October 2016 Newsletter Article
By Richard Windebank
One hundred and fifty members attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Fairwind Yacht Club on Saturday, October 1 and it turned out to be a fine occasion indeed. Thanks to the efforts of our Organizing Committee, the champagne was flowing, the food was outstanding, the music rocked and everyone had a swell time. The highlight of the event was listening to Bob Abernethy, our longest serving member of the Club, who joined in 1968, no less than 48 years ago. Bob recounted some of his fond memories from the early days of his membership and stressed how proud he is of where Fairwind has come to be today. Bob pointed out the Marina Del Rey was first opened in 1965, so the formation of Fairwind came close on the heels of the opening of the marina. Thanks to the kind input from John Bruce in Draper, Utah, we learned how the Club had been established by his father, Al Bruce, back in the 60’s. Al Bruce was the kind of guy who would make things happen. Al used to sail every Saturday afternoon with his good friends Cam and Mary Rogers, on their Columbia 24. “How can we make sailing more accessible to more people?” they asked. Then the seed was sown. Over the next few months, Al Bruce got together with his colleagues at Hughes Aircraft Company and brainstormed how they could do something about it. With a little help from the Hughes Aircraft Company Employees Association, they set about acquiring a handful of small boats for use by it’s members. Initially, membership of Fairwind was exclusive to Hughes employees. But then the odd member would leave Hughes and wanted to remain in the sailing Club and others wanted friends to join and that became a challenge. Bob Abernethy explained the conundrum they were in at the time, but the decision was made to allow others to join in the fun. And so Fairwind evolved into an independent organization and the rest is history. Thanks to John Bruce, Richard Windebank was able to share some photographs of the early days of Fairwind. Al Bruce was the first Commodore of the Club and his is the first name that appears in the Articles of Incorporation, signed on January 24, 1967. One such photograph was of the initial Board of Directors. Thanks to Al Bruce’s foresight, we were able to identify each of the Board members by name. Al had written their names on the back of the black and white photograph. It showed Oscar Ford as Secretary, Attila Hethely as Vice Commodore, Al Bruce as Commodore and Dan Wright as Rear Commodore. Al Bruce was a distinguished looking gentleman who had already achieved a great deal in his life. We were able to witness many of the decorations that had been bestowed upon him, probably since he was in his early twenties. He was born in 1919 and served 35 years as an employee of Hughes Aircraft Company. That was pretty special, since the company was only in existence for 53 years. Al was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Hughes 49’ers, employees of Hughes in 1949. He was also a significant player in the development and construction of the Spruce Goose. “Howard Hughes never liked the name “Spruce Goose”, said Bob Abernethy. That’s because there was no spruce in it. The plane was made entirely of birchwood! Al Bruce sadly died at the age of 69 in 1988. But, at his request, his ashes were scattered off the “Painted Cave” in the Channel Islands, off Oxnard. “It is befitting that Fairwind should have developed so strongly in CIH, since Al had such an affinity for that area.” said Richard Windebank in his presentation. Al’s son John Bruce commented: “Today the club stands on the foundation built by the team my father brought together 50 years ago. The strength of the club today is a result of, and a tribute to, the strength of that foundation.” He went on to say: “I believe my father would be proud to know the organization he created has continued to thrive and grow, and will continue to provide the members as much enjoyment found in sailing as he found.” The Club will be forever indebted to Al Bruce and his colleagues for establishing this fine Club 50 years ago. And we are grateful to his son, John Bruce, for sharing so much of the history that none of us knew about before. Following the presentations by Richard Windebank and Bob Abernethy, our dear members Bob Krauch and Joyce made a most gracious and generous donation to the Club in celebration of our anniversary. The beautiful picture they presented has been hung outside the Dining Room at Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club as a timeless reminder of “Our Golden Anniversary”.
Richard closed the meeting with the 150 attendees on their feet, drinking a toast to “The future of Fairwind Yacht Club and our very best wishes for the next 50 years.”