A History of The Royal Southern Yacht Club Est:1837

“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 make today”.
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.

The 70 ton cutter, ‘Ganymede’
Photo: By Permission of the Trustees
of the National Library of Scotland
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.’
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 Ulster.
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 hostilities.
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 horse traffic!
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 them!
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 conduct.
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 those days.
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.
James Brudenell, 7th. Earl of Cardigan
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 General Meeting.
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 verbatim.
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..

In its early decades, Club competitors were
dominated by big yachts.
The 53 ton Payne, Hyacinth and the 50 ton Fife, Neptune, head Maud in a 1891 race.
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
One can 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 the Club.
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 cups.
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.
The Club 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 £2,000. This 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 development.
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 1909
 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.
By 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 was defeated.
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 Cambria.

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 Hamble.
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 bedrooms.
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 1947. The 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 George V.
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.

The Queen with HRH Prince Philip on the Club
pontoon being greeted by the Commodore
T.D. Mitchell and Rear Commodore W. Thornback
in the mid 60’s
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 the premises.
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 enjoy today.
To them, perhaps, we might just apply Christopher Wren’s famous epitaph: “If you require a monument, look around you”.

Member Club
International Council
of Yacht Clubs

Founder Member
Solent Cruising
Racing Association

RYA Training Centre
Accredited Club
RYA Champion Club
Recognising clubs
with a commitment
to youth sailing
Royal Southern Yacht Club Rope Walk Hamble Southampton SO31 4HB       Contact & Maps
Royal Southern Yacht Club is a trading name of Royal Southern Yacht Club Ltd Registered in England Reg: 05372495