Island Yacht Club

For over 60 years, the Island Yacht Club (IYC) has served sailing enthusiasts from around the Greater Toronto area with regattas, social opportunities, and other cottage-like amenities.

TheIYC was founded in 1951 by a small group of Jewish sailing enthusiasts at a time when Jewish applicants were denied membership to Toronto's yacht clubs. The founding members included Cecil Yolles, Dr. Bernard “Bunny” Willinsky, Ben Dunkelman, John Bussin, Eon Gilmore, Mel and Irving Gould, Mark Speyer, Norm Kerzner, Joe Kitz, Boris Adelberg, and Bill Ackerman. The group obtained a lease from the City of Toronto for a parcel of undeveloped land on Mugg's Island in Blockhouse Bay. The land, 600 feet frontage by a depth of 250 feet, was an undeveloped maze of trees, bushes, swamp and sand. The founding members obtained a provincial charter incorporating the Island Yacht Club as a non-profit corporation. A board of directors was elected, with Dr. Bunny Willinsky as its first Commodore.

In 1952, the original group had grown to approximately 35 members. Work parties were formed from among the members to clear the land and a prefabricated building was purchased by the club which served as the early clubhouse. A generator was donated by member Al Jacobs for electricity and two floating docks were built. As the club membership grew, more land was acquired; the original clubhouse was expanded; grounds were landscaped; a swimming pool, lockers, dining room, lounge, docks, and marine railway were installed; and a tender was purchased. This was accomplished, not only by money, but by the donation of time, effort and expertise by members, with assistance from the Royal Canadian and National Yacht Clubs. By 1956, the membership had grown to 355 with a fleet of 80 sail and power boats and the IYC was accepted into the Lake Yacht Racing Association (LYRA), the oldest association of its kind in North America. City water, hydro and a telephone line were also installed.

Racing competitions are an important part of IYC’s history. In 1957, the IYC hosted its first open sailing regatta for the seven Toronto area yacht clubs and has since hosted many other regattas including four LYRA events. In order to accommodate its more junior members, a junior sailing club was founded by Commodore John Zeldin in 1958, which played a large role in the development of the IYC. In 1964, an adult sailing program was instituted to teach members and non-members racing tactics and rules. Their sailors have been members of Canada’s Olympic sailing team and have competed in the Pan-American Games, Maccabiah Games, CORK regattas and other competitions in Canada and the United States. IYC also participate actively in the larger boating community, and organize its own cruising events around Lake Ontario, ranging from one-day events to ten-day journeys visiting a variety of ports including the Thousand Islands, Niagara on the Lake, Cobourg and Wilson, New York.  

In the 1960’s tennis courts were installed and improvements made to their coffee shop and locker rooms. From 1984 to 1990 the club began its “Operation Renewal”, their first major capital improvement program. The faculties received major upgrades and repairs, including upgrading the electrical system, installing a pump-out facility, rebuilding a large number of docks, repairing others, removing the septic tanks, and, most importantly, IYC were permitted to hook up the city sewers.

Over the years, the purpose of the IYC has changed from a racing club that developed champion sailors, to a more recreational club, where members enjoy cruising and spending time with their families. IYC activities now include tennis round robin and clinics, fishing derbies, racing, cruising, and pool swimming. The Club also plays a large social role in the lives of its membership, hosting galas, auctions, fashion shows, theme nights, bowling events, movie nights, anniversary parties, the Commodore's Ball, and other activities during both the sailing season and off-season months.

Besides recreation and sports, the Club offers dining faculties, bar and lounge, and an outdoor patio.  The formal dining room offers unique cuisine and theme menus and can host special events from weddings to corporate meetings. Its amenities are described as a “Muskoka-like ambience on a private island”.

Boasting a full service marine yard, the IYC offers excellent service and high calibre work. It provides summer dockage, winter storage, launch and haul-out with its 25 ton travelift and haul-out basin. Members can dock yachts, power cruisers and dinghies, and share reciprocal agreements with other yacht clubs around Lake Ontario. IYC’s private tender service docks along Queen’s Quay, and sails at regular intervals from both the Club’s island and City-side quays, throughout the season.

The IYC has suffered from two fires in its 63 year history. The first fire occurred in November 1986 in the IYC’s boat yard, destroying several boats, and the second fire took place in June 2004, destroying the clubhouse and its contents. A new clubhouse, designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects, was officially opened on June 18th, 2006, and the IYC continues to serve its members in boating, socializing, dining, and marine services.

The Island Yacht Club has grown, flourished and expanded beyond the initial dreams of a small group of Jewish sailing enthusiasts who were unable to find a suitable place to moor their boats in Toronto. The Club is now recognized as one of the premier yacht clubs on the Great Lakes, and continues to grow and adapt to ever-changing economic and social conditions.

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