Back in 1965 when Marina del Rey was new to the Los Angeles community, a small group of local engineers from Hughes Aircraft with a passion for sailing got together and started one of the first yacht clubs and sailing cooperatives in the area, called Hughes Aircraft Employees Sailing Club.

A year later, the group changed its name to Fairwind Yacht Club.

Last Sunday, the members of Fairwind gathered at a local restaurant for brunch to celebrate 40 years of sailing on the Santa Monica Bay.

Amongst the 120 people in attendance were some of the club’s original members and also a few state and local dignitaries.

State Senator Debra Bowen, director of the California Department of Boating and Waterways Raynor Tsuneyoshi, and County Small Craft Harbor Commission chairman Harley Searcy were present to speak of the virtues of this longstanding organization.

“I was once a member of Fairwind myself,” said State Senator Debra Bowen, smiling as she addressed the audience. “So I can personally attest to how well maintained the boats are in the fleet.

“I was in the club from 1989 until 1994. That’s when I was elected and I realized I really wasn’t going to get a whole lot of sailing in, but it was fabulous.

“It’s the deal of the century. I just thought that it was an amazing operation. For the money, you couldn’t possibly have any kind of experience anywhere close to what Fairwind offered.”

The presence of Bowen and the other notable officials at the celebration was an indication of how respected this unique organization has come to be.

What started as a dozen men sharing a few boats for weekend fun has become a 200-person- strong civic-minded cooperative that has produced a viable alternative to the expensive pastime of boat ownership and has given generously to the surrounding community.

Through the years, Fairwind has seen its membership numbers rise and fall. In the last decade, not only have those numbers been growing, but the club’s morale has never been higher.

“Volunteerism is very much stressed,” said Fairwind commodore Dave Lumian. “There is no paid staff and no one gets a discount for doing any of the work, yet we probably have about 80 to 90 of our members out of 200 that are really consumed with the club.

“They’ll spend a part of each day thinking about it and spend a part of their week — five to 40 or more hours — working on the club.”

The fact that a few years ago Lumian became a member of Fairwind and in those years it has become a stronger entity is probably no coincidence.

Lumian has dedicated himself to the Fairwind cause to the point where, for the first time in its 40-year history, it was at capacity and could accept no more members.

“I’m really glad that it has continued,” said County Small Craft Harbor chairman Searcy.

“I think a lot of it is due to the approach that their commodore Dave Lumian has taken,” Searcy said. “You could hear in the comments from some of the speakers, that people really do understand and recognize what he has brought to that organization. He’s tireless, he loves it and it shows.

“It’s a wonderful organization. Their work with both the youths as well as acting on behalf of their cooperative members is a stellar example for other organizations to follow.”

Fairwind’s model revolves around a love for sailing, a community spirit and a game plan for enjoying the sport without the associated high costs and never-ending maintenance involved in boat ownership.

“It’s the only club like it in this area that provides access to sailing and draws people together in very much a community effort,” said Lumian.

“It’s more than a cheap place to sail. People work together on maintaining the boats, training new members, the kids program. They all have very close bonds and are attached to each other.”

Through the written bylaws and affordable dues, members are able to choose from a variety of different boats on which they can sail.

They can get safety training and sailing lessons within the parameters of the club and, since a recent development, they can also sail out of the Channel Islands area from Fairwind docks that now currently exist there harboring two of their boats.

“It was a dream come true for all of us to be able to sail in a different environment,” said Lumian of the Channel Islands expansion.

“Marina del Rey is wonderful, but it’s always great to check out new and different places.”

At Sunday’s celebration, a long table of aging sailors and engineers (with one ex-nurse) sat in the front of the room next to the podium listening attentively to each speaker and occasionally smiling paternally.

Their presence spoke volumes of what the club represents and of the ideals that the club members hold dear.

On this prominent and important anniversary, the club celebrated their achievements, spoke of their future ambitions, but most importantly, paid homage to their dignified and esteemed guests without whom there would be no club at all.