Royal Yacht Club of Victoria has a long and proud history being one of the oldest clubs in Australia founded in May 1853 as the Port Phillip Yacht Club. In 1872 the club was granted the privilege of flying the Blue Ensign of the Colony of Victoria. Queen Victoria, in 1886 granted the club the privileges of a royal club and the Admiralty granted a Full Warrant to fly the Blue Ensign of Her Majesty's Fleet. The Club added the name 'Royal' to its name and it has since been known as the Royal Yacht Club of Victoria.
The club is continually looking to explore every opportunity to improve yet further the experience for members. In 2013 the club celebrated its 160th year with a formal evening at one of Melbourne’s biggest icons, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). An exciting time for the club lays ahead, both on and off the water.
Club races in the very early days were held on Corio Bay, but in 1873 the club moved to its present site at 120 Nelson Place, Williamstown, just across the Westgate Bridge, on the banks of the picturesque Port Phillip. It was to be the dawn on a new era, and a move the club has never regretted.
The average class of yacht on the club register was much different from today, with straight-stemmed deep-keel cutters ranging from 6 to 40 tons. Most of the famous yachts seen in Port Phillip have been on the Royals register, including the 400-ton schooner Undine, owned by the Millar brothers, and the beautiful 35-ton Cushie Doo.
As a senior club, it is no surprise that two of the biggest sailing events in Australia’s history, the 1956 Olympics and the 1983 America’s Cup both featured RYCV. To Royals went the honour of hosting the 5.5 metre yachts at the 1956 Games. The 1983 Australian challenge for the America’s Cup was perhaps the most significant commitment ever entered into by the club over its long history. Although Williamstown-sponsored Challenge 12 was not successful in defeating Australia II for the right to challenge, some members of the Victorian team were co-opted into the victorious Bond syndicate which wrested the America’s Cup from New York.
The Club has had some fine sailors over the years and although a number of Royals crews has competed in the Sydney to Hobart race, it wasn’t until 1996 that a club boat won: Terra Firma, sailed by clubmen Dean Wilson, Scott Carlisle and as principle helmsman, Ian ‘Barney’ Walker.
Lack of funds in the early days prevented the acquisition of a clubhouse, with members sailing from Williamstown but meeting at the Port Phillip Club Hotel in Flinders Street and later in the Old Temple Court, Collins Street. It was not until 1905 that the club moved into a home of its own, when it obtained the lease on Wickliffe House, a grand building on the Upper Esplande in St Kilda.
It being felt that the city rooms tended to make the club more of a social than a sailing club; it was decided to make Williamstown the sole clubhouse. It represented a huge commitment financially, but finally in 1935 the club had its own building.
In 1967 the club began construction of a marina and the 100-year-old two-storey boathouse was demolished to make room for an extended hardstand. What was not planned though, was the loss of the clubhouse three years later in 1970. A fire began in the kitchen and raced through the wooden building, destroying the majority of the club’s treasured relics such as pictures, half-models and honours board. Stoically members rallied and the club rose metaphorically from the ashes, a new brick building having been constructed for the benefit of the 350 members only a little over a year later.
In 2002 there was an extension of the clubhouse with the addition of fresh office and meeting spaces. Not long after this a new and significantly larger decking was also constructed, allowing club events to spill out from the clubhouse to overlook our magnificent lawn area and enhance our view of the Melbourne CBD. Royals is fond of its past but equally looks to the future.
Want to know more?
You can read more about the history of the Club in the souvenir booklet prepared for the 150th Anniversary.
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Interested in helping us build our Club archives? We'd love your help! If you have anything you'd like to add to the club archives, please contact the office on (03) 9397 1277 or submit your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for stories, photographs and documents that we can add to our collection but we're also looking for volunteers to help us:
- Sort through and organise the Club archives
- Present the collection in a meaningful way