’s and Schock 25’s in California. To reduce the differences in the boats the skipper and crew changed boats every race. Jim’s crew were Charlie Johnson and Chuck Miller. In California Peter Barrett substituted for Charlie who was unable to make the trip. Peter and Chuck also competed in the National Finn Regatta the previous week and ended up first and second place. I asked Jim why he ended up on the tiller. He said “I had a soft touch and could take orders better than the other two”. I didn’t say anything about their lankiness and ability to hike out verses his more robust frame. Jim and crew drew national attention with his win with stories in Sports Illustrated and New York Times. The local media provided plenty of ink too. The only other Midwesterner to win was Buddy Melges, a three-time champion.
Jim founded the annual Pig Roast at Warner Park that we all enjoy. His heart was as big as his smile. He left a legacy few will surpass. He donated his Mallory Cup trophy to the Mendota Yacht Club to be given to the winner of the annual Payton Regatta. Jim always had time to listen to a sailor re-sailing the last race, and would tell a few tall stories himself. Jim was a man who gave much and asked little.
Payton's Mallory Cup

Payton’s Mallory Cup Deed, Revised Oct. 2001

Jim Payton spent over 60 years of his life on the waters of Lake Mendota. He gave so much to the sport of sailing and to the Mendota Yacht Club. To many, he was a sailor’s best friend. He was the commodore in 1947 and 1964, and spent untold hours judging and helping sailors enjoy his passion. The purpose of the Mendota Yacht Club is to encourage the sport of competitive yachting—Jim accomplished this better than any member to date. In 1962, he was declared the North American Men’s Sailing Champion and won the corresponding Mallory Cup. He cherished this cup, and he and his family donated it to the Mendota Yacht Club for the life he so loved.
This trophy is deeded to the Mendota Yacht Club in memory of Jim Payton: 1928-1996. At Jim’s request, this trophy is to be given to the winning skipper and crew of the Payton Regatta. Starting in 2003, the Mendota Yacht Club’s Board of Directors will select the fleet competing for the cup. The criteria they will use will be class growth, class size, previous regatta participation, and involvement in club activities. The class that has been selected to compete will be announced at the Spring Banquet.

The winner of the cup is responsible for engraving it. The engraving should include the year, class, boat name, skipper and crew. It will be awarded following the last race of the regatta. The cup winner is also charged with the safe keeping and delivery of the cup to the regatta chairperson the following year.

This trophy will be awarded ONLY to Mendota Yacht Club members, with the hope others will participate and join. Presentation of the trophy will occur following the last race of the regatta. If the Mendota Yacht Club ceases to sponsor the Payton regatta, the Board of Directors will have the discretion to determine how otherwise to award the cup.
If the Mendota Yacht Club is disbanded or no longer has a need for the Payton Mallory Cup Trophy, it will be returned to the heirs of the James S. Payton estate.

Payton Regatta Changes, Approved Nov. 2001

The Board of Directors has approved the following changes for the Payton Regatta scheduled for Saturday and Sunday June 19-20, 2004. The regatta will be run out of Burrows Park as usual.
The board has revised the Mallory Cup deed to reflect changes in the MYC fleets since 1997. Beginning in 2003, the fleet competing for the trophy will be determined by the board of directors and announced at the Spring Banquet. Factors the BOD will use are fleet growth, size, previous regatta participation, and involvement in club activities.

Another change is that there will be NO FEES charged for the Payton Regatta or the pork barbecue picnic. The picnic will be at Burrows Park Shelter House at 5 PM on Saturday. MYC will supply the meat, buns, paper plates, napkins, and beverages. Think of this as one grand after race party and meal. We are asking people to bring a dish (salad, beans, dessert) to pass, so the more people who participate, the more food there will be.

The racing format will be two races back-to-back each day, with a minimum of one completed race to constitute the regatta. This eliminates the problem of providing lunches. Regular morning in a fleets series will count in the season series championship.
The trophy presentation will be at the Bishops Bay Country Club at 3:30 PM or shortly after the last race is completed on Sunday. All classes will be awarded keeper trophies for the first through third place. Trophies are likely to be drinking glasses with our colored burgee and a small inscription.

The changes have been made so that the regatta more closely resembles the first Payton Pig Roast and Regatta. Jim was a generous person who believed in having fun and enjoying the sport of competitive sailing. He was a master of both.

Emily Green, Payton Regatta Chair

2009 Payton Regatta Wrap Up

Trophy presentation gathering for the Payton Regatta

As most people had already packed up and left, the real diehards showed up to drink the left over beverages and admire the Payton Mallory Cup won by Lance and crew. Most of the trophies will be presented at the Commodore's Dinner. Fun time and job well done MYC. Jerry Simon

Payton Regatta Wrap Up

Congratulations to 2009 Payton Regatta Champions; Lance Puccio and E Scow crew win the Mallory Cup, Melges 24 USA 500, skippered by Dierk Polzin, wins the Cruiser Division, and Bill Stebbins takes the MC Scow win. Winds were light and variable for most of the weekend, with several attempts at a racing on Sunday abandoned. Regardless, racing was tight, and social events were enjoyable.
Thank you to MYC Social Chair Scotty Louther for two remarkably well coordinated and executed events; raspberry BBQ sauce-supplemented food and Carolyn Curry-concocted iced tea beverage put a refreshing twist on a relaxing summer evening. Thanks as well to those who brought supplemental pig roast delicacies; all went quickly, especially those of the cookie and ice cream variety. Roy and Sue Carter graciously hosted the pig roast event again; thank you for the hospitality, and providing us the opportunity to enjoy the great weather and Lake Mendota view.

Finally, thanks to Regatta PRO Bill Hanson, and Race Committee, for setting courses in the variable winds, and making popularly-favorable executive decisions late Sunday morning. Racing continues this Wednesday evening, and we hope to see everyone on the line on Saturday, July 4th.

Andrew Lewis MYC Commodore

Payton Regatta Photos

2013 Payton Awards
2013 Payton Potluck
   2013 Payton Awards                            
   2013 Payton Potluck                      
Link to more Payton Regatta photos at Flickr (external website).

Mendota Yacht Club Scrapbook

Here are just some of the interesting newspaper clippings that MYC historian Don Sanford comes across in the course of his research.


June 3, 1948

Historical Archives 

For historical archives within this website see Historical Archives.

State Historical Society Archives

The records of the Mendota Yacht Club covering the years 1903 through 2002 are located in the archives of the Wisconsin Histocical Society. From time to time, additional records are added to the collection.
The collection includes:
  • Annual directories (1937-2002);
  • Board of Directors and annual meeting minutes (1947-1998);
  • Constitution and bylaws (1903-1990); Note: 2010 updated versions available to members on Website;
  • Correspondence on the topics of boat storage, club property, marina construction, races, the club's records, and safety issues (1940-1999, undated);
  • Financial records (1947-1999, undated);
  • Historical sketches (1973-1978);
  • Membership materials (1974-2001);
  • News clippings (1906-2001);
  • Newsletters (1965-2001);
  • Files on special events including regattas (1928-2001).
  • Photographs, negatives, and slides documenting regattas, trophies, and other club events.
The collection is available for viewing simply by visiting the Archives Reference Room located on the fourth floor of the Society's headquarters building on State Street in Madison, WI.
See also 1938 MYC Directory Containing Original Bylaws, which are now replaced with updated Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws available to members on this Website.