Robert Crown Sailing Center
The sailing program at the Naval Academy is headquartered in the Robert Crown Center which was dedicated in the spring of 1974 and named in honor of the late Captain Robert Crown. However, the sailing facilities have not always been on such solid ground. The Midshipmen Boat Club, established in 1936, had little more than a handful of boat slips in the Santee Basin and temporary headquarters aboard the Reina Mercedes.
The Reina Mercedes, a Spanish naval ship captured during the Spanish-American War, was permanently moored to the Santee Wharf and served as quarters for many of the enlisted personnel who were assigned to the Naval Academy and for the ship's commanding officer, who was responsible for all waterfront activity. Repair and maintenance of the sailboats was handled by navy yards and local boat yards up until World War II.
The war placed an overload on these repair facilities which were busy with wartime construction. The Naval Academy was forced to become self-supporting in order to maintain its sailing program. The North Severn boat basin and boat repair shops were built in 1943 to meet the demands of the growing sailing team.
In 1957, the sailing program lost the services of the Reina Mercedes station ship when she was decommissioned and sold for scrap. As substitute headquarters, a small one story building was constructed on Santee Pier. The need to replace this flimsy temporary building was clearly demonstrated when a poorly handled visiting sloop poked its bowsprit through an outboard wall directly above one of the secretary's desks.
In 1971, Vice Admiral Calvert, then Superintendent of the Naval Academy, took on the task of raising the funds to build a suitable headquarters for Navy sailing. The family of the late Captain Robert Crown gave a generous donation for the construction of the new sailing center.
The Robert Crown Center was renovated and expanded in 2003. Much of this history was found in Sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy by Rear Admiral Robert W. McNitt, USN (Ret.), published by the Naval Institute Press. Admiral McNitt's book offers a complete history of sailing at the Academy.