Organizing, reorganizing, building and rebuilding spacious club house facilities was a lot easier than establishing themselves as masters of the fine art of competitive sailing in the GYA the Biloxians were to discover. Perhaps that was because of their fiercely independent nature. “Biloxi fishermen neither know nor care anything about rules,” Gerald Taylor White, famous for his America’s Cup coverage, wrote in the 1926 The Rudder. “If a boat is in your way, you sail over her or through her at your own discretion.” However, he added quickly, “For seamanship and snappy sail handling, we enter the Biloxi fishermen for world honors.”
And, so it was for 17 years BYC participated in what must have seemed an exercise in futility. Through 1936, seven clubs had figured in the win column, Pensacola, captor of the inaugural in 1920, sailing off with six Sir Thomas Jr. Lipton Interclub Challenge Series Victories. Other champions were Sarasota in 1930, ’31 and ’32, Eastern Shore, ’21, Southern Yacht Club, ’25, Mobile, ’28, and Buccaneer, ’34. In 1922 and again in ’27, Southern and Pensacola tied, and Eastern Shore and St. Petersburg wound up all even in 1926.
BYC was still shaking off the effects of the depression years as 1937 dawned. However, a determined few among the 135 members resolved to push ahead with the club’s most ambitious sailing program to date, principal among them Dan Keller, race committee chairman. He organized a BYC Skipperette Class that in no time at all grew to 24 and was represented over the season in 45 regattas. Mrs. W.L. Parks (Mercedes) served as chairman assisted by Mrs. B.B. O’Mara (Lydia), vice-chairman, and Mrs. W.P. Kennedy (Beatrice), treasurer. And, BYC was on a roll.
That year competition also was heightened among the Experts. They welcomed a new club class into action, the Juniors, organized in 1936 and including a strappling 12-year-old with a passion for sailing by the name of Walter Seymour, who was to become one of the most respected figures and sailors in the Gulf. Biloxi Yacht Club was never better prepared as it headed for Pensacola, host to the 37th Lipton Classic.
Bob Brodie won his race, E.C. Tonsmiere, Jr., held on for a fifth and E. “Eddie” Moore earned a third. When Big Alf Dantzler crossed the finish line in fourth place, Biloxi was assured of its first Lipton Cup.
Among 14 years were to elapse before the club would experience again “the absolute euphoria with the halls of BYC,” according to Flora K. Shieb in her “History of the Southern Yacht Club.” Then, the Biloxians dominated as no club ad done before, cruising to Lipton Cup victories in 1952, ’53, ’54, and ’55. They won again in 1958, ’61, ’66 and, finally in ’67.
BYC’s Junior Program, meanwhile enjoyed only brief period in the sun, but it was a scorcher. After Southern’s victories in the first two Junior Lipton Interclub Challenge Regattas, and a World War II – imposed four-year Series lapse, BYC’s youngsters stormed back to capture the Lipton Cup in 1947, ’48 and ’49.
BYC’s most notable team sailing achievement, it could be argued, came in an event to encourage the sport among the fairer sex. In 1938, Commodore Bernie Knost of Pass Christian Yacht Club offered an elaborate trophy to the winner of an all-girl three-race interclub series hosted by his organization. The event was an immediate hit and has remained a highlight among Gulf sailing activities. With its large number of Skipperettes to draw from, most notable Joyce Fountain Wiltz, Janet Ferson Green, Beatrice Kennedy and Emily Joullian Dale, BYC over the years has compiled the second best record, winning the Knows nine times. Only Pass, with 11 victories, has done better. In addition to her Knost heroics, Joyce in 1949 became the first girl in the history of BYC to earn a skipper’s position on the club’s Lipton team.
Off the race course, BYC also has an impressive record. Seven of its members have held the lofty position of Gulf Yachting Association Commodore — Dr. Eldon Bolton, Wallace Chapman, Jerry J. Ellis, Byrd Enochs, J.J. Kennedy, J.P. Moore and Walter Seymour. Two have held the position of elected Commodore of the Mississippi Coast Yachting Association — Robbie Schmidt and Jerry J. Ellis.