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"The world's oldest specifically amateur yacht club (founded 1857)"
The "Alfred", as it's locally known, actually played a seminal role in the evolution and formation of racing in sailboats worldwide. Some older established clubs trumpet their seniority as their main, and maybe their only claim to fame, but the Royal Alfred Yacht Club has a far greater and better deserved list of accomplishments and real contributions to the sport. A short list of its "firsts" clearly places the club as the original model for yacht clubs worldwide, to a much greater extent than most older clubs.
So Dublin's Royal Alfred Yacht Club is quite simply:
To see more Historical photo's visit our
"The world's first offshore racing club (1868-1922)"
How did a small group of middleclass Dubliners make such a difference?
When they met in 1857, the objective of the 17 founder members was
"to encourage the practise of seamanship and the acquisition
of the necessary skill in managing the vessels". Translating
these stilted phrases, this meant that as far as practical, the
club would cater for those yachtsmen, and later yachtswomen, who
were prepare to sail and race their complex and heavy craft themselves.
How very different the men of the "Alfred", or the "Irish
Model Yacht Club" as they called their club at first. This
was not model as meaning scale models yachts, but "Model"
in the other, more Victorian meaning of the word, as something to
be emulated. They started by organising day cruises in company,
manoeuvring under orders from a flag officer. In this activity,
they were following the old custom of the first yachtsmen in Amsterdam,
back in the 1600s, and later copied by the gentry of Cork harbour
in the early 1700s. But of course the difference in 1857 was that
now the owners and their amateur friends were actually sailing themselves.
To see more Historical photo's visit our Gallery area
To see more Historical photo's visit our Gallary area
The Club quickly gained recognition, not only for its premier role as the leading amateur club, but also with the prestige of a royal warrant, acquiring the title it still carries: "Royal Alfred Yacht Club". Queen Victoria's third son Prince Alfred, was a naval officer who allowed his name to be used but he apparently had no active connection with our club, or with our sister club, the Prince Alfred Yacht Club of New South Wales.
"The first club to organise single and double handed yacht races"
Throughout the 1860s and 70s, our Club fired off an amazing series of initiatives, which caused our club to be described as the Premier Corinthian club. Indeed it started a new wave of yacht club formations, with "Corinthian" in their name, which appeared in all the major yachting centres around this time. Corinthian is another word for amateur, because it was believed that in ancient Greece, the athletes of Corinth competed for no reward other than a laurel wreath. Yet the Victorian sailors were quite happy to race for large cash and silverware prizes, which they kept! For them, the mortal sin was to be paid to sail or race. At the end of each season, Hunt's Yachting Magazine published a list of racing results for all the yacht races in the British Isles, and also the total value of the prizes awarded by the various clubs. The Royal Alfred Yacht Club regularly featured in the top three of such prestigious clubs, and in 1877 it ranked number one, with £712 in prizes for 11 races, equivalent to about IR£40,000 today!
Three years earlier, the Royal Alfred's circular to all the British yacht clubs, calling for a consistent regulation of handicapping by means of measurement by a professional, and the Club's earlier publication of yacht racing rules and time allowance tables, were the trigger for the founding of the Yacht Racing Association which became the Royal Yachting Association. Again typical of the Royal Alfred's central role in this process is that its two flag officers, Henry Crawford and George Thomson, are credited with the principal authorship of the YRA's Racing Rules.
"The prime mover behind the formation of the world's first national yacht racing organisation (1872)"
Its it tempting to dwell on the Royal Alfred's period in the spotlight,
but one has to admit that the Club could not maintain this momentum.
Its base was always yacht racing in Dublin Bay, and the Irish Sea,
and as Dublin declined in relative terms, deferring to the Clyde
and the Solent, and as larger racing yachts demanded professional
crew, the Corinthian ideal became less important for the top competitions.
So yachting in Dublin settled into a familiar pattern of one design
racing, with the beautiful gaff cutter Dublin Bay 25 and 21 footers,
and the Howth Seventeens. In this, the Dublin sailors were following
the lead of their dinghy sailing friends who, in 1887, had founded
the world's first one design class, the Water Wags. The twin harbours
of Dun Laoghaire and Howth both continued to provide that great
luxury, the facility to be sailing on one's yacht at 6 p.m., after
leaving the office at 5. Few other yachting centres could provide
this continuity, and so changes to new venues and new classes were
less necessary for the sailors of Dublin.
"RAYC's two flag officers are credited with the authorship of the first national yacht racing rules, which are at the core of today's racing rules worldwide."
So the Club has played a key role in the formation of our sport, as it is routinely practised around the globe. Throughout its 141 years, the Club has remained true to its founding principles, and as the rest of the world came to follow this example, we may reasonable claim that the Royal Alfred Yacht Club is not just the world's oldest amateur yacht club, but also the oldest yacht club in the modern tradition.
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