Rogge Bay viewed from the Balcony of the Table Bay Yacht Club 1906 (Courtesy of Hilton Teper)
ROYAL CAPE YACHT CLUB HISTORY
5th OF APRIL 1905
In 1904 the first known sailing race, the Table Bay Yacht Race, was held in Cape Town.
The equilateral triangle race had nine entries, with the boats being 30 foot clinker built gaff sloops and some ships’ lifeboats. In order to “take the sport of yachting seriously”, all the Cape Town boat owners, there were eight at the time, met on the 5th of April 1905 and formed the Table Bay Yacht Club (TBYC).
The burgee chosen was red with an anchor in white superimposed thereon. The TBYC commenced operations in a waterside boat shed, located some 50 to 60 metres northward of the foot of Loop Street. Maurice Goodall, joint owner of the Queens Hotel in Dock Road, was elected as the first Commodore.
The Club’s first race, the Licenced Victuallers Cup, took place on the 23rd of July 1905 with a fleet of nine boats entered. The TBYC’s minutes recorded that the Union Castle Company had placed its tugboat at the disposal of the Club for the race and that a special program had been printed. The inaugural race was won by Florence sailed by A J M Ross, the Vice-Commodore, winning in a time of 2hrs 21 mins 20 secs.
A year later the Ohlsson Cup was gifted to the TBYC by Mr O A Ohlsson, for a race to be held around Robben Island. On the 12th of April 1906 the Ohlsson Cup was presented to Mr J A Jones owner of Patricia, the first winner of the race. Another memorable race also had its beginnings in these early days.
Sir Thomas Lipton
From the SAILING Publications archives
THE LIPTON CUP 1907
In July 1907 Sir Thomas Lipton agreed to present the Club with a gold-plated cup, valued at £200, to be held in custody for a competition amongst South African Yacht Clubs.
The inaugural Lipton Cup was held on the 25th,26th and 28th of August 1911. The Natal boat Tess arrived in Cape Town on the Rennie’s steamer Inanda, while Patricia represented the TBYC.
The race created a huge interest with the Cape Times devoting an entire page to the Lipton Cup, titled “Tess vs Pat, Today’s big race”. Ultimately, Tess skippered by Mr W Chiazzari won all three races and the Mayor, Sir Frederick Smith, presented the Lipton trophy to her Natal crew.
1914 was a momentous year for the Club. Not only did the Great War break out in August, but the Club went through two name changes.
In January the TBYC’s name was changed to the Cape Yacht Club and in June a letter was received from Mr H J Stanley, Secretary to the Governor General, informing the Club that “His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the title ‘Royal’ being prefixed to the style of the Cape Yacht Club.” This also led to the design of a new burgee incorporating a crown in yellow and a ‘fly of blue’, since all Clubs with a Blue Ensign warrant had blue as an important part of the design.
In 1919 the Club moved from its first site to one of the three Rowing Club sheds, while an area in the docks (Victoria Basin) was secured for the use of the Club. The Harbour Board stipulating that “no promiscuous cruising” would be allowed within the docks. With the boats now moored in the Victoria Basin, a room in the Clock Tower was acquired for the use of members in 1922, at a rental of £4 per annum. Electric light was added to the Rowing shed in 1927. Members were also advised that they no longer needed to be ashamed to invite their lady friends for a sail, as “a proper changing room for the fairer sex” had been built.
The Electrical Company had been after the Rowing Club sheds for a number of years and by 1928 the SA Railways proposed that the Club move to a piece of reclaimed land along the Random Mole, offering the assurance that the Club would be left undisturbed for 10 to 20 years. With the uncertainty surrounding the Rowing sheds, a ‘Clubhouse Campaign’ had been launched in 1919 already. By 1930 it stood at £2186, with a shortfall of only £414.
Plans for the new Clubhouse was submitted in 1931, the keys were handed over in August and on the 12th of September the new Clubhouse was officially opened. House Rules stipulated that “alcoholic drinks in reasonable quantities were allowed in the Lounge only and that visiting ladies only had access to the balcony, the boatshed, the library and the changing room.
In 1938 the subject of ladies cropped up again, when a request to admit lady members was turned down by the Committee. They did however approve the provision of paper towels in the ladies changing room.
The new Clubhouse barely made the 10 years of being “undisturbed”, as April 1940 saw the General Manager of the South African Railways and Harbours (S.A.R & H) offering to purchase the Clubhouse, while submitting plans of the yacht basin and Clubhouse site being constructed at the Woodstock end of the harbour. The site would include a landing stage and a slipway. In March 1941 the last meeting was held in the Random Mole Clubhouse and the S.A.R offered to supply a shed consisting of three rooms and a veranda as a temporary Clubhouse on the new site.
On the 27th of May 1941 a Special General Meeting was held in the temporary Clubhouse, known as The Tin Shanty, where Commodore Capt. S V Halls was duly authorised to sign any documents in connection with the lease of the Clubhouse site from the Railways and Harbours Administration. According to the Harbour Engineer, three types of moorings, light medium and heavy were being prepared for the yacht basin.
In 1942, as WWII escalated, the Defence Department claimed all the swing moorings in the basin and the Port Captain advised that under the abnormal conditions of war, no guarantee of moorings could be given. The formation of the Seaward Defence Force Reserves was entrusted to RCYC and members were asked to place their boats at the disposal of the Unit. Commodore Capt. Halls was the C.O. of the Unit and offered his 70ft ketch Alexandra to the Unit for training purposes.
1947 brought about another Special General Meeting ,where the Commodore was granted the authority to sign Form T778 for the erection of a building and to sign a 30 year lease commencing on the 1st July and ending on the 30th June 1977 with the Railway Administration. A gear shed was the first building erected and served as temporary Clubhouse until the new Clubhouse was officially opened on the 9th September 1950.
Throughout the 50’s and the 60’s, moorings appeared to be a continuous thorn in the Club’s side, with the subject cropping up at every Committee meeting. The main issues being the need for more moorings, which boats had to be moved and who had occupied whose mooring illegally. In 1963 the Moorings Committee reported that the mooring situation was becoming acute and that work would be started on laying an outer trot. Thus gradually through the sixties, all the swing moorings were converted to trots. The local yachting boom – started by the first Trans-Atlantic Race from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro in 1971 caused a substantial increase in members and boats. So much so that by 1974 there were no moorings available and an ever growing waiting list.
Ladies also featured in the annals of 1974 when it was agreed in principle that Lady members could be wives of members, unmarried daughters of members or ladies interested in sailing. Ladies were also advised not to do their personal washing in the powder room! Yet it was only in 1978 at a Special General Meeting that Ladies’ membership was finally approved.
During 1978/9, the yacht basin contained 221 moorings and 30 boats were without moorings. Under the auspices of Commodore Bill O’Reilly the first ‘Mediterranean style’ marina walk on mooring, a 12m floating walkway with fingers, was erected. As this jetty was the furthest away from the Clubhouse, one still had to take the dinghy from the Club jetty to get to your boat, but just having a walk on mooring was considered the height of luxury.
During the 1980’s Commodore Harold Sender started with the major expansion of the entire basin, a process that continued right up to the early 1990’s.
In 1985/86, during the tenure of Teddy Kuttel as Commodore, the Regatta Centre or “Teddy’s Tent” as it was commonly referred to, was added to the Clubhouse complex. During the early 1990’s committee member, Brent Sender, suggested that a deck should be built in front of the clubhouse. However, it was only in 1993 that Commodore John Levin set the plan in motion and the Deck came into being. Today the Clubhouse is a modest, low-slung building that houses offices, a first class restaurant and a bar with the Regatta Centre alongside as well as a section catering for the RCYC Sailing Academy.
The Academy was established in 2012 to address the lack of access to the sport, for marginalized communities. The aim of the Academy is to give students life skills through the medium of sailing, create connections for them and hopefully find them employment in the Blue Economy. Training starts with basic swimming lessons and progresses towards obtaining their Competent Crew qualifications. Ultimately potential students are identified to do their Skippers tickets. The Academy’s SAS accredited instructors are sourced from within the Academy. In 2018 the Academy was registered as an NPO and in 2019 as a PBO. The Academy has a standing committee which reports to the Executives of the Club.
The RCYC has a glorious history spanning over a hundred years. Committees and Commodores have come and gone, yet the cornerstone on which the Table Bay Yacht Club was built in 1905, “to take the sport of yachting seriously and to provide races for its members” is still present to this very day.