The Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club was formed from an amalgamation of its two direct descendent clubs :-
“THE ULSTER CANOE CLUB” formed 20th June 1892 by a young enthusiast Robert E. Workman who after a short sojourn in London, where he had been a member of The Royal Canoe Club, brought his new found enthusiasm back to Ireland with him, and with missionary zeal soon involved his friends in canoe racing, and with a total membership of 28 established their headquarters on the Old Cultra Quay, we now euphemistically call the “Far Yard” – and the other club –
“THE CULTRA SAILING CLUB” formed 1893, had been created as an additional attraction in an area on his property being commercially developed for residential purposes by Landlord Sir Robert Kennedy. It would be perhaps churlish, certainly ungracious to attribute Kennedy’s motives in establishing a yacht club and clubhouse entirely for monetary gain, as he was himself a keen yachtsman of some considerable fame.
Through The Years
By 1897 both clubs had grown considerably, making Cultra a true mecca for sailing on Belfast Lough, and due both to the increasing number of new members, and those existing members progressing from canoes to larger sailing boats, as witnessed by the increasing number of large yachts mooring off the clubhouse encouraged the Ulster Canoe Club to change its name to the “Ulster Sailing Club”. It was also the first intimation in the minutes of that year, of a tentative dialogue being entered into by the two clubs of a possible amalgamation and further expansion.
However it took a further two years of intense discussion between the two clubs until the matter was finally resolved, and on the 22nd February 1899 the clubs amalgamated under the new name “NORTH of IRELAND YACHT CLUB”. It retained this title until the 2nd September 1902 when his Majesty King Edward VII “was graciously pleased to command that the Club be henceforth known as THE ROYAL NORTH OF IRELAND YACHT CLUB”
An early profile in “Yachting Monthly” records that between 1893 and 1902 the club had instituted no fewer than seven one design classes. Five of which were built by the legendry yacht builder John Hilditch of Carrickfergus – Bird’s, Star’s, Shakespear’s, and Jewel’s, all of which have long disappeared. The most famous of all and synonymous with RNIYC is the legendary “Fairy Class”, of the original 15 built in 1902, eleven boats are still racing regularly today and one other being rebuilt, as the class look forward to their Quasquicentennial Anniversary.
Club members have always been ready to accept new designs and in the 1930’s the then new Dragon Class was adopted. In 1947 Eric Strain, Jack Wallace and George Brown in “Ceres II” won the International Gold Cup and went on to win the selection trials to represent Britain at the 1948 Olympic Games at Torbay, just losing out on a medal by finishing a very creditable fourth. Simon Brien with brother Mark and David Gomes won the prestigious Edinburgh Cup in both 2000 and 2012. The Club celebrated the Centenary of its Royal Warrant in 2002, the highlights of the celebration included a visit from H.R.H. Princess Anne.
Through the years club members have had numerous successes with many of its other classes namely, lakes, Swallows, Enterprises, 505’s, Flying Fifteens, Marks, Lasers, and Mirrors all producing many national champions, highlighted by our younger members winning no less than three Mirror World Championships – Chris Clayton & Craig Martin in Tasmania, Australia 2003; Ross Kearney & Adam McCullough in Ostersund, Sweden 2005; and again Ross Kearney & Max Odell in Albany, Australia in 2011.
Today Club Racing is held on three days a week for RS Elites, Fairies, Squibs, SB20’s, RS400’s, RS Vision’s, RS Tera’s, Laser’s, Pico’s, Optimist’s and Mirror’s.
Our large Cruising fleet, apart from a half dozen or so boats on the club moorings, are now mainly based in local Marina’s and are seen flying the club’s Burgee and Ensign in many local, UK and foreign waters, several even making global circumnavigations.
The Club has been renowned for its Cadet training since it first instigated constructed courses in the 1930’s and today that tradition is being well catered for by our present Vice Commodore and Hon Cadet Officer and their dedicated teams of instructors and safety crews, providing programmes to build confidence and experience in the large number of Pirates participating on their Tuesday night social and fun Sailing, and for the more competent cadets joining in club racing on Thursdays, all running concurrently with the full range of RYA training courses held throughout the summer months, which undoubtedly augers well for our future.
Future of RNIYC
The future of RNIYC lies in the hands of the extremely active and enthusiastic cadets.
The Club is fortunate in its location. It lies between the two centres of greatest population density in Northern Ireland and good transport links from both abroad and locally make it easy for visiting competitors to reach the excellent sailing area.
The Club has in recent years hosted the Edinburgh Cup, the Squib Nationals, Mirror Irish Nationals as well as other prestigious events. The racing is always keen while functions ashore are supported with suitable entertainment and excellent club catering to suit all tastes. The Club is constantly striving to improve facilities both on and off the water and is always ready to welcome new members.