the new york yacht club
On July 30, 1844, John Cox Stevens (1785-1857) and eight of his friends met aboard Stevens’ yacht Gimcrack, anchored off the Battery in New York Harbor. That afternoon, they established the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and made three critical decisions that day: first, they elected Stevens as Commodore of the Club; second, they agreed to develop rules and regulations to govern the Club; and, third, they resolved to cruise to Newport, Rhode Island, initiating the enduring connection between the Club and New England. The Club’s young fleet of eight schooner yachts set sail from New York Harbor for Newport three days later, marking the Club's first Annual Cruise. During the passage, they made stops at various ports on Long Island Sound and even held informal speed trials. Upon reaching Newport, the members met up with yachtsmen from Boston to socialize and engage in racing activities. On August 8, the Club hosted a fleet race around Conanicut Island, a popular racecourse today. The year that followed was a busy one for the Club. It adopted its Rules and Regulations, opened its first clubhouse and held its first Annual Regatta.
The clubhouse was located at the Stevens Family’s verdant waterfront park, the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey—in close proximity to the bluff presently occupied by the Stevens Institute of Technology. This institution was established by Edwin Augustus Stevens (1795-1868), who was also the fourth Commodore of the Club.
A visitor to the Club recalls, “They have a club-house--a handsome Gothic cottage--erected for the use of the club in a pleasant grove in the Elysian Fields, by that prince of good fellows, John C. Stevens, who makes the punch, superintends the cooking, and presides at the table, under the appropriate title of "Commodore."
The New York Yacht Club held its first Annual Regatta--a fleet race for a prize cup--on July 17, 1845. Nine yachts started opposite the new clubhouse at 9 a.m. on the Hudson River. They sailed to a turning mark near Sandy Hook in the Lower Bay and returned—a 38-mile course. The yacht Cygnet won, earning fame as the first winner of North America’s longest-running sailing regatta. Today, the New York Yacht Club has its signature clubhouse, a National Historic Landmark, on West 44th Street in New York, and a waterfront clubhouse, Harbour Court, in Newport. The Club’s first clubhouse survives. It was installed on the grounds of Harbour Court in 1999, where it serves as a reminder of the Club’s origins.
The Club continues to run its Annual Regatta, presented by Rolex. The Club also hosts the biennial Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, for international Corinthian sailors representing their yacht clubs and nations and the parallel event for U.S. yacht clubs, the Resolute Cup. The Club also hosts and participates in other national, North American and world championships.
To attract and bring together a dedicated group of yachting and naval members to share and foster their interest in yachting and yacht racing;
To sustain a leadership role in yachting, its history, its development, the preservation of its traditions, and the furtherance of good seamanship;
To promote the highest form of Corinthian sportsmanship in national and international yachting forums and yacht racing competitions.
Racing sailboats has long been a lifeblood of the New York Yacht Club. The Club, founded on July 30, 1844, held informal speed trials during its first week of existence and hosted its first fleet race just nine days after it was founded. In 1851, a black-hulled schooner crossed the Atlantic and arrived in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, the epicenter of yachting in England, looking to win races. This yacht was America, owned by Commodore John Cox Stevens and four other club members. Stevens challenged yachts of the United Kingdom to a match race. However, no yacht was willing to race her.
But the Royal Yacht Squadron graciously invited America to compete in a fleet race around the Isle of Wight, open to all nations. On Friday, August 22, America and 15 of the Squadron’s boats gathered at Cowes for the world’s first major international yacht race. America had a slow start but she soon caught up to the rest of the fleet. Her clipper bow and efficient sails helped her take the lead.
Queen Victoria, who was watching the race, inquired, "Which is first?" After being told it was America, she asked, "Which is second?" "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second," was the reply. Or so the story goes. After the race, the Royal Yacht Squadron presented America’s owners with a silver trophy, the Hundred Guinea Cup, for winning what remains the most celebrated yacht race in history.
On October 1, 1851, Commodore Stevens presented the trophy to the New York Yacht Club during a celebratory dinner at the Astor House hotel in New York. But the Commodore alerted his fellow members that his gift would come with conditions. However, these conditions, the Deed of Gift, were not forwarded to the Club for several years. This delay remains a mystery. On July 9, 1857, George L. Schuyler furnished the Deed of Gift to the Club, and the Club formally accepted the trophy. Better late than never.
The Deed of Gift requires that the trophy serve as a perpetual challenge yacht racing prize for “friendly competition between foreign countries.” Per the conditions, the Club sent invitations to yacht clubs to challenge for the trophy, which came to be known as the America’s Cup in honor of the yacht that won it. The first challenger was the Royal Thames Yacht Club which raced its yacht Cambria against the New York Yacht Club in New York Harbor on August 8, 1870. The New York Yacht Club won that race and every match for the Cup after that until 1983—a feat described by journalists as "the longest winning streak in sports."
The first transatlantic yacht race was held in the winter of 1866. On Christmas day, Henrietta finished first in a three-boat race that newspapers dubbed The Great Ocean Race. The winning yacht’s owner, James Gordon Bennett Jr., the publisher of the New York Herald, and soon-to-be the Club’s seventh Commodore, earned praise for being the only owner to brave the Atlantic by racing aboard his yacht.
The New York Yacht Club competed in another famous transatlantic race in 1905, from New York to The Lizard in England. The Club schooner, Atlantic, with the legendary skipper Charlie Barr at the helm, won that race, completing it in just 12 days, four hours, and one minute. The time stood for 100 years as the Transatlantic Race Record for monohull yachts until 2005, when the Atlantic Challenge Cup was reprised as the “Rolex Transatlantic Challenge,” hosted by New York Yacht Club with support from the Royal Yacht Squadron. The record was finally eclipsed by Robert Miller's Mari-Cha IV of the Royal Yacht Squadron with a speed of 9 days, 15 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds.
From 1884 to 1900, the clubhouse was a townhouse at 67 Madison Avenue. By 1898, it was chockablock with "models, members, and memorabilia," according to the New York Daily Tribune. It was then that Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan stunned fellow members by announcing he would donate three lots on West 44th Street to build a new clubhouse. The building, brilliantly designed with nautical motifs by Whitney Warren, opened in 1901. It is famous for its Model Room and Library. The New York Times wrote of the clubhouse in 1906, "Except for the absence of motion, one might fancy oneself at sea."
In 1987, the New York Yacht Club acquired Harbour Court, the former summer home of Commodore John Nicholas Brown, in Newport, creating a new energy and focus. The waterfront clubhouse opened in 1988 with 1,500 members and guests in attendance. In 2019, Harbour Court hosted the Club’s Dosquicentennial Celebration for members and friends to celebrate the Club’s 175 years of history.
The New York Yacht Club has hosted Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex since 1998 and many other regattas in recent years including world championships for the Etchells, J/70, Farr 40 and Melges 20 classes, the J Class Worlds, the Global Team Race Regatta, the Transatlantic Race, and the IC37 National Championships to name a few.
The Club is also highly active in team and match racing. In 2006, the Club purchased 14 Sonars in dedication of these activities. In 2014, the fleet was increased to 22 Sonars, and today, team racing at the New York Yacht Club offers some of the most intense competition in the country.
Since 2009 the New York Yacht Club has conducted the biennial Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. After a successful decade of racing in the Swan 42, the eighth one-design class created by the New York Yacht Club since 1900, the Invitational Cup transitioned to using the Club's fleet of 20 IC37 race boats in 2019. These purpose-built machines, combined with one-design sails from North Sails, identical gear and standardized rig tune, create a level platform for amateur big-boat racing. Yacht club teams worldwide and Corinthian (amateur) sailors flock to Newport to race in this competition. During the first Invitational Cup in 2009, 19 yacht club teams from 14 countries and four continents competed, and the New York Yacht Club emerged as the winner. Since 2009, more than 1,000 sailors, comprised of teams from more than 40 yacht clubs representing 21 countries and all six continents, have competed in at least one edition of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.
After a break of nearly two decades, the New York Yacht Club resumed the quest for the America’s Cup in partnership with American Magic for the 36th America’s Cup in New Zealand and is preparing for the 37th America’s Cup, which will take place in Barcelona in September and October, 2024. The New York Yacht Club will be participating in the inaugural women and youth America’s Cup events included in the upcoming campaign, sure to be a highlight of the competition.
The New York Yacht Club continues today as a premier worldwide institution for fostering an interest in yachting and preserving its history and traditions.
 Philip Hone. The Diary of Philip Hone. June 24, 1846 entry.
Off to the Races, 1900, Russ Kramer
One Hundred Sovereigns Cup Race August 22, 1851, T.S. Robins, 1851, Courtesy the Royal Yacht Squadron Collection