[The following is a history of the
club prepared by Bettye Riddle, wife of founding member Craig Riddle,
[There are some comments by Win Dunwell, club historian.]
The first regatta held on Kentucky
Lake was sponsored by the Paducah Jaycees in 1953. It was called the
Governor's Cup and the Governor actually came and awarded the trophies.
Cully Cobb from Nashville won it in a Lightning.
By this time, Mr. Robert Marsh
Watkins of Chicago had come down and set up shop as a sail boat rental
operation. He had 2 lightnings and 3 little cat boats, He usually had to
go along with his rentals, as nobody knew what to do with a boat
powered by a sail. If someone became proficient enough to be let out
alone and any wind came up, most of the time he would have to retrieve
them, or fish them out of the water.
He retired from International
Harvester April 30, 1952 as their head of the tractor division, and his
plan had been to go back to Wisconsin, where he was from, buy land on a
lake, build a house and get himself a sailboat, but as with many well
laid plans his did not work out that way. His wife died suddenly and he
thought he would be too lonely doing that. He had heard about our lake,
came down to check it out, rented a house in Murray and decided since we
have a fairly long sailing season this would be a good place for him.
By then there were a few privately
owned sail boats on the lake. Jack Keiler, of Paducah, had a Luders 20,
Joe Pace, of Murray had a Star, which Jack Piers bought and we had a
Winabout - about the size of a Lightning only much heavier - that we had
bought on our honeymoon. It came from Cape Cod and I think was obsolete
when we got it. Cotton sails, heavily patched, named Walrus and was as
ugly as one but Craig was thrilled to death with it. We had a terrible
time putting it together - Craig had to climb the mast numerous times
before we finally got it put together on the shore at Fisherman's One
Stop, a place at the end of Eggner's Ferry Bridge before the LBL was
established. On our maiden voyage across the lake to what is now Kenlake
Dock (was originally called Coakley's Dock) we got stuck on that bar
that extends out, and is now marked, and had to be pulled off by a
fishing boat. Soon after that, as we had learned a little about what
makes a boat go, we bought a Raven.
Since the Paducah Jaycees did not
pursue their Governor's Cup Regattas, our little group, still not
organized as a club, put on one or two but we didn't get another
Governor to come down until later when Ned Breathit, from Hopkinsville,
After Mr. Watkins’ business picked
up enough that he needed more space than his small floating dock and
walkway he located an old two story quarter boat, bought it, had it
towed in and anchored to the shore across from Kenlake Dock. With his
help we organized and incorporated the Kentucky Lake Sailing Club with
the grand total of 6 members: Sam Gugenheim, Jack Keiler, Jack Piers,
David Reed, Craig Riddle and R. M. Watkins. Within a very short time Tom
Brizendine and Tom Threlkeld joined, but it stayed at 8 through many
regatta's. Mr. Watkins taught us how to score races, kept our "Club
House" afloat - the old quarter boat that the club bought an interest
in, repaired our sails or whatever needed seeing to, and was our mentor
until his death in the late 5O's.
[Note: the first Kentucky state
registration for the club was Feb 2nd 1955 with ROBT. M. WATKINS, J. W.
KEILER II, and J. S. PIERS as incorporators.]
We finally gave up on the old
quarter boat, after pumping it out and raising it many times, sold it
and as they were trying to tow it away it sank again right in the middle
of the harbor.
There was an unused concession stand
up on the hill above our docks and the state let us use it for a club
house starting in the spring of 1960. We added a deck on the back, put
in a fireplace and shower and used that until the ill-fated move, in the
spring of 1978, to Cherokee Park, which was advertised as the finest
park in the South for colored people. It had been abandoned for some
time and was in a sorry state, but Mr. Wilhelm, who had the lease on
Kenlake dock for ages, and had a brother-in-law in Frankfort, wanted our
side of the harbour for more space for house boats. After a short time
at Cherokee and many hours of cleaning, repairing, renovating the
kitchen, putting in a hoist and docks it became apparent that the
dredging was insufficient, there was no protection from storms and it
was so isolated that our Club House was constantly being broken into -
our big wood burning stove, couches, tables, etc. were stolen and things
stolen out of the few boats that their owners were brave enough to
leave them there from one weekend to the next.
The state had gone to considerable
expense to help us and would not let us go back to our original spot as
they had made a Tennis Center of our house and Mr. Wilhelm had taken
over our waterfront. We had more than 50 members by this time but we
were like the man without a country. It was "tough sailing" for quite a
while and we lost lots of members for a while.
The earliest record on who the
commodores were is 1969 when Dr. Faxon Payne from Hopkinsville served,
but prior to that the original members took turns many times. In 1970,
Max Ladt, Paducah: 1972 - Cal Luther, Murray; 1973 and 74 Jack DeWitt,
Nashville; 1975 - Don Overbey, Murray; 1976 - Pollard White,
Hopkinsville; 1977 Dick Crysler, Blood River; 1978 - Chuck Stagg,
Henderson; 1979 - Virginia Khouri, Paducah, (her husband, Dr. Eli Khouri
was vice comm when he died suddenly, and Virginia took his place very
efficiently. The only "official" female Commodore we've ever had, but
there have been lot's of excellent "First Mates") 198O - Bill
Allbritten, Murray;1981 - ?? Lee White ??; 1982 - Harry Furches (???83),
Murray; 1983 -English Lacy (???82); 1984-Chip Riddle, Madisonville;
1985 - Nick Warren, Paducah, then I skip to and end with 1995 - Jack
LeBeau. I trust you can fill in from there (I do have a list that needs
additions and some correction but I think is pretty accurate. The first
Commodore was Jack Keiler with Jack Piers as Vice Commodore. The club
apparently had some unsure years when officers resigned to move. Win).
By about 1985 I was a card carrying member of the "Over the hill Gang".
In looking through old trophies the
earliest I came across was 1954 Fall Regatta, so by then we were having
that in addition to our spring Governor's Cup. We have a 1st place 1956
Commodores Cup, a '58 Commodores and a '59 Watkins’ Cup (both were 1st
places - we had learned to sail by then) so I'm assuming that Mr.
Watkins died in early '59 and we renamed our fall regatta for him then.
I'm enclosing a copy of a 1960 brochure advertising it as the second
annual Watkins’ Cup, given to me this past winter by his son R. M.
Watkins, Jr of Mesa, AZ. His daughter, Betty Jane, who lives in Chicago
also gave me some information. Please note the prices for hotel rooms
(single room $6 and 2-bedroom cottage for $16).
Dick Geier of Evansville was a
faithful member and served as secretary for many years, as was Bud and
Elizabeth Heerde, and many others. Jack DeWitt of Nashville, retired as
CEO of WSM and WSM - TV was another. Jack Caldwell and Arnold Nye of
Nashville were made honorary members for many years of donating their
time to run our races. Arnold is dead and Jack is in a nursing home
since having a stroke a couple of years ago. Of our original six members,
Jack Piers and Craig are the only two that are still members.
We hosted many Lightning District
races, a Windmill District, and frequently had a hundred small boats for
our spring race. In 19 we had a Lightning regatta called the Wild
Turkey as it was sponsored by the Distillery that makes Wild Turkey
Bourbon. Harry Furches, who taught jewelry making at MSU made a
beautiful model as 1st place trophy, the rest were bottles of bourbon.
Chip won and still has the model as it was never held again.
Some other happenings were when
Percy Priest issued a challenge - I've enclosed their letter. We nailed
their hides to the wall. The Boating Club, all houseboats and cruisers,
at Paris Landing State Park Dock in the spring of 1968 invited us to
sail down there, so we raced down on a Saturday, spent the night and
raced back on Sunday which was our first long race. They really put on a
great feed for us of the sterns of their boats which were on both sides
of the dock. After that we raced to the Dam, had a banquet at Ken-Bar
Inn then raced back the next day Bud and Elizabeth always had a
reception for us when we did that. There were many moonlight Regattas
with very little organized racing from our dock to Turkey Creek. First
one there built the bon fire, and after pleasuring ourselves for a while
sailed back under the full moon. In 1983 there was an all girl, Bikini
Regatta, that Suzanne won in Chip's J24 two years. Don't know if they
had it again or not (I think the last to win was Tina Coughlin on
"Nighthawk", but the KLSC Fall Newsletter 1988 says for race results
"Bikini Cup - there were no bikinis", Win).
Over the years the type boats slowly
changed from day sailors to cruising boats and our Spring and Fall
races fell from 100 participants to around 25. At about this time Marty
started selling boats and we started the 100 Milers and things picked up
After we built our house on Sledd
Creek in 1977 we hosted a July 4th sail-in or drive-in picnic in our
back yard for many years. The Heerde's who lived across the street
always helped us. Most of the members still kept their boats at Kenlake
and sailed down.
The earliest roster I could find is
1969 and shows 30 members and by 1971 were up to 36. In 1975 we had 46.
Nearly every year when we had the
spring race we would have a terrific storm on either Sat. or Sun. Lots
of boats would capsize and there were lots of stories to recall when we
had our winter meetings, which we had every year. Jack DeWitt had
brought one of his TV camera men with him when we had the Granddaddy of
all storms and it was shown for a couple of years then somehow
disappeared. If we didn't have a film from a sailmaker or boat builder,
frequently we had some hot-shot sailor who had written a book come down
and talk to us.
For such a small club that was
spread out so far from the lake we were very active. For years we didn't
have a member from Murray which was the closest town. We took one of
our Ravens to Lake Erie to race in the Nationals and went to St. Pete
many times after we got a Lightning. Tom Brizendine, Wilson Scott, from
our club served as President of the Lightning Assn. one year. Ross
Bryan, Cully Cobb and others from Nashville Crit Curry and others from
Memphis were there nearly every year. Some of them made the circuit
Mobile, Savannah and St. Pete. We were much younger then.