Oozing sophistication, exclusivity and rich tradition, some of the world’s oldest-established yacht clubs host only the wealthiest and most privileged waterborne enthusiasts. Here, yachting experts Bishop Skinner Marine provide a glimpse into the most desirable yacht clubs from across the world, where membership is all but impossible for those outside of the yachting elite.

The Royal Yacht Squadron

The Royal Yacht Squadron is not just one of the most exclusive yacht clubs in the world; it is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. So exclusive in fact that staff once, due to their strict ‘men-only’ regulations, famously denied entry to the wife of the club’s admiral. Said wife happened not only to be a patron of the club, but also Queen Elizabeth II. The club finally voted to remove its ‘men-only’ policy after years of complaints particularly in regards to the ridiculous situation that saw Dame Ellen MacArthur appointed as the youngest ever Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (for breaking the world record for singlehandedly circumnavigating the globe in a yacht); yet, because of her gender, she could not join her local yacht club, which happened to be the Royal Yacht Squadron. However, opening the club up to an extra 50 per cent of the population hasn’t made it any less exclusive, with a membership capacity of only 500 and thousands of sailing enthusiasts from around the world desperate to get a peek inside. Unsurprisingly, the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron is still the club that many are dying to join.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is situated in Rushcutters Bay in Sydney Harbour and has been there since 1951. The prestigious club has managed to attract over 2,700 members with its state of the art facilities, an incredibly successful youth training system and a growing international reputation. The club is most famously home to one of the world’s best known sailing events: the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Many regard the race as the Mount Everest of the yacht-racing world with 11 sailors having lost their lives and nine yachts sunk since 1973. As a result, the race is strictly for world’s best sailors, with the world’s best yacht insurance policies.

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

One of the only institutions to keep its “Royal” title after Britain handed Hong Kong back over to China in 1984, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is among the oldest sports club in Hong Kong, as well as being one of the largest yacht clubs in the world. With 166 years of sailing and rowing activity under its belt the clubhouse at Kellett Island has transformed through the years from a modest building into a prestigious, luxury leisure establishment with facilities including swimming pools, a gym, bowling lanes, a snooker room, and a library. While the club was originally only for British citizens it is now a must-visit location for many international sailors.

Royal Thames Yacht Club

The Royal Thames Yacht Club is the oldest continuously operating yacht club in the world, having been founded in 1775 by King George III’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland. It has been at its present base over looking Hyde Park in Knightsbridge since 1923, and the clubhouse has become an international haven for sailing enthusiasts. The prestige of the club is underpinned by the calibre of some of its members: the club Admiral is Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, its Commodore is Prince Andrew, Duke of York and the patron is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. As well as events on the Solent the Royal Thames Yacht Club holds numerous rallies and cruises all around the world and members can take advantage of full reciprocal rights at internationally renowned clubs such as the Royal Sydney Yacht Club and the New York Yacht Club.

Yacht Club de Monaco

Just as the British Royals are the figureheads for the Royal Thames Yacht Club Monaco’s royal family play a pivotal role in all matters at the Yacht Club de Monaco.  As president, Prince Albert II is said to inspect and approve every single application that the club receives but he is only able to do so bi-annually, making Yacht Club de Monaco one of the hardest clubs to get into in the world. By far the most modern and non-traditional clubhouse from the clubs on this list, its clubhouse is shaped like a giant cruise ship with deck like terraces and completely powered by renewable energy. Lord Foster of the illustrious architects Foster and Partners described the building as: “a little like a city in microcosm, with schools, parks, offices, restaurants, a network of interior circulation ‘streets’ and a hierarchy of public and private, social and functional places.” It’s certainly a club that we’re dying to get into but we won’t hold our breath on this one.