Available records indicate that the club was incorporated as “The Eustis Marine Club”, a corporation not-for-profit, on March 30, 1953.There is indication of informal activity perhaps as early as 1950. Bylaws were adopted March 13, 1957 and revised January 8, 1970 at which time the name was changed to “The Lake Eustis Boating Club”. The names Eustis Boat Club and Eustis Sailing Club were used synonymously until August 1982 when the name was changed to the "Lake Eustis Sailing Club”.
In the beginning,the club was a powerboat organization. They were an enthusiastic group and seemed to have something going all of the time. They held monthly meetings and were involved in assuring that the lakes and waterways were kept clean and unpolluted. At the start, sailors were in the minority and were barely mentioned.
Through the years the size of the membership has fluctuated from a high of 54 to a low of 10. Club dues have always been reasonable according to the records, perhaps too reasonable in the early days. Minutes of the meetings indicate that periodic assessments of $3.00 were made to remain solvent. In 1960, dues were raised from $6.00 to $10.00 and were raised in 1974 to $15.00 As of Sept. 1, 1982 dues were raised to $25.00 and an initiation fee of $50.00 was imposed.
The clubhouse building in the early years was on privately owned property. The Hartge family owns it and they were gracious enough to allow us to use certain areas for our activities. For those new to the club, the above facility is across the lake just west of the bridge on Lakeshore Drive.
When Greg Murphy moved to Eustis in the fall of 1967, he met Captain Dick Hartge and his wife Jane on Lakeshore Drive in Eustis where they owned a home and a shop where Captain Dick built sailboats ranging in size from 12 feet to 23 feet. They invited Greg and his wife to join them at the Eustis Boating Club meetings held at the Eustis Community Center.The Hartge’s daughter Suzanna married a young man named Steve Shafer who became very interested in sailing. Two other locals (Bill Brett and Tiny Knowles) became interested and we became a Sailing Auxiliary to the Eustis Boating Club. Little more was said of the sailing group until January 1970 when the new bylaws established a sailboat committee and a powerboat committee. The camel’s nose was in the tent!
In 1972 Greg Murphy was Commodore of the club and started the Washington’s Birthday Regatta. The City of Eustis supplied us with trophies and it has become a very popular event ever since. One member of our club had an MC Scow but was not a very good sailor so there was little interest in the boat. Then Dr. Bill Crum came up to join us and we saw what the boat could do and thus started the MC fleet. Early members were Tiny Knowles, Bill Crum, David Cleaver, Paul Theus and his dad, David B, Tully Patrowicz and Greg Murphy. By this time we had a large Lightning Fleet as well. Members included Fish Hayden and his son Steve, Bert Lacy, Cecil Hass, Bob Brown, Ed Dodge, Tully Patowicz and others. During this period the Club turned out several outstanding sailors. Steve Shafer and Greg Murphy were both State and Division Champions and Fisk Hayden was a Lightning Champion and National Officer with the Lightning Class.
The first regatta had been held in 1971. Membership fluctuated from a low of 10 to a high of 31 by 1983. The club continued to host the GWB Regatta. During this period Frank Keenan (MC 1372) had hosted an MC Scow Midwinter Regatta at various venues throughout Florida. In 1991 they brought this regatta to Lake Eustis and it was a huge success with 54 entries. In 1991, after nearly 30 years of continual use, the club lease was terminated by new owners of the building. The club continued to sail off the“T” dock property with the only facility, a Port-O-Let shared with anyone passing by. By 1993 membership was down to 14 members with an average age of 60. In1995 participation in the MC Scow Midwinter Regatta had dwindled to just 28 boats. It was obvious that unless facilities were obtained, LESC would fade out of existence. Two plans were developed and submitted to the City to improve the club’s facilities. Neither plan garnered the support needed.
In 1996 the facility search was broadened to encompass both public and private property. In March of that year negotiations were initiated with Bob and Dora Thornburg which culminated in July 1996 with the purchase of the Club’s current site on the eastern shore of Lake Eustis. (Note: This did not include the south property where most of the boats are parked). In order to accumulate funds for the down payment, one of the Club’s members purchased two MC Scows with trailers from the Melbourne Sea Scouts for $750. After considerable repair work by Bud Collene and others, one of the boats was raffled off and the other sold outright with the Club netting over $7000.00. Roy Knowles loaned LESC the balance for the purchase price and the hunt for a home was over.
The hunt for a new home may have been over but once again the Club encountered opposition. This time from the residents of the Sunset View Subdivision, its neighbors to the south who successfully delayed development until 1998. With the perseverance of Frank Keenan and the generosity of the Club’s contractor, State Asphalt Corporation, owned by members Steve Shafer and his son Alex, LESC prevailed and the 98/99 season was sailed off of its new property. Incidentally, Alex is the grandson of Dick and Jane Hartge whose namesake continues with the Hartge Club racing series. During the 98/99 season, 22 new members were added.
Working diligently since September 1998 to obtain the required permitting from the State of Florida for an expansion to the existing 80’ dock, Frank Keenan successfully completed the gamut of political agencies and organizations to make this a reality. The expansion was completed in January 2000 just before the 1 st Annual Wayfarer Midwinter Regatta. At the general membership meeting on May 31, 1999 members approved the construction of a clubhouse or pavilion.
In January 2000 the1.17 acres of adjacent waterfront property to the south was purchased from the Thornburg’s by LESC. This parcel combined with the previous 1.8 acres provided a total of 3.5 acres and over 1,000 feet of shoreline. Again, in order to appease our Sunset View neighbors and the City of Eustis Commission, LESC had to install 450’ of chain link fence and provide a 10’ vegetative buffer between our property and our neighbors.
These property improvements continued to draw new members. In 1998 there was only the MC Scow Fleet #4 and a couple of other boats. In 1999 Flying Scott Fleet #150 relocated from Orlando.The Wayfarer Fleet established itself with snowbirds from the north.
The clubhouse was completed in 2003. It really made a difference in the membership which grew from 50 to 60 members to over 130 today which has also increased activity at the Club. The Club also set up a separate lake Eustis Youth Sailing Foundation, a 501c3 educational organization. It conducts active youth sail training and youth racing program which has steadily grown.