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British Yacht Ensigns (Yacht Clubs)

Last modified: 2006-08-19 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | yacht ensigns |
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Royal Dart Yacht Club

[Royal Dart Yacht Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 11 March 2006

Red ensign with St. Edward's crown and a golden arrow ("dart") below.
Clay Moss, 11 March 2006

Royal Dee Yacht Club

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

The Royal Dee Yacht Club blue ensign is defaced with a wolf's head erased argent, langued gules', facing the hoist.

A wolf's head was the arms of Hugh de Abrincis (or Lupus) 1st Earl of Chester, William the Conqueror's cousin. He later got into trouble and "lost his head", hence 'erased', meaning violently torn-off, leaving a jagged edge, sometime shown red. A complete wolf is one of the supporters of the arms of the City of Chester, and a wolf's head is the crest of the arms of the Cheshire Police.

David Prothero, 26 February 2003

Norie and Hobbs (1848) describes this flag defaced with a bird.  The error presumably originated when the tongue was mistaken for a beak and the jagged neck for feathers. The error has been repeated in other books including the 1905 Flaggenbuch and the 1923 Album des Pavillons.

David Prothero, 27 February 2003

The Dunpy Pocketbook (1960) has a dog-like head, presumably white, but drawn furred (it's in black and white, so the alternative is that is plain and yellow). But then, this being an English publication from a time with easier communications, they probably asked the club directly.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 May 2003

Royal Fowey Yacht Club

[Royal Fowey Yacht Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 4 March 2006

The badge is in effect the arms of the Duchy of Cornwall with the supporters and motto removed. The device above the shield is a coronet of the heir apparent. His coronet is the royal crown with one arch omitted. The Fowey Club, founded in 1880, became a yacht club in 1894, at a time when there was a connection of sorts, between having the title royal, and a special ensign. In September 1894 the secretary of the club wrote to the Admiralty asking how a club acquired a royal title. The Admiralty passed the letter to the Home Office, observing that the club had no warrant for a special ensign. The Home Office file noted that the club might merit the honour even if it had no special ensign, and replied to the club secretary that an application, signed by the President on behalf of club, should be addressed to HM the Queen, and sent to the Secretary of State at the Home Office, giving the number and the names of members, the number of yachts owned by them, their tonnage, and also whether there was a club house and annual regatta. The application was refused because "the Prince of Wales made it a rule to honour only such clubs as had proved their stability."

In May 1903, the secretary of the club wrote to the Home Office that the club had now existed for nine years, had two hundred members, ninety-three yachts with a total tonnage of three thousand, five hundred and eighteen, been in a club house for five years, and held an annual regatta in August. The Home Office asked the club for a list of its members and its balance sheet. It appears that the application was forwarded to the King with the recommendation that it should be refused, as an entry in the file dated 5 July noted that, "HM the King approved of the request being refused." Arthur Quiller-Couch, an author who wrote under the pseudonym ' Q ' was Rear-Commodore of the club. He wrote to Sir Godfrey Lushington, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, asking, " Where do we fall short ? Why have the Cruising Club, and the Norfolk and Suffolk lately been granted the title ?" He was told that applications were being granted only where special claims existed. The Admiralty refusal to grant special Blue Ensigns was universal.

Fowey is in Cornwall, and it seems that the Duke of Cornwall was approached about the matter. In August 1905 the club received a letter from Marlborough House, residence of the Prince of Wales, who was the Duke of Cornwall, granting the club the right to carry the coronet of the Duchy of Cornwall over the shield as its insignia. On 31 October 1905 the Admiralty issued the club with a warrant for a "Red Ensign with whatever device HRH may approve." In November 1905 the club applied for the title royal and was again refused. Another application in April 1907, when the club had two hundred and twenty members, and one hundred and seven yachts with a combined tonnage of five thousand, was granted with the note, "little different, but approved."
[National Archives (PRO) HO 144/598/B16959]

David Prothero, 28 November 2005

The crown is the coronet of the Heir Apparent, in this instance, in his role as Duke of Cornwall. He wears a coronet with two arches, as opposed to the Imperial State Crown, as worn by The Queen which, for example, has four arches. A standard ducal coronet does not have arches.

(1) Prince of Wales web site, consulted 04 March 2006
(2) British Monarchy web site, consulted 04 March 2006
(3) National Museum of Wales web site, consulted 01 March 2006
Colin Dobson, 4 March 2006

The Heir Apparent's coronet is quite different from a ducal coronet. The symbols on the Heir Apparent's coronet's top edge are four cross pattees separated by fleur-de-lys (the same as those on the St Edward's and Tudor crowns), whilst those on a ducal coronet are eight strawberry leaves. The Heir Apparent's coronet has a single arch, traditionally worn with the arch going from ear to ear. The arch does not dip at the top, but otherwise is the same as that on the main crown, with nine pearls on each side and an orb at the top. The orb normally differs from the main crown as it has a green mound with gold banding and cross pattee, but this is occasionally done as all gold, as in the Prince of Wales's personal standard for Wales, where the green orb wouldn't show against the green shield so gold is used instead. More details on British crowns at Crowns on Flags and British Flags and Emblems.

The crown as shown on the flag here is pretty much correct, but I think there are a few too many pearls on each arch. They are very small and I am finding it hard to count them but I think there are more than the normal nine. Also the central jewel is a sapphire, surrounded by two emeralds, with a ruby at each end. This is the same arrangement for all jewelled UK crowns. Note that all coronets below the rank of Heir Apparent do not have jewels, just gold representations of them.
Graham Bartram, 4 March 2005

Royal Harwich Yacht Club

A Blue Ensign, a yellow climbing lion in the lower-fly, one-third of the width and two-thirds of the height.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 November 2001

Royal Lymington Yacht Club

[Royal Lymington Yacht Club ensign, Hants] image by Simon Clegg, 24 May 2006

A red ensign embellished by a sloop galleon and crown badge.
Simon Clegg, 23 May 2006

See for a detailed image.
Martin Grieve, 24 May 2006

Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club

[Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 1 February 2006

The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club was founded in 1859. I'm not sure when the ensign was officiated. You can visit the club's website at
Clay Moss, 1 February 2006

That same web page (quoting "The First 125 years", by Charles Goodey, included in RNSYC, 125 Years Sailing, 1859--1984, a commemorative booklet published in 1984 to mark the 125th Anniversary of the club's foundation) states "Mrs. Colman broke the club flag over the new headquarters for the first time." on 11 July 1903, so a club flag was certainly in existence on that date.
Colin Dobson, 1 February 2006

A Red Ensign defaced with the Prince of Wales feathers is shown in the Admiralty Flag Book of 1875 as being that of the Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. It is marked "No Warrant : Ensign Illegal".

The Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club was granted a Red Ensign defaced with a crown and Prince of Wales feathers in February 1898. On 17 March 1898 the club applied to the Home Office for the right to add "Royal" to the club's name, adding that the club had been established for fifty years, had an Admiralty Warrant, and that its members had twelve yachts with a total tonnage of 470. The Home Office checked with the Admiralty who confirmed the warrant, but stated that they did not offer opinions on use of the title Royal. The application was laid before Queen Victoria on 3 May 1898, but refused on the grounds that the club was not sufficiently important.  In 1909 the Home Office found that ten yacht clubs that called themselves Royal, were doing so without authorisation; one was the Norfolk and Suffolk. When the matter was investigated it was found that the Admiralty had incorrectly made out the warrant to the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. The Home Secretary then appears to have been approached personally, as the club claimed that Matthew Ridley had said "you have what you wanted." The club had therefore been using the title since June 1898. The Admiralty claimed that the Home Office had not told them that the title had been refused. The title was officially granted to the club on 18 May 1909.
[National Archives (PRO) HO 144/605/B26398]
David Prothero, 1 February 2006

Royal Thames Yacht Club

[UK naval reserve ensign] by Clay Moss

For 153 years, The Royal Thames YC has used an undefaced Blue Ensign (without any badge). The Royal Thames is one of the first clubs to use the plain blue ensign, and the club's use of the flag is indeed well known in yachting circles. Since 1848, the RTYC has been authorized to allow qualified members to use the undefaced Blue Ensign. 

The Club first used a plain white ensign, defaced with a club badge during the 1830s. Then, in 1842, the Admiralty decided that the White Ensign should be exclusive to the Royal Yacht Squadron (the nation's senior club). Thereafter, from mid-1842 until 1848, the RTYC used a Blue Ensign that was defaced in the fly with a crown (and I believe this was a red-colored depiction of the Royal crown). 

In 1848, the club changed to a plain Blue Ensign, and this has remained the same ever since. I do not know the reason why the crown was removed in 1848. I do know that the plain Blue Ensign ranks higher in precedence than a defaced version. 

Sources: Navy List 2001 page 243; Navy List 1995 page 260; Navy List 1989 page 298; Navy List 1973, page 599. Navy Lists of 1938 page 369; and 1927 page 364A. (all listing RTYC as using Blue Ensign undefaced). 
James T. Liston, 9 December 2001

The Thames Yacht Club was formed in 1823 by a break-away group, when the Cumberland Society, established in 1775, was re-named His Majesty's Coronation Sailing Society. The Society's flag was white with a crimson border, royal crown, and lettering "G.R. IV Coronation Fleet".
[The King's Sailing Master by Douglas Dixon]
David Prothero, 26 December 2005

Royal Windermere Yacht Club (1887 - current)

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

The Windermere Sailing Club was established in the early 19th century, and re-named the Windermere Yacht Club in 1860. In 1887 the club, which then had 104 members, owning 33 sailing yachts and 9 steam yachts, wrote to the Home Office requesting a "Royal Warrant". The Home Office replied that a royal warrant was for tradesmen who supplied the royal households. If a royal title was being requested the club should submit full details to the Home Office and the matter would be considered, adding, "The procedure by way of 'warrant' occurs when a petition is sent to the Admiralty for authority to fly the Blue Ensign." The club submitted details to the Home Office, and on 5 July 1887 was granted permission to call itself the Royal Windermere Yacht Club.

The club had appeared in the Yacht and Sailing Club section of Lloyd's Register of Yachts since 1881. Its flag was a Red Ensign defaced with a shield; three yellow lions passant in pale on red, surrounded by a border of white fleur-de-lis on blue. In 1889 this changed to a royal crown. Rule II in the club's Rule Book read, "The Club Flags shall be Red Ensign with gold crown in fly and Red Burgee with gold crown in centre." No warrant had been issued for either ensign, but since the club was based on Lake Windermere, which has no navigable access to the sea, the Admiralty were not concerned. A letter written to the Home Office in 1902, asking  if their royal title could continue under the new sovereign, included the information that the club flag was, "red ensign with crown in fly."

On 12 May 1914 the club wrote to the Home Office asking for permission for Mr.R.H. Edmonson to fly the Royal Windermere Yacht Club flags on the Steam Yacht 'Sabine', which was being chartered by him for the season. The Home Office replied to the Commodore of the club; "There appears to be some misunderstanding. The Home Office letter of 18 July 1902, as you are aware, gave permission for the use of the title Royal Windermere Yacht Club, and was not a warrant. Questions relating to the flying of club flags do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State and would be glad to know what is meant by the letter." The club apparently thought that the right to call itself 'Royal' also entitled it to add a crown to the Red Ensign, and to its burgee. The Commodore wrote back that Edmonson had applied to the Admiralty who had answered that permission could be granted only to clubs that had a general warrant. A Home Office minute observed that, "Admiralty has no jurisdiction over flags flown on inland waters though they do their best to secure observance of the proper rules on such waters. If steam yacht went to sea, Admiralty would have jurisdiction, otherwise could only bluff." [National Archives (PRO) HO 144/957/B1447]

The club continued to feature in the Yacht and Sailing Club section of Lloyd's Register of Yachts until 1932, but was then omitted until re-appearing 1956. It is unlikely that a warrant has ever been issued by the Admiralty since it is not a legal requirement, but for some reason the club has appeared in the Navy List of 'Yacht Clubs Using a Special Ensign' since 2001.
David Prothero, 13 December 2005

The Windermere ensign also once served the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Ireland.
Clay Moss, 23 February 2006

Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club

[Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club] image originally displayed for sale on EBay.

The ensign of the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club (and granted in 1929, Victorian crown notwithstanding).
Ian Sumner, 25 June 2002

The special ensign of the RYYC was granted in 1879, but transferred from the Red Ensign to the Blue Ensign in 1929.
David Prothero, 26 June 2002

That is the blue ensign of the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club. The white rose is the emblem of Yorkshire, while the red rose is the emblem of Lancashire. When the House of Lancaster fought the House of York for the crown of England it was called the War of the Roses. The Tudors combined both the red rose and white rose to make the Tudor rose (red petals on the outside, white on the inside) and ever since the Tudor rose has been used for Royal Heraldry when a general rose is required. The separate white and red roses are still used by their respective counties and by state official especially connected with them. For example York Herald's emblem is a sun with a white rose in the centre, a "Rose en soleil".
Graham Bartram, 15 August 2000

Royal Yacht Squadron

[UK naval ensign] image by Martin Grieve

Grand Larousse Encyclopédique du XXe siècle (1928) says that the Royal Yacht Squadron is the oldest yacht club in the world. It was founded in 1812 and has its seat in Cowes, Isle of Wight. The King granted its members the special privilege to use the White Ensign.
Ivan Sache, 25 December 2005

Perrin (p.137) gives the date of the Yacht Squadron's foundation (in Cowes) as 1815 rather than 1812, and cites the close of the long war with France as the spur. He goes on to say that the club's first flag (unofficially adopted) was a plain White Ensign without a Cross of St George in the fly, however, following official objections this was withdrawn and the club flew an undefaced Red Ensign between 1821 and 1829. In 1829 a permission to fly the "St George's or White Ensign" was granted, which the club still flies.
Christopher Southworth, 25 December 2005

RYS may be the world's *first* yacht club measured socially, but not chronologically. That honour goes to the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Ireland, founded 1720. It's not even the oldest in England--that would be, I believe, the Royal Thames Yacht Club (1775).
Joe McMillan, 25 December 2005

It is probably more accurate to say that the Royal Yacht Squadron has continuously used the word "yacht" in its name for longer than any other club. The seal of the club has the date 1812, but the club was not formed until 1 June 1815.

Sheppey Yacht Club

[Sheppey Yacht Club] image by Ivan Sache, 17 June 2002

Blue burgee with a green lozenge placed horizontally charged with a white S.  Sheppey Yacht Club is located in Sheerness, in the north of Kent, on the Isle of Sheppey. The club was founded in 1932. I interpret the burgee as showing the island in green within the sea in blue. Source:

Ivan Sache, 17 June 2002

Snettisham Beach Sailing Club

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

Snettisham Beach Sailing Club (SBSC) was founded in 1937 by a group of Snettisham Beach bungalow owners interested in racing their various craft and officially registered in 1938. During the Great Flood of 1953 lives & property were lost; to this day the Club still races memorials to members that perished, such as Peter Beckerton who lost his life trying to save others. Snettisham sailors produced impressive results with champions at National, Inland National and European championships.
The burgee of SBSC is red with a blue diamond charged with a yellow S placed near the hoist.
Ivan Sache, 15 July 2006

Tewkesbury Cruising & Sailing Club

[Tewkesbury Cruising & Sailing Club] image located by Dov Gutterman


Thames Estuary Yacht Club

The Thames Estuary Yacht Club, Westcliff-on-Sea ( uses a white triangle at the hoist, containing the shield of Essex (three white sea-axes on red), and in the blue field, two parallel red stripes, the first running along the top edge of the white triangle.
Jonathan Dixon
, 22 August 2005

Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club

[Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club] image by Ivan Sache, 11 July 2006

The Waveney & Oulton Broad Yacht Club (WOBYC) is based at Oulton Broad. The club was founded in 1946 when the two clubs which existed before the war combined. The club has always been based on the present site which is leased from the Royal Norfolk & Suffolk Y.C.  The club is one of the largest in the broads’ area with a large membership, the most modern clubhouse and the best sailing water. It is also the only one that provides racing on fifty-two weeks of the year.  The main activity of the club is Yacht Racing, which takes place throughout the year, with a summer series from April to October and a winter series from November to March. The highlight of the year is Oulton Broad Regatta Week, which is held towards the end of August and attracts helmsmen from several neighbouring clubs as well as from further afield.
The burgee of WOBYC is white with a blue cross and a red square in the middle of the cross.
Ivan Sache, 11 July 2006

Wilsonian Sailing Club

[Wilsonian Sailing Club] image by Ivan Sache

Burgee vertically divided black-white-yellow. The Wilsonian Sailing Club is on the north bank of the river Medway close to the village of Hoo, near Rochester. It is probably the largest club solely for dinghy sailors in the north of Kent. Source:

 Ivan Sache, 17 June 2002

Yare Sailing Club 

[Yare Sailing Club] image by Ivan Sache, 11 July 2006

The Yare Sailing Club was reformed in 1985 to organise activities for Broads River Cruiser Class sailors on the Southern Rivers of the Norfolk Broads.
The burgee of YSC is blue with a yellow cross.
Ivan Sache, 11 July 2006