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. 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 any gentleman or lady, “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 started 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.
Today, the Royal Yacht Squadron remains one of the most preeminent yacht clubs in the world after celebrating its bicentenary in 2015. The clubhouse is located in Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, the club’s patron is Queen Elizabeth II and the club’s Admiral is Prince Philip.