Key Biscayne Yacht Club shines as a jewel of the nautical world
Navigating the history of the Key Biscayne Yacht Club and it’s youth sailing program is an exercise filled with interesting island lore, a committed nautical community, and competition that embodies the sea-loving soul of Key Biscayne.
Anchored a short sail away from the Miami Marine Stadium, which is playing host to the Miami International Boat Show, the Yacht Club is a noteworthy landmark for people interested learning about South Florida’s nautical oasis, which has called the village home for more than half a century.
Officially founded in 1955, KBYC is a port for young people of various ages and skill levels to learn the ins-and-outs of sailing, and is home to an annual regatta as well as the Ed Millman Memorial Round The Island Race.
Tom McCormick, chair of the youth sailing program, believes the nautical mecca is a special place.
“Whether you’re a fisherman, power boater or into sailing, young or old …the Key Biscayne Yacht Club has a long history of supporting those activities,” McCormick said. “Sports allows us to have a connection to our history, to be part of a long tradition. It’s a type of continuum.”
The social side of the yacht club has its own appeal, for sure, but the youth sailing program, which includes a bevy of boating categories for kids, makes it truly special.
From Sea Squirts designed for kids 6- to 8-years-olds, which introduces Key Rats to safety on the sea, to the Optimist learn-to-sail program with its more advanced curriculum for ages 7 to 12, McCormick said the goal is to develop skills that can be used for life.
“I think we have a really good balance of teaching kids to be competitive racers combined with charter education,” he said. “You have to hold yourself accountable.”
McCormick said the program teaches kids to make the right decisions. “If you’re on the water and you break a rule, you have to hold yourself accountable. We teach the sailors to make the right decisions. Sail like somebody’s watching even if they’re not.”
The program includes categories for older kids, as well.
Those approaching their teen years can participate in the C420 Open High School Program, for sailors ages 12 to 17, or the Laser Racing program for those 12 and up who are more interested in the competitive aspects.
Sailing Director Juan Carlos Romero has taken the youth program to the next level with help from Maru Urban and Alexander Van Puffelen.
“The new thing is the Laser Program,” McCormick said. “And Maru Urban is just killing it. They are doing so well in competition and the program is exploding. Kids nationally, are traveling to the Key to be part of the program.”
The boat show provides a great recruiting tool for KBYC. McCormick said many members attend the event and talk to folks from around the country and the world about the program, often enticing them to join.
Key Biscayne offers maritime opportunities like few other places, McCormick said.
“The thing is, if you’re on Key Biscayne and you don’t spend time on the water … you’re sort of doing it wrong,” he said. “It’s a big part of the appeal of this island paradise.”