There was no yacht club on the East Coast of England before the year 1843, but on September 28 of that year one was formed at Harwich. It does not appear to have flourished for the first year or so of its existence. The Admiralty granted it a warrant on April I, 1845, and a few days later an intimation was received that H.M. the Queen Dowager Adelaide had consented to extend her patronage to it, and from that time it appears to have entered upon a period of prosperity.
A few years later one finds reference in contemporary records to the high position which the club held in the estimation of yachtsmen, and likewise to the exceptional privileges which its members enjoyed, including exemptions from foreign port dues. In 1846 Queen Victoria and H.R.H. Prince Consort became patrons.
In looking through the records of various yacht clubs, one notices how comparatively lax the regulations in regard to the choice of distinguishing flags appear to have been in the earlier days of the sport. It is interesting to note in this connection that about the time the Royal Harwich obtained its Admiralty warrant the matter was receiving more attention at the hands of the authorities, as an application on the part of the club to make some alteration in the device which it was authorized to carry on its blue ensign was refused by the Admiralty on the ground that ‘great inconvenience attended the changing of devices in the flags of yacht clubs, and their lordships are sorry they cannot comply with the request.’
The first challenge ever sent from this country to the New York Yacht Club for the America Cup was forwarded by the Royal Harwich Club on behalf of Mr. Ashbury, who took over his schooner Cambria, in 1871, to try to recover the trophy which had been won nineteen years before by the American schooner. This naturally brought the club into prominence in the yachting world, and when Mr. Ashbury returned to the attack in the following year with his new schooner Livonia, it was the Royal Harwich Yacht Club that again sent the challenge on his behalf.The Harwich Regatta now always takes place immediately after the opening matches of the Metropolitan clubs on the Thames, and the ‘Down Swin Matches’ provide races for the vessels from the river to the eastern port.
During the last three seasons the course for the big yachts at the annual regatta has been altered with the object of keeping the vessels within view as much as possible. The club has apartments at the Great Eastern Hotel at Harwich.