Royal Yacht Squadron Marks Two Centuries

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The three Js made for a magnificent sight racing down the Solent

The three Js made for a magnificent sight racing down the Solent

Known as simply “The Yacht Club” when it was founded on June 1, 1815, on St. James Street in London, the Royal Yacht Squadron became “Royal” when its member George IV ascended the throne in 1820. Throughout its history, it has been instrumental in helping to establish the modern sport of sailing via its role in developing various rating rules, founding such iconic events as Cowes Week and, of course, serving as the host for a race around the Isle of Wight that served to kick off what eventually evolved into the America’s Cup series.

This past July, the club marked its 200th birthday with a special five-day invitational regatta sailed on the Solent, just off its historic clubhouse in Cowes, also known as the “The Castle.” (see below)

Althought the three-boat J Class, featuring Lionheart, Velsheda and Ranger, stole much of the limelight, the fleet boasted a wide variety of boats: ranging from the 160ft schooner Eleonara to the S&S-built Dorade, a section of one-design Beneteau F40s and a dozen J/70s, the latter mixing things up in a team-racing format.

The courses sailed were equally varied, including a race around the Isle of Wight and a series of buoy races, which in combination with the boats taking part, made for an apt tribute to an organization that was truly there at the genesis of yacht racing as we now know it. For complete results, visit


The “Castle” at Cowes

Arguably the most iconic yachting clubhouse in the world, the Royal Yacht Squadron’s “Castle” on the edge of Cowes on the Isle of Wight began life in the early 1500s as part of a chain of coastal defenses built by Henry VIII. During the Napoleonic Wars it boasted no fewer than 11 nine-pounder cannon. Decommissioned in 1855, the building was leased soon afterward to the RYS, which moved in in 1858. Despite a number of alterations over the years, the building’s original round tower is still in evidence.
Despite the club’s exclusivity—women were only admitted in 2013—the walkway out front is open to the public, making it very much a part of the Cowes scene. This walkway also serves as the rampart upon which the club’s 22 miniature bronze cannon are mounted and fired to signal the starts of races beginning alongside the club.

For more racing results, visit SAIL's racing page here.

Photos courtesy of Billy Black

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