A Road Trip to Fairhope
by Jim Sittig
While attending a wedding in Mobile, Alabama, Welcome and I took a short road trip across the Mobile Bay to Fairhope. FairHope is the home of our sister yacht club FYC. Fairhope Yacht and RYC have a long and interesting history dating back to the early 40’s when it was founded by Otto Wadewitz of Racine.
Otto was one of the Wadewitz brothers that owned and operated the Western Printing & Lithographing Company. He served as FYC ‘s first commodore and five continuous terms at RYC beginning in 1933. Otto was also one of the organizers of the Kinnickinnic Yacht Club, which later merged into the South Shore Yacht Club of Milwaukee. His love of boating became a passion spending all of his spare time at the lakefront. Otto’s interest changed from sailing to speed boats. He raced on Lake Michigan, Mobile Bay and contests across the United States. Otto’s love of speed prompted him to found the Power Boat Club of Racine. Nationally famous boat racers such as Gar Wood, Sir Henry Seagrave, Guy Lombardo and the Chrysler Brothers raced along the Lake Michigan shore at speed over 100 mph.
Otto Wadewitz led RYC through the Great Depression years. He helped the financially struggling yacht club survive and was memorialized by the club in 1955 when a 210-foot timber dock was dedicated in his name.
During our short visit we talked with a few of the Fairhope Yacht Club’s 700 members about our mutual history and the Otto Wadewitz Regatta held annually since 1947 at FYC in his honor. We learned that the club house, originally a small fish house that was remodeled and enlarged several times had been destroyed. The club house was totally wiped out by the hurricanes of 2005. Many member’s boats were lost and the pier system had to be rebuilt. They are operating out of a small out building which was originally used for storage. After a long drawn out battle with their insurance company, they have settled and are ready to rebuild. Plans for a beautiful 16,000 sq. ft, $3 million, 3 year project has been completed and ground breaking will soon be under way.
You can learn more about FYC web site at www.fairhopeyachtclub.com A detailed history of Otto Wadewitz including photographs of his 49 foot wooden cruiser “Rex” that he sailed down the Mississippi with Chester Krusienski, a loyal RYC member for 80 year, as his crew.