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Yacht Club will rebuild its clubhouse

The "Sailingest Club in the South" will soon become the newest one.

The Davis Island Yacht Club is tearing down its old clubhouse and replacing it with a larger, more modern building with even better views of Hillsborough Bay and downtown Tampa.

The club's temporary offices arrive late next week and will go up west of the swimming pool on the tip of the property. Construction on the new clubhouse starts in May and should take about eight months.

Club leaders can't wait.

"It's been long overdue," said John Rabbitt, the club's flag secretary and 10-year member. "Everything's going to improve."

The clubhouse dates to 1956 and has been modified over the years to suit the needs of 500 members. It still operates on a septic tank and needs extensive repairs. Its most annoying feature: a floor that slants because the wood foundation rotted.

"It's noticeable. The whole west side is a sliding glass door and they don't slide anymore," said Ed Ruark, the club commodore.

Members began pursuing the clubhouse project more than a year ago. They wanted more space without losing the private club's salty, homey charm.

The project will increase the club to about 7,600 square feet, compared with the existing 4,200. It will have two stories _ instead of one _ with the dining room, bar and kitchen on the second floor, and sailing classrooms and a room for protesting race results on the ground level.

In keeping with the Florida cracker theme, the building will feature a pitched metal roof with wide porches on three sides and a covered pavilion for watching regattas and relaxing. The pool will stay intact.

Members agreed in January to a 30-percent dues increase to pay the bulk of the $1.2-million project. Private donations and naming rights on plaques and chairs will cover the rest.

At some members' requests, the club will keep its wooden tables, trophy cases and light fixtures, and line the walls with cypress and cedar paneling from the old building.

The improvements mark the most significant for the club in decades. Founded in 1933, the group last year spent about $210,000 on dock work and a new boat hoist.

The club attracts sailing teams from around the world. It rents its site on the south end of Davis Islands from the city for $1 a year in exchange for offering free sailing outings to the public.

_ Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or