A Yacht Club, known as the Sarasota Yacht Club, was organized in the summer of 1907 and located on the north end of Siesta Key. The Club became dormant during the depression years of 1908 to 1910 but was revived and incorporated in December, 1911 mainly through the efforts of Sarasota Mayor Harry L. Higel, who was instrumental in forming the first club.
In 1913 the Club purchased a tract of land on Gulfstream Avenue in downtown Sarasota, and erected a large clubhouse which soon became known as the center of social life in Sarasota. The Club changed its name to the Sarasota Yacht Club and Automobile Club and remained very active until 1917 when John Ringling purchased the property along with Golden Gate Point, Bird, Coon and St. Armands Keys. During World War I the Club headquartered the Sarasota Naval Militia.
The present Sarasota Yacht Club was incorporated June 21, 1926 by the prior club's sailing members who had moved to Christy Payne's Boathouse on Gulfstream Avenue. The automobile branch of the club was not continued. Later, a clubhouse was maintained on Sarasota Municipal Pier from which members sailed their "Fish Class" fleet, winning numerous championship trophies including the 1933 Florida West Coast Fleet Championship. For many years, this fleet participated in inter-club competition, some as far away as Houston, Texas. The Club was also active in power boating and sponsored the American Power Boat Association Regattas as early as 1928.
In 1940, land on Coon Key, on which the present clubhouse is situated, was donated to the Sarasota Yacht Club in a Deed from the Ringling interests executed by Vice President Henry Ringling North. This "Deed of Trust" contained a clause whereby the property was to revert to the grantors, the St. Armands-Lido Realty Corporation, if the property ever ceased to be used as a "Yacht Club". James A. Haley, then President of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and Secretary of the Sarasota Yacht Club, was almost solely responsible for this transaction. A sail loft, clubhouse and piers were built on the new site, which was later conveyed outright to the Club by the Arvida Corporation when it acquired many of the Ringling properties.
The United States government leased the Club property in 1943 for the duration of the war plus six months for use as an Air Force Crash Boat Rescue Base. The club regained control of its property in January 1946 with the payment of $100.00 to the United States government for improvements made to the site, mainly two barracks buildings, which served as a clubhouse for many years. During the war period the membership declined to 66 regular members. This membership in April 1946 revised many of the bylaws giving the Club a firm base upon which it has grown to its present size. A new clubhouse was built in 1958 with restructuring additions in 1963, 1971 and 1978. Other key dates include 1962, when additional land was purchased for club expansion, 1977, when the Club's mortgage was burned, 1991, when new docks were built, and 1998, when the new Porthole Lounge & Grille was constructed.
In 2002 the Club initiated a major expansion and modernization of its marina. SYC established its position as the premier yacht club in the Sarasota area with the completion of dock extensions and electrical upgrades along with the addition of a pump-out station, new fuel and fire lines and new security lighting.