No Water? No Problem!

Johannes Brinkmann, AYC Commodore

The Austin Yacht Club (AYC), located on the south shore of Lake Travis, just 30 minutes from downtown Austin, has prevailing southeast winds and hilly shore contours,that make for interesting and challenging sailing. Another feature making interesting sailing for club members these days, has been the lakes declining water levels. Among its 450 members, the club lays claim to national and international champions, including Olympic silver medalist Doug Kern, Pan American Games gold medalist John Bartlett, and six-time Mallory Cup winner Scott Young.

Photo taken from AYC clubhouse of the yacht club harborTaken from the second story deck at the AYC club house of the yacht club "harbor". During normal water levels there are 4 docks with 40+ boats each on dock. The docks have been moved to the end of the point.

But the ongoing drought in central Texas is creating unique challenges for the club this year. Lake Travis is currently 60 vertical feet lower than its "normal" full levels. Boat docks that were a short walk from the clubhouse last year, are now a quarter mile away. Both of the clubs concrete ramps are high and dry, and cars now park in areas that would normally be deeply submerged.

Undeterred, the club's series races continue, with solid participation. The Austin Yacht Club is currently preparing for a major Texas Sailing Association invitational regatta this spring, and in May AYC and the University of Texas Sailing Team, will host the 2012 Inter Collegiate Sailing Association National Championships, an event that will bring hundreds of competitors, judges, sailing enthusiasts, and spectators to the club.

Photo of end of the ramp looking back up at the clubhouseThis shot is taken from the end of the "ramp" looking back up at the club house. You can see the stairs leading down to the normal locations for docks 1 and 2.

The club's board is moving aggressively to maintain dock access as the lake drops, and to implement a twofold plan to enable dry-sailed boats to access the water again. They've leased a mobile crane for launching Keel boats, are constructing a temporary ramp — made from military surplus runway mats — which will be installed underwater, and plan to lengthen its existing concrete ramp, so that it can be placed in service quickly once the lake begins rising again.

Photo taken from the current dock locationsTaken from the current dock locations, looking back towards the end of the "point." The windsock in the picture is on the end of the point during normal water levels.

Ever optimistic, AYC members say that while challenging, the drought conditions have also provided some unintended benefits for AYC's sailors. There are much stronger than usual summer winds, plenty of parking near the docks, and very little boat traffic on the lake. There's also a greater sense of camaraderie among members as the social committee organizes additional non-sailing events, and as sailors who cannot currently launch their own boats, sail with members who's boats are in the water.

To find out more about what's happening at Austin Yacht Club, visit their website: 

— Published: April/May 2012

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