Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight's Royal Yacht Squadron to allow women members

Royal Yacht Squadron
Image caption The club's patron is the Queen and its Admiral is Prince Philip

An elite private members' yacht club is to allow women to become full members - 199 years after it was founded.

The Royal Yacht Squadron, in Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight, is currently only open to "gentlemen actively interested in yachting".

The club said rule changes would be introduced at the Spring Meeting next year, allowing women to be proposed for membership.

The change requires no further vote but has to be ratified by all members.

Round-the-world yachtswoman Dee Caffari said: "Many yachts have women amongst the team members so this now allows the club to better reflect the sport of sailing.

"This also highlights the uniqueness of our sport - it is one of the few sports that allow men and women to compete on a level playing field."

The yacht club, which was founded in 1815, describes itself as "the most prestigious yacht club in the United Kingdom and arguably the world".

To join, you have to be voted in through a member.

John Walker, Royal Southern Yacht Club said: "I don't know of any other yacht club in the world that's a male only bastion.

Image caption Cowes Week races start with cannon fire from the Royal Yacht Squadron

"But I don't know any other yacht club in the world that's quite like the Royal Yacht Squadron - they are unique."

In the early 1960s women were given "associate member" status allowing them to use its facilities.

Its patron is the Queen and the club's Admiral is Prince Philip.

The Royal Yacht Squadron marks the start line for races at Cowes Week which are started with a firing from its 22 miniature cannon.

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