Indianapolis Sailing Club Commodore Talks History & New Summer Events
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photography Provided by Josh Brown & Indianapolis Sailing Club
For more than six decades the Indianapolis Sailing Club (ISC) has offered sailing programs and instruction for individuals and families on Geist Reservoir and is equipped with a 100-slip harbor, a clubhouse and 13 acres of beach, playground space, fire pits and picnic areas.
Founded by local builder Jack Messmer as a private sailing club 12 years after the 1943 construction of the Geist Reservoir, the ISC was launched to promote the sport of sailing and small-boat sailboat racing and through the years has included local business leaders like Eli Lilly and Bud Hook, former owner of the Hook’s Drug Store chain.
The ISC currently offers structured sailing education for adult members, six one-week camps for youths aged eight to 17, as well as a sailing class for children of members aged four to seven. Youth camps are open to members and the general public.
“We’re typically at around 300 memberships, and we’ve been at that number over the last 10 or 15 years,” says Eric Guion, who serves as Commodore of the ISC and chairman of the organization’s 25 board of directors. Guion, 58, learned to sail as a kid back in the 1960s and 1970s after his parents joined the ISC, and he and his brother sailed competitively through high school and college.
“Sailing activity has gone down as motorboat traffic has increased on Geist, and right now we’re trying to find creative ways to get people out on the water who might be intimidated by the sport or worried about safety,” he adds.
The club holds races on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons, as well as four club-wide fleet races on Saturdays and Sundays. Wednesday races are held in an all-skate format, in which all types of boats race against each other with a prearranged time, distance and speed formula used to handicap each performance.
The ISC hosts local, regional and national regattas, and this year the club hosted the MC Sailing Association Masters Regatta Championship from June 13 to 16. The regatta brought in 40 to 50 boats from around the country for three days of racing. The club also hosts two collegiate regattas each year, with Indiana University as the sponsoring college racing team.
On August 4 the ISC will partner with the City of Fishers to host the inaugural Cardboard Regatta. Teams will design and create boats from cardboard and compete in a race in the club’s harbor, with food and music to follow.
Guion says the average ISC member age is in the low to mid-50s, and the board of directors is working to create new opportunities and programs for the younger local population and stress the social benefits of the club, in addition to its competitive and instructional components.
“We are adapting many of our activities, policies and programs to the needs of the 25-to-35 age group,” says Guion, a product manager for financial software company FIS. “For example, boat ownership can be a limiting factor for this demographic so we are working on ways to find used boats and assist new members with the minor repairs.”
Guion says that while learning to sail requires time and discipline, the rewards are immediate and long-term, both recreationally and competitively for those who choose to race.
“Once you learn to sail, you can sail the rest of your life,” he says. “We have members from 16 to 86. And for those who think it looks boring, I have taken a 20-year rugby player who had never sailed before, and now he can’t wait to get on the water. You can make the sport of sailing what you want it to be – serious racing or casual cruising.”
For more details on the Indianapolis Sailing Club, including membership and instruction info, call 317-849-0021 or visit them online at indianapolissailing.org.