What is the definition of a yacht club? One might think of a plush clubhouse, a bit stuffy maybe – especially if long established – and strict dress codes… But in the sometimes strange world of yachting tradition there are many long established and still very active yacht clubs that have never owned a clubhouse. They major on sailing – more often than not stricly amateur, or properly, Corinthian sailing. The Royal Alfred Yacht Club is a great example.
In his book Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing, Irish yachting historian, Hal Sisk, claims “The Alfred” as the world’s first amateur sailing/ yachting club. When it was established in 1857 the sport of yachting was almost completely professional – on a par with horse racing. One owned a yacht, but the matter of sailing it was left to a full time skipper, and paid hands who often fished by winter and sailed by summer. As Para Handy’s mate, Dougie, once commented on the Clyde:
“…it’s a suit or two o’ clothes in the year, and a pleasant occupaation. Most o’ the time in canvas sluppers.”
But in the mid-19th Century The Alfred began a trend that proved not to be a fad – the sport of racing one’s own boat with a crew of friends.
Last sparkling weekend on Dublin Bay they ran their annual Baily Bowl regatta for one-designs, impeccably, in good humour… and anyway, sprinkled liberally around Dún Laoghaire there are welcoming yacht clubs with magnificent clubhouses to use as base; clubs that have discovered the secret of balancing tradition with modernity. This year’s hosts were the National Yacht Club. Next up, it’s the Royal Irish YC’s turn to host The Alfred’s Bloomsday Regatta on June 15th, where fancy dress in the spirit of James Joyce’s Dublin is a fun optional “sailing instruction”.
The yacht racing rules – properly nowadays The Racing Rules of Sailing – were invented in Dublin Bay. Read all about it in Hal Sisk’s entertaining and beautifully illustrated book, Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing.
But stay a little longer for more snapshots of a sparkling May weekend on Dublin Bay.
~ Iain McAllister ~