The History of Yachting/Chapter 11
EARLIEST YACHT CLUB OF GREAT BRITAIN
The Vauxhall annual cup races—The Prince of Wales, Nancy, Cumberland, Mermaid, Vixen, and other winning yachts—Bristol Sailing Society cup race of 1796; won by the Antelope—State Lottery cup, 1807; won by the Mercury—The Bellissima—The last Vauxhall cup, 1810—Cumberland Subscription cups, 1812—The Mercury champion of the Thames—Cruising in the Lower Thames—The yacht Royal Sovereign—Effort to revive the Water Club of Cork—William Fife, Clyde yacht builder—The yacht Leopard built by Lynn Ratsey, of Cowes—Thomas White, of Cowes—Earl Warwick, king of Wight—First meeting of the Yacht Club, 1815—Cowes Castle—Its priceless archives—Conclusion.
WE are indebted to the Sporting Magazine, and London newspapers of the time, for nearly all the data relating to early yacht racing on the Thames. It was at this period that public attention was first directed to yachting in England—not so much by yachtsmen, as through the exertions of those whose business it was to provide fashionable entertainments on the beautiful banks of the Thames, in the days when the Vauxhall Gardens were the gay midsummer resort of beauty and fashion. This famous pleasure ground passed away long ago, and now is but a faded memory of the past.
In the year 1786 Mr. Jonathon Tyars became the proprietor of the Vauxhall Gardens. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the gardens, he gave an annual silver cup and cover to be sailed for by the Cumberland Fleet; also a wherry to be rowed for by the Thames watermen. The first Vauxhall Cup was won by the Prince of Wales.
Because of some mistake made in carrying out the sailing directions, the match of July 19, 1787, was ordered to be re-sailed on August 3d; it was won by the Nancy, Captain Dore, the Blue Dragon being disqualified for booming out her jib.
At this time it was the custom for gentlemen owning yachts, which they intended to race, to meet at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand, and draw lots for position on the line at starting. No doubt these meetings were made the occasions of friendly and pleasant intercourse among yachtsmen and their friends, much to the satisfaction and profit of the landlord.July 14, 1789, the Vauxhall Cup was sailed for by the following yachts: Mercury, Captain Astley, 8 tons; Adventure, Captain Walmsley, 10 tons; Phœnix, Captain Parkins, 12 tons; Duke of Cumberland, Captain Loveday, 11 tons; Eolus, Captain Windle, 5 tons; Venus, Captain Grayfort, 4 tons; Eagle, Captain Grubb, 8 tons; Nancy, Captain Luson, 12 tons; Griffin, Lord Paget, 4 tons; (Cumberland, Commodore Taylor, 13 tons: entered but not intended to sail). This match was won by the Phœnix, Captain Parkins. This record is taken from Commodore Taylor's writing, and it is interesting to note that Lord Paget,—afterward Earl of
Invitation Card of the Cumberland Fleet.
July 2, 1790, the Vauxhall Cup of the year was sailed for by the following yachts: Mercury, Captain Simms, 8 tons; Adventure, Captain Paillis, 10 tons; Eclipse, Captain Astley, 17 tons; Tarter, Captain Walmsley, 12 tons; Cumberland, Commodore Taylor, 12 tons. "N. B. The Cumberland is not intended to start, but entered by her owner to establish his right to sail." This match was won by the Eclipse, Captain Astley.
In the year 1791 the Mercury, Captain Astley, won the Vauxhall Cup. While a salute was being fired at the Cumberland Gardens in honor of her victory, the gun burst and two men were killed.
October 20, 1792, a match was sailed at Plymouth, between the cutter Prince and schooner Clarence. "The course was from a buoy off the east end of St. Nicholas Island, thence round the Spell Buoy and return; the wind was blowing hard from the S. W. with a heavy sea. The vessels started at 11 A.M. the Prince taking the lead, owing to the Clarence having a reef in her fore and main sails, but as soon as the reefs were turned out, the Clarence worked out to windward of the Prince, rounded the buoy ahead and won by a considerable distance. The Prince is an excellent fine cutter, copper-bottomed and sails remarkably well: the Clarence is of a new construction and sails so well that it is supposed she is one of the finest vessels ever built." July 27, 1793, the Cumberland, Commodore Taylor, and the Eclipse, Captain Astley, sailed a match, the wager being a turtle. This match was won by the Cumberland, and thereupon the good commodore invited his captains to a turtle-feast.
In 1794 the enterprising proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens added to the attractiveness of the sailing and rowing matches, by placing on the river a float upon which was mounted a Neptune's Car drawn by tritons, containing a representation of Father Thames, attended by a variety of river gods, goddesses, and bands of music. The whole affair was propelled by some invisible means, and appears to have been an object of great wonder and admiration.
July 28th a Cowes schooner-yacht, with the owner and a party of friends on board, was captured by a French privateer named the Dagomar, and was taken into Dunkirk.
In 1795 the Vauxhall Cup was sailed for by the following yachts: Busy, Captain Pickering; Mermaid, Captain Edgeley; Kitly, Captain Richards; St. George, Captain Gunston; Vixen, Captain Fairbrother; Mercury, Captain Astley.
The yachts were started at a quarter to six in the afternoon from Blackfriars Bridge. A fresh breeze having been blowing from the westward, several of the boats had taken in reefs; but the Mercury carried all sail, and led the fleet four minutes at Westminster Bridge. Between Westminster and Vauxhall the Mercury and Vixen fouled, and a miniature naval combat ensued. To simplify matters the captain of the Vixen, armed with a cutlass, slashed away at the rigging of the Mercury, and did great execution. In the meantime, the Mermaid took the lead, and arrived at the mark-boat, off Vauxhall, at a quarter past eight, winning the cup, the Mercury in a disabled condition being the fourth boat. "At night the Gardens at Vauxhall were filled with people and the cups of the preceding years were exhibited to a crowd of spectators, who were highly pleased with their evening's entertainment."
In 1796 the Vauxhall Cup was sailed for from Vauxhall Gardens to Putney Bridge by the Vixen, Captain Fairbrother, and the Mercury, Captain Astley. The wind was light, with rain showers, and the Vixen drifted past the mark-boat the winner. "The river was covered with vessels of all descriptions from barges to wherrys, and the Turkish Ambassador was in the Vauxhall cutter, and the magnificent car was exhibited on the occasion filled with musicians, and formed no less a splendid sight than an attractive entertainment."
July 21, 1796, the Bristol Sailing Society, at Kingsroad, held a match, which was sailed around the Holmes. The following boats were entered: Severn, Dispatch, Antelope, Dolphin, Experiment, Hope, Frolic, Fancy, Industry, and Chausen (a Dutch boat). They started at 8 a.m., the wind strong from the westward. "The waves were so high that only four boats could keep the sea, and the other six were obliged to run into different places for shelter. The Antelope was the first boat home, leading the Dolphin by two minutes, the Hope third, and Experiment fourth, when the first three received their respective silver cups and the Experiment a telescope."
August II, 1797, the Mercury and Providence sailed a match from Gun Wharf, Blackwall, round the Nore light-ship and return, for a wager of 40 guineas, which was won by the Mercury in twelve hours and five minutes, she leading the Providence by twenty miles.
The Vauxhall Cup for 1798, was sailed for on July 18th, by the Caroline, Active, Nymph, and Providence. There was a good breeze at starting, but it moderated to a calm and the Nymph won the prize.
July 23, 1799, a match was sailed between the Atalanta and the Ann Sarah from Cockholds Point, round a boat, moored at Coal House Point, and return. There was a good breeze and, after "a close and exciting race, the Atalanta won."In the year 1800 the Vauxhall Cup was won by the Cumberland, Captain Byrne. An engraving that appeared in the Sporting Magazine of that year, representing the yachts passing the committee boat, is here reproduced. In this year also a match was sailed on May 15th, between the Mary Ann, the Earl of Wickham's yacht, and the Earl Spencer, of Gravesend, for 50 guineas. The course was from Gravesend, round the Ouse buoy, and return, a distance of sixty miles. This match was won by the Earl Spencer, which made the distance in six hours and a half. The tide, no doubt, was
The Vauxhall Sailing-Match. 1800.
The Vauxhall Cup of 1801, which was won by the Atalanta, Captain Smith, was presented by him to be sailed for again. On July 30th, accordingly, the match took place between the following yachts: Caroline, Mercury, Experiment, Calipso, Swift, Mermaid, and Vixen. No yacht above 10 tons was allowed to sail; and after a close race between the Mercury and Mermaid, the former won.
On September 17, 1802, there was a sailing-match at Southampton, in which nineteen vessels started. The prizes appear to have been given for working vessels, and the first prize of 6 guineas was won by the Trial, John Bryer; the second prize of 3 guineas by the Two Brothers, Charles Chapman; and the third prize of 2 guineas by the Jane, John Diaper; the others were allowed 1 guinea each. "William Cooper, of the Mary Ann was very forward on the return, but instantly backed sail and stood firm to preserve three men who had capsized in a pleasure-boat, whom he succeeded in saving. The Marquis of Anspach's beautiful yacht, Mr. Fitzgeralds, etc., were loaded with ladies and gentlemen to behold the contest, together with a vast assemblage of fashionables on the beach. A band of musicians was on the Rose cutter."
July 29, 1804, there was a sailing-match on the Thames for a cup valued at 30 guineas, in which the following yachts were entered: Mercury, Captain Astley; Daphne, Captain Unwin; Mermaid, Baron Hompeck; Owner's Delight, Captain Langston; Eliza, Captain Hunter; Two Brothers, Captain Drinkald; Olive Branch, Captain Dodd; Amelia, Captain Cox. The cup was won by the Mercury.
July, 1805, the silver cup and cover given by the proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens was sailed for by the following yachts: Caroline, Captain Wyne; Daphne, Captain Unwin; Bucephalus, Captain Gunston; Mermaid, Baron Hompeck; St. George, Captain Gunston. "The ceremony commenced with a barge belonging to the Royal Exchange fire-office going down from Westminster to Black-friars Bridge at half-past five with a full band of music on board. Shortly after that two cutters belonging to the Messrs. Roberts, the boat builders, went the same route, the one having a band of music, and the other some of the principal persons concerned in the property and management of Vauxhall Gardens, the prize behind them supported by two servants in livery. At 17 minutes before six the boats set off with a light breeze nearly east, and the Daphne belonging to Mr. Unwin, formerly of the Fondroyant, took the lead almost at starting and was the first that shot Westminster Bridge. The whole fleet went up the river with the wind upon their quarter, and with flowing sail, until they came abreast of Mr. M. Coy, the shipbreaker's yard at Nine Elms. The St. George was the first that shot through Battersea Bridge, and at Wansworth the Daphne was ahead, but the Mermaid pressed so close upon her that the boom of the latter swung against the back-stays of the former. By a bold manœuver, such as naturally strikes the mind of a British sailor when he finds himself close pressed, the Daphne was then seen to bear away to leeward, in order to prevent herself from being becalmed. By this means she got into slack water, and as the tide was running down strongly she made greater headway and fell less to leeward than her competitor. On the next tack the advantage gained by this manœuver was evident, as the Daphne sailed free on a fresh tack while the others were close-hauled on the former. At half-past eight the Daphne came past Cumberland Gardens, which was full of genteel company, who had flocked there to see the spectacle, on account of the extent of the accommodation of these grounds. The Mermaid came in about five minutes after, but the whole did not reach Vauxhall stairs until after nine o'clock. The river was so completely covered with boats that it reminded one of the descriptions given of the swarm of canoes that assembled upon Captain Cook making his appearance in New South Wales."
July 21, 1806 "seven gentlemen's pleasure boats started for the annual Silver Cup and cover, the gift of the proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens. Three were as small as four tons each, three of seven tons each, and the Bellissima, belonging to Mr. Fairbrother, the sailmaker, was built to carry as much as seventeen tons. Mr. Fairbrother's skill as a sailmaker was demonstrated in the snug fit and judicious proportions of his sails; he also stood well for the signal, and had all ready, and started directly as it was given; this gave him the lead at the outset. The St. George, Captain Gunston, however was an excellent sailer, clean built and carried spanking sails, she also was steered with judgment and pressed very close upon Captain Fairbrother's quarter. The Amelia carried away her bowsprit below Westminster bridge and the others gave up before they had reached so far. The contest was then confined to so few competitors that many would have thought the attraction considerably lessened. The Duke of Manchester's cutter, however, and several other gentlemen's boats were out, and from the first to the last of the race the weather was so inviting and the craft so numerous that the Thames could be walked across at some places by stepping from boat to boat. Captain Fairbrother continued his superiority to the end and came in at half-past eight, and the St. George ten minutes later. All the most fashionable part of the company, which was very numerous, then finished the day's pleasure by going to Vauxhall Gardens."July 20, 1807, the contractors of the State Lottery gave a cup valued at £50, which was sailed for by the following yachts: Mercury, Captain Astley; Olive Branch, Captain Deacon; St. George, Captain Gunston; Daphne, Captain Bowyer. They started from Blackfriars Bridge at 5 p.m., and were
The King's Fisher. 1776.
July 27th, "The annual Silver Cup and cover given by the proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens was sailed for by the following gentlemen's pleasure boats: Mercury, 7 tons, Captain Astley; Atalanta, 7 tons, Captain Smith; Bellissima, 17 tons. Captain Fairbrother. The St. George was also entered, but withdrew. There was a stiff breeze from the southward, which occasioned the Bellissima being so much heavier than the others, to carry a great press of sail and enabled her to keep the lead the whole distance without the least chances of the others coming up. When opposite Wansworth the Atalanta declined the contest, but the Mercury persevered to the end and came in fifteen minutes after the Bellissima, which was the winning boat, and Captain Fairbrother was immediately taken into the Vauxhall cutter, and conducted to the Gardens by Mr. Barrett who presented him with a most elegant silver cup and cover valued at 30 Gns. amidst the shouts and plaudits of a vast concourse of spectators. The river displayed a scene of the utmost beauty and grandeur being covered with pleasure boats and wherries."
In 1810 the last cup given by the proprietors of the Vauxhall Gardens was sailed for and won by the St. George. In this year the Ranelagh Gardens were opened, and the proprietors presented a cup, which was won by the Sally, Captain Hammond.
July 16, 1812, the Cumberland Fleet gave two subscription cups, which were sailed for from Blackwall to Gravesend and return, and were won
by the Mercury and the Vixen. Commodore Taylor retired from yachting about this time, although the exact date does not appear.From the foregoing records it will be seen that
Cups Won by Commodore Taylor's Yachts King's
Fisher and Cumberland.
The Mercury may fairly be considered the ancient champion of the Thames; she won more matches than any other yacht of her time, and her owner, Captain Astley, appears to have been a thorough racing-yachtsman.
We have now seen yachting established on the Thames, although the events recorded are but the faint prelude to those that were to follow. In after years, the lower reaches of the river were to witness many of the most exciting and closely-contested matches ever sailed between yachts.
It should, however, be remembered that racing was but a small part of yachting in those days, and that two or three sailing-matches during the season were sufficient to afford zest to yachtsmen, and interest to the public. Commodore Taylor makes no mention of racing in his notes attached to the signals issued in 1779, and it is therefore reasonable to infer that cruising was the chief amusement of the members of the Cumberland Fleet, and that the Review of 1778, commemorated by Kitchingman, was only one of many.
It is not difficult to imagine the delightful life of yachtsmen on the Thames at that period; cruising with a few chosen friends aboard or perhaps in company with two or three yachts, getting under way in the cool, radiant dawn; the clear, silvery river flowing peacefully among green fields and meadows, the repose and fullness of the sweet English landscape, and the stately domes and spires of London bathed in the limpid atmosphere. The yachts would perhaps anchor in some picturesque bend of the river, or drift home in the lingering summer twilight, or a freshening breeze and hastening tide would urge them onward. And while we have no record of these cruises, it is certain that the river, in those days, possessed a charm all its own,—departed long ago,—a charm never to be known again.
About the year 1800, Mr. Weld,—father of Mr. Joseph Weld, owner of the celebrated cutters Arrow, Lulworth, and Alarm,—owned the cutter yacht Lulworth Castle. Little is known of this yacht beyond the fact that she used to take her station at Weymouth whenever King George III and the royal family visited that watering place on board one of the royal yachts.In 1804 the yacht Royal Sovereign was built at Deptford, and the following account of her launch appeared in the Naval Chronicle: "After a quarter before three o'clock on Saturday, May the 12th, a new Yacht, built on purpose for his Majesty, was launched from the King's dock yard at Deptford. She is a very neat but small ship. In her present trim she draws about nine feet forward and ten abaft. She is completely copper bottomed, has above that a streak of yellow and then another of blue, ornamented with medallions, representing the
His Majesty's Yacht Royal Sovereign, Launched in
the Year 1804.
The Royal Sovereign.
In 1806 an effort was made to revive the Water Club of Cork, and a meeting was called consisting of the Marquis of Thomond, Lord Kinsale, the Fitzgeralds, the Penroses, the Newenhams, the Drurys, and others, who styled themselves "Original members." There is, however, no reason to suppose that the club was reorganized in its ancient splendor, but with a view to the more useful purpose of exciting competition among the fishing and rowing boats in the cove of Cork, to which they gave annual prizes.
A gallant, but somewhat extraordinary entry, appears about this time on the books of the club, viz., "That the wives and daughters of the members of the club, be also considered members of the club, and entitled to wear their uniform."
This resolution is dated July 9, 1807; and was passed in compliment to the great interest in the proceedings of the club exhibited by the ladies in question, who, it is added, fully acknowledged the courtesy, by appearing at the club dinners in nautical costume.
In 1807 Robert Steele & Co., of Greenock, built two "customs," or "excise," yachts, the Princess of Wales, length, 45 feet 8 inches; breadth, 16 feet 10 inches; depth, 8 feet 3 inches; and the Maria built from the same moulds but one foot longer. These yachts were both cutters. Toward the end of the eighteenth century William Fife, a wheelwright of Kilbirnie, removed with his family to the pretty village of Fairlie on the Clyde. He had a son, also named William, who was attracted by the waters of the beautiful bay, and longed to navigate them. Having no boat, he set to work and built one. So well did he succeed, that she soon found a new owner; and when purchasers appeared for several more boats he constructed, he came to the conclusion that boat-building was his proper vocation. About the year 1807 he built a small yacht of 25 feet in length, called the Comet, and in 1812 the cutter yacht, Lamlash, 51 tons, owned by Mr. Hamilton of Holmhead and Captain Oswald of Scotstown.
"Ould Wull"—as William Fife was affectionately called when the years rolled on—built some of the best yachts of their day. And his son and grandson, who bear his name, have perpetuated his memory in many of the swiftest and most beautiful yachts built in the United Kingdom.
In 1807 the cutter yacht Leopard was built by Lynn Ratsey of Cowes, but her owner is not known. Mr. Michael Ratsey, grandson of her builder, says in a letter received some years ago, "I have no account of the Leopard cutter beyond the knowledge that she was built for a yacht, but for whom there is not the slightest reference." The lines of this yacht are given on page 236; and her dimensions were, length on deck, 64 feet 4 inches; length of keel, 54 feet 3 inches; beam, 19 feet; depth, 11 feet; draft, 10 feet.
In 1813 Thomas White, a native of Broadstairs, established a yacht and shipbuilding-yard at Cowes, wherein, as well as in the Ratsey yard, some of the most famous yachts of their day in England were built.
The Isle of Wight has always been a favorite resort. Indeed, it was occupied by the Romans, the interesting remains of a Roman villa having been discovered near Brading some years ago. The ornaments and household utensils found there indicate not only refinement and luxury, but also that those to whom they belonged dwelt on the island from choice rather than necessity. By the Romans the island was called Vecta, or Vectis, and in the Doomsday Book is called Wect, With. The ancient name for Cowes were Cowe, Cows, and Cow; while the Solent was known as the Solent Sea, from the Latin Solvetido, indicating a separation from the main land.
Soon after the Norman conquest King William assigned the island to a relative, William Fitzosborne, who had distinguished himself at the battle of Hastings, "to hold as freely as the Conqueror held the realm of England." After a time the island became the private property of the Kings of England, who granted it to their favorites with royal capriciousness. One of the lords, the Duke of Warwick, actually had himself crowned as King of the island, until King Henry VII. resumed the jurisdiction of the Isle of Wight. Since then it has remained a part of the dominion of the Crown.
In 1540 two forts, or castles, were built on the Eylle of Wyght, as it was then called, one on each side of the entrance to the river Medina, for the defense of the port of Cowe. The eastern one long ago disappeared; hence, a map published in 1610 makes no reference to it. But the west castle still stands, having also been extensively renovated and improved—the present home of the Royal Yacht Squadron.
In 1588 Queen Elizabeth caused a "pleasure ship" to be built at Cowes. This craft was called the Rat of Wight. She was 80 tons burden, and carried a crew of seventy men, under the command of Gilbert Lea. She was also one of the volunteer fleet of Lord Charles Howard, which defeated the Spanish Armada, and was preserved for many years at Chatham, "the same plate being in use on board of her to a very late date."
In the middle and latter part of the eighteenth century the dockyard at Cowes turned out many excellent ships of war; the Astrea, 34 guns; Salisbury, 50; Repulse, 64; Veteran, 64; and Vanguard, 74; besides a large number of smaller vessels. From its situation, in the old days of sailing ships, it became a port of call, "Cowes and a market" being a familiar expression in bills of lading and charter parties.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Cowes became a resort for yachtsmen, and in 1809 Sir William Curtis, owner of the cutter yacht Rebecca Maria, 76 tons, and one of the original members of The Yacht Club, asked permission to join the squadron of his Majesty's fleet, to which Mr. Percival, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, replied that as a friend he did not like to refuse Sir William's request, but in his official capacity he could not write to the Admiralty upon this subject unless Sir William would agree to put his yacht under their orders. This condition was at once accepted.
For some years prior to the establishment of The Yacht Club, yachtsmen were in the habit of dining together at Cowes, and amusing themselves in various ways. It is recorded that in July, 1800, a rowing-match took place from the gunboat in Cowes roads round the white buoy on the Brambles and back, for a purse of 30 guineas, the Fountain against the Vine, won by the latter. On the following day they rowed again, the Fountain being manned by four tailors and the Vine by four shoemakers. The Vine again proved successful. A running-match also took place from Castle Hill to Egypt Gate, between a lame shoemaker and a lame tailor, each carrying a crutch. The match was won by the tailor. The exact year in which The Yacht Club was founded is uncertain. Its seal bears the date of 1812, but the first recorded meeting of the club was held at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's Street, London, on June 1, 1815. The following noblemen and gentlemen were present, or were represented:
Earl of Uxbridge, afterward 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Cutter Liberty, 42 tons; Viscount Ashbrook; Charles Aylmer, Cutter Maria Ann, 34 tons; William Baring, Cutter Sylph, 52 tons; Earl of Belmore, Brig Osprey, 224 tons; B. P. Blackford, Sybil; Marquis of Buckingham, Schooner Fly, 73, tons; Captain Frederick Buckeley, Cutter Phaedria, 18 tons; Lord Cowdor; S. Challen, Yawl Eliza, 44 tons; Viscount Deerhurst, afterward Earl of Coventry, Schooner Mary, 75 tons; Earl of Craven, Ship Louisa, 325 tons; Sir William Curtis, Bart., Cutter Rebecca Maria, 76 tons; Right Honorable Lord Grantham, afterward Earl De Gray, Cutter Mermaid, 21 tons; J. N. Fazakerley. Cutter Cygnet, 57 tons; John Fitzgerald, Cutter Atalanta, 116 tons; Charles Grant; Thomas Hallifax, Cutter Alfred, 46 tons; Honorable William Hare, Cutter Adelaide; H. A. Herbert, Cutter Coquette, 18 tons; Sir J. C. Hippersley, Bart, Cutter Polley, 25 tons; Viscount Kirkwell, Cutter Lively, 30 tons; Thomas Lewin, Cutter Halcyon, 42 tons; John Lindegren, Cutter Dove, 55 tons; Lloyd of Marle; Viscount Fitzharris, afterward Earl of Malmesbury, Cutter Medina, 70 tons; Rev. C. A. North, Cutter Lord Nelson, 75 tons; Lord Nugent, Schooner Flying Fish, 74 tons; Honorable C. A. Pelham, afterward 1st Earl of Yarborough, Brig Falcon, 150 tons; Lord Ponsonby, Schooner Fanny, 21 tons; Sir R. Puleston, Bart.; Cutter Kingfisher, 20 tons; Harry Scott; T. Assheton Smith, Cutter Elizabeth, 66 tons; Sir G. Thomas, Bart., Yawl Elizabeth, 19 tons; Marquis of Thomond, Schooner Rostellan, 60 tons; Sir Godfrey Webster, Bart.; Joseph Weld, Cutter Charlotte, 60 tons; James Weld, Cutter Pylewell, 26 tons; Owen Williams, Cutter Blue Eyed Maid, 39 tons.
Lord Grantham presided at this meeting. It was decided that in future the qualification to become a member should be the ownership of a yacht not under 10 tons, and an entrance fee of £2.2. The distinguishing flags adopted by the Club were a white ensign with the Union Jack in the corner, and a plain white burgee at the mast head.
The formation of The Yacht Club marked a new era in yachting history, for until then the word "yacht" had never been used in connection with a club or its vessels. Probably no club has ever been founded with a more distinguished membership, and certainly no club has kept to its traditions more faithfully.
Some years elapsed, after The Yacht Club was established, before racing or its annual regatta became features of yachting at Cowes. The yachts composing its fleet were fine sea-going vessels, built, rigged, and manned in imitation of vessels of a similar class in the Royal Navy, and were often commanded by Naval officers on leave of absence. Speed was regarded as of less importance than good seamanship at the reviews of the fleet, which were occasionally held in the Solent, or, keeping the decks, guns, spars, and rigging in shipshape and man-of-war fashion. These yachts were the floating summer homes of their owners, who were frequently accompanied by their families, while the pleasant life on board was conducted with the decorum, refinement, and comfort of an English home.
In 1820 the name of the Club was changed to the Royal Yacht Club, and in 1821 the colors were changed to a red ensign with the letters R. Y. C. and a crown and foul anchor, also a red burgee. In 1826 the subscription was increased to £8, with an entrance fee of; £10. The tonnage limit was also increased to 30 tons.
In 1829 the Lords of the Admiralty issued warrants for yachts of the Royal Yacht Club to carry the St. George's ensign, a white burgee with a red cross and yellow crown in the centre, was accordingly adopted, and these are still the colors of the Club. In 1833 the name was again changed to the Royal Yacht Squadron.
It is a singular fact, that for the first ten years of its existence, the Club had no flag officers, and it was not until 1825 that Lord Yarborough became the first Commodore, and so continued until his death in 1846.The first Club house was at West Cowes, now the Gloster Hotel. In 1801 an engraving of
Cowes Castle. 1801.
I have endeavored to trace the origin and first era of the development of yachts and yachting from the year 1600 until the establishment of Yacht Club, in 1815, and have thus brought this history within the majestic portal of the nineteenth century, with its steadfast endeavor and brilliant achievement in all branches of knowledge, while yachts and yachting have also steadily advanced with scientific discovery and the accumulation of wealth.