Royal Yacht Squadron Set For Ballot On Women Members

Published on August 4th, 2013

Cowes, UK (August 4, 2013) – Just weeks after the furore over female golfers being excluded from membership at Muirfield, another bastion of gentlemen-only clubs, the Royal Yacht Squadron, is set to ballot its members on allowing women to join for the first time in 198 years.

The founder of the historic Cowes Week, which starts on Saturday is billed as one of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world. Founded in 1815 for “gentlemen” with an active interest in sailing yachts in sea water, it is restricted to just 475 members, with acceptance to the ranks depending on occupation.

Sir Thomas Lipton was famously blackballed until shortly before his death for being a grocer while women, including the world’s most famous female sailor, Dame Ellen MacArthur, have always been excluded. The Queen was once refused access through the main men-only door.

More recently, wives of members have been allowed in as lady associates but membership has been denied. The equality issue could be put to the vote at the next members meeting, although none of the members of the famously secretive RYS who were approached by The Daily Telegraph would discuss the issue.

However, the proposal to allow women is unlikely to receive a majority vote, a stance that has been criticised by round-the-world yachtswoman Sam Davies.

“It’s a bit crazy in this day and age,” she said. “But there will be a lot of clubs that can give women sailors more resources and support than the Royal Yacht Squadron can. Being a member there is more about status, so for me, membership would not be a priority.”

One of the RYS’s first regattas in 1826 was Cowes Week, featuring just a handful of yachts and 187 years later, the event is in good health with around 1,000 boats and 8,500 competitors taking to the water for Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week from Saturday.

There will be no shortage of big race boats which will descend on Cowes to warm up for the Rolex Fastnet Race starting next Sunday.

The Artemis Challenge on Thursday is set to be the highlight of the week with Alex Thomson, Brian Thomson and Mike Golding racing their Open 60s and Dee Caffari on board Oman Air Musandam, one of the two MOD70s. Story

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