Yacht Class n°21 (june-july-august 2020)

The Yacht Club de Monaco, along with the Automobile Club, is one of the most prestigious and active sports and social institutions in Monaco. Created in 1953 by Prince Rainier to become one of the key components of the economic and tourist development of the port of Monaco, it has managed over the years, by combining high level sport, social and mundane life, to make Principality of Monaco, the world’s capital of Yachting. This success is a result the three essential criteria to the launch of any enterprise : political will, skills and means.

Written by Noëlle Duck – Photos : Gilles Martin-Raget, Carlo Borlenghi, Thierry Ameller, MC-Clic, Franck Terlin, Isabelle Touquette, Mesi, Guillaume Plisson, Fausto Picedi, Jack Esten & Georges Lukomski / Archives du Palais princier & All rights reserved

As an example, we selected two clubs that perpetuate the tradition, conveying the values that make yachting much more than just a sport, but a philosophy, a philosophy of life even. One is the oldest entity in the world, the Royal Cork Yacht Club, created in 1720, the other is more recent, the Yacht Club de Monaco, born in 1953. Twinned since 2015, they are both born from the will of forward-thinking sovereigns who wished, through the development of a sport, to provide their country with a promotion and outreach tool. In Ireland, it was the beginnings of pleasure boating and in Monaco, the remarkable evolution of sailing as a true social phenomenon that the fifties were going to simply name ‘pleasure boating’.

Creation of the Yacht Club de Monaco

During the inauguration of the Yacht Club, on June 17th 1953, Prince Rainier III declared “the future of Monaco lies with the sea”. At the beginning of the fifties, Prince Rainier III, himself a keen sailor, and not only in the Mediterranean, foresaw that post-war prosperity would lead to a yachting boom. He decided then to found in Monaco a yacht club like those he visited during his cruises. The main thrust of the Prince’s proposal was that the Yacht Club should also be a key factor in the development of Monaco’s port, the spearhead of tourism in the Principality.

Monaco, already perceived as a quality port for a stopover, had to become famous as a centre for marine leisure activities : pleasure boating and top-level yacht racing, water skiing, diving, marine archaeology, and promoting awareness among young people of the marine habitat and environment. The future club was at once to acquire all the facilities required to host and practice these disciplines.On 17th June 1953, the Constitutive Assembly was held in the International Hydrographic Bureau’s premises on the Quai des Etats-Unis, in the presence of Prince Rainier. The board of directors, immediately appointed, then met as laid down in the by-laws to elect the Bureau. Called upon to become High President of the Yacht Club de Monaco, Prince Rainier addressed the assembly: “I am deeply touched by your gesture and I thank you most sincerely. It is therefore without the least hesitation that I accept the Presidency you offer, and I warmly welcome the creation of the Yacht Club de Monaco. All the more so in that I believe it fulfils a real long-standing need. It was indeed my desire that we could welcome and bring together the yachtsmen who come here, with an organization worthy of the tourist facilities offered by the principality. This need now has been met, thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work of Mr. Paul Gingoux and his staff at the International Sporting Club ; I thank them and congratulate them on bringing this project to fruition so rapidly. I would also like to thank the Société des Bains de Mer for its understanding and effort in bringing this club to life and making its club-house so attractive… I hope most sincerely that the Yacht Club de Monaco will succeed in creating links between lovers of the sea, that it will enhance the attractiveness and the reputation of Monaco and that it will, both at home and abroad, inspire fellow-feeling and friendship”. Since the club had no premises of its own it was accommodated by the SBM, in the former pottery, avenue d’Ostende. And the SBM even installed a showcase in the lobby of the Hôtel de Paris to display the Yacht Club’s cups and trophies. And with no more ado, all hands set to work !

Sports, glamour and prestige

Prince Rainier III remained president of the Yacht Club until 1966, doubly qualified both as Sovereign committed to the development of the port of Monaco and an experienced sailor. He had owned many pleasure crafts, both sailing boats and motor yachts, visiting seas and oceans with his family on summer cruises. These were for him an absolute priority in 1955 he turned down an invitation to the Agadir Yacht Club in August for the Agadir-Las Palmas offshore race, “as he will be cruising at the time”. Princess Caroline perpetuates the tradition summer family cruises on her motor-yacht Pacha III.

Princess Grace, whose father and brother were both rowing champions, sailed a Star, the favourite boat of the sons and daughters of good East Coast families – the Kennedy brothers were championship winners – and she could often be seen in the bay of Monaco at the helm of Nibbly. Obviously their children, used to sailing from their earliest childhood, were no strangers to the sea. And it was Prince Albert II who decided in 1995 to purchase Tuiga, described by Eric Tabarly as “one of the most beautiful yachts in the world”.
Whenever possible, the Sovereign Prince attended the regattas to signal the start of races from his own yacht ; or he world visit the port at the helm of a Riva. A great friend of Carlo Riva, the Sovereign, still visionary, had anticipated the success of the magnificent motorboats from Lake Iseo and supported his installation on the port of Monaco, which is still today Riva’s base in the Mediterranean.

In 1954, the Grande Semaine Internationale de la Voile attracted International 6-metres, 5.5s and Stars. That year came to a triumphant end on December 18th with the Coupe Monégasque de Noël de ski nautique : water-skiing was at that time a very fashionable summer sport both in the Riviera coastal resorts and on inland lakes.

At the same time, Prince Rainier III pursued a policy of prestige, making members of several royal families Honorary Members : his own sister, Princess Antoinette, as from summer 1953 : then Prince Philipp of Edinburgh, Long Gustave VI of Sweden, ex-king Farouk of Egypt, in exile in Rome and a frequent visitor to the principality, and Infant Juan Carlos of Spain. Two journalists Pierre Lazareff and Jacques Goddet, general manager of the newspaper L’Equipe, received the coveted card, but on the political side, one can note that Maurice Arrexck, mayor of Toulon, had to write to request one.

In 1984, Prince Hereditary Albert was appointed by Prince Rainier III as President of the Yacht Club. At 26 year-old, the future Sovereign inspired a multifaceted development. An accomplished athlete and a high-caliber manager, he created or encouraged the organization of major international competitions. Regattas were run in Monaco – the Primo Cup in winter, the maxis in summer – a transatlantic race was even organized between Monaco and New-York. These top level races attracted owners, but also the finest international crews who appreciated the warm welcome, the sense of celebration and the unique setting offered by Port Hercules. One could even come to enjoy the moods of the capricious winds that make the water body very technical !

Since its creation, the YCM sailing division, sponsored by Princess Caroline, educates all the Monegasque children. It is a sailor incubator, where owners pick up their crews. This is where values are passed on, and young sportsmen turned into the yachtsmen of tomorrow, one of the values to which all the Yacht Club is attached, which unite generations.

In 1994, to celebrate Prince Albert’s 10th anniversary of presidency, the Club organised an innovative event, dedicated to classical yachting, which was in full revival at that time. The Monaco Classic Week (MCW) brings together motorboats, motor-yachts and traditional sailing boats. A new kind of gathering that still today draws attracts every two years in Monaco the most beautiful yachts in the world, gathered by enthusiast shipowners. That year, in Saint-Tropez, the Nioulargue is at its best and its big winner was a 15 Metre Internationl rule boat : Tuiga, a 1909 gaff cutter designed by the famous Scottish architect William Fife. This work of art, which had just undergone a restoration, seduced Prince Albert II and all his staff. A few months later, Tuiga became the flagship of the Yacht Club de Monaco. Out of a series of twenty 15 Metre Class – or 15 M International Rule –, only four have survived. And in 2011, the Yacht Club brought them together for a historic regatta, the highlight of the MCW, 73 years after their last race together !

The Yacht Club, cramped in its premises on Quai Antoine 1er, deserved a Club House worthy of its success. The architect Norman Foster was commissioned to design this immaculate “ocean liner”, which took ten years to build and was inaugurated in June 2014. According to the yachtsmen from all over the world present that evening, it is the most beautiful in the world ! With 2 000 members, representing 60 nationalities, the Club brings together under its burgee the largest number of private yachts in the world. Their owners interacts wihtin La Belle Classe Tradition, where today’s yachtsmen are united to perpetuate the naval etiquette and the spirit of seafarers.

Twinning, what brings together yacht clubs from all over the world

When you look at the list of clubs twinned with the Yacht Club de Monaco, yachtsmen from various nations were obviously committed to forge links allowing them to meet up in clubs similar to their own and to feel at home, taking advantage of the hospitality and infrastructure that make their stopover a privileged moment. Here’s how the statutes of the YCM define the twinning with another club :
Twinning between clubs enables :
– The development of sporting activities between clubs, with all members being able to participate freely under equal conditions
– Free access for society members of the twinned clubs to the premises, restaurant and lounges and services on offer on presentation of their membership card
– Exchanges between the two clubs Sailing Schools, including competitions and coaches.
– Any active member of a club who takes up residence in the country of a twinned club is obliged to change affiliation to that club after six months residence and to conform to the statutes of the club concerned.

Actually, when looking at the history of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, we discovered that actually the English did not create Yachting, but it was the Irish, and Ireland being an independent republic we cannot say “the British” either ! But, far from chauvinism, we owe it to the English to have, when they were the masters of the maritime world, wanted to restore some of their habits in the remotest parts of their colonial empire. The oldest Asian yacht club, the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, twinned with the YCM, was created in 1826, during the commercial epic of the East India Company, and the British colonization. The Royal Bombay Yacht Club, as early as 1846, brought together her Majesty’s subjects serving in the Vice-Kingdom of India. The one in Hong Kong, at the vanguard of China, which still today trains generations of outstanding racers, offered the benefits of a splendid water body, vey exposed to the wind and dotted with islands planted in a devilishly exotic emerald green water. In the Mediterranean, the Royal Yacht Club Malta, located at the port entrance of this arid rock ideally placed between East and West, offered the coolness of its marble floors and the comfort of its Chesterfield sofas on the return from the first great Mediterranean offshore race, the Middle Sea Race. In Spain, where sovereigns participated in high-level regattas, the RCN Barcelona has welcomed yachts cruising in the Western Mediterranean since 1879.

In South America, Argentina and Brazil have dynamic clubs, created by Europeans who relocated there during the 19th century. While in the United States, the New York Yacht Club, the most venerable institution on the East Coast, has written the most beautiful pages of the yachting history with the America’s Cup saga. New York has another club, which organizes regattas at the foot of Manhattan – its most important sports club – led by a team that would not miss the Monaco Classic Week for the world : the Manhattan Yacht Club is, among the reciprocal clubs, one of the most dynamic of all those linked with the YCM.

This non-exhaustive overview leads us to the oldest Yacht Club in the world: the Royal Cork Yacht Club, South of Ireland, twinned since June 28th 2015 with the Yacht Club de Monaco.

History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club

The story began in early 1600s… Indeed, it was at this time that the idea of owning boats for private pleasure was born somewhere in the Netherlands, where the young King of England Charles II, also King of Scotland and Ireland, driven out by Cromwell, found refuge in 1648. He discovered there the pleasures of sailing. When his exile ended in 1660, he brought back a yacht named Mary, which he sailed on the Thames. Obviously, his courtiers followed his example, and among them the Irishman Murrough O’Brien. And soon, in Cork, sailing activities met great success, encouraged by the sovereign. Around 1720, interest in the sport had progressed so much that young William O’Brien, the 9th Inchiquin Lord, then aged 26, one of the most important personalities in the kingdom, and five of his friends formalised their activities and created “The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork”. They moved into a castle, where they drafted their statutes that still govern the sport practice, membership, social events, and established a number of rules, known today as “The Old Rules”… That’s what bring together the Yacht Club de Monaco and the Royal Cork Yacht Club : the respect of traditions, the desire to pass on, and the very appealing sporting and distinguished atmosphere, as evidenced by the number of members close to 2 000 !

But let’s go back to History, which played a big part in the club’s one. Undoubtedly, the American Revolution and the French Revolution, contributed to the Royal Navy’s decision to build up their presence in the safe & strategic harbour of Cork. Kinsale, once the the main naval centre on this coast, had made way to Cork, since its insufficient draught does not allow warships there.

By 1806, the “Water Club of the Harbour of Cork” has become the “Cork Harbour Water Club”. Later on, in the 1820’s, it dropped “Harbour”, and, following the fashion of the few other clubs that associated the word “yacht” to their name, it dropped the word “Water”. In 1831, the then “Cork Yacht Club” was granted, by King William IV, the privilege of using the prefix “Royal”.

A sports club, a pleasant stopover

Ask around, a stopover at the RCYC leaves an excellent memory for those who, after a challenging crossing of the Iroise Sea, come to enjoy the legendary Irish hospitality. I still remember the stage finish of the Figaro Race, in the 1970s, where, after a rough navigation, we were greeted by fiddles playing Sean O’Riada’s great ballads and the most delicious Irish coffee I have ever had, offered by the Club’s team. Unforgettable!

In Cork, the water body winding through the shores of a deep estuary is nested in a morning ghostly mist, even in mid-summer, and hosts a lot of regattas, on small units, Laser, Optimist, and other dinghies, providing a solid training for the young club members. Which proves necessary considering the difficult, even brutal conditions once out at sea. The club has 1 800 members, including many seasoned ocean racers. They can be found in major events : Fastnet Race, Cowes Week, Round Ireland Race, and you can see them, during the summer, sailing along the beautiful South and West coasts of Ireland.

Its geographical location makes it a perfect festive and technical stopover on the northern route for yachts coming from the Mediterranean. Scandinavia, or even the regions of the polar circle, have become trendy destinations in recent years for cruises by explorer motor yachts, popular among owners of this type of vessel, who are often members of the Yacht Club de Monaco. A member of the European Community since 1973, Ireland, halfway between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia via the Western route, also allows for extended stopovers.

All the conditions were right for the twinning to strengthen the ties forged over the years between the two clubs. They were actually preparing for a grand celebration, the 300th anniversary of the Irish Club. The IRC European Championship was supposed to enhance the Cork Week. But alas, we have to talk about all this in the past tense, as even St. Patrick could not defeat the virus ! 


We want to thank Thomas Fouilleron and Sylvie Ruau, Archives of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, Gavin Deane, General manager of the RCYC, Isabelle Andrieux, Maguelonne Turcat for their availability in these trouble times, as all archives and communication department were closed.

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