If you wanted an individual to plan and execute a sailing event, you turned to Jack Kelley. He had some limited cruising experience, when, in 1971, he bought his first sailboat, an Alberg Typhoon keelboat. He later bought a Pearson Triton and ventured into offshore racing – sailing the Triton in the 1981 William Tripp Memorial Race, now known as the Tripp Cup. His earlier training was demonstrated as he won his division and placed 2nd overall in this major East Coast of Lake Michigan event which went from Muskegon, MI, to Milwaukee, WI.
Jack recognized that the sport of sailing was only as good as those who gave back to it, so he became deeply involved and has continued to serve up to this day. When Grand River Sailing Club was founded in 1981, Jack joined and immediately began his service by serving on the committee which created the By Laws for GRSC. His work was recognized when he was elected commodore in 1984. Jack convinced the sponsors of the Queen’s Cup, South Shore Yacht Club of Milwaukee, WI, to finish their classic race in Grand Haven in 1984 which continued until 1990. Jack interested Grand Haven businesses in sponsoring sailing events of GRSC. He established the Midwinter Sailing Seminars at GRSC obtaining speaker services of Gary Jobson, Buddy Melges, John Rousmaniere, Bill Gladstone, Gary Hoyt and other notables.
In 1987, Jack established the 8+8 Rally. This event attracted new members for the club and convinced cruising type sailors to participate. The idea is to sail 8 miles on a beam reach course out into Lake Michigan, round a mark boat (which took many photos) and sail back on a reach to the finish off Grand Haven. The 8+8 Rally completed its 25 anniversary race in 2012. He realized early on that fun sailing sustains. Other yacht clubs have adopted this scheme in their sailing programs.
Not resting on his laurels, in 1989, Jack proposed to the club that it sponsor the Rubber Duck Race for the Hospice of North Ottawa Community Organization. Due to a very early sailing date and few boats in the water, the concept of the plastic objects replacing the big boats worked. Jack chaired this event for 20 years with GRSC and during that time over $600,000 was raised.
Jack has recognized that we all need to be replaced as age makes its claim. In this regard for the past ten years Jack has actively supported the GRSC youth sailing program with both financial donations and boat giving, an inflatable with motor.
Believing that the sport of sailing is not exclusive, he has provided assistance to the GRSC women’s sailing program. These gals are called the Winches.
Jack received the US Sailing Sportsmanship Award in both 1993 and 2009.
He has served on practically every committee of the GRSC and has been honored in many of these years with awards for his service. His sail racing success is shown by the number of trophies he has accumulated in the Queen’s Cup, Chicago to Mackinac Race, Tripp Cup, Anchorage Cup, LMSRF Offshore Championship and a great number from the locally sponsored club races. In 2011, Jack sailed from the Caribbean to Spain, where Jack and His wife Joanne celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. At age 80 (born November 2, 1932), he races his Alerion Express 28 single and double handed and full crewed depending upon the event. All of his boats have been called C. C. Rider.
His contributions to the sport of sail racing are recognized and it is with pleasure that Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation inducts Jack Kelley into the Lake Michigan Sailing Hall Of Fame.