A Short History of Royal Mersey Yacht Club
The Club was founded as the Mersey Yacht Club at a meeting held in the Mersey Hotel, Old Church Yard, Liverpool on the 26th July 1844. There were twenty gentlemen present and officers including the first Commodore, Dr. Grindrod and the Honorary Secretary, Henry Melling were elected. The Royal Warrant was received on 24th September 1844 and copies of the correspondence follow this history Monthly meetings were held at first at the Mersey Hotel but in March 1845 the Club moved to the Union Gallery in Duke Street, Liverpool.
In 1846 it took rooms at the Birkenhead Hotel, henceforth known as the Marine Station, for Summer meetings although the rooms do not appear to have been in regular use until 1851.At this time only a few races were organised each year and cruises in company seem to have been equally important. Great importance was also attached to the duty of escorting visiting royalty and other dignitaries and elaborate orders were prepared for such occasions. Cruises in company were less elaborately organised but the importance of flag and other etiquette was stressed. For racing purposes yachts were divided into classes on the basis of tonnage; entry fees were also based on tonnage; entry fees were also based on tonnage and prize money, which was very generous by modern standards also varied according to class.
In 1876 the Club rented from the Corporation the slip and sheds at the old Birkenhead Ferry and these premises, known as 9 Mersey Street, became the headquarters of the Club until 1900. In addition to the slipway there was also a gridiron on which vessels could be dried out for hull maintenance. Regattas for the big class yachts were held throughout this period although they were not always well supported. In one case the Regatta was held too soon after the Royal Cinque Ports Y.C. Regatta, in Kent, for yachts to have sufficient time to reach the Mersey. However in 1884 a Conference of Northern Clubs was organised to arrange regatta fixtures and thus to avoid such clashes. The cruise in company continued in importance, the Opening Cruise being formally organised, usually proceeded along the Welsh coast.
By the 1890’s the popularity of the open regatta was declining due to the reluctance of yachtsmen from the Clyde and Solent areas to come to the Mersey. The presence of sandbanks and strong tides had a deterred effect but the increasing industrial pollution was perhaps more important. Eventually in 1897 the open regatta on the Mersey was abandoned.
No further regattas were held until 1904 when it was decided to hold a local regatta on the Mersey It was an immediate success and this regatta has continued until the present day
Two further regattas were however held for the big class at Holyhead in 1910 and 1914. In 1910 the yachts White Heather and Shamrock competed for a cup presented by H.M. King George V. While in 1914 the King’s own yacht Britannia competed.
In 1900 the Club had to leave its premises at 9 Mersey Street due to the expansion of Cammel Lairds. The present premises at 8 and 10 Bedford Road, Rock Ferry were purchased in 1901. The existing pair of semi-detached were speedily converted and the clubhouse was opened on 31st May 1901.
The present club house
In 1912, the Club introduced the first of its one design classes, the Rivers Class. These were based on the Jewel Class of the Blackpool and Fleetwood Y.C. and built by Crossfields of Arnside on the lines of a small nobby, a type of local fishing boat. They were keenly raced on the Mersey until the 1930’s when they had become outdated and were replaced by the Royal Mersey Mylne Class in 1935. This class, and indeed the original boats, continue to give good racing today and while the mahogany construction of the original boats is no longer viable, GRP Construction has been introduced and four boats so built are now racing on level terms in the fleet.
After the Second World War a number of attempts were made to introduce dinghy racing with varying degrees of success but these have since been abandoned. However the Club adopted as its second keelboat class, the National Squib in 1972 and in 2002 the International Etchells class.
With these three classes the Club continues to provide a type of racing not generally available in the North West of England.