The genesis of the Essex Yacht Club can be found in the Inaugural Eastern Frostbite Dinghy Regatta held on March 4 and 5, 1933 with racing off the old Steamboat Dock. Frostbiting had begun a year earlier on Manhasset Bay, Long Island, giving dinghy sailing a tremendous boost. When a neutral meeting ground was required for rival frostbite fleets, Walter Rowe organized a regatta at Essex. On March 4, 1933 a fleet of 23 Class A and B boats, assembled from the New England and New York frostbiting ports, sailed in the competition off the old Steamboat Dock. The dinghies were manned by some of the most illustrious yachtsmen of the Great Depression including George Ratsey, Corny Shields, Alan and Ted Clark, Arthur Knapp, Sherry Fahnestock, Sam Wetherill, Lorna Whittlesey, John Alden, Eleanor Wood, Bob Bavier, and Bill Dyer. The town of Essex enthusiastically supported this first regatta and superb still pictures of the event by Lank Ford hang in the Clubhouse.
Interest in dinghy sailing continued to grow and by the time spring arrived a cruising headquarters in Essex was needed. Walter Rowe called organizational meetings on May 20 and 27, 1933 where a constitution, bylaws and burgee were adopted. Rowe was elected Commodore, Hervey Stockder was chosen Rear Commodore, Dyke Wetmore was made Treasurer and the Reverend Bert Chandler, Secretary. The Club leased the Steamboat Dock and was officially commissioned on June 17, 1933. Active membership stood at 60 and annual dues were $10 for residents. In November, the second Frostbite Regatta was held, this time under the Essex Yacht Club burgee; 46 boats attended, a record for those times, with Sam Wetherill the winner of the Roosevelt Trophy. The Essex Yacht Club was undoubtedly the first, if not the only, yacht club inspired and founded on frostbite dinghy sailing.