30° 25.60' N 86° 35.58' W

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A History of the Fort Walton Yacht Club

Established in 1951, the Fort Walton Yacht Club on Choctawhatchee Bay’s western shore has a rich history of friendliness and hospitality coupled with volunteer teamwork. Members enjoy sailing, boating, social events, a fantastic regatta venue, family activities and all that Choctawhatchee Bay has to offer.
During the late 1940s, there were sailing and boating clubs in the Fort Walton area but the need for an organized yachting and social club came to fruition in 1951. The club was founded and named prior to the city adding “Beach” to its name. Businessman, Clifford Meigs was elected as the first Commodore of the Fort Walton Yacht Club, other Officers and Board members were selected from those sailors and community leaders of the time.
Being the only social club in town, the Fort Walton Yacht Club was THE social scene in the 1950s and 1960s. It also hosted many regattas and raft-ups for its members and guests from other Gulf Coast clubs. The parties were sensational and regularly featured in the local newspaper, with photos of each event.
Club members like E. W. Sudduth, Clifford Meigs, Judge Erwin Fleet, Howard McGee, Harry Vandegriff, and Walter Ruckel left their mark on the FWYC and our community as evidenced by schools, parks, streets, and businesses that bear their names. E. W. Sudduth donated the land, now 180 Ferry Road, for the Club.
The FWYC membership includes sailing champions in World, Olympic, National, Regional, and America’s Cup championships, namely two-time Olympian Randy Smyth, and National Recognized Sailor Brian Lambert.  Smyth has graced the covers of five sailing magazines and is renowned as one of the top sailing champions in the world. He was on the winning America’s Cup crew in 1988. He was also inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2017.
The Fort Walton Yacht Club is a member of the Gulf Yachting Association and the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs. The history of sailing in the GYA began in 1955, when FWYC joined the group which included fourteen clubs from Houston to St. Petersburg. Now the GYA includes inland clubs as well, totaling thirty-three Member Clubs and six Affiliate Members clubs. FWYC Members enjoy reciprocal privileges whether traveling by land or sea at the thirty-seven yacht clubs of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs (FCYC).
The Fort Walton Yacht Club is proud to have been a member of the community of Fort Walton Beach and surrounding areas for over seventy years! The club is active in the community by hosting sailing camps in partnership with the Emerald Coast Sailing Association, community organizations meeting venues, and Billy Bowlegs launching site to take over the city. The club serves as a venue for weddings, birthday parties, and reunions as well.
The Fort Walton Yacht Club reflects a proud past and continues to actively contribute to our community through both yachting and social events.