King George IV arriving Leith by T. Buttersworth
"Royal George" yacht belonging to the Prince Regent

The Yacht Club


The Yacht Club founded at a meeting for gentlemen interested in salt-water yachting at the Thatched House Tavern in St. James's Street, on the 1st of June 1815, offered membership to gentlemen owning a vessel not under 10 tons. The Yacht Club's 42 original members agreed to meet for dinner twice a year - once in London, the second time in Cowes. The Club brought its yachts together at Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight. Most members were regular visitors to Cowes, which was then a fashionable watering place. A plain white burgee graced the masthead of members' yachts. They also flew a plain white ensign with the union in the canton. The 1st Earl of Yarborough, Charles Anderson Pelham (1781-1846 ) became the first Commodore of the Yacht Club. Lord Yarborough was known for hosting magnificent parties aboard his yacht Falcon, at his home at Appuldurcombe or at his 'cottage' in the Undercliff.

The Prince Regent (later George IV), his brother the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) and their cousin the Duke of Gloucester (William Frederick) all enrolled as members of what was then known as 'The Yacht Club' in 1817. The Prince Regent commissioned a new yacht of the latest design and richly decorated for his club membership. The yacht built in 1817 was named "Royal George".

At sea signal flags were used to communicate between ships or ship to shore. The signals were usually simple and practical. The Yacht Club listed 3000 different signal codes in the club signal book. Including signals for "Can you lend me your band?" and "Have you any ladies on board?". Signals to shore included "One Hundred prawns, a soup tureen and three hundred oysters." These guys were having lots of fun.

In 1820, when the Prince Regent became King George IV, he bestowed a royal warrant on the club and Royal was added to the club name. Nelson's Captain at Trafalgar, Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, was an honorary member of the Yacht Club. Keen competition between Club members led to rapid improvements in yacht design. The search for ways to build faster vessels led to yachts "of suchSmall pennant signal flag celerity in sailing and beauty of construction" that they were of utility to the Royal Navy. In 1829 in recognition of the worth of the Royal Yacht Club to the Royal Navy the Admiralty issued a warrant to fly what is now the Navy's white ensign. The burgee, in compliment, is differenced with a St George's cross and crown.

In 1826, the Royal Yacht Club held the first 'Cowes Week' in the Solent Sea around the Isle of Wight off the coast of southern England. Racing also became a principal feature of the annual regatta that year with George IV offering a King's Cup. This started the annual tradition of the reigning monarch presenting a cup to the race winner. In 1828, the rule requiring a yacht on the port tack to give way to another on starboard was introduced. Lord Yarborough's Falcon led the first ocean race to Cherbourg in 1831. In 1833 the Club changed its name to the Royal Yacht Squadron by His Majesty Willaim IV's command.

Line drawing of an anchor



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