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Royal Yacht Squadron

Royal Yacht Squadron
Short name RYS
Founded June 1, 1815 (1815-06-01)
Location Cowes Castle, Isle of Wight
Commodore Christopher Sharples

The Royal Yacht Squadron is one of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world. Its clubhouse is Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom. Member yachts are given the Suffix RYS to their names, and permitted to fly the White Ensign of the Royal Navy[1] rather than the merchant Red Ensign flown by the majority of other UK registered vessels. The club's patron is Queen Elizabeth II and the club's admiral is Prince Philip who is also a former club commodore.


  • History 1
  • Racing 2
  • The Pavilion 3
  • Notable members 4
  • Further reading 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Founded on 1 June 1815 in the Thatched House Tavern in St James's, London as The Yacht Club by 42 gentlemen interested in sea yachting,[2] the original members decided to meet in London and in Cowes twice a year, to discuss yachting over dinner. Membership was restricted to those who owned a vessel not under 10 tons. Today this is interpreted as a gentleman "actively interested in yachting".[1]

The George IV, it was renamed the Royal Yacht Club.

The club started organising racing as a principal feature of the annual regatta, which is now known as America concerning the first sailing of the America's Cup, 1851 wrote 'The Royal Yacht Club—In a fix' (tune). "Come listen to my ditty, and a song to you I'll sing..."[3]

Another naval connection is that the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. To enable the application of naval discipline on board a civilian ship, he registered the Terra Nova R.Y.S. as a yacht of the squadron and sailed under the White Ensign on his second and final expedition to Antarctica in 1910.

Recently, Royal Yacht Squadron allowed full membership to women, which had been restricted since its foundation.


Genesta (1885), the club's first challenger for the America's Cup

In 1851, the club's commodore, visiting the Great Exhibition, issued a challenge for the squadron's £100 Cup for a race around the island. The New York City–based America, representing the New York Yacht Club, triumphed in this race, giving its name to one of the oldest and best-known trophies: the America's Cup. The victory was witnessed by Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, later commodore of the club and Edward VII.

The site is also used as the start of the Round the Island Race which occurs annually.

During the American Civil War Deerhound RYS witnessed the fight between USS Kearsarge and the Confederate cruiser CSS Alabama. Gazelle RYS rescued the Empress Eugenie at the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the squadron yachts supplied British soldiers in the Crimean War.

The German Kaiser brought the 1887 America's Cup challenger Thistle, to Cowes in 1892 which encouraged the Prince of Wales to build Britannia, one of the most successful racing yachts of all time.

The Pavilion

The Pavilion, designed by Sir Thomas Croft, was opened in 2000. This elegant creation provides on shore facilities for yachtsmen and their families while allowing the castle to retain its 'country house' ambiance. The Pavilion also enabled the squadron to cross burgees with the New York Yacht Club in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the schooner America’s famous victory of 1851.

The Bronze Mermaid by Jonathan Wylder on the breakwater of the RYS Haven, which was modelled on Sharron Davies

Notable members

To view a list of notable members, see List of Royal Yacht Squadron members.

Further reading

  • Montague Guest and William B. Boulton, Memorials of the Royal Yacht Squadron, John Murray, 1902
  • Ian Dear, The Royal Yacht Squadron, 1815–1985, Stanley Paul, 1985
  • R.T. Pritchett (1894). "The Royal Yacht Squadron and The History of the Royal Cups". Yachting Volume II (PDF). Longmans, Green & Co, London. pp. 9–20. 
  • Julian Reid, "Original Members of The Yacht Club" 2015 Tracing the early evolution of Cowes as Britain's premier yachting haven, commentary on The Great Exhibition Round the Island Race of 1851, subsequently to become known as The America's Cup, and miscellanea on the original 42 members of the Club. Well illustrated with some 160+ images.


  1. ^ a b Overview: The Royal Yacht Squadron
  2. ^ British Attractions – Royal Yacht Squadron – Outdoor Venue
  3. ^ 'The Royal Yacht Club—In a fix.'(United States : s.n., 1851)

External links

  • Official website
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