Among the oldest and most distinguished yacht clubs in America, the Eastern Yacht Club embodies the very essence of the history of ‘yachting’. When yachting in Massachusetts was in its infancy, a group of gentlemen from Boston organized themselves as the Eastern Yacht Club for the purpose “of encouraging yacht building, and naval architecture, and the cultivation of nautical science.” Twelve successful businessmen, “imbued with the true yachting spirit,” according to a contemporary newspaper account, met in March of 1870. Within a month they had enrolled 110 members with 23 yachts. Construction of the clubhouse on Marblehead Neck was completed in 1881. Already known as the “Birthplace of the American Navy”, Marblehead became the homeport to some of the most beautiful schooners and steamers to be built during this time establishing itself as ‘the yachting capital of the world.’
From the beginning, the Club took a leadership position in every facet of yacht racing. The 94-foot sloop Puritan, flying the Eastern colors, successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1885 against challenger Genesta of the British Royal Yacht Squadron. This victory marked the first of three successful Cup defenses against the British by Eastern yachts in as many years- an extraordinary feat. Mayflower answered the challenge of Galatea in 1886, sending her packing in light air off New York. And in 1887, steel cutters Volunteer and Thistle engaged, and Volunteer, owned by Eastern member General Charles Paine, gained victory for America once again in a stunning defeat. Committed from its incorporation to superior naval architecture, the Eastern’s membership has included such celebrated designers and builders as Edward and Starling Burgess, Nathanael and L. Francis Herreshoff, Ray Hunt, and Ted Hood.
The club’s roster of members boasts such revered names across the ages in yacht racing as Charles Francis Adams, skipper of Yankee; Chandler Hovey, whose J Class Yacht Rainbow and Twelve Meter Easterner graced America’s Cup trials; Bradley Noyes, whose Tiogas gained multiple victories and the legendary Ted Hood, yacht designer, sail maker and winning skipper of the 1974 America’s Cup aboard the 12 Meter Courageous. Hood was elected to the America’s Cup Hall of fame in 1993.
In recent years, our club has been proudly represented around the world by seven-time Etchells Worlds champion Dave Curtis; Jud Smith, two time winner of Rolex Yachtsmen of the year and 10 time World Champion in multiple classes, and Dru Slattery, internationally ranked in women’s sailing. The club’s history is so full of characters and achievements, however, that for every one mentioned, there are literally dozens of others deserving attention. Of most recent note is Rich Wilson, who recently completed his second Vendee Globe solo around the world race in Great American III as the only American and oldest entrant, finishing in 107 days. Rich’s record-breaking voyages around Cape Horn about his trimaran Great American II captivated 300,000 thousand schoolchildren through his Sites Alive education portal. Aboard Great American II, he also set two new records between New York and Melbourne, and Hong Kong-New York, and finished second in the Transatlantic Race in 2004.
From the Sonder class regattas that preceded World War I to the competitive one-design and performance handicap (PHRF) races of today, the Eastern has played host to a multitude of major sailing events, local, national, and international. In 2019, we will host both the IOD Worlds and the Laser Masters North American Championship. Other major regattas have included the 2018 J70 Worlds, the Etchells Worlds, Soling Worlds, Star Worlds, IOD Worlds, Olympic Classes Regattas, Viper 640 North Americans, Sonar North Americans, and Shields Nationals, as well as the Soling North Americans, a preliminary race for the ‘96 Olympics. In 1994 the club received the coveted St. Petersburg Yacht Club Trophy, awarded for the Race Committee’s outstanding management of the Star North Americans.
A visit to the Eastern is a walk through yachting history, from the glorious days of the huge racing yachts to the present-day streamlined one designs. The trophy cases display such treasures as the Puritan Cup, the Lambert Cup, the Cleopatra’s Barge trophy, even a trophy once carried on Admiral Nelson’s flagship, as well as an array of Olympic medals. One hundred and fifty years of yachting history reside here!
A digital copy of our “The Eastern Yacht Club, A History from 1870-1985” by Joseph E. Garland may be accessed via this link.
Click HERE to view interviews/contemporary history of the Club, and follow the "Did You Know?" links below to learn some interesting facts about the Eastern Yacht Club.
Elizabeth W. Parker, Chair
A Complete List of Committee Members Can Be Found Here
Did You Know?