Marge Musick, an effervescent white-haired grandmother, has done just about everything since joining the Westlake Yacht Club, from timing regattas to barbecuing chicken. What she hasn't gotten around to is sailing, but that didn't stop the members from electing her the first woman commodore in the club's 19-year history.
Right now she's conducting a tour of the clubhouse, a massive rotunda in Westlake Village that once housed a sailboat sales office. When Musick gets to an oak trophy case, she stops and gazes up at a bank of flagpoles protruding from a wall. Hanging limply are dozens of colorful, emblematic pennants representing famous yacht clubs.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday August 12, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
In an article on the Westlake Yacht Club that appeared Aug. 8, The Times incorrectly reported that the club's first commodore, Dick Bear, is deceased. Bear, 60, lives in Westlake Village.
In the middle of the cluster is the red, white and blue pennant of the distinguished San Diego Yacht Club, current home of the America's Cup and the celebrated Dennis Conner, who goes to sea on vessels as large as apartment buildings. Next to the San Diego pennant is the red, white and blue standard of the Westlake Yacht Club, where members are limited to dinghies no larger than 15 feet on their 150-acre man-made lake.
'We've Earned Our Place'
What's this? Landlocked dinghy sailors flying their colors with yachting's elite? Have they gone off the deep end?
"Oh, no, no," Musick says. "We've earned our place among the best. Our pennant hangs in their clubs, too."
Westlake Yacht Club, a big fish with a small pond.
In the sport of sailing, clubs aren't judged on size, money and location but on regional involvement, youth development programs and worldwide racing success. On that basis, "Westlake ranks right up there," says Jim Clark, secretary of the Southern California Yachting Assn., to which Westlake and 83 other clubs belong. "Their youth program alone," he says, has no peer except "maybe for San Diego's."
The club--with 225 memberships--has been the breeding ground for dozens of international and national dinghy champions who learned sailing on the narrow, mile-long lake and won most of their titles on the ocean.
"And don't forget the girls," Musick says.
Going to Olympics
The girls are Allison Jolly of Valencia and her crew--Lynne Jewell. Jolly, a Westlake member, and Jewell, who sailed on the lake as a child, will be going to Seoul, South Korea, for the Olympics--which is allowing women sailors to compete for the first time. The historical footnote makes great cocktail party conversation for club members, who can also take pride in having raised about $5,000 for the women by selling drinking glasses, T-shirts and autographed prints.
"But it's not enough," Musick says almost apologetically. "The Olympic campaign has been very expensive for the girls, but they have never swerved."
Musick heads for the stairs and begins trudging upward in the 30-foot-high room. "We take a lot of steps and then we get to a BIG door," she says, puffing. After passing a "Race Committee Only" sign, she reaches a large trapdoor leading to the roof. "One of the most important things I learned when I became commodore," she says, "was how to open this door." Heaving, she pushes it up slowly and then walks outside to a wooden observation tower.
From her perch, she has an unobstructed 360-degree view. To the west, the Santa Monica Mountains roll down to the shore. The lake--which straddles the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties--is the nucleus of a Spanish-style residential development and a marina with retail stores and offices. Nine miles of shoreline include graceful willows and slivers of inlets with small docks attached to homeowners' front yards. Some houses stand on a long, narrow island that is joined to the mainland by a bridge.
Looking down, Musick can see couples picnicking beside the club's 40-foot crow's nest, a local landmark. Next door in the glass atrium at Boccaccio's restaurant, diners are served duck terrine with pistachio by tuxedoed waiters. Directly in front of the club is a part of the lake called Greenwich Bay. Because the island divides the lake into two river-like channels, the bay is the largest stretch of open water, making it a natural setting for the club's regattas.
"We run the regattas up here on the tower," more than 20 a year, she says, then sighs. "You'd think, with all the interest in racing because of the America's Cup we'd have an increase in participation, but it's actually down in recent years. As a rule we have only 10 or 20 boats in a regatta now."
Musick looks toward the dock, drawn by a commotion. The club's nine Sabots--8-foot sailboats--are being readied by youngsters noisy with anticipation. Wearing orange life preservers, they're taking lessons from Christian VandenBerg, a 21-year-old member and the club's Junior Skipper of the Year. In a few minutes, bowed sails are propelling the tiny boats across the flat surface.