"The Maracaibo Yacht Club was formed,
as I recall, in the latter part of 1929. Subsequently an old
residential home on a large piece of land along the shoreline
at Bel1a Vista was rented and used as a clubhouse. All yachts
were of the "Star Class" type, and all registered
in the United States in the "International Star Class Yacht
Racing Association". All races were run strictly in accordance
with the I.S.C.Y.R.A., racing rules and regulations. Schedules
for the year's racing were always prepared early in the year.
In general, local commercial houses or representatives of manufacturers
of oilfield equipment donated the prizes. All races, or each
series, consisted of six to eight races, including the "Lake
Maracaibo Championship Series" and prizes were awarded
to yachts finishing first, second and third, in each series.
When there were no scheduled races for any given period, we
would sail for silver cocktail cups, donated by the Club.
Yacht Club - Star Class Fleet Skippers
with their 'Perpetual Trophy' - 1941.
"Photo taken at MYC dance floor lakeside grounds
- note palm sunshades at far left.
"Standing L - R: Buck, Hindson, Spicer, Van Rassel,
King, Maar, Riley
"Seated L - R: Frisbie, Bayne (Highest Season
Average 1940), McTear (Highest Season Average 1941)
Note that this
photo was found hanging in the Mystic Star
Class Museum in Connecticut with the information
in this caption written on the back, probably by Oscar
RA Bayne himself.
"Prizes were distributed
yearly at either the Lago Petroleum (Creole/ESSO)
or the Gulf Petroleum (Mene Grande) camp clubhouse,
with club grounds appropriately decorated. These events were
run under the excellent direction of Dave Porterfield, George
Johnston and Charlie Shultz, with other members giving a helping
hand. Arrangements were made to hold a dance after the prize
giving function and all members were allowed to bring guests,
making the necessary table reservations, etc. This dance was,
without doubt, one of the best and most gala functions of the
year and quite a number of persons both in the city and the
oil camps looked forward, with keen interest, to this event.
Naturally, we always had the best live music available and drinks
were sold at quite moderate prices thus helping ensure the function’s
Fleet Skippers and crews on new pier from Star Class
Log for 1937. George Johnston 3rd from left, Mr. Laurie
front 3rd from right, Oster Bayne rear right.
"In 1934 I became a member of
the Yacht Club and was made official starter. Later I became
Secretary/Treasurer, a position I held for many years. As
Secretary I was also in charge of the clubhouse and grounds
and during my administration we installed a new dance floor
(concrete) which was an open air affair near the lake shore,
sunshades under the palm trees, asphalt walks, as well as
a bar and snack-bar. These improvements were made possible
mainly through various generous corporate and or company
donations. In particular, I recall Mr. Frank C. Laurie,
of Lago Petroleum, who was Commodore
of the Fleet, donating the materials (second-hand) from
his company, to construct a new pier. The donation included
the free use of a floating pile-driver. The pier was built
of concrete slabs over driven piles and was approximately
one hundred and twenty five feet long with a platform at
the end, on which a proper flagpole, with yardarms was erected
and used for starting and signalling during races. We were
very proud of our new pier and that clubhouse site is now
the location of one of the finest yacht clubs in Venezuela.
Lakeside seating with sunshades from palm fronds
and new pier in the background.
Map showing former
site of the Maracaibo Yacht Club.
(Original map courtesy of D. Becker)
"In 1935, the
yacht Chuckle, No. 284,
was put up for sale and Fred Smith, Managing Director of
Maracaibo Oxygen Plant and I decided to buy it
and try our luck at sailing. Well, being what one would
call "novices", we were almost always near the
tail-end or actually bringing up the rear. Fred was usually
the skipper and I the jibman. We sailed together for about
a year, and in 1936, the Maracaibo Oxygen Plant
opened their head-office in Caracas and Fred was transferred
there leaving me as sole owner of Chuckle.
departure I continued sailing recruiting jibmen from friends
who worked at Lago Petroleum. Unfortunately,
as with Fred, without much success and I almost always ended
up in the tail end. I can still remember my sailing companions
laughing at me for being such a dependable “tail end Charlie”.
"On Christmas morning
1938, Mr. Frank C. Laurie, very generously gave me a new set
of sails as a Christmas present. He must have noticed that my
sails were in terrible condition being very baggy and out of
shape. It took me a little while to break in the new sails,
which had to be done slowly, otherwise, they too would have
gotten out of shape. After having broken in the new sails, which
were for heavy weather, being thicker material, I decided to
cut my old lighter sails to try and take out or to reduce, as
much as possible, the baggy parts and also to shorten its length,
which had also stretched considerably. To achieve this I laid
the sails flat, both main and jib on the tennis court, pinned
them down as tight as I could and then went to work as best
I could, not having had any previous experience. When that was
done, my wife Olga sewed it where it was marked or pinned together.
As Ripley said "believe it or not" my sails fit perfectly
and the difference was observed immediately. I was seldom bringing
up the rear and more usually ended a race close up to the front.
I never looked back from then onwards, winning many races and
series, including the "Fleet Championship Series".
I especially remember one set of special yacht races sponsored
by the "Asociación Atlética del Zúlia"
in both 1939 and 1940. This event was held annually on the 12th
of October, the “Dia de la Raza” and for those years
the President was Sr. Rafael Echeverria G. The prizes were donated
by the "Executive of the State of Zúlia", and
presented by the President of the State.
Bayne & Jibman Claugh with Zúlia Cup won
by Yacht No. 248 Chuckle,
is very large inland but not quite land-locked lake. In the
1930s the lake, fed by many rivers, held mainly fresh water
as the narrows connecting it to the Gulf of Venezuela and
the Caribbean Sea were narrow and shallow with relatively
little salt water entering. Since then the entrance has been
dredged for ocean going vessels and the lake’s ecology
is changing. The lake’s weather makes for variable sailing
and is generally calm with moderate breezes, ranging from
ten to twenty miles per hour. On occasions it can also be
“dead calm” with hardly any breeze, if any, at
all. However, during the "Chubasco" or stormy season,
it gets very rough indeed with storms suddenly appearing and
winds between fifty to sixty miles per hour or more. On such
days when it was very rough many yachts broke their masts
or tore their sails.
"I remember, in particular, one race early
in 1940 sponsored by Chester M. Crebbs, then Manager of Gulf
Oil Corporation’s operations nation-wide based in
Caracas. Mr. Crebbs had once lived in Maracaibo and had been
on many occasions, Maracaibo Fleet Champion. As a matter of
fact, at that time, either Frank C. Laurie or Chester Crebbs
normally won the prestigious Championship Series. Well, in 1940
Mr. Crebbs came to Maracaibo on a short business visit with
Sr. Carlos Henry and while there arranged to have a special
race. On the day in question, soon after the race started, gale
force winds suddenly began to blow, getting stronger and stronger,
resulting in several boats breaking their masts and or tearing
their sails. Sailing that day was particularly difficult and
you might say “challenging”, given the terrible
conditions. Of the eight original starters, only four finished
the race, with the yacht Chuckle crossing
the finish line first and with Mr. Crebbs in Star
Baby in second berth, quite some distance behind,
an unaccustomed position for him. I received from Sr. Henry
a lovely wristwatch for having won the race and believe I am
right in saying the event is registered in the Star Class Log
Book for the year 1941."
Lake Maracaibo Fleet
- Log of the Star Class Season's Averages, 1941.
Shultz with his second prize cup circa 1937
at Lago Club Prize-winning. Note the MYC's Perpetual
Trophy to his right. It was inscribed something
Crews Prize Second
Yacht Club Star Class Prize Giving at Creole
camp, 1937. Top Table: Oster RA Bayne Secretary/Treasurer,
Mr.s. Laurie, Mr. Frank Laurie presenting, Mr. C. N.
Newell, Royal Bank of Canada.
End of my Father’s
sailing entry in his memoirs.
My Father ceased sailing
abruptly in about 1942, sold his yacht Chuckle
and never sailed again. Why, I do not know. However, he continued
to maintain an interest in the sport and remained close friends
with his ex-sailing chums for years. He was always proud of
what he had accomplished with his boat and cherished his trophies
for the rest of his life.
Oster worked for Lago/Creole
for 27 years ending up in 1953 as Superintendent of the Marine
Department, responsible for the operations of a fleet of shallow
draft ocean going tankers with Headquarters in Los Haticos then
on the outskirts of Maracaibo. He took early retirement to return
home and work in a family business in Trinidad with his three
brothers. After a comparatively peaceful sojourn in the land
of his birth, he died in 1973 leaving a wife and seven grateful
children. For the last few years of his life he undertook to
write his memoirs describing his eventful life in the “wild
west” type environment that were the oil fields of Venezuela
in the 1920s and 30s. The book was never published but is a
treasured document for his children scattered all over the world.
It is from this source that I have taken the words describing
his sailing with the Maracaibo Fleet from 1935 to 1942 in commemoration
of his 100th birth year.
|Oster J A Bayne,
EBV Pupil 1946 to 1953
Civil Engineer, Retired
8 January, 2004
the roster of the Skippers and Crews of the Star Class
Fleet as noted in the International Star
Class Log for the years 1936 to 1942,
click on this image: