Celebrating 200 years of international yachting...

This year the Royal Yacht Squadron, founded in 1815, achieves its bicentenary. To mark the occasion, the Squadron, whose historic clubhouse is in Cowes, will host an invitational regatta to bring together as many clubs and friends as possible from around the globe, who share their common interests and love of sailing.

The Royal Yacht Squadron Bicentenary International Regatta will be the highlight of a calendar of celebrations being held throughout the bicentenary year and will take place in the Solent from the 25th – 31st July 2015.

Twenty five yacht clubs have been invited to take part and will join the Royal Yacht Squadron for five days of spectacular racing in a 200-strong fleet, including modern and classic boats racing under IRC, J/70s, Beneteau F40s and up to five J-Class yachts.

“Our aim is to make sure owners and crews will leave at the end of the event with many happy memories. Participation in the International Bicentennial Regatta will help forge stronger ties between our clubs.”

Christopher Sharples, Commodore, Royal Yacht Squadron

Squadron Steps
Crew Crew

The boats

The regatta will feature racing for four main groups of boats:

  • Modern and Classic boats racing under IRC
  • J Class yachts
  • Team Racing in J/70 boats, aimed at younger members
  • Corinthian one-design racing in a fleet of Beneteau F40 boats

You can read more about the different fleets that are taking part in the regatta here.

The regatta plays its part in one of the busiest summer seasons in the history of Cowes Yachting. The event will welcome entries who have just finished the 2015 Transatlantic Race (, the timing of which allows yachts to race from Newport, Rhode Island to arrive in Cowes for the Bicentennial Regatta. Participants can then go on to take part in Aberdeen Asset Management (AAM) Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Celebrations ashore

As well a packed programme of sailing, which will be watched by spectators ashore and afloat, the regatta also features a varied social programme for those taking part, including an Opening Reception at the Royal Yacht Squadron, individual Class dinners throughout the week and an RYS Bicentenary Regatta Grand Party at Osborne House.

The event will also include a display by the Red Devil parachute display team on Friday 31st July.

Royal Yacht Squadron
Red Arrows

Two hundred years of the RYS

Founded on June 1st 1815 at the Thatched House Tavern in St James Street London, the Squadron was originally called ‘The Yacht Club. It attracted royal patronage in 1817 when the Prince Regent, later King George IV, became a member. In 1833 King William IV renamed the club ‘The Royal Yacht Squadron’ (R.Y.S.) declaring his ‘gracious approval of an institution of such national utility’ for its role in supporting the Royal Navy and the maritime trades of Britain.

Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert became Patron of the R.Y.S, and his son, the Prince of Wales, was Commodore for 18 years (1882-1900). King George V, also a keen yachtsman, was Admiral of the Squadron throughout his reign. The present Admiral, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, was Commodore from 1961 to 1968.

Throughout its 200 years, the Squadron’s contribution to yachting has been unique, starting with its role as the leading club in the establishment of sailing as a sport in the years 1815-1850. The 1851 race for the 100 Sovereign Cup – later renamed the America’s Cup – was organised by the Squadron, as were several later challenges. The Squadron, through its affiliate Royal Yacht Squadron Racing Ltd, is making a new attempt to win the cup in 2017 with a team led by Sir Ben Ainslie.

In the 19th century Cowes became a ‘home’ of British sport (like Lords, Wimbledon, Newmarket or Henley). It was also the centre of the European social world during regatta week, particularly in the years 1850-1914. The RYS continues to play a leading role in Cowes Week and other local regattas which make a much needed financial contribution to the Isle of Wight economy.

Royal Yacht Squadron
Royal Yacht Squadron

In recent years, the Squadron has placed greater emphasis on encouraging younger sailors through its April Training Week in J109s for those aged 16 to 20 and the RYS Sailing Academy program for those aged up to 30 using the new fleet of J70s. To create a lasting legacy as part of the bicentenary celebrations in 2015, the Squadron members are contributing to a new charity, The RYS Isle of Wight Foundation. The charity will provide financial assistance to educate and train young individuals who live on the Isle of Wight and seek a career connected with the marine industry.

All members, whatever their achievements, share a passion for yachting in all its forms. This marine tradition, coupled with the close ties that continue with the Royal Navy, has remained at the heart of all activities undertaken by the Royal Yacht Squadron members for the past two hundred years.