Royal Yacht Squadron

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The Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes Castle)
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Royal Yacht Squadron Burgee

The Royal Yacht Squadron is considered by many people to be the world’s most prestigious yacht club located on the coast at 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 rather than the merchant Red Ensign flown by the majority of other UK registered vessels

Founded as The Yacht Club in the Thatched House Tavern in St James’s, on the 1st of June 1815, the qualification entitling a gentleman to become a member was the ownership of a vessel not under 10 tons. Today this is interpreted as a gentleman “actively interested in yachting”.

The Earl of Yarborough, later first Commodore of the Yacht Club, welcomed the Prince Regent as a member in 1817. In 1820, when the Prince Regent became George IV It was renamed the Royal Yacht Club. The Club took to organising racing as a principal feature of the annual regatta, which is now known as Cowes Week In 1833 William IV renamed the club, The Royal Yacht Squadron

Its association with the Royal Navy began early and Nelson’s Captain at Trafalgar, Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, headed the list of Naval members. The spirit of invention led to yachts “of such celerity in sailing and beauty of construction” that they were of utility to the Royal Navy. In 1829 the Admiralty issued a warrant to wear what is now the navy’s White Ensign. The burgee (a triangular shaped flag identifying yacht club membership) is differenced with a St George’s cross and crown on a white background

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 based ‘’America’’ 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.

During the American Civil War Deerhound RYS witnessed the fight between USS Kearsage and the Confederate cruiser 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 ex-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 its time.

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 club's patron is Queen Elizabeth II and the club’s Admiral is Prince Philip who is also a former club Commodore.

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