GBCA is a non-profit organization that strives to put on quality yacht racing events at a minimum cost. Annual dues are enough to cover the Club's overhead, newsletter and mailing expenses. Nominal race entry fees are charged to cover the cost of trophies and event socials. In order to keep costs low, GBCA relies a great deal on volunteer efforts by the membership. Volunteer requirements include legal and technical advice, race and protest committee members, event chairpersons, newsletter articles, and help with social events
GBCA traces its origin back to 1947 when a small group of sailboat racing enthusiasts informally organized the Club. From that modest beginning, GBCA has grown to a current membership of about 150 members.
That first year, a fleet of six Stout Fellas plus an assortment of four or five other cruising yachts was known as the Stout Fella Organization of Galveston Bay. Races were held on the bay under the direction of the unofficial Commodore and founding father, Bud Smith. The Club was started, existed, and prospered as a letterhead organization without elected officers, bylaws, dues or a home. The Club was founded because owners of various makes of boats wanted to race.
In the beginning, the fleet was divided into three classes: one for racing hulls, one for cruising hulls, and one for boats that did not fit either of these classes. Since that time, rating systems and classes have changed, but the Club still holds true to its original concept of promoting the racing of sailboats as economically as possible, without being encumbered by real estate and high dues.
In 1948, the group adopted the present name, Galveston Bay Cruising Association. The Club was formally organized in 1954 with elected officers, bylaws, and handicap classes. In 1975, it was incorporated as a non-profit organization. GBCA has been one of the leading sailing clubs in Texas and has been a member of the Texas Sailing Association since its organization in 1952 and the US Sailing Association (formerly the United States Yacht Racing Union.)
In 1972, GBCA leased a clubhouse, located in the Seabrook Shipyard, to be used as a headquarters for the Club. In 1979, the Club installed a telephone with an answering recorder and obtained a part-time administrative assistant. After 16 years the Club finally outgrew the Little Yellow Clubhouse at Seabrook and on January 1, 1987 the Club moved to a new home at Watergate Yachting Center. Ten years later, in response to increasing costs at Watergate, GBCA moved back to the (now blue) clubhouse at Seabrook Shipyard.
Bay racing has evolved over the years, using different handicap rules (e.g., TIRC, IOR, MORC, PHRF, IMS) and boat types (e.g., racing cruising, multi-hull, one-design.) In the beginning, the Club held regular bay races in the spring and fall on a triangular course as well as specialty races such as the Double Bayou Race and a race to Ving-et-un Island. The Allied Banks Performance Cup Regatta (now known as the Bank Regatta) premiered in 1984. In 1988 GBCA and the Houston Yacht Club combined efforts and resources to jointly sponsor the Galveston Bay Spring and Fall Series. Another GBCA event currently being run in the Frostbite Regatta.
Specialty races currently sponsored by GBCA now include the Bay Singlehand, Women's Series, and the Mixed Doubles. GBCA also, sponsors two more relaxed racing series, the Friday evening (now Saturday) TGIF Series and, starting in 1984, the Icicle Series. These last two events are sailed without a Race Committee using a staggered starting sequence that relies on the honor system. They are excellent races for the beginner to sharpen skills or the regular racer to relax a little. The 1978 Ladies event was a milestone in that it was the first time an all-female crew participated. Ladies Day was expanded to a weekend series in 1979, and the name was changed to the Women's Series in 1987.
Gulf racing participation began in 1948 when Dr. Walter Lipscomb's Ragamuffin put the name of GBCA on the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce's annual Gulf Race perpetual trophy. This race, which was originated in 1931, was run from 1951 to 1980. In 1950 the first Freeport Race was held and in 1952, the Heald Bank Race was added. With an increase in ocean racing participation, the Sabine Race was added to the schedule.
In order to crown the top ocean-racing skipper, The Texas Ocean Racing Circuit (TORC) was inaugurated in 1963. Over the years the circuit has changed to some degree. The 1985 season included: The Lipton Cup, Constellation Cup, Bridge Harbor (Freeport) Race, Distance Race, The Gold Cup, Moreland Cup, and the Finale Race. In 1988, the TORC was sponsored by five clubs; Bridge Harbor Yacht Club, Galveston Yacht Club, Houston Yacht Club, Lakewood Yacht Club, and GBCA. Ten offshore racing events were held in 1988, but yachts only had to sail in six of them to qualify for the overall.