First formed by a dozen well-connected enthusiasts in the summer of 1878 to promote both their passion for yachting and the social graces surrounding it, the original headquarters of the Solent Yacht Club were in the George Hotel, Yarmouth. There they leased rooms from the landlord for £45 a year and paid him extra for the privilege of raising their own flagstaff! Original joining fees and annual membership were both set at one guinea (£1.05) and within two years the SYC had over 50 members and was hosting its own summer regatta as the long-term centre piece of its sporting and social diary.
|Charlie Attrill as the RSYC boatman with a young John Caulcutt.|
Early members included the Marquis of Londonderry (the first Commodore), Prince Henry of Battenburg (husband to Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Beatrice, who became a regular visitor to the club) and Hallam Tennyson (Lord Alfred’s son) but the key contribution came from Sir Charles Seely of Brook (Commodore for 12 years) who bought the current site besides Yarmouth Pier and provided the purpose-built Clubhouse (in return for annual rent) which opened in 1898 for the Club’s 20th anniversary. Such connections may have expedited the granting of the right to the Blue Ensign for SYC members in 1902, but the steady development of the racing programme must have helped, with its inclusion of events for Solent Seabirds, cruiser handicap yachts and notably, in 1913, the new Yarmouth One Design.`
By the start of the 1st World War in 1914 the more than 130 members included (with restrictions on them) the first four women, but with the Solent a key area of naval activity during the war, the sailing, if not the social activity, ceased until 1919. After this the SYC again steadily developed in size, scope and standing throughout the 1920s and 1930s including the members’ acquisition of the clubhouse freehold, though not, at that time, the ‘Royal’ status enjoyed by other clubs – despite a private visit paid by the future Edward VIII. Membership by now was over 150.
|Ellen MacArthur, a Life Honorary Member, sailing with Joe Lester and Dick Knight.|
Again in the 2nd World War, with the Isle of Wight and the Solent the centre of much military activity, the Solent Yacht Club had to abandon all sailing. If at first it proved a popular social centre in dark days for members and local off-duty officers, that ended when the ARP requisitioned the club for the rest of the war. With peace came the immediate revival of full club life and two memorable events: first, the amalgamation with the local West Wight Sailing Club in 1946, and, in quick succession, the granting of the ‘Royal’ prefix by George VI in 1947 to give it its name for more than 60 years now as the Royal Solent Yacht Club. The very next year the club created its X One-Design division.
|A photograph in the new bar 1966.|
During the 1950s, 60s and early 70s the RSYC went from strength to strength. Its sailing and social agendas increased (as through the adoption of the quickly popular Enterprises, Dragons and Folkboats with their festival weeks), the Clubhouse was enlarged and improved, and reciprocal agreements were extended. With this came a doubling of the membership to over 1,000 for the first time, along with the first and only lady Commodore in 1974, just four years before its centenary celebrations (attended by Lord Louis Mountbatten). The story since has been more of the same, with ever-improving facilities for members and visitors matched by ever more diverse activity both ashore and afloat, as with the re-establishment of the YOD class in 1995. Many outstanding individuals have played their part in its story, but now 130 years old, there is every reason for the RSYC to look forward with justifiable optimism and confidence to the next 130 years.