SMYC History 2018-02-28T19:06:04+00:00


The club launched a totally redeveloped website. With news, history, galleries and more, using a responsive design that adapts to the world of many devices, whether mobile, tablet or desktop. It is hoped that the new site will become a focal point for existing members and also attract many more new members.


The Club joined the world of the internet by launching its first website. The new website established the Club’s presence on the internet and promoted the benefits of the Club, detailing its unique history. The site had a positive affect on the recruitment of new members and has become the prime source for new recruits.


The Club created an email account and address to improve communications with members and the electronic world at large.


Members celebrated the Club’s centenary, holding a formal dinner at the Hotel Alias Seattle, Brighton Marina.


Some time passed but eventually, under the original Admiralty Warrant, a set of new yacht permits was issued. It was then necessary to reconstitute SMYC and John managed to contact around 250 of the 300 Life Members, most of whom agreed that the Club should be resurrected. Despite an overwhelming majority being in favour of reconstitution, John considered that, in itself, a verbal agreement was insufficient and he called a General Meeting of the membership which was held on 7th December 2000. Around 70 people attended and it was unanimously agreed to reconstitute SMYC. The Club is deeply indebted to John Duffy for its survival and John has to be commended for his persistence and commitment to the unique identity of the Club.


In 1995, wishing to preserve the history, tradition and uniqueness of SMYC, the then Commodore of Brighton Marina Yacht Club (BMYC) John J Duffy, determined to see if it was possible to resurrect the historic Club; little did he realise that it was going to take him five years to realise this ambition. John’s first task was to establish whether it was legally possible to resurrect the Club and this proved to be relatively easy, as he discovered that, in law, a club is the sum of its members, not its premises nor its possessions.

Having discovered that SMYC still existed in name by having 300 Life Members, he then decided to establish whether the Warrant for the Undefaced Blue was still valid. This proved to be much more difficult. First starting with the Admiralty his enquiries led to the Ministry of Defence. George Robertson, the newly appointed Minister, instructed his staff to assist in any way they could. No new Warrants had been issued since 1928 except to armed services clubs. There was only one record of a yacht club having had its Warrant reinstated which was the Royal Plymouth Corinthian and it looked as though it was unlikely that it would be possible to get a grant of reinstatement, therefore, John had to establish that the SMYC Warrant was still valid. The MoD was of the view that the Club’s Warrant was valid if a permit issued under the Warrant was still in use by a yacht and a copy could be produced. Fortunately John knew of a former Commodore of SMYC who continued to use his permit – a copy was produced and sent to the MoD.


For some years the Club had been in financial difficulty and in 1993 SMYC applied to its membership for debentures. Some 350 members paid up but this did not halt the financial decline. Eventually the Club asked the debenture holders to surrender their debentures in favour of Lifetime Membership; some 300 members did so but this did not prevent the club from becoming insolvent. This resulted in the sale of the prestigious premises in Ship Street, Brighton and the closure of the Club and what little memorabilia that remained, was rescued by Brighton Marina Yacht Club.


Following the de-commissioning in 1949 of HMS Sussex, a Royal Navy heavy cruiser, SMYC was successful in acquiring the Ship’s Bell. This was later handed by Commodore Fred May, to the Sussex Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) but when this unit was disbanded in 1994, the Ship’s Bell was presented to Chichester Cathedral where it now hangs. Also in 1950, SMYC purchased jointly with Sussex Yacht Club, Stowe’s Yard, now the premises and boatyard of Sussex Yacht Club. In the late 1970’s, during one of its many financial crisis’, SMYC sold its half share of the yard to Sussex Yacht Club.


The Sailing Division began racing Merlins off Shoreham Beach, moving to the Lighthouse Club in 1949 and subsequently to Soldiers Point, initially on a 7 year lease but later on a 99 year lease. The Sailing Division (now Shoreham Sailing Club) still uses SMYC as an adjunct to its title.


The “Britannia Trophy” was presented to SMYC by HRH David, the Prince of Wales, subsequently Edward VIII. Originally the Trophy was for 4hp motor boat races on the Thames but fell out of use at the commencement of World War II. The Trophy was next presented in 1987 for an offshore power boat race from Tower Bridge to Brighton with an overnight stop at Ramsgate (Royal Temple Yacht Club – awarded a Warrant for the Undefaced Blue in 1898). The Trophy was presented in the subsequent two years but not since.


The club applied for ‘Royal’ title but this was declined. SMYC became a Limited Company and One Pound shares were sold to members.


In November 1913, SMYC in association with the directors of the London Aerodrome, Hendon, arranged a London to Brighton handicap race. The first stage, after passing over Brighton Pier ended at Shoreham airfield. Then the final stage was the return to London. The Vice Commodore of SMYC, Mr Harry Preston, presented a valuable trophy and a first prize of £100 and a second prize of £25.


The use of the Blue Ensign in yachting is interesting. Some early clubs, including Royal Northern YC, Royal Western YC, and Royal Southern YC were granted use of the plain Blue Ensign during the 1830s and 1840s. Certain other clubs were awarded the plain Blue Ensign thereafter (e.g. Royal Clyde YC in 1857, Royal Cinque Ports YC in 1872), although many other clubs were granted the Blue Ensign defaced with a club badge or other emblem. In theearly 20th century, several motor yacht clubs including SMYC were awarded plain Blue Ensigns: Royal Motor YC in 1906, SMYC in 1909, and Royal Scottis MYC in 1928. Finally in 1928, the Admiralty ceased issuing new Warrants for the plain Blue ensign to clubs (armed services clubs excepted), in favour of a defaced Blue Ensign, and thus SMYC is one of the last U.K. clubs to receive a Warrant to wear an Undefaced Blue Ensign. Today there appear to be 18 clubs in the UK entitled to wear the Undefaced Blue Ensign, plus 12 overseas clubs, including the Royal Brighton Yacht Club of Australia. Apart from the naval Services clubs, SMYC may now be the only surviving non-Royal Club to be entitled to issue Permits for an Undefaced Blue Ensign.


The Motor-Car Journal, for Saturday, 9 May 1908, vol. 10, page 230, under the general heading of “Motoring Notes from Brighton” states:
“Brighton rejoices in the possession of the only motor-boat club “whose current balance-sheet reveals a satisfactory financial position.” At least, so said Mr. H.J. Mann, the secretary of the Sussex Motor-boat Club, at its first annual meeting at the Grand Hotel last week. For a young enterprise, only a year old, the club may be regarded as a very healthy and promising youngster. It has about a hundred members at present, with a fleet of twenty-five boats, but several other craft are building, and will be added this ensuing season. Viscount Curzon has accepted the commodoreship, in succession to Admiral T.S. Brand, who is leaving Sussex, but Lieut. Sir Theodore Angier, R.N.V/R., and Lieut. O. Summer continue as vice-commodore and rear-commodore respectively.”


The Sussex Motor Yacht Club was founded in April 1907.  The Bystander, a magazine of the day, reported in its May 22, 1907 edition, that “the inaugural luncheon of the club was held at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, on Saturday the 11th of May 1907; and, as the afternoon was delightfully fine, the opening cruise which followed was thoroughly enjoyed, particularly by the club’s guests.”  The Bystander also reported that “Although only a month old, the Sussex Motor Boat Club already numbers upwards of one hundred members; and if, as seems probable, it is able to secure from the Corporation of Brighton the proposed site for its new club-house—on the seafront, where the Aquarium now stands, or, rather, lies buried—there is no reason why, in time, it should not develop into one of the most popular yachting centres on the South Coast.”

The Bystander article reflects that the club’s chairman was Sir Theodore Angier, and that his speech “was really interesting, because there is nothing worth knowing about motor-boating that he doesn’t know.”   Following the speeches, the members went for an hour’s run in members’ boats, and afterward, “we went ashore again, and were entertained at tea by Mr. Harry Preston at the Royal York [Hotel]….”   Preston appears to have been one of the club’s organisers and, at the time, was the owner of the Royal York.

It is unclear when the Club moved to premises at 7 Ship Street. but the Navy List of 1927 shows Middle Street as the Club’s address, whilst the Navy List for 1938 shows the address as 7 Ship Street.  It would appear from various magazines and Admiralty correspondence that the first Commodore of the Club was the Duke of Westminster. In 1909 the Duke raced an un-named motorboat as Commodore of Sussex Motor Yacht Club in the Hydroplane Regatta held at Monaco. The Duke was also a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron but chose to enter and skipper his boat as an S.M.Y.C. member. In the same year he also entered the Cowes Motor Boat Regatta in his 40 footer, Ursula, and in August, raced for the Harmsworthy Trophy.

Thinking of joining SMYC?

Find out more!