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British Yacht Ensigns (Yacht Clubs)

Last modified: 2006-09-30 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | yacht ensigns |
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"Royal" Yacht Clubs

Throughout the world, in countries formerly part of the Empire, but now independent, there remains a relatively large number of clubs which boast the honorific "Royal" in their titles. Indeed, one such club exists here in Hong Kong. Now I am no expert in this area, but it seems to me that British members of such clubs, sailing British-registered craft, and holding the appropriate warrant can fly a defaced ensign. I am curious, however, as to what that defacement would be. Would it be a simple crown, or would it be the badge of the club to which such members belong? I would also be interested to know whether the ensign so defaced would be the red or the blue.

In the case of a Royal club in a country where the Queen is still head of state, the position seems to be that the red ensign of that country shall normally be flown, unless the member possesses an admiralty warrant to fly a defaced blue ensign. Defaced by what, I do not know, but I am assuming the club's badge. I base this observation upon the "flag and yacht etiquette" section on the homepage of the Royal Prince Albert Yacht Club in Australia.

I quote:

1.1 Flag and Yacht Etiquette are derived from custom and usage of the Royal Navy. Members of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club will wish to maintain similar high standards of seamanship and good manners.

1.2 Ensigns All Australian ships are entitled to wear the Australian Red Ensign.

"Alfreds" yachts may wear the Defaced Blue Ensign provided that:
i) The owner has an Admiralty Warrant to fly the Blue Ensign
ii) The Warrant is aboard the yacht at the time
iii) The owner is on board or in effective control of the yacht (e.g., ashore in the vicinity)
iv) The "Alfreds" burgee is worn

1.3 Colours in Harbour
The Burgee and Ensign should be hoisted at 0800 hours and lowered at sunset. The "Alfreds" requires ships to lower all colours at this time.

1.4 At Sea
The Ensign should be worn in daylight within sight of land or when in company with other yachts or ships. The burgee is not required to be lowered at sunset.

1.5 When Racing
Burgees and Ensigns must not be worn. Racing flags should be flown from the backstay in all "Alfreds" races. Yachts having retired should wear the burgee and ensign.

1.6 Salutes
The Red and Blue Ensigns should be dipped to Warships of all nations and to The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club Flag Officers. The White Ensign is never dipped except when returning a salute.

Does the situation described above apply to ALL Royal yacht clubs (or even non-Royal yacht clubs) in Australia, or is it peculiar to the RPAYC?

Altogether, it would appear that British members of Royal yacht clubs in foreign countries (e.g. Ireland) and Commonwealth countries which are not realms (e.g. India) and warrant holders in Commonwealth countries which are realms (e.g. Australia) are entitled to fly a dizzying range of defaced ensigns, if the defacements are, indeed, the badges of those clubs. If this situation also applies to clubs which are NOT "Royal", the potential number of such defaced ensigns rises accordingly.

Peter Johnson, 4 February 2006

It is the country of registry that defines what ensign a vessel will fly, regardless of the nationality or either owner or master. As far as the defaced ensign of a UK yacht club goes, it is the club that applies for the Warrant, which its members may subsequently fly from their individual (British registered) vessels providing that they, themselves, are aboard, however, this is the first I have heard that they needed (necessarily) to be British citizens in order to do so? The situation might be rather different if each individual member had to apply separately for a Warrant (which to the best of my knowledge - bearing in mind that I've never belonged to a club entitled to a defaced ensign - he or she does not).

The fact that a country becomes independent does not (it would appear) automatically cancel any Warrant issued for a defaced ensign prior to that time, but that any vessels registered in the newly created country may no longer fly it. If however, a member of the yacht club concerned still runs a British registered vessel then they may continue to fly the defaced ensign granted to that club from said vessel - again I am not at all sure about the need for British citizenship?
Christopher Southworth, 4 February 2006

There is no direct connection between a special ensign and the right to have Royal in the club's name. There have been Royal clubs that did not have a special ensign (Galway, Tay, Munster, Barbados, Ceylon, Madras), and there are numerous clubs that have a special ensign, but no Royal title. In the latter part of the 19th century clubs who wanted a special ensign applied to the Home Office for the title "Royal", as it was widely thought that having the title made it more likely that a special ensign would be granted. They were on a hiding to nothing. The Home Office would pass the request to the Admiralty asking, "does this club have a special ensign, and if not, would you grant one if it were requested ?" If the Admiralty replied, "no", and, "would not", the request was submitted to the Queen with the observation "not recommended". It was only rarely that the Queen did not take the advice of the Home Office on this matter.

One point which is sometimes misunderstood is the meaning of "Royal Patronage". Clubs can have Royal Patronage without the title Royal, and having the title does not indicate Royal Patronage. The latter is a more personal thing between the royal person and the club, while the title is to some extent a Home Office matter.
David Prothero, 4 February 2006

Alexandra Yacht Club

The Alexandra Yacht Club, Southend-on-Sea uses a blue burgee with the Essex three white sea-axes on a red shield. Once again, no homepage, but I did find the burgee also at
Jonathan Dixon
, 22 August 2005

Bradwell Cruising Club

[Bradwell Cruising Club] image by Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Bradwell Cruising Club (BCC) is based at Bradwell-on-Sea at the seaward end of the Blackwater estuary on the East Coast. The Club was founded in January 1989 by a group of Bradwell Marina boat owners.
The burgee of BCC is horizontally divided yellow-dark blue with the letters B (in blue in upper hoist), C (in yellow in lower hoist) and C (in the middle of the flag, countercoloured).
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Cam Sailing Club

[Cam Sailing Club] image by Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

The Cam Sailing Club (CSC) is just north of Cambridge, at the hamlet of Clayhithe near Waterbeach. It is the nearest sailing club to the city of Cambridge, set in spacious grounds along the banks of the Cam. The club was founded in 1899.
The burgee of CSC is red with two yellow triangles placed along the hoist and a yellow C in the red field.
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Deben Yacht Club

[Deben Yacht Club] image by Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Deben Yacht Club (DYC) is situated on the upper reaches of the river Deben at Woodbridge in Suffolk. The first record of a regatta at Woodbridge dates back to 1784. Deben Yacht Club was founded in 1838, renamed Deben Sailing Club in 1886 and eventually renamed Deben Yacht Club in 1928. On 8 January 2004 Deben Yacht Club was awarded Champion Club status. RYA (The Royal Yachting Association) / Volvo Champion Club status is awarded to less than 10% of RYA affiliated clubs in the UK in recognition of their active and successful juniors and youths coaching schemes.
The burgee of DYC is blue with a white disk.
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

East Anglian Cruising Club

[East Anglian Cruising Club] image by Ivan Sache, 13 July 2006

On 9 January 1936, Roy Pike, Assistant Librarian at the Great Yarmouth Borough Library, founded with 11 other enthusiasts the East Anglian Yacht Club, with a Skipper and a Mate - those titles for the officers were copied from the famous Narrow Seas Club. The club was renamed the East Anglian Cruising Club (EACC) shortly after the foundation.
The burgee of EACC is a triangular version of the flag of East Anglia.
Ivan Sache, 13 July 2006

Ely Sailing Club

[East Anglian Cruising Club] image by Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Ely Sailing Club (ESC) was founded in 1946 on the banks of a disused clay pit.
The burgee of ESC is red with three yellow keys. I am not sure of the real placement of the keys since the source shows the burgee drawn "floating".
I guess that the three yellow keys on the red background allude to the arms of the See of Ely. "Gules, three crowns Or", is first found being used by Bishop William of Louth (or William de Luda), the twelfth Bishop of Ely, in 1290. They are the arms attributed to Saint Etheldreda, who died long before heraldry began, and are a differenced version of the arms attributed to the Kings of East Anglia (azure three crowns Or).
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Essex Yacht Club

[Essex Yacht Club]image by Peter Brooker, 4 August 2006

The Essex Yacht Club, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, uses a red burgee with a blue shield bearing the three sea-axes of Essex in white. No homepage, but you can see the burgee at
Jonathan Dixon
, 22 August 2005

Green Wyvern Yacht Club

[Green Wyvern Yacht Club] image by Ivan Sache, 14 July 2006

Quoting the Green Wyvern Yacht Club website:
"The Green Wyvern was established in 1947 by Bert and Cecil Howard to teach youngsters how to sail. The name and burgee design come from the two schools in Leicester where Bert and Cecil were teaching. The Green is for Alderman Newton's school, whose boys wore a green blazer with a red badge. The Wyyern is for City Boys' School whose blazer badge was a wyvern - the emblem of the city of Leicester."
The burgee is horizontally divided red-green with a yellow wyvern floating overall.
Wyverns are to be found everywhere in Leicester.
Ivan Sache, 14 July 2006

Hamworthy & Bournemouth

[Hamworthy & Bournemouth ensign] image by Clay Moss

This flag (described as the ensign of the Hamworthy and Bournemouth Yacht Club) appears to be identical to that displayed and described in Graham Bartram's World Flag Database as the ensign of the Poole Yacht Club. The reason is explained at

The story begins back in the middle of the 19th Century when the first records can be traced. Poole Yacht Club, as it is now constituted, is really the result of three clubs all closely connected in various stages eventually becoming one Club as it is today. The original Poole Yacht Club is thought to have been founded in 1865 but was probably in existence in some form many years earlier. The centenary was actually celebrated in 1965 at Hamworthy.

In 1898 The Hamworthy Sailing Club was started and many years later in 1936 it became known as The Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club. Subsequently in 1948 it became the Poole Yacht Club having taken over the name of the original club which had become almost defunct. The old club had headquarters in Poole High Street and the last Commodore was a Commander Linklater, who was also a Member of the Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club. He offered the name and all records and trophies if the Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club would take over the name of the Poole Yacht Club in order to preserve it in perpetuity. This was agreed and the 'new' Poole Yacht Club was officially registered with Commander Norman Hibbs as Commodore................
..................One reason was to build up the total tonnage of yachts belonging to members in order to be able to apply for an Admiralty Warrant. This would give the Club the right to use the Blue Ensign which was a rare privilege amongst clubs in the U.K. The minimum Thames tonnage required was 2000 tons so it was extremely difficult to reach that figure. Only one other club locally had this distinction, the Royal Motor Yacht Club. For a while, Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club could only muster about 700 tons, a long way from the target. The Commodore had invited Tom Sopwith, that famous sailor to open the extension of the Club but he was unable to be present. The Commodore and Ken Morgan then had the brilliant idea of inviting Sopwith to accept honorary membership of the club and, being an old friend of Col. Pierce, he gladly accepted. It meant, of course, that his large yachts, including the famous Endeavour, brought the total tonnage to over the required 2000 tons.
Application was made to the Admiralty later in 1938 and the Warrant was granted.
It was undoubtedly a shock to some of the local yachting fraternity and other Clubs that the relatively small Hamworthy and Bournemouth Sailing Club should have the important Blue Ensign. The surprise and envy delighted the Commodore immensely.

The Ensign was defaced by a circle on the blue background containing the cross of the Club's burgee and a gold coloured fir cone in the centre. This fir cone represents the name 'Bournemouth' in the name. It is still our emblem but the ensign can only be flown on yachts that are registered and the owner a club member. It is also a requirement that the Ensign must be flown under the Club's burgee and only when the owner is on board or in the near vicinity. At all other times only the Red Ensign is allowed to be flown.
Peter Johnson, 31 May 2005

Leigh-on-Sea Sailing Club

The Leigh-on-Sea Sailing Club, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, web page shows a white shell on a red burgee.
Jonathan Dixon, 22 August 2005

Lossiemouth Cruising Club

[Lossiemouth Cruising Club] image located by Dov Gutterman


Oxford Youth Sailing Club

[Oxford Youth Sailing Club] image located by Valentin Poposki, 25 November 2005

Oxford youth sailing uses a burgee as shown at
Valentin Poposki, 25 November 2005

Portsmouth Yacht Club

1936-1939 special ensign

[Portsmouth Yacht Club] image by Martin Grieve, 22 August 2006

The English Admiralty's first badge, a crescent and star, was taken from the Arms of the Royal Borough of Portsmouth, the site of the principal dockyard on the south coast. King Richard the First had adopted the emblem from the standard of the Byzantine Governor of Cyprus after taking the island during the Third Crusade, and had granted it to Portsmouth as Arms in 1194. The Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 and adopted the Byzantine crescent and star as an emblem of the Turkish Empire. Thus the crescent and star lost its Christian associations, and although it is still the Arms of Portsmouth, it was abandoned by the Admiralty in the course of the 16th century. A Harleian manuscript of 1534 notes that "The Badge of the Admyralte ys a cresante with burning fyre", but later in the 16th century Admiralty Courts were using an anchor as their mark on detained goods. An anchor was the emblem of St Nicholas, patron of sailors, and in Christian symbolism a sign of security and hope.
An example of the crescent and star badge can be seen on the special ensign of the Portsmouth Yacht Club, 1937 to 1939.
David Prothero, 22 August 2006

Rochester Cruising Club

[Rochester Cruising Club] image by Martin Grieve, 11 January 2006

On 11 May 2005 the Secretary of State for Defence granted a warrant to Rochester Cruising Club for a Blue Ensign defaced with the badge of the club. The club burgee is yellow with a red lion, passant guardant, from the arms of the City of Rochester. On the ensign the lion is on a yellow disc in the lower corner of the fly. Application for the ensign was made to mark the club's one hundredth anniversary. It is the first new ensign granted to a club without military connections since 1977.
David Prothero, 11 January 2006

Rollesby Broad Sailing Club

[Rollesby Broad Sailing Club] image by Ivan Sache, 13 July 2006

The Rollesby Broad Sailing Club was founded in 1972 by inhabitants of the towns of Ormesby, Scratby, Rollesby and Caister. The East Anglian Water Company decided to allow and to fund sailing on Rollesby Broad. In October 1974, permission was obtained to sail on the Eel's Foot Broad (aka Ormesby Little Broad).
The burgee of Rollesby Broad Sailing Club is red with a yellow cross.
Ivan Sache, 13 July 2006

Royal Anglesey Yacht Club

Royal Southampton Yacht Club

Royal Torbay Yacht Club

[Royal Anglesey Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 25 February 2006

The ensign for the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club, the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, and a government function if I'm not mistaken.
Clay Moss, 2 February 2006

The crown is the St Edward's Crown, but not knowing the date upon which the Warrant for a defaced ensign was granted to the club I don't know whether this replaced the Tudor Crown circa 1952?
Christopher Southworth, 2 February 2006

Dates of the Blue Ensigns with a crown on the Union:
    Royal Torbay YC (1875 - current). Crown on burgee.
    Royal Southampton YC (1877 - current). Crown and shield of Southampton on burgee.
    Royal Anglesey YC (1887 - current). Red dragon on burgee.
David Prothero, 2 February 2006

[Royal Anglesey Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 25 February 2006

I'm not sure if this ensign ever sported a Tudor crown, but if it did, here it is.
Clay Moss, 25 February 2006

Royal Burnham Yacht Club (1928 - current)

[Royal Burnham Yacht Club] image by Martin Grieve, 17 September 2005

The Royal Burnham Yacht Club ensign is a blue ensign with a royal crown in the fly.
Graham Bartram, 9 May 2004

The flag shown here was drawn as the Customs Ensign 1873-1949, which has an identical description.
David Prothero, 17 September 2005

[Royal Burnham Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 23 February 2006

An update for the Royal Burnham Yacht Club using a St. Edwards crown.
Clay Moss, 23 February 2006

Royal Corinthian Yacht Club

[Royal Corinthian Yacht Ensign] image by Clay Moss, 24 February 2006

Royal Cornwall Yacht Ensign

[Royal Cornwall Yacht Ensign] image by Jose C. Alegria Diaz

The special ensign granted to boat owners members of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club.
Jose C. Alegria Diaz, 15 August 2000