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Sinking a Slur: A Charlotte Yacht Club Rebrands

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Published July 7, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated July 9, 2021 at 10:05 a.m.


The Pathfinder sailing on Lake Champlain - COURTESY OF WENDY FRIANT
  • Courtesy Of Wendy Friant
  • The Pathfinder sailing on Lake Champlain

A Charlotte-based boat association has thrown its old name overboard.

Known for 40 years as the Royal Savage Yacht Club, the nonprofit org is now the Diamond Island Yacht Club.

The former name was in honor of a 50-foot schooner that sailed in the Revolutionary War. Originally built by the British, the Royal Savage was captured by the Americans and became Benedict Arnold's flagship on Lake Champlain. But the British burned it during the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776.

Though an important historical ship, its name was a reference to the Native Americans who fought with the British against the colonists. The yacht club's name fell out of favor this past winter when younger members — and even nonmembers — started asking about its origin, said Will Patten, the commodore of the club's board.

"The board basically came to the conclusion that if we really believe in the idea that all people are created equal, then the institutional slurs have to stop," Patten said. "What we were was an institutional slur. It's not right."

The eight-member board voted unanimously in March to drop the name, and in June the group officially unveiled its new name and logo. It's a nod to a small land mass in the middle of Lake Champlain that's located a couple miles south of the club's headquarters at Point Bay Marina.

"We use it for the southern terminus of a lot of our races," Patten said. "It has a navigation beacon, so it's helpful that way. It has a weather station, so it gives us weather data all the time. And we see it whenever we're sailing out of town for the day, so it's very close to who we are."

The change comes as institutions and organizations nationwide rethink their offensive names. Locally, South Burlington High School dropped its Rebels nickname over its Confederate association. And in Rutland, the community is debating its Raiders mascot, another reference to Native Americans.

Patten said his group saw the change as a no-brainer. If the name had denigrated a different community, he noted, "the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants would bitch really loud."