Royal connections through the ages

Celebrating the RYA’s Royal legacy

HRH QEII Sailing 1949 - Astern © Illustrated London News Ltd Mary Evans.jpg (Elizabeth and Philip)

From holidays to yacht racing, The Royal Family has a long history of seafaring.

As we celebrate the Coronation of our new Monarch, His Majesty King Charles III, we look back at the RYA’s connections with The Royal Family and their passion for spending time on the water.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Over the centuries the Monarchy has sailed aboard 83 royal yachts, including the most recent, HMY Britannia, which often hosted the RYA Council meetings during Cowes Week. 

In addition to her diplomatic duties on Royal Tours, HMY Britannia was also a vessel for family holidays. During the summer months, The Royal Family would often take off on what became known as the aptly named Western Isles tour, cruising around Scotland. 

Queen Elizabeth Royall Britannia Yacht (with Prince Philip).

In 1948, Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were listed as new members of the RYA (known then as the Yacht Racing Association). 

It became the Royal Yachting Association in 1952 when Sir Ralph Gore, then President, spoke of “Her Majesty’s recent command that the name of the Association will in future be the Royal Yachting Association."

Black and white image of a young king Charles in a dinghy with his father, Philip, duke of Edinburgh.

The Duke of Edinburgh sailed frequently with Prince Charles in the Dragon Class keelboat Bluebottle, a wedding present to Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh from the Island Sailing Club in Cowes, Isle of Wight. Bluebottle is the only British Dragon to have won an Olympic medal, picking up a bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was our Patron for many years and the Duke was elected as President of the RYA for the first time in 1956. It was under his watch, the first ever RYA Training Committee was formed. 

His Majesty King Charles

black and white image of King Charles windsurfing

A keen watersports fan, His Majesty King Charles III has been known to enjoy scuba diving and sailing – and was one of the first Royal members in the world to discover windsurfing in the 1970s.

Among many boating-related engagements over the years as The Prince of Wales, he visited the Olympic and Paralympic sailing venue at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) in the build up to the 2012 Games, christening the boat of 49er due Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes.  

King Charles pictured with members of the British Sailing Team including 49er duo Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes whose new boat he christened.

The Princess Royal

Following in her father's footsteps, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has been President of the RYA since 1987 and is also Patron of the RYA Foundation.

A keen sailor, Princess Anne and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, have kept a Rustler 44, Ballochbuie, at Ardfern in Scotland and have enjoyed cruising, sometimes as far as the Hebrides.

Princess Anne in a sailing dinghy, talking to other people on the water - 2E8X1RY

Amongst her duties as President, The Princess Royal has chaired almost every RYA AGM. She regularly visits sailing clubs across the UK to mark milestones, shows her support for the British Sailing Team and presents the annual RYA Volunteer Awards.

In an interview for RYA Magazine, she speaks fondly of her long history and love for sailing: “For me it’s important to have time away and sailing really is time away. It gives you a complete change from anything you’re doing and from my perspective, having a boat on the west coast of Scotland gives me two things – time away and in an attractive area.”

Princess Anne talking to people on a boat

The Prince of Wales and Princess of Wales

The Prince and Princess of Wales also share a love for being outdoors and spending time on the water. The Princess of Wales has incorporated her love for sailing into her royal duties as Patron of sailing charity, the 1851 Trust.

2F96EF2 - Kate on a large sailing boat with a sailing team

When she was appointed, she said: “I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed sailing from a young age and I know it is a great way of providing young people with the opportunity to develop skills and confidence”.

As a family, the Prince and Princess of Wales enjoy spending time on the coast, introducing their own three children to sailing.