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University of Washington Student Yacht Club May Be Shut Down Following Repairs

For more than 75 years, students at the University of Washington in Seattle have had access to the Washington Yacht Club, a nonprofit that teaches and promotes sailing in a “safe, inclusive, accessible, and affordable way.” For a mere $39 per quarter (not including the cost of tuition), student yacht club members had access to boats, lessons, and rentals, according to the Seattle Times. With plans to renovate its historic waterfront now in motion, the University of Washington, or UW — a school made famous recently by the book and movie The Boys in the Boat — may permanently shut down the student-run club.

The story of the Washington Yacht Club has echoes in several corners of the West Coast waterfront: aging docks and infrastructure nearing (or past) the end of their useful lives and needing to be replaced, competing visions for the shoreline, and apparent ill will during the planning process.

“As of July 2024, we will no longer be allowed to have space at the student-funded waterfront, ending the long tradition of students sailing on the UW campus,” the Washington Yacht Club said on their website. “The announcement followed a multi-year-long project plan to remove most of the docks for student use at the waterfront. UW Recreation never consulted student organizations during the planning and has yet to show a good-faith effort to accommodate the club despite over 600 public comments submitted to the city opposing the master use permit.”

The Washington Yacht Club (WYC) currently stores its fleet of 70 boats, including dinghies, keelboats and high-performance catamarans, at the docks near Husky Stadium on the east side of campus, according to the Seattle Times, adding that dock space would be dramatically reduced — or effectively eliminated — following a $2.54-million renovation project. “The university contends the yacht club can continue to exist and has offered its members the option of becoming a recreational club. If they do, they’d be allowed to store one boat at the docks.”

An idyllic scene from the student-run Washington Yacht Club in Seattle. Commentary: While Latitude 38 has only recently become aware of the conflict at the University of Washington, and while we have yet to do our own independent reporting on the issue, we unequivocally support any organization, like WYC, that provides affordable access to sailing. Here’s another link to submit comments to the city of Seattle.
© 2024 Washington Yacht Club/Facebook

“Since the current renovation plans were drafted behind the backs of critical stakeholders, it should come as no surprise that they don’t take into account the dock’s current usage and threaten to disrupt student access to sailing at UW,” WYC said on their website. “The current proposal entails the removal, without replacement, of critical facilities … effectively terminating the club’s small boat sailing program — a staple in its offerings for both beginning and advanced sailors.” WYC said the current plans would also diminish the club’s keelboat fleet, “limiting access to larger boats, which are essential for training students to sail the Puget Sound.

“What’s more, the proposed dock extension … creates a new navigational hazard due to its placement in the only safe channel for navigation from the waterfront to Lake Washington.”

WYC said they’re seeking a statement of support from the university administration affirming WYC’s “essential offerings will not be eliminated from the campus waterfront … in keeping with the intended function of the facility’s establishment;” a halt of the East Campus Dock construction process until plans include input of student stakeholders; and the establishment of a waterfront oversight group that includes students to give voice to their interests. “Given the history outlined above and current plan of prioritizing commercial activities, we do not trust UW Recreation to advocate for student interests,” WYC said.

Renee Chien, an international student from Taiwan and current rear commodore of WYC, told KOMO News: “It was really because of sailing and because of my access to the water and this newfound connection that I have with the Puget Sound that I feel like I would like to stay here to keep sailing and keep building the community here.”

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3 Comments

  1. Ken Brinkley 2 months ago

    “Money doesn’t talk it swears “ Bob Dylan 1964

  2. Andy Newell 2 months ago

    Sounds like the same issue Cal Sailing had with the City of Berkeley Marina where they wanted to take wet slips away from Cal Sailing, even though the marina is not near capacity. Make a fuss, be a pain, maybe things will change.

    • Ross 2 months ago

      WYC is facing the Athletic Department juggernaut (which is strategically welding soft powder behind the scenes) which really likes to take over the waterfront a few times in the fall so people can raft up for football games.

      Operating as a 501(c)3 nonprofit on campus which is not governed by the university powers that be adds an additional layer of complications for WYC which hasn’t won allies on campus by having existed for several decades before the creation of UW bureaucracy like the Student Activities Office and the Recreational Sports Department.

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