White Rock Boat Club
White Rock Boat Club
From Membership Pamphlet circa 1970s
The club was founded in 1961 by a group of avid racing enthusiasts.
The strength of the organization is its members and their willingness
to share their expertise.
In order to promote organized class sailing the White Rock Boat
Club limits the type of boats kept at the club. The following classes
of sailboats are eligible:
Lone Star 13
The low cost of membership is maintained at WRBC as all members
contribute to the club's maintenance.
History of the White Rock Boat Club
1960 to 2001
By Bill Caldwell, WRBC
The WRBC was the brainchild of three people. Phil and his brother
Pete Oetking (pronounced Ett King) had the original idea and approached
a Mr. Pittman with it.
All three were members of the Corinthian Sailing Club on White
Rock Lake, but that club was having a problem with who owned what
davit, and the price of davits was out of hand because their club
had no control over prices.
The Oetking's had developed a fine catamaran called the Hellcat,
and had gone into production with growing success in sales, but
they couldn't find davits at CSC.
Mr. Pittman financed the construction of WRBC not only to supply
davits, but to help sell Hellcats. He was not a sailor, but after
our club was built, he had a powered version of the Hellcat built
and it became the club's first rescue/committee boat.
The club was started in 1959/1960 [Editor's note - 1961 according to Dallas
Morning News 4-26-1962] with a few differences from it's present
state. There was a simple barrier door about where the committee
boat/tack room/gas locker is now. The club house was a much smaller
structure than the current one, but it occupied the same position.
It consisted of two small enclosures, each a two hole privy, on
either side of the walkway. The current kitchen and opposing tack
room occupy that same space. The walkway continued straight on through
a roofed and floored-in area attached to the rest rooms, on out
to the tie-up dock. Seating was on the banisters around the edges...no
chairs and no telephone. It was all a bit rustic and in the summer
when the winds were light, the atmosphere became a bit fetid if
the wind was from the north.
The small davits occupied the same space they do now, but there
were no Butterfly pads and there was no committee boat davit. The
large davits stopped where the walkways now change direction; the
outer ones were added about two years later as the club grew. The
wheels for all davits were specially made for uniformity, painted
silver and each davit was equipped with an H shaped cradle and wired
to allow it to reach the lake bottom 14 feet down.
Each boat owner purchased a davit and was responsible for it's
maintenance, as well as, the outboard (from the clubhouse) walkway.
The owner could only sell the davit back to the Club at its original
price, thus eliminating the chaos of the time at the Corinthian
SC. The cradle could be modified to fit his boat, but he was not
permitted any further construction changes. He was also required
to keep his boat in seaworthy condition. Small davits sold for $250,
large ones for $325. Annual dues were $25, which included $5 city
tax, the rest for club maintenance.
Over a period of time, it was found that some types of maintenance
were beyond the ability of davit owners to perform without hiring
outside labor, which was not feasible, so gradually the replacement
of pilings and rewiring was performed by small groups gleaned from
work parties. Replacement of pilings was a Herculean task because
the water was much deeper and the pilings much longer. Imagine standing
atop a ten foot step ladder and taking a full swing with a 16 pound
sledge hammer at the metal cap of the piling! Fred Oberkircher,
an M scow skipper and notable architect, was the prime source of
such courage and skill until some sadistic club member invented
a device called the "iron maiden". It's rather hard to
describe. A 2 foot length of thick walled iron pipe with a cap on
top was placed over the end of the piling. It had a circular piece
of the heavy pipe welded around the base of the vertical pipe, allowing
several stalwart volunteers to lift, then drop this device on the
piling many times thus driving it into position. It could not be
lifted by one person. After many years, this device was finally
replaced by the inspired thinking of Dave Planka, who thought up
the use of the water jet. Planka, another M scow driver, is also
responsible for all the iron mongery of the steel doors and frames
plus the gas locker. His early and much lamented death was much
felt by all the Club members.
The Oetking's had designed all the walkways to float up between
the pilings which were left the same height as the davits, in the
event of high water. In 1960, the spillway had a walkway along the
top, and boards could be added to raise the lake level. This worked
fairly well until flooding took place and the davit walkways floated
up and ended up all over the lake. Towing them all back to the club
was only half the problem. Each one should have been numbered to
fit its davit because they were not quite interchangeable and they
had to be back in place before the water went back down. This happened
several times in the middle of the night, raising volunteerism to
a new level, and finally resulting in the introduction of the WORK
When the city removed the spillway walkway, the lake level was
fairly stabilized at its current level and the Club has never had
the disastrous flooding of the early years. Most club members never
appreciated how quickly the lake level could change with the resultant
damage to club and boats and that lack of appreciation has existed
throughout the life of the club where about 10% of the membership
and proximity of residence to the club was a determining factor
in most cases.
One early flood in particular tried the patience of those volunteers.
Water was five feet deep over the walkways and walking in shoulder
deep water on a floating walkway as it sank haphazardly beneath
your weight became quite a sport. Walking near the clubhouse was
particularly unnerving since the electrical wiring insulation left
something to be desired. The tingling sensation to immersed body
parts produced quite a few bawdy remarks.
As the floods became more manageable, work parties began nailing
down the walkways, causing most of the damage as it now exists.
As the water rose, the walkways began pulling up the pilings, causing
the unevenness seen today. Boat owners have always been encouraged
to leave their bailers or transom plugs open so, in the event of
a flood, the boat will simply fill and remain in place on the cradle,
draining as the water recedes. Some boats have bow fittings that
become trapped under the wheel axle if the boat is allowed to float.
It's a weird sight to see Lidos and Flying Scots with their bows
under water and the transoms six feet in the air. If the wheel axle
on your davit has a kink in the middle, now you know why.
The worst flood of all has fortunately been preserved in photographs.
As the water rose and the volunteers arrived, the boats were floated
across Lawther Drive and up the hill. Fortunately the water level
stabilized before any of the masts hit the high tension wire still
there today. Much later as the water receded, the small work force
shoved the boats back across the road. The group was so small that
some boats were left high and dry on the hill. It was quite a sight,
several days later to see the owner and as many volunteers as he
could muster, manhandling a Flying Scot back into the water. One
incident was nearly tragic. In the lifting process, one Hellcat's
halyard came in contact with the aforementioned high tension wire.
Someone saw it in time to yell and everyone, except the owner, dropped
the boat. The owner, a Braniff airline captain, was burned through
both biceps clear to the bone and was unable to fly for over a year.
Several others were burned about the feet from standing on wet ground
or in the drainage ditch bordering the road when the current jumped
as much as six feet.
The club originally had lights delineating the tie-up dock and
it was not unusual to see several boats all rigged up, moored there.
Families and bachelors with dates (or looking for them) would picnic
in the clubhouse on nice weather evenings. Alcohol was not allowed
by the city for several years. One Japanese hibachi caught the dock
on fire and with no running water, several members went overboard,
splashing enough water to put the fire out without much damage to
the club. Hibachis were prohibited thereafter.
Night sailing was quite pleasant and enjoyed by quite a few sailors
until one night an inebriated C scow sailor sawed all the light
posts down. The cause of his fit of pique remains unknown, but night
sailing went to a watery grave. As mentioned, the City of Dallas
had stipulated that no intoxicating beverages were to be used on
Club premises for fear that hedonistic practices might evolve, so
the offender will remain nameless.
In the very early days, the club inaugurated a short lived Commodore's
Cup, which was supposed to be awarded for a race, or series of races,
open to all members and was specifically designed by the Commodore
to be fun for all, not to be taken seriously, and take up one afternoon.
There were 3 Sunfish in residence, which were promptly pressed into
service in rotation.
The first race, a triangle, had the weather mark ten feet on the
shore, so the boat had to be dragged around it and back into the
water to continue. Protests were not allowed. Feminine participants
were allowed an onshore crew.
The second race was all in the lake, a short triangle, and if your
derriere touched the deck you were disqualified. The results went
overboard with the Commodore, so the Cup was held over until next
year at which time it was discovered that the Commodore's Cup had
disappeared, some thought at the hands of the reprobate who had
sawed down the dock lights, a natural enough conclusion since the
Cup was a handsome beer mug. Next year the new Commodore bought
a very ugly new Cup and changed the racing format to exclude non-fleet
boats. That ugly cup happily was retired when the Joint Lake Racing
Committee came into being and still exists.
The Hellcat, the catamaran for which the Club owes its beginning,
was an excellent boat. The Oetking (the 0 is silent) brothers produced
about 40 of them. They were not only faster than their factory competitors,
they were also tougher and cheaper. They were 18 feet long and nicely
fit the big davits in width. 215 square feet of jib and main made
them quite powerful and still remain docile for the new sailors
who bought most of them. Each hull had a deep rectangular cross
section, built like a model airplane fuselage. This was covered
by 1/4 inch marine plywood, then a covering of Formica in all of
its drain board patterns and colors... buyer's choice. Each hull
had a retracting centerboard and the rudders tipped up. The bridge
deck was mahogany, before the invention of the trampoline. Hellcats
were powerful and fast enough to pull a water skier, but not at
the exciting pace such skiers wanted.
The Oetking's were all excellent sailors. They had moved here from
an area where they had been very successful sailing scows and iceboats.
They had built one very large ice boat named Ferdinand that set
many records for speed and the boat is still being sailed today.
Interested in fast boats, they were involved in the pioneer days
of the Little America's Cup International for 20 foot catamarans
with 300 square feet of sail area. They built 3 such boats, one
of which is still sailed by Phil Oetking. These boats were quite
influential in the adoption of cat rigged boats which, while much
perfected are still the norm in this international competition.
Their interest in these larger boats came at a price. The production
of the standard Hellcat came to a halt, and without new boats, the
fleet gradually died. The first Club championship was sailed in
Hellcats, and the winner was Phil's 8 year old son Curt. Now grown,
he was the Director of Sailing Operations in the Hawaiian Challenge
for the America's Cup (the big one) in Auckland, New Zealand.
In the 60s, the new technology of fiberglass hulls and Dacron sails
brought about an outpouring of new one-design boats, many of which
began showing up with new members. Several new fleets formed making
orphans of a number of single examples of some new designs, left
out of the racing scene. This prompted the Club to require of new
members that their boats be of the same class as those with racing
fleets on the lake, however racing has never been required of Club
members. This rule helps to stabilize fleet boat value but, sadly,
reduces the value of orphan boats.
Fleets come and go. The Hellcat fleet had produced most of the
Club's officers, but as it died, the C scows began their rise to
One happy coincidence occurred that really exploded the growth
of the scow fleet. The 1st Black Tie Regatta was somewhat laughingly
put together in June, 196 ,and 7 boats showed up for the 2 day affair
and a black tie party was held at the Fleet Captain's home. One
skipper showed up in a beautiful tuxedo complete with black dyed
Topsider sneakers. The wives and girl friends, who usually acted
as crew, outdid themselves as the transformation from crew scruffiness
to evening wear was eye opening. In subsequent years, they formed
an auxiliary called the "Pucker stringers" (a string on
the sail that the crew regulated to change the sail shape) adopted
a rather skimpy costume and met each boat after each race with refreshments
for skipper and crew.
Buddy Melges, a manufacturer of scows, heard of the fun to be had
with this upstart fleet far from the center of scow country, and
discovered that due to Wisconsin tax laws, if you took delivery
of a new C scow in Texas, a new owner could defray the cost of the
trip down here tune his new boat in the Black Tie Regatta, and steal
a March on his Wisconsin competitors before their lakes thawed out.
Melges and a competitor, the Johnson Boat Works, delivered many
new boats at successive Black Ties and the regatta achieved national
fame so rapidly that White Rock Lake became too small and had to
be moved first to the Fort Worth Boat Club and finally to its present
home at the Rush Creek Yacht Club. The local C scow fleet split
when the RCYC was formed and the two separate fleets competed for
many years. In the year 2000, the 37th annual Black Tie Regatta
enjoyed over 100 scows ranging in size from the 16 foot MC class
to the magnificent 38 foot A class.
The Hellcat deserves one final note. Mr. Pittman had his fitted
out as a party boat with a stand up bridge deck, seats and a re-moveable
umbrella canopy (which was promptly stolen) until the boat was so
heavy that the 10 horsepower engine allowed by the City would barely
move it. Some unknown hero petitioned the City for more power and
under the promise that the boat would be useful as a rescue craft,
was allowed a 50 horsepower engine. Before this, the Dallas Fire
Department had to be called in the event of a capsize. It took them
nearly an hour to launch their barge, and all they were allowed
to do was offer those in peril a ride back to the dock. Pittman's
boat was used to destruction and performed many tasks as committee
boat and rescue craft. Kept in a davit next to the center walkway
where the clubhouse Butterfly pad now exists, it had one quality
that endeared it to several race committee personnel. Instead of
baking in the summer heat, they could start the race, then go overboard
under the bridge deck, with feet against one hull and head against
the other, and enjoy comfort unavailable in later committee boats.
Pittman became restless about the slow progress of the payoff the
Club owed him, and for some still obscure reason, our Commodore,
Mr. Ralph Hartman, trial lawyer of note, managed to get the Club's
debt to Mr. Pittman forgiven. Our Club has had many such unsung
The Club has had many memorable floods and it has had two forgettable
droughts, one only a few years ago, just before the last dredging.
The other one in the late 60s, or early 70s, was much worse. The
lake dried to the point that there was about a one acre puddle near
the dam, and another between the CSC and the west shore. Some owners
with trailers were smart enough to pull their boats out in time,
while others found to their dismay that if you tried to walk on
the dried, cracked surface, it was only six inches thick with White
Rock muck just below. The grasses that grew in the recent drought
acted as reinforcement and would support your weight, but they never
grew in the early drought. The lake (?) was a wide expanse of gray
relieved only by the boat clubs and the forlorn sight of your boat
sitting high and dry in the davit six or eight feet up with no way
to remove it.
Sunday afternoon was racing time, and since each club had its own
program, it was not unusual to see a committee boat from each of
the three clubs setting out their own buoys. Many times the courses
overlapped and lots of new swear words were born until new sailors
learned the rules of the road.
There was a fleet of Y Flyers, made of wood, built by their skippers
in Doc Miller's barn at the end of Fisher Road, and these skippers,
who were to a man, Dallas Cowboy fans, began racing on Saturdays.
Races at that time were usually 3 legged 'affairs, finishing on
a run. The wise Y's began throwing in a 4th leg, finishing at the
weather mark. This became very popular with everyone except the
race committee, who now had to move the committee boat from the
starting line to the weather mark.
About 1990, sailing went into a decline all over the world, and
in that time, 7 fleets either died or went into hibernation on White
Rock. The Butterfly fleet was all there was left at WRBC and they
did the best they could maintaining the Club, but since they had
no use for the davits or the front tie up dock, this fell into the
disarray we are now recovering from.
The Butterfly pads evolved from the abandoning by the Oetking's
of their efforts in the Little America's Cup Challenge. They had
built 2 very large davits on the west end of the small davits to
house their catamarans and when their efforts subsided, they donated
this space to the Club and the pads were quickly built.
The Oetking's were made honorary lifetime members for their service
to the Club. Phil lives now at Lake Ray Hubbard, summering somewhere
in Iowa where he sails the last of the big catamarans. Sadly, Peter
Oetking died several years ago.
About the same time the west pads were built, the new clubhouse,
designed by Bill Hibbard, was built as well as the committee boat
davits, gas locker, etc., and finally the east Butterfly pad.
History is rarely accurate. Two people, viewing the same incident
will seldom describe it the same way. English is not a very descriptive
language. To use an old cliche, try describing a sunset to
a blind person. Opinions also enter into the mix. These are simply
personal recollections. If you saw an incident described here and
disagree as to what happened, you've proved my point.