This year’s Great Vallejo Race promises to be bigger than in years past due to going back to its pre-pandemic normal dates of April 30-May 1, pent-up demand, and high registration levels for PHRF certificates. We will have our ‘Smoke on the Water’ BBQ stand open, along with our ‘Fun on a Bun’ burger bar. Our outdoor Tiki Bar will feature Mt. Gay rum drinks, Mare Island brews (official beer sponsor) and Thirty-Seven Wines (official wine sponsor). The steel drum band will begin at 2 p.m. on the outdoor patio. The party will really ramp up at 7 p.m. when the Darrel Edwards Lighting Up the Soul band will take the stage.
Vallejo Race History
The first organized race to Vallejo was during the second weekend of July 1900. Sailboats from the San Francisco, Corinthian and California Yacht Clubs participated. Newspaper articles of the time stated that dozens of boats participated in the race, which started in Sausalito on Saturday. Many of the boats reached Vallejo in the early afternoon, and throughout the evening. The wind was out of the northwest with an almost all-day flood current. The trip from Sausalito took anywhere from three to four hours.
Some of the most famous boats on the Bay made the race in two different classes: 35-ft and above and 35-ft or under. Some of these boats were: Edna, Sappho, Mischief, Neriad, Spray, Arcturus, Harpoon, Nixie, Mignon, Amigo, Sans Souci and John Pew’s Truant. The Vallejoans of the Vallejo Yachting and Rowing Club welcomed the visiting crews on Saturday night with lively parties that included music and dancing. The clubhouse was under construction in 1900 and finished in 1902. Over the years, this has become the Great Vallejo Race, with between 200 and 600 boats participating annually.
The Vallejo Yachting and Rowing club formed on April 27, 1900, in response to the raising of ferry fares from Vallejo to Mare Island in 1898. Many commuters to the island disapproved of this action. They bought or made rowboats and sailboats for the crossing — the natural result being the rise of races to and from the island each morning and afternoon with each commuter vying to win. The Vallejo Yachting and Rowing club joined PICYA that same year (1900), the seventh club to join. Jack London was an early member of the club. He was said to have participated in several Great Vallejo Races during his time of membership.
122 Years Later …
Today the Vallejo Yacht Club still hosts this historic race. It’s the season opener for the YRA’s in-the-Bay racing season. VYC is an all-volunteer club with a long reputation of warm hospitality and welcoming boaters and sailors of all types.
Sources: Vallejo Yacht Club the First 100 Years by Janet Evans, published April 2000; San Francisco Examiner, May 12, 1900.