Over the course of the past five to eight years, the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club (SMWYC) has been nervously managing the issue of losing its headquarters, which overlooks the main channel in Marina del Rey.
With the Marina’s impending redevelopment looming, through the years, the club’s brass has left meetings with county officials encouraged, dispirited or somewhere in between. Throughout this time, when it came to the issue of keeping their clubhouse, there was always one thing that was certain and that was that there was nothing that was ever certain.
But as of this month a collective sigh of relief can be heard reverberating from the walls of the club, whose members have sat so anxiously wondering what would be their fate.
On Monday, March 24th, Steve Napolitano, assistant to Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, sat with SMWYC commodore Deena Suffin to sign a five-year lease in front of photographers and a group of club members.
Suffin spoke of the enormous effort and perseverance the board and membership have displayed through the process and graciously thanked the county’s representative for his office’s efforts.
When Napolitano was asked if he would like to say something, he smiled and said, “I’m a politician — I have to say something.” He then went on to tell the audience that Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club would always have a home in the Marina for as long as they choose to be a part of the community.
Napolitano’s clear statement regarding their future has been long awaited. The “roller coaster” ride, as Suffin describes it, has been long and emotionally draining for the loyal members of the organization and not the most positive element for attracting membership.
Now the club can move forward with the security and confidence that they are situated and more in charge of their own destiny than ever before
“People have a lot of different options in terms of the yacht club they join,” said Suffin of how the limbo status was affecting membership. “And certainly it has been very well known in the community what our situation was. Some people would say, ‘You know, I kind of like the vibe around here, I like the people, events, racing program, but don’t know if you’re going to be around.’ So we certainly feel that it has been a detriment.”
The new lease guarantees that the club will remain situated in its current building on the street side of Burton Chace Park at the end of Mindanao Way for the next five years, with options for three years after that.
Looking further ahead, the county has included Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club in all future possibilities and has alluded to a 40-year contract if all goes well. While the likelihood of the club remaining in the same building for the extended lease is not completely secure, the idea that it will be in the same area in a waterfront clubhouse for a long time is very realistic.
“Our focus now is building our membership,” says Suffin. “What we talk about is: How can we make sure that we become that club that people say, ‘Wow, I’m so glad I’m a member, I have a great time here and there are so many great things I can be a part of.’ Because if we make being a member a compelling experience, everything else will take care of itself.”
Suffin and the members are also still in talks with the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club regarding a possible merger that would result in one bigger and more financially viable club. Both clubs are in the consideration stage, but Suffin fully endorsed the concept during her Opening Day speech, saying that, with the security of the new location, both memberships could unite and be a substantial organization on many levels.