Asheville Sailing Club celebrates 50 years

Rainbow over the marina at Lake Julian

Article provided by the Asheville Sailing Club written by Tim Alderson:

Early History

Sailing began on Lake Julian in 1969 when Buncombe County Parks & Recreation Department (“BC Parks”) provided access to the lake, which had been created by Progress Energy (then Carolina Power & Light) by damming the valley adjacent to the power station to provide cooling water for the plant. BC Parks provided some of the leased land around the lake as the marina space and a clubhouse where the current Rangers offices are now situated.

At the same time a group of sailing enthusiasts created Asheville Sailing Club (ASC) as an informal organization to run regattas and have fun on the lake. The marina was managed by Buncombe County, who delegated operations to Bill Swann, then a local Hobie/Holder dealer. Other members from that period are Tricia Derrough, Duke Angier and Richard Ellis.

There was regular sailing of up to 15 boats at regattas, and at a very high level of competition. The club decided to use the “Portsmouth Handicap System” which allows a mixed fleet to race on a fair basis for all. There were regular visits to other clubs for racing, regional and national regattas, and also open regattas held at lake Julian. The first recorded award was to Bruce Galloway, who won the first “Most Improved Skipper Award.” The keenest sailor was Paul Fontaine, who sailed all 362 days the Park was open one year.

In addition to the racing regattas, there was a small keelboat cruising fleet that sailed regularly on the lake outside of regattas, for the pleasure of cruising, and being on the water.

The club was always very social and welcoming to all who had an interest in sailing and there was always shared food and drink before, during and after sailing – a tradition that remains firmly in place today.

In the early 70’s the main fleet was comprised of “Windmill” sailboats, and B. Swann won the National Championships. There were a number of national and regional champion-level sailors. The regatta boats were usually mixed types but with some fleets in the majority.

The fleets changed over time, with “Lasers” and “Hobie 16s” growing in the later 70’s. There were also an active sailboard fleet.

In the 80’s the most active fleets transitioned to the larger “Hobie 18s” while the “Lasers” also kept pace. The club had several top “Hobie 16” and “Hobie 18” regional sailors, including Don Estapa, who was national Hobbie 18 finalist with John Coates in 1984, National Champion in 1987 after leaving for Minneapolis.

In the 90’s this transitioned to “E-scows” sailboats, led by Duke Angier.

In the mid-90s, with continued development of Lake Julian Park (including the two rowing clubs), Buncombe County took over direct management of the Marina after hiring an experienced sailor, Joe Kerrigan, to manage the marina. In addition, Joe also arranged a number of sailing trips to the Caribbean, including the BVI, with ASC sailors.

As time passed, the club matured and ASC created its first set of formal by-laws on Nov. 21, 1992, and was incorporated on May 4, 1993, by W. Hurni and Ray Tobias with Duke Angier, Robert Carter, Betty Delancy and Janet Kaufman as directors.

ASC in the 21st century

In the 2000s & Relationship with Buncombe County Park Service

In 2001 David Blynt became the new Buncombe County Supervisor of Lake Julian Park, and a very productive 20-year relationship with the club began. However, during this initial period the club attendance fell away, reflecting the national decline in sailing. The participating members, however, remained very active.

The fleet in this period was very mixed, with seldom more than 3 boats in a class, usually Lasers and Hobies. Many of the current sailors joined at that time including Curtis Boyd, Tom Cannon, Lee and Barney Sokol (both were also Commodores).

In the 2010s

The years following 2010 saw a steady increase in the interest in sailing that built rapidly upon its success, and this growth was supported by BC Parks. The fleet at the beginning was very mixed, with “Flying Scots” as the largest group. As at 2019 the “Flying Scot” fleet grew steadily to 7, but has just been overtaken by the “Jet-14” fleet of 9 sailboats, and the youth fleet of 7 “Optimists” is also now significant.


The infrastructure of the Marina has made major steps forward with these recent projects:

2016 Cheryl Creamer led the internal renovation of the Club house and gardens.

2017 New Boat rack for 8 small boats was built, courtesy of BC Parks.

2018 The development of a Youth Sailing program in earnest. (More info below).

2019 The new eco-friendly, accessible dock courtesy of BC Parks was installed by Shoco Marine and replaces an outdated structure estimated to be around 40 years old. The new dock’s versatile modular design has been constructed to form a modern, weather-resilient, durable multi-slip marina. As Lake Julian transitions from a thermal cooling lake, the ability of the new dock to survive freeze conditions and changing water levels will be imperative to provide safe access. A short dedication ceremony took place in which officials christened the new dock. Additional slips may also be added easily in the future.

2019 New Clubspot software was instituted to upgrade the back office money collection, record keeping and waivers led by Jamie Titus, this was particularly necessary for the youth program.

2019 The creation of the Asheville Sailing Foundation, a pending 501(c)3 organization. (More info below.)

Flying Scot” Fleet

The first ASC Flying Scott was bought in 2004 by Barney and Lee Sokol.  Once club members realized how comfortable the Scot is, from previous boats Tom Cannon switched to a Scot from a Laser and Richard Hansen from a Venture 16 catamaran.

These 19’ boats have a very stable hull with a large sailing area, making them both comfortable and fast racing boats. This stability and large open cockpit also make them popular for “daysailing” with friends and family. In 2012 they were joined by the Titus’s, the Aldersons and the Monoson’s (converting from a Galilee 15), and later by the Devereaux and Weber’s; two non-racing boats round out the Flying Scot fleet.

There is a friendly rivalry between the “’Scots” and the “Jet-14s” (very West Side Story) the Scots winning the Annual Trophy in 2006-Bruce Sampson, 2018-Tim & Jane Alderson and the Jets, Lenny and Chris in 6 years from 2011 to 2017 with a tie between the Scots and Jets in 2016.

Jet-14” Fleet and the Southern Comfort Regattas

The first “Jet-14” (14-ft sailboat) at ASC was Chris and Paula Hennon’s newly renovated hull #483, a wooden hull which began competing in club races in 2010.

To raise awareness for the class and create interest in forming a local fleet, the Hennons organized the “Southern Comfort Classic” in spring of 2012. This first regatta attracted ten Jet-14s, 4 from ASC and 6 from other parts of NC and out of state.  It remains a spring stop on the Jet regatta circuit, regularly attracting boats from the mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

The Jet-14s at ASC, became officially recognized as Fleet #65 in the Jet-14 Class Association in 2014. 

Commodore Lenny Wells raced (and won!) at regattas at Lake Julian and other lakes.

Commodore Connie Berchem, who initially crewed for Chris Hennon at a Jet regatta in Annapolis, went on to skipper and win many races with crew Teri Fosmire including in 2016 the U.S Jet-14 women’s Nationals. 

The Jet-14 became a popular boat with junior members.  Caswell Kern crewed for Lenny Wells winning multiple club Annual Championships.  Juniors Cole Wise and Olivia Hennon campaigned in 2018-2019, winning several club races and finishing near the top in regional regattas.    

ASC Youth sailing and the Asheville Sailing Foundation

In 2017 the ASC Youth program was started by Connie Berchem, Lenny Wells and Paula Hennon, with Caswell Kern one of the first entrants.

In 2017/18 a grant from Buncombe County allowed the purchase of 7 older Optimists and a Laser and Paula led eighteen ASC volunteers in refurbishing the boats and the ASC Board had a first race in them to ensure their integrity.

Through 2018 Paula Hennon developed the youth program, with an initial older youth (10-18) training program preparing for the summer Junior Sailing program started with eight children aged (6-9) and finished with five in September. Two Juniors sailed their Optis in the Green Fleet at Lake Norman’s Yacht Labor Day Regatta.


In 2019, the Jet-14 class association helped purchase a second Jet-14 for the Asheville Youth Sailing to serve as a fleet boat and junior racer along. Further boast will be purchased to expand the sailing program to Buncombe County Schools.

Sailing Foundation: ASC members created an independent entity, Asheville Youth Foundation, which will be a 501©3 to seek, and handle donations to promote youth sailing and education and to buy boats for that purpose. The execution of the programs are and will be done through ASC which is a 501©7 corp.

Sailing today

The current sailing program consists of 14-Regatta calendar divided into a spring and fall series, with a combined annual trophy. Several of the regattas combine fancy dress and theme food and drink such as the Commodores, Champagne and Halloween regattas. There are usually about a dozen boats racing in a regatta, with Scotts and Jet-14s the biggest contingents but a wide variety of other boats also competing, including larger keel boats. Richard Beytagh and Curtis Boyd in particular are regulars and have always been willing to use their boats as an extra safety boat during regattas, and are good about letting newcomers join them.

Less competitive fun sailing is scheduled very other Saturday and every Wednesday evening through the summer. In the winter there is the casual frostbite sailing on Saturdays when the weather permits. The highlight of this is the annual Shrimparoo with sailing games and a low country boil for all members.

The Annual Dinner ends the season with a more formal dinner along with the annual meeting and prizegiving.

The youth sailing is growing from strength to strength as the number of available boats increases and the participants gain the confidence to complete regionally and nationally.

As a result of these efforts, the number of ASC members and their participation has increased significantly in recent years and looks set fair to continue doing so.

Future Direction:

What will the next 50 years bring? The facilities at the Lake Julian Marina have never been better and will continue to be improved, although no doubt space will continue to be an issue.

The amount of sailing carried out through the week and the year will probably continue to increase, with more younger sailors learning, and the social calendar will no doubt match this growth.

Interest in sailing will probably continue to wax and wane on an upward trend as sailing becomes more accessible to a larger population.

The fleets will continue to evolve, perhaps from Optimists to O’pen Bic. From Jet-14s to Pixels and perhaps from traditional hulls to foils like the Wazp.

So long as the club continues its long tradition of welcoming all new sailors both old and particularly the young, ASC will thrive into the future.

This Article was written by Tim Alderson with contributions from the ASC members, in particular Gay Weber, Chris Hennon, David Blynt, Duke Angier, Jamie Titus, Lee Sokol, Richard Ellis and Drew Langsner


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