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A yacht race held to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday was the catalyst that led to the creation of the Victoria Yacht Club on June 8th, 1892. The first races, held in the 1880s, were originally contested only by local sportsmen, but in 1892, four American boats appeared and swept the board, winning the top four races. This outrage spurred the local sportsmen into forming a yacht club. The initial forty-six Members wanted to create a full season of yachting events to go along with the annual May 24th event. The club acquired a waterfront lease, and a clubhouse was constructed. In a few years it was replaced, both because it was too small, and because it had sunk three times. The replacement clubhouse in the Inner Harbour was wound-up in 1908.

In 1910, encouraged by increasing membership, and weary of competing for space with the whaling and sealing fleets, the yacht club began to search for a better location. On the Oak Bay waterfront, four miles from the Inner Harbour, the Uplands Corporation was turning a thousand-acre farm into an exclusive residential suburb. By 1912, negotiations were complete, and the Victoria Yacht Club possessed a spectacular property hugging the shores of Cadboro Bay. A clubhouse, designed by well-known Victoria architect William D’Oyly Rochfort, was completed in time for the official Opening on July 13, 1913 when three hundred members and guests gathered for the social event of the season.

In 1911, the club’s growth and stature were recognized when King George V granted permission for the club to add the prefix “Royal” to its title. The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty granted a warrant allowing the club to fly a blue ensign defaced in the fly with the club badge: the letters VI, representing Vancouver Island, surmounted by the crown.

The First World War was a strain for the club as many of its members went overseas, leaving their boats to be cared for by fellow members. Older members also volunteered in the Naval Reserve. 

While the 1930s were difficult, economically, for the club and for many of its members, it was during this time that a great club tradition was created. In 1930, RVYC organized the first Swiftsure Yacht Race, with just six boats. The club survived the Great Depression by adapting to the financial circumstances of many of its members, through their building floats from logs salvaged along nearby beaches, and allowing younger members to work off their annual dues by performing necessary maintenance chores.

The roster of active Members shrank as younger men enlisted in the armed forces during World War II, just as it had in the previous World War. Records covering the years 1939-1945 show that, out of a total membership of 260, more than 100 were serving overseas. Senior members, many of whom were former naval officers, offered lectures on seamanship and navigation, and organized the special naval reserve flotilla of grey painted pleasure boats that patrolled coastal waters off Victoria.

Expanding moorage requirements of members prompted changes in the Club. After searching for a suitable location near Sidney, the club’s Tsehum Haven site was officially Opened in October, 1964. 

In 1972, at Cadboro Bay a protective breakwater was constructed to allow safe, year round, in-the-water moorage.

1992 was RVYC’s Centennial Celebration. The late Terry Reksten compiled a club history entitled A Century of Sailing, a Centennial Ball was held, and a stone cairn, containing a time capsule, was erected on the clubhouse lawn. Also that year, Princess Margaret Island (Portland Island) Marine Park was placed under our volunteer park host program by the BC Government.

The club has continued to help members take advantage of cruising opportunities. The Long Harbour Outstation was purchased in 2001 and officially opened on June 12th, 2004. This purchase complemented the slips leased for members’ use at Friday Harbor, a few years earlier.

In 2011, the club officially celebrated its one hundredth anniversary as the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and received its Letters Patent in 2012. This designation gives RVYC the right to incorporate St. Edward’s Crown into club insignias and flags. On Opening Day 2012, the Letters Patent were presented to RVYC by Lieutenant Governor Steven Point.

RVYC provides first-class instruction to beginner sailors as well as Olympic competitors. In 2012, for the second year in a row, RVYC was rated the best sailing school in Canada by Sail Canada. For the first time, in 2012 RVYC introduced a sailing program for local schools with over one hundred students participating in lessons and races. RVYC was represented at the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games in London by Members Stacie Louttit and John McRoberts in the SKUD 18 class (two-person keelboat class) and Bruce Millar in the Sonar class (three-person keelboat class). In addition, RVYC member Richard Clarke competed in the Star class at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

2014 was an important year for RVYC. Under the leadership of Andrew McBride, the Cadboro Bay Moorage Rebuild Project was successfully completed. Club volunteers and staff worked thousands of hours to ensure the new docks were completed before the stormy winter season and that the project was on budget.

2015 saw the rebuild of Tsehum Haven facilities largely completed. At the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games John McRoberts and Jackie Gay came away with the silver medal in the SKUD class while Bruce Millar placed 10th overall in the 2.4mR fleet.

The club’s governance structure was revised and a Board of Directors replaced the existing Executive Committee in 2017. In the same year, the Buchanan Lounge was Opened at Tsehum Haven, and RVYC was named Club of the Year by the Canadian Club Managers Association.

Significant events in the last three years include the hosting of the Melges 24 World Regatta (2018); the club being awarded the 5-Anchor eco-rating for environmental best practices from Clean Marine BC Program (2019) and, in 2020, RVYC was included in the top 50 yacht clubs in the world recognized by Platinum Clubs of the World.

RVYC is well-represented in the sailing community by the work done by its Members and staff. Along with Swiftsure, RVYC continues to host many sailing races, training sessions, and cruises. RVYC’s strong yachting traditions help to ensure that the club’s legacy will continue.

The Curatorial Standing Committee consists of volunteers –a Chair, an Archives Manager and a number of volunteers – dedicated to preserving the history of the Club. The committee manages an archives to:

a)     collect and preserve materials which illustrate the growth and development of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club

b)     classify, index, catalogue, and safely store all materials deposited therein

c)     make materials available to club members and researchers

d)     increase knowledge, understanding, and awareness of the RVYC to members and the public

e)     prevent loss of historically significant material by providing adequate and appropriate conditions for storage, protection and preservation of archival material


The RVYC Archives was established in 1989 to gather information for "A Century of Sailing", the yacht club history published in 1992, the centennial year. Archives collections include photos and artwork, newspaper clippings, files and documents related to events and club business, plans, audio interviews, videos and DVDs, membership lists, boat records, trophy records, obituaries and biographies, meeting minutes, newsletters, and annuals. There is a small collection of artifacts, but there is no formal provision for a museum.

Donations of archival material are welcomed under conditions spelled out in the Gift Donation form which must accompany every acquisition.

The Committee meets once a month and members are assigned to various projects. Volunteers are always needed.

HMCS Rainbow was an Apollo class light cruiser built in 1891 at Palmers in England.  She was the seventh in line to carry the name and served in the British Navy from 1893 to 1910. The first Rainbow was launched in 1586.

In 1910 she was acquired from Britain as one of Canada’s first two naval vessels (the other being HMS Niobe), following the passing in parliament of the Naval Services Bill which created the Canadian Navy.

Representative of its class it grossed 3600 tons, was 300 ft. (91 m) in length, 44 ft. (13 m) in beam, 16’6” (5 m) in draught, had a maximum service speed of 20 knots and carried a complement of 273.

To the Admiralty, Rainbow was obsolete, but to the infant Canadian Navy it was to prove useful as a training ship and patrol vessel.

Virtually all her Canadian service was spent on the west coast, prior to the 1914-18 Great War as a patrol vessel to harass American fishermen poaching within the three-mile limit, and during the Great War cruising as far south as Mexico, training men and searching out enemy supply ships.

In 1917 HMCS Rainbow began her paying-off period, and in 1920 she was sold to Nieder and Marcus of Seattle for conversion to an ore carrier. With her went the wheel.  Apparently officials at Esquimalt realized the wheel’s historical value and on being approached by the then Commander-in-Charge, the firm returned, free of charge, the ship’s wheel from the emergency steering position aft. The “wheel” actually consisted of three separate wheels mounted on a single shaft so that extra hands could be closed up in heavy weather. Esquimalt received the three wheels with one ending up in Ottawa at the Canadian War Museum, one in the wardroom at HMCS Naden, and after a few years lying about Dockyard, in 1925 one was given to the yacht club.

Inscribed on each wheel, in gold letters on a white background, were the battle honours garnered by previous warships of the same name. The yacht club wheel (the forward one of the three) has inscribed: Frigate Hancock, 1777 (captured from the Americans), and Hebe (a 40-gun French frigate captured in 1782).

The wheel was first mounted above the front door of the clubhouse where it began to weather badly; someone then repainted it; then around 1930 Bev Acland and Cliff Adams brought the wheel indoors, scraped the paint, varnished it, and mounted the wheel above the fireplace.


- 1967 RVYC Annual, “Twelve spokes and twenty knots”, Don Taylor

- F.V. Longstaff, Major, Maritime Committee of the BC Historical Association; 11 May 1929, “Rainbow” information prepared for RVYC

Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton, 1st Baronet, KCVO (1848-1931) was a Scotsman of Ulster-Scots parentage who was a self-made man, merchant, and yachtsman. He created the Lipton tea brand and was the most persistent challenger in the history of the America's Cup. Sir Thomas Lipton was a supporter of international yachting in many ways besides his participation in the America's Cup.

The full name of the trophy is the Sir Thomas Lipton Perpetual Trophy (should not be confused with Seattle Yacht Club's Lipton Trophy).

Victoria's Lipton Cup and RVYC

In December 1912 Sir Thomas Lipton was visiting Victoria and staying at the Empress Hotel. He was impressed with Victoria and British Columbia and their potential as assets to the British empire, and also the potential for Victoria becoming a centre for international yacht racing. Once the Panama Canal was open in 1915 he could see the possibility of sailing his Shamrock III to Victoria. The Colonist reported that "it may be taken for granted that when the next regatta of the Victoria Yacht Club comes around, there will be a Lipton Cup." Sir Thomas did present a cup, but he donated it to the city rather than the yacht club. (He also donated Lipton Cups to Seattle and San Diego.)

In an effort to promote the yachting scene the city chose to support a maritime Carnival week in August 1913. RVYC was asked to take complete charge of all water events. It was hoped by the club that this would be a chance to revive competition amongst Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria yachtsmen.

Just before the carnival was to start a cable was received from Sir Thomas Lipton informing the Carnival Committee that the cup could not be completed in time. A sketch was posted which would have to suffice for presenting to the Lipton Cup race winner. The race was sailed with very light winds and was won by Spirit I of Vancouver.

The city decided to abandon the idea of sponsoring maritime festivals and in December 1913 deeded the Lipton Cup to RVYC.

In 1914, the club invited yachtsmen from Vancouver and Seattle and other clubs around Puget Sound to participate in a two-day regatta in July. Walter Adams on Truant became the first Victoria winner of the Lipton Cup.

By 1920 yacht club activities were beginning to rebound after the Great War. The Pacific International Yachting Association (PIYA) was formed and Cadboro Bay was chosen for the first post-war race for Victoria's Lipton Cup. Truant was the only Victoria entry and the Seattle Yacht Club sailed away with Victoria's Lipton Cup.

In the 1925 regatta it was "Doc" Harper's heavy displacement Fayth that revelled in the 40 knot winds and was the second Victoria boat to win Victoria's Lipton Cup.

Between 1921 and 1966 (except for 1932-34 and 1941-46) Victoria's Lipton Cup has been won by RVYC, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Seattle Yacht Club and Corinthian Yacht Club members. Since 1969, the cup has been awarded to RVYC PHRF racers and awarded to the winner of a 12 mile race off the Victoria waterfront.

The races for the Lipton Cup

The Lipton Cup was deeded to Royal Victoria Yacht Club in December 1913. The intention was to award it to the winner of future international races hosted by the club. But the Great War prevented any regattas being organized between 1914 and 1918.

Between 1919 and 1940 the Lipton Cup was for a longer distance race among "two-stickers" – yawls, ketches and schooners with LWL of 25 to 40 ft. (7.6 m to 12 m) - at PIYA2 regattas. After WWII the race for the cup was at the Maple Bay Labour Day Regatta among CC of A rated B and C class cruisers. In 1967, RVYC reverted to having the cup competed for off the Victoria waterfront on a course of at least 12 miles (at the Maple Bay Regatta George Pearkes donated a new Lieutenant Governor's Trophy). Between 1972 and 1983, IOR rated boats competed; since then, PHRF rated boats have competed for the cup. 

1 Excerpted from "A Century of Sailing", T. Reksten, 1992


PIYA – Pacific International Yachting Association
CC of A – Cruising Club of America
IOR – International Offshore Rule
PHRF – Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet