Royal Dart Yacht Club prepares to celebrate 150 years with a series of special events and regattas

One of the country’s oldest yacht clubs celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2016.  A programme of events will commemorate the Royal Dart Yacht Club’s landmark.

Events organised this year by the Royal Dart Yacht Club will include the well-established and popular Dartmouth Classics Regatta, a new competition – Savills Commodore’s Challenge Cup – and the Royal Dart Provident 150th Challenge, aimed at young people.

The first yacht club in England was launched by the Duke of Cumberland in 1775, becoming the Royal Thames Yacht Club in 1823. In the wave of enthusiasm for sailing for pleasure that followed during the mid-Victorian era, landowner Henry Studdy, from Stoke Gabriel in Devon, and a group of friends got together for the inaugural meeting of the Dart Yacht Club at the Castle Hotel, Dartmouth on June 8, 1866.

They established a base on the Kingswear side of the River Dart in two rooms of a hotel and invited like-minded people to apply for membership, at a cost of a guinea a year.

Royal approval came in 1873 after the Club petitioned Queen Victoria. Years earlier, in August 1856, the monarch had been sailing along the coast when poor weather forced her to pay an impromptu visit to Dartmouth. She then bestowed the Royal title on the annual Regatta, which coincided with her visit. Not to be outdone, the Dart Yacht Club pressed for the same honour, supporting its case with the proclamation that it was in ‘the leading position as a sailing and racing club in the West of England’. Royal approval was duly given in time for 1873 regatta, hosted for the first time by the newly-named Royal Dart Yacht Club.

The club today is thriving, and preparing for a year of events to mark its 150th anniversary. A week of celebratory activities from 28 May to 5 June (the date of the first meeting was 8 June) will include a coastal sail to Brixham, a sail past of members’ boats and match racing in Squibs.

One of the most spectacular events will be the Dartmouth Classics Regatta in Start Bay on Saturday and Sunday, 9 and 10 July. Last held in 2014, it will act as a feeder race to Plymouth on Monday 11 July for the start of the Plymouth-Brest-La Rochelle Revival Race.

There is a packed programme of social events during the weekend and a parade of sail before the start of Sunday’s racing. On Monday there will be a passage race to Plymouth linked to the Plymouth-Brest-La Rochelle race and some of the competing yachts for that event are expected to be in Dartmouth for the weekend.

As part of the 150th anniversary sailing programme, the Royal Dart Yacht Club has issued a challenge to nine other Yacht Clubs in the South West to compete for a new team racing trophy. The Savills Commodore’s Challenge Cup, which is sponsored by real estate services provider Savills, will be held in Start Bay on 23 July.

The Royal Dart Yacht Club also plays host to two major sailing events this year. For the first time they will be the host club as teams compete for the Spring Cup at the J24 Southern Area Weekend (16 and 17 April). Later in the year is the Association of Sail Training Organisations Race for sail training ships (20-21 August). The Royal Dart Yacht Club will host the start and, in this special anniversary year, has launched the RDYC Provident 150 Challenge to sponsor ten local young people as crew on the traditional gaff-rigged Brixham trawler Provident. The trawler, part of the National Historic Fleet, was built in 1924 and is returning to sea this spring (May) after a year of restoration by the Trinity Sailing Foundation.

The ASTO race brings together Sail Training vessels and young people in friendly competition. The event is open to Sail Training vessels under 24m, and other sailing vessels if at least half of the crew are between 12 and 25 years old. The fleet arrives in Dartmouth on 20 August, with training and social events the following day before starting the overnight race to Gosport on Monday, 22 August, expecting to arrive two days later.

This friendly and sociable yacht club is thriving today, with a lot of activity on, in and around the water. There is, literally, something for everyone. You don’t even need to have a boat!

The Junior Sailing Programme includes activities alongside RYA training. Races and other junior events prove extremely popular with competitors, organisers and spectators.

The RDYC Cruising Section organises cruises and associated events designed to encourage best practice and increase the knowledge, skills, experience and confidence of members. The Cruising Programme normally includes short trips upriver as well as the more traditional coastal hops to enjoy the hospitality of other Devon yacht clubs.

The RDYC Ladies Afloat meet every Thursday with the opportunity to dinghy sail, cruise in a wide variety of yachts and keelboats or experience power and safety boats. There are also overnight trips and other activities. Ladies Afloat will hold an Open Day on 2 June as part of the 150th RDYC celebrations.

The Boys in Boats meet on a Tuesday for a variety of activities on the water – trips up the river for lunch at the pub, fish and chip cruises to Brixham, canoeing and safety tuition. They also organise an annual cruise where yachts sail in company.

For the more competitive sailor, there is a calendar packed with races throughout the season at the Royal Dart Yacht Club. And for the armchair sailor there are talks, monthly get-togethers, quizzes and social events or just the pleasure of enjoying a drink with friends on the terrace in the sunshine.

Commodore of the Royal Dart Yacht Club, Clive Bennett, who has been a member of the RDYC for more than 20 years, is looking forward to the 150th celebrations and has set a challenge to recruit 150 new members during the year.

For further information on the Royal Dart Yacht Club and its Anniversary, please visit