North Flathead Yacht Club began in 1971 with a handful of small sailboat enthusiasts who were encouraged by the Jellison brothers (Dean, Gene, and Bruce) to join them on the beach in front of Gene’s home on Flathead Lake to race. The original fleet was composed of sunfish, windmill, venture catamaran, V21, sesame, san juan 21, cal 20, and more. In those days, the only rule was “the largest boat had the right-of-way”. One of the early highlights of the races off Gene’s beach was an evening squall that hit and left most of the boats overturned and drifting towards Bigfork. Rescuers were out past midnight finding all of the sailors.
In 1973, the group was outgrowing the beach and received permission to use Elks Rest slips in Lakeside to meet and hold races. The Jellison Cup Trophey (perpetual) was started this year. The highlight of 1973 was when Ed Gilliland decided to climb his mast before a race and broached his san juan 21 tossing all aboard into the lake.
In 1974, the group outgrew Elks Rest and approached Ken Bailey for slip rentals at Bailey’s Landing in Somers. At this time, the club called themselves “Montana Sailing Association, Northern Fleet”. A couple of the highlights were Greg Matelich (while showing everyone the correct way to dock) hitting the dock and dropping his mast and Ed Gillialnd taking a knockdown during the Moose’s Overnighter, losing a crew, and having to be rescued in the pitch dark by Scott Young.
In 1975, the club continued to grow and the members approached Ken Bailey to buy some land for our own yacht club. They came to an agreement and the land was acquired with the signing of the bank note. The new name was North Flathead Yacht Club with 49 charter members.
Work now began with the building of a club house, moving of soil, filling, scrounging good brick, and hiring the Hodge to pull old pilings and replace where needed. Most of the equipment, fill, and materials were donated by several business’s in the valley. All stringers, slips, and the club house were built by the 49 charter members and their families. Everyone did their share and enjoyed the comraderie.
1976 brought our first commodore, Jim Thompson. The club was now ready to use which was the highlight of that year.
In 1977, the Montana Cup Championship Regatta was started.
In 1979 came the building of a mast hoist and many family activities (pancake breakfast, spaghetti feed, Salon Cup, fish fry, overnighter race, finish line race, etc.).
In 1981, Paul Willis launched his small pickup along with his boat (see picture in clubhouse), Thistle Districts were held at the club, and we hired our first race steward (who came from Seattle).
In 1982, we started a junior sailing program and build a new dingy dock.
This club will continue to grow in friendliness, willingness to work, to keep our club as nice as it is now, and not to forget what we started out to do. We look forward to the history yet to be made…
History was originally written by Mary Jane Taylor, NFYC Historian (1983)