Manhattan Yacht Club/WEYC

West End Yacht Club Commodore Dave Cooper (left) jointly receives the Manhattan Yacht Club Trophy with  James Bridgewater of the Royal BVI Yacht Club



By - Nancy Terrell (reprinted from Nautical Scene - 2002)


In February of 2001, over 50 club members and guests of the Manhattan Yacht Club traveled to the British Virgin Islands where they enjoyed a wonderful week of sailing.  Those of us that met these New Yorkers know just how much they love our islands.  Their club office is located on a 45-foot pontoon boat in the North Cove Marina in front of the World Financial Center at Battery Park.  As such it was damaged by the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center.  The fleet at North Cove consisted of 17 J/24 sailboats on floating docks in the center of this cove at the time of the terrorist attacks.  Following the attacks Michael Fortenbaugh, Commodore of the Manhattan Yacht Club, contacted me about the status of the club. The clubhouse door was open when the towers collapsed and there was a significant amount of dust and debris inside the clubhouse.  All of their staff was, very fortunately, safe at the time of the attack and their fleet made it through the event without any major damage.


However, the mental and spiritual status of club members was so low that the group planned another charter with the Moorings BVI for a week’s sail and necessary revitalization – a year earlier than originally planned.  Seventy members arrived on February 2nd just in time for a most successful joint welcoming party given, to boost their spirits, by the West End Yacht Club and the Royal BVI Yacht Club at the latter’s premises in Road Reef, Tortola.  Commodores Dave Cooper and James Bridgewater went all out with their committees, headed by Ina Anderson, at a pot luck chilli dinner with hor d’ oerves and appetizers.  There were more people present for this event than at any event sponsored by either club at any time in history.  


All three commodores gathered for an exchange of gifts with Cooper and Bridgewater presenting their burgees to Commodore Fortenbaugh.  In reciprocation the Manhattan Yacht Club presented a statue of the Statue of Liberty with the names of both the West End Yacht Club and the Royal BVI Yacht Club engraved on a plaque to be shared by both clubs.  Although the statue will be located at the RBVIYC, it was used for the 1st time by the WEYC for their 24th Sweethearts of the Caribbean and 20th Classic Yacht Regatta the following weekend.  Commodore Fortenbaugh, along with his lovely wife Sharon attended the regatta with member Ted Wallace.


Wallace told me that,  "This week of sailing in the BVI was fantastic.  It was just what we needed.  I have been coming to Tortola on and off since '86 and this trip was great.  From what I see here I can tell you that your sailors are like ours,  the radical ones who get out and clutter up the harbour racing several times a week.  Our clubhouse is sitting between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which is our race committee barge.  Thanks to the Royal BVI Yacht Club and the West End Yacht Club we have received a helping hand from all the way down south.  


Our charter with the Moorings was fantastic.  We had 70 people on 11 boats, 3 large cats, 5 large monohulls and 3 smaller monohulls with racing going on every day.  Our 1st day on Sunday had the strongest winds.  We sailed to Cooper and scooted into their yacht basin.  The next day we went up to the Bitter End where we engaged in Laser racing and I am happy to report that our Commodore, Michael Fortenbaugh, was the winner of the single handed, two person and three person racers – it was a clean sweep.  He is such a fantastic sailor that he took all three of the wins. I was the Race Chairman and was delighted that he upheld the honour of our club in fine style.  We laid out our own courses, which is fun - kind of like Frisbee golf - we throw out a buoy and make our marks.  All of our membership showed up for the races.  We caused some alarm at the moorings, I can tell you.


From the Bitter End we sailed to Anegada, which a good half of our members had never visited.  We had a fantastic club race on the way up.  We hung out, went to Lob Lolly, visited Sue Wheatley at the Anegada Reef Hotel and then went en masse to visit the Soares family at Neptune’s Treasure where we had a fantastic dinner and danced for hours – all over the place – a bit of mayhem getting back to our boats.  From Anegada we had another club race to Great Harbour.  The end of the ‘Back from Anegada Race’ involved three things.  First you had to anchor in White Bay.  Then one member from each boat had to swim ashore with a $5 bill in their mouth to the Soggy Dollar Bar to buy a drink.  The first one to buy a drink was the winner, who just happened to be the Chief Sail Instructor of the Manhattan Sailing School, Alexander Lasater.  Next we invaded Foxy’s for a dance and flag ceremony where everyone was shamed by the rest of the anchorage for having too much fun at a post party and then a post, post party.  One of the theme songs of our Caribbean trip was the reggae song “What are you doing with your life?" Michael made a whole series of CDs and which he handed out to the skippers of the 11 boats each morning before we began our day’s racing.  In this way he really got the morale of the group up both mentally and spiritually.”


Getting back to more serious matters Commodore Fortenbaugh tells me, “The rebuilding of our club is a very interesting project.  Because of the damage to our premises we are now racing with remote controlled Lasers.  We have bought a fleet of boats that are 6’ long and 6’ high that are controlled by remote control.  Every Saturday our members show up and we lay out a course.  WCC closed the entire harbour after the WTC terrorist attack.  We were not allowed to access our boats for the first 6 weeks after the event.  We own a fleet of J-24s cooperatively by our club.  A few weeks ago I was in full snow gear with a ski mask, gloves, etc. watching my Laser get whipped around by other boats.  However, we have a new clubhouse project underway, for which we are getting some emergency relief funds. Sparkman Stevens Associates are helping with the design.  Jeremy Rumsfield, one of their designers, is also a member of our club and is really assisting in that.  The club is closed for the time being.  The main club fleet and our office at North Cove were located inside the secured zone.  There has been no public access to this part of Manhattan.  The plaza in front of North Cove was used for emergency services and the club did not open again during the season.   We have almost 500 members, very much like your combined clubs here in the BVI.  We have a fantastic sailing school and because the Liberty State Park Marina is right across the Hudson, in New Jersey, we staged the final part of our season out of their marina.  Having a fleet in a cooperative format, which is what we have at the Manhattan Yacht Club, is very successful as we are a part of the Manhattan Sailing School and we exist side by side, both physically and spiritually.


Meeting the brave members of the Manhattan Yacht Club was certainly an uplifting experience for me – both as a sailor and a former Manhattanite.  They sailed with grace and courage through our islands.  Nautical Scene joins me in encouraging her readers to support the rebuilding of the Manhattan Yacht Club & Sailing School.  “This Week in Sailing” is a MYC newspaper that is written by Michael Fortenbaugh at [email protected]   The club has established a temporary telephone number at 908-362-6089.  Thank You.