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Peterborough Yacht Club still sailing strong after 28 years

IN SEARCH OF OPEN WATER: Group continues to chart successful course despite their landlocked surroundings

  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

    The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

    The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

    The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

    The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.
  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.
  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.
  • The Peterborough Yacht club was established in 1986.

In spite of the lack of a significant body of water nearby, the Peterborough Yacht Club has been around since 1986. Although not as active or well known as it once was in its heyday, the club remains involved in the local community. Two original tent poles of the club remain involved today in Bernt Ruediger and Andrew Dunbar.

Dunbar was eager to share the relatively under-the-radar club’s history during an interview last week. “I’ve got 28 years of history that nobody knows about,” Dunbar said. The club was originally founded by Harlow Richardson, Robert Koerber, and Andrew Dunbar. The founders of PYC knew the very idea would be viewed as comical – a yacht club in a landlocked community in southern New Hampshire? – but were determined to create a place for local sailing enthusiasts to connect.

Both Ruediger and Dunbar will tell you that the club was founded with a tongue-in-cheek mentality, but that landlocked yacht clubs should not be viewed as a joke. One of the oldest clubs in the nation, the New York Yacht Club, began as a landlocked organization, Dunbar said. Members of the PYC have traveled the world, membership cards proudly in tow. “People have gotten docking rights and gotten into yacht clubs in the Caribbean using our cards,” Dunbar said. The PYC has had notable honorary members over the years, including Elizabeth Meyer, a globally renowned figure in the sailing community. She is perhaps best known for her participation in the restoration of J-class yachts in the 1980s, specifically the “Endeavor,” a 130-foot behemoth that took to the seas after 52 years of dormancy once Meyer finished restoring it. J-class yachts are massive boats that peacefully sail the open seas – the kind of boat that members of the PYC only dream of. “People think that yachting means a big, obnoxious, Donald Trump-style boat, that is not true,” Dunbar said, explaining that most of Peterborough’s yachtsmen sail on much humbler vessels.

The Peterborough Yacht Club doesn’t spend much time worrying about what people say about their lack of water to sail on, opting instead to focus on helping out the Monadnock community, as they have done since the club’s first meeting.

Throughout the years, PYC has donated varying amounts in support of The Peterborough Town Library, Peterborough Players, Historical Society, and MacDowell Colony, among others. These funds originally came from the annual dues that members would pledge in order to remain part of the club. Nowadays, there are no dues required, and the funds come from the PYC trust as well as the annual dinner party that the club hosts.

Today, any money that comes from the annual dinner party or trust fund is given to a Peterborough resident who has made a unique contribution to the community, but has not been recognized by any other civic organization in Peterborough. In 2007, that meant gifting “Chair No. 1” at the Peterborough Players in memory of John Stearns, one of the original Players. In 2010, it was a general cash gift to The Learning Center. The reason for the change in fund allocation is that the area arts organizations have flourished over the years, Dunbar said. Dunbar has never strayed from his belief that “if you have assets, somebody else should be benefiting from them.”

Many of the club’s past members have moved on in one way or another.

“Over 28 years, people have moved away, passed away, and sailed away,” recalled Dunbar.

Ruediger echoed Dunbar’s sentiments about the club’s current status.

“It has become a gathering of old friends that meet once a year,” Ruediger said. With many members of the club now aging, the need for a youth revival grows stronger by the year. The remaining members are trying to get youth involved before it is too late. Dunbar believes that youth in today’s society do not go out as much because of advancements in technology. “People don’t go out just to socialize anymore,” Dunbar said.

Cunningham Pond became a public beach with a boat launch back in 1997, opening up at least one body of water for Peterborough boaters and spurring an effort to get youth involved with the club. The Peterborough Recreation Department was never interested in getting involved, Ruediger said, which in his opinion drove youth away from participating. At one point, the PYC was given a few small boats, unfortunately nothing ever came of these because the founders of the club were mindful of the liabilities that may have arisen with youth sailing. “We are not a super well funded club,” said Ruediger.

The one constant throughout the club’s history has been the annual dinner party. Where the parties of the past were private affairs, today they are open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend, and there is no expectation that one will join the club if they attend the dinner. In fact, there’s no need to even own a boat, as the yachtsmen are always searching for crew members. “If you are interested in sailing, this is a great way to meet fellow sailors,” said Dunbar.

At this year’s dinner, Ruediger plans to discuss approaching the Peterborough Recreation Department to inquire about adding a youth yachting program. “The only way to really revitalize this and get more people involved would be to reach out to younger folks that have an interest, and maybe some of those people could carry it forward,” said Ruediger. “That would be my personal dream.”

This year’s dinner party is Sunday night at the Monadnock Country Club. Jefferson Allen of Peterborough, a professor of law and rowing instructor at Franklin Pierce University, will provide a short speech about his lifelong passion for boating and his experiences in being a mentor for youth.

“I’ve been on the water every day it’s open, in some form,” Allen said.

If you are interested in attending the dinner party, please email peterboroughyachtclub@myfairpoint.net or call 801-7334. Reservations are required. Profits from this event will again benefit The Learning Center.

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