Founded on 7 February 1826, the Singapore Yacht Club organised many of Singapore’s earliest regattas. Unfortunately, without strong patronage, it lapsed into obscurity in the late 19th century.
In February 1826, the club’s first task was to check the accuracy of the soundings recorded by Daniel Ross, a hydrographer of the East India Company (EIC), of the Outer Shoal mudbanks off Singapore to ensure the coast was safe for incoming vessels.
William Montgomerie, surgeon to the colony, was the club’s first president and often hosted club meetings at his home. He instituted an award system in the club to recognise the Europeans or locals who could design improved versions of boats and other naval architecture.
Singapore’s first regatta was held on 2 January 1834, with four or five boat races appointed for the New Year’s Day event. This date is sometimes confused as the day the Singapore Yacht Club was established.
On 6 February 1836, the Yacht Club was the only entity to commemorate the founding of Singapore. It celebrated the event with a morning yacht race, in which the Singapore-made Water Witch won.
In fact, boat racing on the anniversary of Singapore’s founding, or the Anniversary Regatta as it was called, became an annual event that continued into the 1850s, along with other races such as the New Year’s Day Regatta. Besides the Europeans, many Malays also joined the competitions and proved to be skilled boatmen. Their sampans were equipped with sails for the races and their crew served as live ballast. In fact, some of the yachts owned by the Europeans were sailed by these adept Malay sailors.
Impromptu boat races were also organised: once, after a breakfast hosted by Captain Brown on board the American Louvre, members of the Yacht Club suggested that a boat race be conducted.
The club continued to develop under the patronage of William Read, a successful merchant who served as commodore of the Yacht Club in 1867. The avid yachtsman owned several yachts, including the Ganymede, Maggy Lawder and the Tare an’ages, which he raced, as well as travelled in to nearby locations such as the Horsburgh Lighthouse and further places such as Malacca.
Despite the popularity of racing yachts and boats, the Singapore Yacht Club seemed to have been neglected until it was revived in 1881 with the re-election of Read as commodore. The then-Governor of the Straits Settlement Frederick Weld presided as patron, lending greater support to the club’s existence.
The royal visit of young Prince Albert and Prince George to Singapore in 1882 gave occasion for a regatta. Organised by Commodore Read and his committee, the morning regatta was held on 10 January that year, and saw thousands gathered at the Esplanade and Collyer Quay to welcome the princes and watch the boat races.
Unfortunately, the club was unable to sustain its membership. By 1897, its remaining members had been absorbed into the Singapore Rowing Club, which was formed in 1879. It was only in 1919 that the club was reinstated with Walter Nut, managing director of The Straits Trading Company, as commodore. The following year, its Trafalgar Street clubhouse was opened by Governor Laurence Guillemard, who subsequently became commodore. Through Guillemard’s influence, King George V, who had visited Singapore in 1882 as a prince, endorsed the club’s name change to “Royal Singapore Yacht Club” in 1922, with his son, the Prince of Wales, as patron.
In 1967, the club was renamed “Republic of Singapore Yacht Club”.
1. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2010). Three burgees: A history of the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (pp. 25–38, 43). Singapore: Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. Call no.: RSING 797.1246060605957 DUN.
2. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 25–26.
3. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 25, 27.
4. Dunlop, 2010, p. 27.
5. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1921). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2, p. 318). London: J. Murray. Call no.: SING 959.57 ONE-[HIS].
6. Singapore. (1836, February 6). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Dunlop, 2010, p. 33.
8. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 29–30.
9. Singapore. (1836, May 14). Singapore Chronicle and Commercial Register, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Dunlop, 2010, p. 31; Makepeace, Brooke & Braddell, 1921, Vol. 2, p. 318.
11. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 31–32.
12. Dunlop, 2010, p. 38.
13. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 38–39.
14. Dunlop, 2010, p. 43.
15. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 75, 81, 212.
16. Dunlop, 2010, pp. 39, 81.
17. Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. (2000, September). Treasures of time, 5, 5. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TT-[HIS].
The information in this article is valid as at May 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.