“History is more or less bunk. It’s
tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and
the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we
|So said Henry Ford, but
whether we agree with him or not, it is a fact that the uncertainties
and vicissitudes of life demand that we concentrate on peering into the
future rather than over our shoulders into the past. Clubs are no
exception, but perhaps, after 175 years, our Members can justify the
indulgence of nostalgia. That apart, as most yachtsmen have learned,
often expensively, there is value in a glance astern.
|When our club came into
existence in 1837 it was called the Royal Southampton Yacht Club. It was
‘established by a party of gentlemen, at a meeting convened for the
purpose of ascertaining if the formation of a yacht club in this
beautiful and important town would be desirable and what amount of
support it would be likely to receive from the resident gentry, many of
whom possessed yachts and might wish to avail themselves of privileges
always granted to these clubs.’
|The meeting, having
unanimously declared themselves in favour of the project, formed a
committee, drew up some rules for conduct afloat and ashore, decided
upon a one guinea entrance fee and an annual subscription of two guineas
and elected James Weld Esq. as their first Commodore.
|To bring this into fine
focus and glance at the setting in which it was born, the Royal Yacht
Squadron was only 20 years old, the first periodicals to report on the
yachting scene, The Field and Hunt’s Yachting Magazine, did not
appear until 15 years later and Lloyd’s Register Of Yachts did
not start publication until 1878. The development of Southampton Docks
had not begun, the population of Southampton, now some 240,000 was no
more than 25,000 and Henry Ford’s birth was still 26 years away.
|In the main, yachts were
very large, over 200 tons Thames Measurement were not uncommon,
professional skippers and crews were customary and they were employed
only during the summer, in the winter months working as fishermen or
serving in home trade vessels. The initial membership of about 80
noblemen and gentlemen owned some 50 yachts, totalling nearly 1,800 tons
and giving employment to 300 seamen, forming the basis for the Club’s
success. Many vessels carried armament and in 1845, the Editor of Bell’s
Life noted: ‘that the Ganymede Yacht, R.S.Y.C., a 70 ton carvel
cutter, owned by J.H.W.P. Smyth Pigott Esq., fired a royal salute in
honour of the Princess Alice’s birthday, with four guns, at six seconds
time, or ten guns a minute; thus discipline as well as pleasure is
observed with the Southerons.’
The 70 ton cutter, ‘Ganymede’
Photo: By Permission of the Trustees
of the National Library of Scotland
|In its early years, it
appears that the Club’s only activity seems to have been organising its
annual regatta, its expenditure confined to the expenses of that regatta
and the rent of a room for its Secretary. At the time, this somewhat
limited activity was common for many clubs and made it possible for the
comparatively small number of large racing yachts to move in stately
progression around the coast, from one regatta to the next.
|Within a year of its
formation the Club was honoured by the appointment of H.M. Queen
Victoria as Patroness and of course retains to this day a highly prized
association with the Royal Family through our current Patron, H.R.H. The
Duke of Edinburgh. In 1840 it was granted the privilege of wearing the
White Ensign defaced with the Coat of Arms of Southampton.
The young Queen became Patroness in 1838.
|Resigning in 1843 to attend
to his business interests in America, Commodore Weld was succeeded by
General Sir Francis Nathaniel Conyngham, 2nd. Marquis, an Irish peer who
held various offices of state in England before becoming Vice-Admiral of
|Having no funds in hand and
wishing to stage an enlarged regatta, the Club’s Secretary, James
Knight, persuaded its Members to increase its catchment area, its
profile and its entrance fee, altering the name to the Royal Southern
Yacht Club to embrace it’s greater status.
|Even as late as
1855, the Regatta only lasted two days and had about 15 starters, but
they were large vessels by modern standards and it was not uncommon for
one race to be for yachts over 40 tons.
|After taking its new name
and embarking upon its policy of expansion, came the great day when on
8th August, 1846, the Royal Southern Clubhouse was opened. It was, and
is still, a truly splendid building on Town Quay, exactly opposite the
entrance to Southampton’s Royal Pier. It has been described as the most
beautiful Victorian building in the City.
|The opening was clearly a
notable occasion and the Club obviously entered into occupation with
considerable panache including firing a Royal Salute fired from the
battery of the Secretary, whose office adjoined the building.
|Appearances were deceptive however. The building did not belong to the
Club and indeed, there was no formal tenancy agreement, nor had the rent
been settled. It had been built by Robert Wright, a Vice-Commodore of
the Club, whose portrait hangs to this day in the Club. The annual rent
was subsequently set at £350.
|On the retirement of the
Noble Marquis in 1847, he was succeeded by James Brudenell, 7th. Earl of
Cardigan, who served as Commodore for 21 years. A man of fierce ambition
and matching temper, at the time he assumed the Club’s highest office
Cardigan was already commanding a cavalry regiment and is perhaps most
widely remembered for the notorious charge of his Light Brigade at
Balaclava in 1854, in the face of the Russian artillery.
What is less well reported is that he conducted his Crimean campaign
from aboard his steam yacht, Dryad, in Balaclava harbour, a yacht that
allegedly flew the Royal Southern Yacht Club colours throughout the
|Delivered to the
Crimean port by Cardigan’s brother-in-law, Hubert De Burgh, his vessel
was described as: ‘a trim little pleasure craft, equipped as if for
Cowes Regatta, with comfortable saloon and cabins, running water and
elegant furnishings, a French chef and cellar of champagne.’
James Brudenell, 7th. Earl of Cardigan
|Despite appearances, the
Club seems to have lacked sound financial foundation and within a few
months of electing so distinguished a Commodore, it had to make a levy
on its Members to clear debts of the order of £1500. Not surprisingly,
the Members decided that they could no longer afford a Secretary.
|There is no doubt that the
Club greatly benefitted from the eminence of its exalted Commodore and
his exertion of powerful influence on its behalf, but it is also clear
that his attitude in the performance of his office could not be
described as easygoing.
|Significant perhaps, is a special note in the
Club’s file to the effect that he had been saluted from the Club House
with 11 guns; this record may perhaps have been the result of the
Commodore’s forthright assertion that he was not always properly
received at the Club.
Who knows the effect of such a salute fired from a
building with frontage to what must have been a busy street full of
|His Lordship’s influence in
high places was, however, undeniable and soon after taking office, he
obtained for the Club the privilege for Members which it still retains
of wearing the un-defaced Blue Ensign.
|The rent of £350 per annum
was proving beyond the Club’s means, but thanks to the generosity of
Vice Commodore Wright it was reduced in 1849 to £200 per annum,
until the state of the Club’s finances improves.
|It is interesting
to note that although the Club’s financial state clearly left much to be
desired, it did not deter the Committee from appointing one E.D. Leahy
portrait painter to the Club.
|Nor indeed did the Members
show any lack of spirit at this time when they considered a threat by a
competitor to sue the Club for the 50 guinea prize for one of its races.
They not only pledged themselves to defend any such proceedings but
demanded that the threat be withdrawn. Cardigan would have been proud of
|A few years later, during
which Lord Cardigan had been giving his attention to his military duties
in the Crimea, the Club invited him to dine with the members, in
order to evince the gratification of the Members at his safe return from
the Crimea and the high sense they entertain of his noble and gallant
|It is clear that all was
not well with the management of the Club, for in 1856, what must seem to
us a strange arrangement was made under which the Club was “framed” (it
was so described) to an individual who undertook to pay all outgoings,
including the rent and to receive all income from the bar and billiard
tables, as well, it seems, as the Members’ subscriptions.
|This apparently did not
prove a success and a few years later Lord Cardigan was informed that
the Committee was considering moving to cheaper premises or, indeed,
winding up. This crisis seems to have been brought about by the
resignation of 24 members. We do not know the size of the membership in
those days, but for some years the average attendance at General
Meetings had been six, so it may well be that the membership, though no
doubt individually well to do, was modest in overall number.
|These were sad times
indeed. Yet another levy of two pounds ten shillings per head and then
what must have seemed the cruellest blow of all, the closing of the
clubhouse. Poignant must have been the passing at a General Meeting of a
formal resolution that, the Royal Southern Yacht Club still exists,
notwithstanding the present House being closed. After a few months
in which it was homeless, the Club rented part of the Pier Hotel,
furnished, for a term of three years. If the Committee heaved a sigh of
relief at finding a safe harbour, they were swiftly disabused, for in
less than six months the Club was expelled from its quarters, consequent
on the seizure of all the furniture belonging to their landlord under a
Bill of Sale.
|Once more on the street,
the Club then took refuge in a room over Forbes & Bennett’s shop and
once again a farming-out arrangement was made. This tenancy lasted less
than a year, followed by brief occupancy of a room whose address is
unknown, but in 1865, the Club moved into a large room in the Dolphin
Hotel, a venerable building still very much in existence just below
Southampton Bargate. It is not clear how long this occupation lasted but
in 1877 the Club’s Secretary rented a house in the best part of the
High Street and ran it as the clubhouse. The whereabouts of this
house are unclear, but apparently there were to be no games on Sundays
Good Friday and Christmas Day, whilst billiards and whist were among the
more important activities of members within the better yacht clubs in
|The demise of Lord Cardigan
in 1868 must have represented a milestone in the Club’s history and even
if recollection of his long term of office was fading, in 1874 they must
have been revived when, the office of Commodore having once again become
vacant, a General Meeting considered a letter from Lady Cardigan, asking
the Club to take into consideration her application to be elected
Commodore. It almost goes without saying that not only did the Club
have no lady members at this time, but that no less than 50 years later
a proposal to provide ladies toilets accommodation was withdrawn from a
James Brudenell, 7th. Earl of Cardigan
|Be that as it
may, the reply, which was sent to Her Ladyship, can hardly fail to
arouse admiration for the draughtsman and deserves to be quoted
|The Club will always
retain a lively feeling of gratitude and respect for their former
Commodore, the Earl of Cardigan and that the Members are fully sensible
of the compliment paid the Club by her Ladyship’s suggestion that she be
elected to the office now again vacant. But the members present at this
meeting are unanimously of the opinion that the election of a Lady to
the office of Commodore would be so inconsistent with all precedent and
so obviously inconvenient in practice that they regret extremely their
inability to give effect to her Ladyship’s flattering proposal.
|It could not, however, be
suggested that her Ladyship did not qualify as a yacht owner since she
appears in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts as the owner of Screw/Schooner Sea
Horse 306 tons, 143 ft. x 21 ft. x 10 ft. Iron built in Glasgow in 1867,
powered, remarkably, by a 60 horse power inverted 2 cylinder engine, 30”
diameter by 22”. stroke.
|It seems that the Club
remained in the High Street house until 1886, when the wheel turned full
circle and it negotiated a lease of Bugle Hall, the house originally
built for it on the pier head, at an annual rental of £100 for 7, 14 or
21, years, with an option to buy the freehold at £2.700 during that
term. What a commentary on the stability of sterling at that time and
bearing in mind its many ups and downs during the past years, it is
noteworthy that the Secretary, who retired in that year, had served for
no less than 30 years.
its early decades, Club competitors were
dominated by big yachts.
ton Payne, Hyacinth and the 50 ton Fife, Neptune, head Maud in a 1891
Photo: photo©: www.beken.co.uk
|While the achievement of
security of tenure after so many years of a somewhat nomadic existence
must have relieved the Committee of a major source of anxiety, its
minutes do not suggest that it lacked contentious, if minor, problems,
to deal with.
instance a written complaint by a member that he had received a letter,
accusing him of insulting the Club by
hoisting the Club Flag at fore.
|The Committee’s response was robust
and, perhaps to our eyes, unexpected. It was a demand for the name of
whoever had taken the unwarrantable liberty of writing such a letter
without the knowledge of the Committee. Not long afterwards the
Committee found itself called upon to deal with a, discreditable
scene in the card room between two very distinguished members in
connection with a game of whist.
|At this time, there was no
question of ladies being members of the Club or, indeed, of being
suffered even to set foot in it. It is not difficult therefore to
imagine the exquisite delicacy of the situation which arose, when it
seemed likely that members of the Royal Family, and it must be
remembered that H.M. Queen Victoria was Patroness of the Club, might be
landing at the Royal Pier, immediately opposite the clubhouse and visit
|Can it have been without
some gritting of teeth that the Committee resolved, in the event of
any members of the Royal Family landing at the Royal Pier, ladies be
admitted to the Club on that day. Those who saw this as the thin
edge of an uncommonly sinister wedge were no doubt fortified in their
pessimism when, barely six months later, the Committee decided to permit
ladies to enter the Club, on Thursday the tenth to view the Regatta
|It is clear that by this
time, the Club was giving some thought to what would now be termed its
image and declared that the livery of the Steward and two manservants
should be, tail coats with red cord on trousers. The need to keep
servants in their place brought about a letter from the Secretary to a
Lieutenant Colonel X it has been brought to the notice of the
Committee that X allowed his servant to enter the club and to have
luncheon with him. The Committee consider that such conduct is highly
offensive to members of the Club and request that it may not be repeated
otherwise Rule 47 must be enforced.
|Evidently the defence of
the premises against the intrusion of the lower orders continued to
cause anxiety, for a few years later, on the instructions of the
Committee, the following notice was displayed outside the clubhouse:
Members’ yacht captains, servants and tradesmen calling at the Club are
requested to ring the Hall Door Bell and await reply.
continued to occupy the clubhouse under its lease for nearly 20 years,
but in 1904 came the great day when having authorised the raising of
£2,500 by an issue of debentures, the Committee bought the freehold for
was indeed a milestone in its history, achieved some 60 years after it
had first set foot in the building and an intervening period which had
seen it wander so peripatetically and housed in so many temporary
quarters. Secure at long last in ownership of this splendid premises,
the Club was able to enjoy a few years of relative peace and
|But what some must have
seen as a sinister movement inside the body politic became manifest when
the Committee resolved that, members are permitted to introduce
ladies personally known to them and accompanied by them to the coffee
room and adjoining verandah between the hours of 12 noon and 7 p.m. from
1st June to 30th September, their names and addresses with the name of
the introducer to be entered in a book kept for that purpose.
|Already a major force on
the burgeoning yacht racing scene with an annual Regatta each August, it
was in 1905 that the Flag Officers took the brave and exciting decision
to run a race for motor boats as part of this event and catching the
zeitgeist, led where many other yacht clubs could only follow later.
The Club staged its first Metre Boat Regatta in
and 15 Metre Class yachts, Vanity, Mariska,
Ostara and Paula competed in 1912.
Photo: photo©: www.beken.co.uk
The Club’s first XOD Regatta was run in 1924.
1909, the Club had run its first Metre Regatta and in 1924, ran its
first regatta for XODs and so were established the elements of club
activity, sailing and motorboating, that have underpinned the life of
its Members throughout the last century. Curiously enough, there are few
clues to the size of the membership up to this time, but in 1909 a copy
of a letter gives its strength as 240 members and 92 yachts.
|In these days the tone of
letters addressed by the Committee to offending Members is worthy of
remark. To a Member who complained that he was served with rotten eggs
for his breakfast, the Committee’s reply, while regretting the accident
concludes, they must call your attention to the tone of your letter
and should further complaints reach them from you they request that they
may be couched in different terms.
|What might be regarded as a
somewhat autocratic style is perhaps more understandable if one bears in
mind that in those days the Committee normally included a majority of
Major-Generals, Generals, Colonels and Naval Captains, generous leavened
with Noble Lords and Knights of the Realm.
|In 1910, H.M. King George V
honoured the Club by consenting to become its Patron, in succession to
the late King Edward VII. His yacht Britannia was, of course, a
prominent feature of the Solent racing scene, and when her Captain
wrote, with what was no doubt regarded as proper deference, to enquire
whether it would be in order for His Majesty to fly the Royal Southern
Yacht Club Burgee on the yacht, the Committee displayed the firmness of
purpose already mentioned when it replied, Yes, His Majesty the King
will be in order in flying the burgee of the Royal Southern Yacht Club
if he or a member of his family is on board. Otherwise the burgee of the
Royal Southern Yacht Club should not be used on Britannia.
|The shape of things to come
is interestingly reflected in a reference to the kindness of Castle
Yacht Club in allowing the Club’s Regatta to be held at Calshot instead
of Southampton. It was of course, the increasing commercial port traffic
which ultimately led the Club to move to Hamble.
|Even after the outbreak of
the First World War in August 1914, surprisingly the clubhouse continued
to be much used. It was evidently much in demand by officers of the
Services and it is significant that the figures show substantial
increase in revenue for drink and beds, coupled with a fall in
subscription and billiard room takings. An interest sidelight on food
rationing in the First World War is to be found in a Committee decision
that no meat was to be served except in exchange for a ration coupon and
six hours notice. Even more poignant perhaps was a ruling that Members
not in residence were to be limited to, one large or two small
drinks per day.
|The unrestrained joy at the
Armistice was somewhat offset amongst Members by the production of
accounts for the war years, when it became painfully evident that there
were alarming arrears of maintenance and, part of the building was
absolutely dangerous. The financing of the essential repairs caused
considerable concern and was not accomplished without great difficulty.
Another topic of concern was a formal proposal at a General Meeting not
only to establish both a ladies room and ladies toilet accommodation,
but also to permit members to introduce ladies as guests during such
hours and to such portions of the premises as the Committee might decide.
This alarming proposal was swept under the rug on the basis that it
would be dealt with in connection with the revision of the Rules.
|During the next few years
the Club’s finances caused increasing anxiety, losing more money yet
more urgent repairs were needed and there were insufficient liquid
assets to enable the Club to carry on. The gravity of the situation is
underlined by the emergency of a suggestion that one of the billiard
tables be sold and a billiard room converted for the use of wives and
daughters of members. Although this desperate remedy was not adopted, it
made it clear that the cloud was looming large!
|Indeed, the very next year,
the Annual General Meeting’s Agenda included a proposal to provide a
writing room for lady visitors. That the rearguard was still full of
fight is shown by its success in carrying a resolution that the
Committee consider the question of a Lady Visitors Room, but not to
interfere with the present billiard rooms. What is more, they held the
pass, for the next year’s Annual General Meeting was told that in
response to overwhelming opposition, the proposed admission of ladies
was dropped. In 1925 a suggestion that, having regard to the Billiard
Room takings, one table be given up and half the room used as a lounge
|It is interesting to note
that at this stage in the life of the Club there had been no significant
increase in its revenue for nearly 20 years and there is evidence that
the membership was no more than 250. Also in 1925 came the first hint of
change, when the Committee considered favourably a suggestion to have a
second clubhouse at Hamble for the convenience of yachting members.
Another straw in the wind is to be found in the efforts of the Club to
gain support for a movement to protect the anchorage for yachts,
evidently against proposals of the Southampton Harbour Board.
|In 1927 there appeared an
encouraging financial omen in the form of a substantial increase in
receipts. The following year saw the resolution of the Great
Billiard Room Controversy, it had been divided to make an
additional lounge, and Members attending the Annual General Meeting in
the subsequent year were told, with perhaps a scarcely concealed air of
triumph, that the change had been extraordinarily successful.
|It was about this time that
the development of the Port of Southampton caused some among the
Committee to contemplate the possibility that the Club would be
constrained either to establish an annexe elsewhere or even leave the
City altogether and the next few years were to see this, to many, a
painful possibility, becoming increasingly urgent.
Believed to be the Cambria
|In 1930 two interesting and
conflicting indications of the Club’s situation are afforded by the
publication of an alarmingly weak balance sheet simultaneously with the
announcement that at the Regatta at Cowes that year, a cup given by H.M.
King George V had been won by a member of the Club, Lord Camrose, in his
|Two years later many
Members had resigned as a result of the economic depression and a year
later membership had fallen to 164. A Special General Meeting was called
to consider admitting Lady Members and Junior Sailing Members and this
momentous step was approved, as was another sign of the changing times,
a proposal to establish a 14’ dinghy class, based on a design by Charles
Nicholson and Uffa Fox. The following year, yet another operating loss
was revealed, membership had increased, but times were indeed changing.
|In 1934 another Special
General Meeting was called to authorise the sale of the Southampton
clubhouse and the purchase of alternative facilities at Hamble, a
revolutionary proposal on which, in the event, a decision was postponed
until the following year. When that meeting arrived, the Flag Officers’
recommendation was made, although it is not difficult to feel great
sympathy for those who had to advise the membership on such a step.
However, no decision on the issue is recorded in the Minutes. There
followed a period in which entrance fees were suspended, and despite an
increase in membership, operating losses continued, accompanied by
understandable exhortations to recruit new members.
|Seemingly out of a clear
sky, Members were told that their Committee has taken a lease on
premises at Hamble, the rent being guaranteed by some of the Members
personally, as the Club could not afford to do this on available
funds, and with no more than 25 Members present, the meeting agreed
to take over the lease. It is clear that the Hamble premises which
consisted of two cottages named Quai and Magnolia were to
constitute no more than an addition to the Southampton clubhouse and
various changes in the Rules were made to take account of the Hamble
Annex, as it was then called.
|At the Annual General
Meeting in April 1938, gloom understandably predominated. Local Members
for whom the Club was mainly run were not making use of the Southampton
clubhouse and it was said frankly that it would be honest to wind up the
Club while it was still just about solvent. On the strength of
guarantees by two Members, the meeting agreed to take a third cottage at
No more than two months later a Special General Meeting, after
considerable debate, made what must have been the extremely painful
decision to close the Southampton clubhouse within three months and
offer it for sale.
|The root cause of the
Club’s troubles was succinctly identified as the Development of the Port
of Southampton, which has destroyed it as a yachting centre.
|The gravity of the
situation is reflected in the anxiety which was expressed as to whether
the sale of the clubhouse would clear the Club’s debts, but amidst all
this gloom and trauma, the ladies were slowly, very slowly, inching
their way forward. In 1938 an alteration in the rules allowed them,
provided they are accompanied by their husbands, to occupy Club
|Early in the following year
the merits of the courageous decision to leave Southampton began to
manifest themselves, with membership steadily increasing and reaching
361 by April. The leasing of the Hamble Annex, in parallel with narrow
avoidance of insolvency and the imminent prospect of the sale of the
Southampton premises all came together as the nation went to war for the
second time in the century. The timing could have been better, as the
river and village were prohibited from public access and locked down by
the War Office for the duration of the war and used by the Admiralty for
their small boat fleet and in 1944, the military units that had been
based in Hamble marched through the village to embark on barges drawn up
on the hard, on their way to the Normandy beaches and D-day.
|The Club found itself
struggling to survive in a country on a war footing, but two factors
brought some relief. Firstly, the vacant Southampton clubhouse had been
requisitioned by the Admiralty at a rent which would pay the interest on
the Club’s overdraft and effect a modest annual reduction in it and
secondly, the Hamble clubhouse was being used extensively by the
fighting services. Despite the war, membership in 1942 stood at 253.
|With the end of the war,
the Committee was authorised to sell the Southampton premises and after
what must have been an anxious time, their disposal released a return
sufficient not only to clear all the Club’s debts but also to leave it
with a few thousand pounds in hand.
For those who carried the responsibility for the management of the Club,
the next 15 years must have been a testing time indeed.
|Consider the situation in
clubhouse was held on a lease with no more than eight years to run and
it faced the task of establishing itself in Hamble, its new home and of
paying its way, but its capital resources were insufficient to embark on
the outright purchase of the freehold either of its new clubhouse or,
indeed, of any other suitable premises.
|Having joined the Club in
1948, it was in 1952 that H.R.H. Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
graciously accepted the rank of Admiral, a position he held until 2002,
when the Club was honoured by his acceptance of its proposal that he
become the Club’s fifth Patron, following in the footsteps of H.M. Queen
Victoria, H.R.H. The Prince Consort, H.M. King Edward VII and H.M. King
The Queen with HRH Prince Philip on the Club
pontoon being greeted by
T.D. Mitchell and
Rear Commodore W. Thornback
in the mid
|In 1956 a new lease for a
term of three to eight years could be, of course, no more than a
palliative, and it was one which involved the payment of a higher rent
and an increase in subscription rates.
|At the same time, the
Club’s persistent operating loses gave considerable concern.
|Its ambition to
own the freehold of its premises, coupled with unpromising negotiation
with Hamble landlords, led to examination of the merits of several other
premises, both in Hamble and Bursledon. All in all, it was a period
which must have taxed the patience and dedication of both Flag Officers
and Managing Committee.
|At long last and with less
than five years of its lease yet to run, they succeeded in 1960 in
negotiating the purchase of the freehold. It was financed in the first
instance by a bank overdraft repayable within six months, guaranteed by
an anonymous Member, the advance to be repaid by an issue of debentures.
A slow response to the debenture issue clearly proved an embarrassing
one which was resolved by a Member coming forward with an advance on a
mortgage of the clubhouse. A measure of the seemingly endless struggle
to regularise the Club’s financial problems is to be seen in the fact
that it was not until 1970 that this mortgage was repaid from
subscriptions for the debentures.
|This, coupled with rising
membership figures, which had to be firmly constrained, marked a turning
point at which the Club was able to embark on a period of sustained
improvement and consolidation. Notably, it saw the building of the River
Room and the balcony above it, together with a major refurbishing of its
kitchens and a bold step forward by the purchase of the land adjoining
|That purchase was to prove
a landmark in the Club’s history and face the management with a
formidable task in the years ahead, but a gratifying product of the new
land was the opportunity for young members to learn to sail. This took
the form of the Splash Club with a fleet of over thirty optimist
dinghies. This venture went from strength to strength and happily
reflected the encouragement of yacht sailing, which had long formed part
of the Club’s constitution.
|The precursor of the Hamble
Week regatta was initiated in 1961, in 1962 on its 125th. anniversary
the Club launched the Cowes-Deauville Race and in 1964, one of the
country’s earliest marinas was opened as Port Hamble next to the
clubhouse, the same year that saw the inauguration of the Club’s house
magazine, The Southern. By now, village, river and Club were
established as centres of modern yachting and further milestones
included the Club’s initiation of the Solent Points Championship in 1968
and its Lionheart Challenge for the America’s Cup in 1980.
|Ashore, many improvements
had followed, including the purchase of the land alongside the cottages,
giving the Club its base for expansion. A new administration block was
opened in 1995, followed in 1998 by a sizable and spectacular bespoke
clubhouse of some style and architectural merit on the river frontage,
overlooking the Solent and Isle Of Wight, the traditional heart of
British yachting. Designed by eminent architect and Club Member, John
Madin, to provide improved facilities for all members, particularly
ladies and young people it was opened by the Admiral and the new
building was complemented by better boat and car parking arrangements.
|Today’s Royal Southern is a
vibrant mixture of every aspect of boating, from ocean sail racing to
dinghy racing, cruisers to keelboats, RIBs to motor cruisers and in the
past 70 years, membership has risen from a lowly 164, today numbering
more than 1600 adult and 200 youth members.
|Any yacht club worth its
salt knows that its next generation of members and competitive sailors
is more likely to be found on the pontoons in Bermudas, than in the bar
in blazers and the Royal Southern has an enviable 20-year record of
attracting and catering for young sailors and has made a giant stride to
offer them more and better facilities.
|The Splash Club and Junior
Cadets are run and managed by volunteer parents and incorporating
regular training sessions by qualified and experienced coaches, the
Club’s Optimist sailors have benefitting from courses on boat
preparation and calibration, set up, rig tuning, sail trimming and boat
handling. The abilities and enthusiasm of its Members qualified the Club
as a Royal Yachting Association Volvo Champion Club in 2009 and the
Splash Club has celebrated two decades of youth sailing, with the Junior
Cadets not far behind and now regularly sailing in Laser SB3s. Some
young Royal Southern sailors who began their training with the Splash
group have gone on to represent their country in international
competition, benefitting from this practical and informed grounding.
|Many yacht clubs run
spectacularly successful youth development programmes through Academies,
producing the world’s top open match and team racing helmsmen. The Club
has now following in these footsteps and established its own Academy,
bridging the gap for 18-25 year olds. 2010 saw the first events and
training days, with world class coaching, and Members are providing
their yachts as a big-boat experience platform, concentrating on getting
young people out on the water. Some of the Club’s Academy sailors have
already made their mark on the world stage.
|The Club has always
encouraged reciprocal links but more recently has become a full member
of the International Council Of Yacht Clubs, an organisation initiated
in 2003 to share views and compare notes in symposia for flag officers
and senior managers from peer yacht clubs.
|Yachting is truly an
international activity and organising racing and cruising, or just
managing a premier yacht club poses very similar questions to flag
officers, their committees and club secretariats, wherever they may be
located. The regular I.C.O.Y.C. Commodores’ Forums are now well
established in the programmes of many of the leading yacht clubs in the
world and the Royal Southern will host this gathering and the cruise
that precedes it, in Autumn 2012, welcoming delegate representatives
from the world’s leading yacht clubs in Africa, the Americas, Asia,
Australasia and Europe. The Club’s reciprocal links include senior yacht
clubs in the UK and around the world, including Barbados, Belgium,
France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Monaco, Netherlands, South
Africa, Sweden and the USA.
|For any Members’ club to
have operated continuously for 175 years in an unbroken stream of
yachting competition is no small feat and the anniversary of its
formation will celebrate yachting in one of Europe’s most prestigious
private sailing organisations.
|It is hardly necessary to
emphasise that these pages do not pretend to do more than give some
glimpses of the Club’s long, sometimes stormy and hazardous passage
since its birth in 1837. Much has been omitted. Perhaps the most serious
omission is the absence of any attempt to record the debt which the Club
owes to all those who, from that day to this, have given their time,
skill and imagination to all the planning, working and worrying which
has succeeded in building and growing the Club which we are able to
|To them, perhaps, we might
just apply Christopher Wren’s famous epitaph: “If you require a
monument, look around you”.