The Yacht Club was founded in 1815 for Members to meet twice a year to dine and share their mutual interest in yachting. It had no premises so had no real need of officers; various Members chaired the bi-annual meetings in the early years before there was a Commodore, viz: Lord Grantham, Brydges Pope Blachford Esq, the Earl of Craven, Hon Charles Anderson Pelham Esq (later as Lord Yarborough), the Marquis of Anglesey, William Baring Esq, Captain The Hon.B Pellew, the Duke of Norfolk, Sir George Leeds and the Earl of Darnley.

Until 1825 the Club held its annual Cowes meetings at several local hostelries. The Medina Hotel at East Cowes, home of the annual regatta ball, was most favoured; it was also near the Customs House where the Club’s first Secretary was a Customs Officer. In 1824 it was decided to investigate providing a coffee room for the Club and a committee was set up comprising Lord Yarborough, The Hon W Hare, Sir George Thomas, James Weld Esq and Henry Perkins Esq. The result was the Club’s first premises ‘Parade House’, leased from Mrs Sarah Goodwin in 1825. This building was on The Parade across the road from the Castle; it later became the Gloster Hotel and has since been replaced by the Gloster Apartments. Once the Club had premises trustees and a committee were required, once it started its yacht racing programme in 1826 stewards (forerunner of the Yachting Committee) were necessary also.

Commodore and Vice Commodore

The first mention of a Commodore is in the Club Minutes of 18th June 1822. A tradition of parading the yachts as part of the Regatta had begun in 1814 but the 1822 Minutes record that on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month [i.e. through the summer], Club yachts would assemble in Cowes Roads for the purpose of sailing together under the directions of a Commodore to be appointed for the day. A further Minute, a month later, suggests this had not worked quite as planned, stating ‘the original proposition of assembling the vessels … [had been] … made with a far different view from that of racing and shewing superiority of sailing’. It went on to give more detailed instructions for squadron sailing to ‘tend to the comfort of all, and particularly of the ladies who may honor the meeting with their presence’.

The Marquis of Anglesey and Stephen Challen Esq were the first Commodores for the day in 1822. In 1823 it was the Hon Charles Anderson Pelham who led the Club yachts to Plymouth, taking the salute as Commodore; in 1824 he led them again to the West Country and across to Cherbourg. In 1825 he had no yacht but is still referred to as Commodore in the local and yachting press. The Club Minutes have no record of such a permanent appointment but by 20th September 1826 they too are referring to him as ‘our Commodore’. His 351 ton Falcon, launched in 1826, became the Club’s flagship. In September 1827 Lord Belfast was appointed Vice Commodore.

Commodores originally served for life, the then Vice Commodore succeeding to the position when the Commodore left office. This practice continued until Sir Ralph Gore died in 1961. At that time HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was approached and agreed to become Commodore on condition that the appointment would henceforth be for a fixed term of six years. The term for Commodores and Vice Commodores was subsequently altered to five years and then to four, thus allowing today for a new Flag Officer to take office each year.

Rear Commodores

Prince Philip oversaw other reforms, doing much to transform the Club and bring it into the 20th century. Believing Cowes Week to be somewhat confusing for participants, one of his suggestions was the appointment of two Rear Commodores to give more attention to the administration of yachting generally, and this, together with his suggestion for the establishment of Cowes Combined Clubs, marked the rapid modernisation of the event. Serving overlapping four year terms, nowadays one Rear Commodore is responsible for yachting, the other for finance.


King William IV could be considered the first Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron: it was he who conferred that name on the Club in 1833, and he constituted himself its head. The idea was revived in 1901 on the death of Queen Victoria since the Prince of Wales could not continue to be Commodore once he became King Edward VII. The practice of the monarch being Admiral as well as Patron continued with subsequent monarchs until the succession of the present Queen when she became Patron and HRH The Prince Philip became Admiral.


1825-1846 - The Earl of Yarborough
1847-1848 - The Marquis of Donegal
1849-1881 - The Earl of Wilton
1882-1900 - HRH The Prince of Wales
1901-1919 - The Marquis of Ormonde
1920-1926 - The Duke of Leeds
1927-1942 - Sir Richard Williams-Bulkeley
1942-1943 - The Marquis Camden
1943-1947 - Sir Philip Hunloke
1947-1961 - Sir Ralph Gore
1962-1968 - HRH The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
1968-1974 - The Viscount Runciman of Doxford
1974-1980 - Major General the Earl Cathcart
1980-1986 - Sir John Nicholson
1986-1991 - John Roome Esq
1991-1996 - Maldwin A C Drummond Esq
1996-2001 - Peter C Nicholson Esq
2001-2005 - The Lord Amherst
2005-2009 - The Lord Iliffe
2009-2013 - M.D.C.C. Campbell Esq
2013-2017 - The Hon. Christopher Sharples
2017-2021 - T J R Sheldon Esq
2021-Presnt - The Hon Sir James Holman

Vice Commodores

1827-1847 - The Earl of Belfast (to 1844), subsequently Marquis of Donegal
1848-1850 - Sir Bellingham Graham
1851-1861 - C R M Talbot Esq
1862-1875 - The Marquis Conyngham
1876-1884 - The Marquis of Londonderry
1885-1900 - The Marquis of Ormonde
1901-1919 - The Duke of Leeds
1920-1926 - Sir Richard Williams-Bulkeley
1927-1943 - The Marquis Camden
1945-1947 - Sir Ralph Gore
1948-1954 - The Viscount Camrose
1954-1965 - The Marquis Camden
1965-1971 - Sir Kenneth Preston
1971-1977 - The Earl of Malmesbury
1977-1983 - Major General Sir Robert Pigot Bt
1983-1988 - Sir Charles Tidbury
1988-1993 - A J Sheldon Esq
1993-1998 - The Lord Amherst of Hackney
1998-2003 - Michael D C Campbell Esq
2003-2007 - Sir Nigel Southward
2007-2011 - Ian Laing Esq
2011-2015 - C R Dick Esq
2015-2019 - Colin Campbell Esq
2019-2023 - Martin Stanley Esq
2023- Present - P L F French Esq   

Rear Commodores

1962-1964 - Colonel The Earl Cathcart
1962-1966 - The Viscount Runciman of Doxford
1964-1968 - Lt Colonel A W Acland
1966-1970 - John D Russell Esq
1968-1972 - Stewart H Morris Esq
1970-1974 - Roger Leigh-Wood Esq
1972-1976 - Major P R Colville
1974-1978 - Brigadier Sir Richard Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe
1976-1980 - J M F Crean Esq
1978-1982 - Sir Eric Drake
1980-1984 - J W Roome Esq
1982-1986 - Sir Maurice Laing
1984-1988 - Commander G H Mann RN
1986-1990 - J R D Green Esq
1988-1992 - D A Acland Esq
1990-1994 - P C Nicholson Esq
1992-1996 - A K S Franks
1994-1998 - A H Matusch Esq
1996-2000 - D F Biddle Esq
1998-2002 - Dr J H P Cuddigan
2000-2004 - R W C Colvill Esq
2002-2006 - John Grandy Esq
2004-2008 - John Godfrey Esq
2006-2010 - Captain S A V van der Byl RN
2008-2012 - John Raymond Esq
2010-2014 - David Aisher Esq
2012-2016 - The Hon Patrick Seely DL
2014-2018 - J P L Perry Esq
2016-2020 - C Russell Esq
2018-2022 - Robert M Bicket Esq
2020-Present - Jeremy Bennett Esq
2022-Present - B B Huber Esq