On the 30th of July, 1962 seven boat-owners, five from Limerick, one from Foynes and one from Newcastle West, got together in a public house in the village and without much fanfare Foynes Yacht Club was founded.
The seven founding members that evening were: Dan O’Sullivan (Commodore), Dick Nash (Secretary), Peter Lawless (Treasurer) with Peter McKenna, Pat Dinneen, Joe Bottcher and Roger Bourke.
An inscription on the Founder Members Trophy (raced for every year on Commodore’s Day) sets out the vision the members had back then when it states that the club was: “Founded to further the interests of yachting in and around Foynes and on the Shannon Estuary.”
In the early years, the town slipway and a small pontoon off the east end of the pier were the only ways to launch a dinghy to access boats on the moorings off Barneen Point. Nonetheless, regular racing was a feature with the highlight of the year being the Foynes Regatta in September. From small beginnings big ambitions were to grow. In the early 70’s the site on Cooleen Point was purchased from the Harbour Company and shortly thereafter in 1971 a 250ft slipway was built over a long weekend. This was the first club self-help project and it set in place an ethos of volunteerism that has been the hallmark of club ever since.
By 1973, Foynes Yacht Club had grown to a membership of one hundred and eighty. That year marked a long sought milestone, the opening of the new clubhouse. Four decades later, the functional and pleasing architectural design of this facility continues to be at the heart of all club activity and is a source of great pride for all members. Along with the boat slip, it gave Foynes and the lower Shannon Region its first major water based leisure facility.
Further improvements were to follow with much of the mudflats reclaimed for yard space and hard standing and a rock armoured embankment was constructed. 1983 saw the construction of the marina facility. These pontoons served the club well for many years until 2017/2018 when a huge volunteer effort saw the pontoons replaced fully, complete with galvanised frames and maintenance-free composite boarding.
The new century also saw a share of development projects. In 2004 the boat storage compound was built followed by a boat shed in 2008.
In 2015 the club was granted stewardship of the old swimming pool area. This was filled in to remove the public safety risk and then incorporated into the existing yard area.
There are plans to recover and modernise the old changing facilities in that area.
Hosting regattas has been a feature of FYC down the years and the clubs reputation for capably organising a well-run championship matched with a lively entertainment programme is well recognised across the country’s sailing community.
Perhaps the busiest year for the club was 1989 when it hosted a G.P. 14 Championship in May, the West of Ireland Offshore championship in July, a Mermaid Nationals in August and revived the town Regatta in September.
Not all years have been as hectic thankfully but it is rare that any season passes without a national or regional regatta on the sailing calendar.
An important aspect of the clubs history was the establishment of the FYC Sailing Academy and its accreditation in 2006 to the national body, Irish Sailing.
It continues to be a successful part of the clubs strategy of making sailing accessible to local youth and in 2016 the club was very proud to receive the ISA Sailing School of the Year award in recognition of this success.
The training of adults is also an important objective of the club and in recent years a training fleet of four Omega dinghies were purchased to enable new adult members to learn the skills of sailing more effectively.
Dublin Bay Mermaids have been at the heart of club’s sailing activity since its earliest years. They were very popular in the club during the early seventies, declined almost to extinction in the eighties but have returned more popular than ever in the nineties and onwards.
Today the club is delighted to see that the tradition of sailing these mighty and beautiful sailing boats is alive and well with a new gang of younger skippers and crew becoming engaged.
Cruiser racing of course has been popular and active throughout the clubs history. As one of the founding clubs of the West Coast Offshore Racing Association in 1976, the Foynes keelboat skippers have faithfully supported the annual WIORA regatta since then. The Club Racing on Wednesday nights keeps the enthusiasm at a high level with May and September series trophies fiercely competed for. The longer races to Cappagh and Carrigaholt are a longstanding tradition and both the historic Glin Castle race and the recently revived Tarbert regatta are always well supported by Foynes yachts. Typically there is an October series for those hardy skippers that have not lifted out at the end of September.
In recent years there has been a surge of interest in Laser sailing. The peak of this activity happens outside the normal sailing season in the months October to November or February to March and keeps the hardy sailors fit and keen over the off-season. It is a great sailing activity enjoyed by a range of sailors across the club membership and is well supported by visiting Tralee Bay Sailing Club, Lough Derg Sailing Club, Cullaun Sailing Club, Killaloe Sailing Club, Galway Bay Sailing Club and Royal Western Yacht Club, Kilrush.
With a long history to its name, Foynes Yacht Club is strongly positioned for the future. The current statements of the club’s Mission, Ethos and Values still remain faithful to the aspirations of the founders back in 1962.