Most Exclusive Yacht Clubs in America

Published on July 5th, 2016

If you’re looking for a place to dock that new yacht of yours, you can’t go wrong with any of the 11 most exclusive yacht clubs in America.

Owning a yacht is the ultimate show of wealth. But getting one is just a first step on claiming your spot among the world’s elite. Some would argue that a membership in the right, preferably highly exclusive, yacht club is just as important as the actual ownership of a boat.

To decide which 11 are the most exclusive yacht clubs in America, took a look at several sources. They started with the Platinum Clubs of America and their 2014 listing of best yacht clubs in the US. To further distinguish them, they added points for winners of the America’s Cup, one of the most prestigious yachting races in the world, and Resolute Cup, sometimes called the unofficial club championship of America in yachting. Here are the results…

11. Southern Yacht Club
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Founded: 1849

Southern Yacht Club suffered greatly from the Hurricane Katrina. The club house was severely damaged by the fire that broke during the storm and it had to be demolished. Unfortunately, a large number of priceless yachting artifacts were lost in the process. Still, the club survived and in 2009, the members celebrated 160 years since its founding. The club played an important role in New Orleans’ social life throughout its history and continues to do so. Southern Yacht Club organizes the Race to the Coast, one of the oldest yachting regattas in the Western hemisphere. Its members won 4 golden medals in the Summer Olympics for the United States.

10. Grosse Pointe Yacht Club
Location: Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
Founded: 1914

Founded by the group of 25 sailing enthusiasts in 1914, Grosse Pointe Yacht Club is located on the shores of Lake St. Clair. Its clubhouse, designed by Guy Lowell, is listed on National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, Lowell didn’t get to see his creation, since he died at sea before the building was finished. The most prominent feature is the 187-ft bell tower, which doubles as the radio far for sailors on Lake St. Clair. In 1997, in a survey among the managers of the yacht clubs across the United States, Grosse Pointe Yacht Club was named Number One Yacht Club in America.

9. Palm Beach Yacht Club
Location: Palm Beach, Florida
Founded: 1890 (re-chartered 1911)

What started as a local association of enthusiasts to promote sailing on Intracoastal Waterway soon developed into one of the best yachting clubs in America. Among other amenities it offers to the members, Pal Palm Beach Yacht Club takes great pride in their restaurant, which won several prestigious international awards, like the Epicurean International Award, limited to just 100 restaurants on the planet.

8. Chicago Yacht Club
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Founded: 1875

The Great Lakes offer some of the best freshwater sailings in the world and Chicago Yacht Club is taking full advantage of that fact. It hosts annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which brings more than 3,000 sailors from the entire country to the shores of Lake Michigan and Chicago Harbor Lighthouse. Although often teased by the other clubs about their lack of saltiness, members of Chicago Yacht Club are very proud of their club and its achievements. Among notable members are Robert Halperin and William Parks, the bronze medalist from the 1960 Olympics.

7. Annapolis Yacht Club
Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Founded: 1886

Annapolis, America’s Sailing Capital, is a home to a several yachting and boating clubs, but the premier spot goes to the Annapolis Yacht Club. Among other races, the club organizes the traditional Annapolis to Newport race, one of the most iconic races in America’s yachting history. Although the effects of a devastating fire that ravaged the clubhouse in 2015 are still visible, club’s 1600-strong membership body has come together to mend the disaster.

6. Newport Harbor Yacht Club
Location: Newport Beach, California
Founded: 1916

Newport Harbor Yacht Club is one of the several premier clubs on the West coast. The club played a vital role in the development of Newport Beach throughout its history. Its clubhouse, built in 1919, is considered as one of the most important local landmarks and is one of the oldest clubhouses on our list. Despite several enlargements and reconstructions, it struggles to offer top notch service to the club’s members and plans for a new one are under development. In 1986, the club sent a crew to try and qualify for the next year’s America’s Cup, but unfortunately, they lost to the San Diego’s boat, which eventually won the Cup.

5. Carolina Yacht Club
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Founded: 1883

Located in the beautiful historic setting of Battery in Charleston’s downtown, Carolina Yacht Club looks like Scarlett O’Hara will come in any second accompanied by Captain Butler. The fact that the clubhouse is in the old cotton factor’s office, with Greek columns on the waterfront, only reinforces the impression of the Old South. Members like to boast that their club has the best yachting facilities on the East Coast. While there are quite a few clubs that would disagree, Caroline Yacht Club’s location with the access to Charleston Harbor is certainly among the best in the nation. It is one of the reasons for its high placement on our list of 11 most exclusive yacht clubs in America.

4. San Diego Yacht Club
Location: San Diego, California
Founded: 1886

San Diego Yacht Club is one of the most prominent clubs in America’s yachting history. Its crews and boats won the America’s Cup two times, making it the only American club besides New York Yacht Club and Golden Gate Yacht Club to take home the much-coveted Auld Mug. In their third attempt, they lost to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1995. It is also the original home of the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup, a prestigious regatta held annually since 1904. In order to provide its members with an excellent service, San Diego Yacht Club employs over 100 people in its clubhouse. The club runs one of the most successful youth programs in the country, which has a great appeal to members and wannabe members with kids.

3. The San Francisco Yacht Club
Location: Belvedere, California
Founded: 1869

Founded in 1869, San Francisco Yacht Club is the oldest yachting club on the West Coast. The clubhouse was moved several times, until it finally settled in its current location, in Belvedere Cove, in 1926. The move split the membership and one group decided to form a new club, called St. Francis Yacht Club. Despite the controversy surrounding the relocation, it proved to be the right move, as Belvedere Cove is an excellent harbor and it allowed the club to create world-class amenities for its members and their guests. The clubhouse went through an extensive reconstruction in 2007, modernizing existing features and adding some new ones, in order to bring it up with the times.

2. St. Francis Yacht Club
Location: San Francisco
Founded: 1927

Formed by the dissatisfied members of the San Francisco Yacht Club who opposed the move to Belvedere, St. Francis Yacht Club has quickly gained a reputation of a premier yacht club, often ranking higher than their rivals at the San Francisco Yacht Club, much to their chagrin. It is generally considered the most prestigious yacht club on the Western coast. One of the reasons for its popularity is the club’s location near the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the most notable members include James David Zellerbach, Tom Blackaller, Pamela Healy, and Roy Disney.

1. New York Yacht Club
Location: New York, New York
Founded: 1844

The top spot on our list of 11 most exclusive yacht clubs in America goes to the New York Yacht Club. It has about 3,000 members and the only way to become one of them is to be invited. New York Yacht Club is the essential part of the iconic America’s Cup, having won it 25 times. It is officially the longest winning streak in the history of sports. The cup itself is named after America, NYYC schooner which won the first cup ever held in 1851. Its rivalry with Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron is one of the greatest in the history of the sport and certainly the greatest among yachting clubs of the world. New York Yacht Club is regularly listed among the top 3 best yachting clubs in the world.


New York Yacht Club

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