The annual highlight of the British yacht racing season, the Royal Yacht Squadron’s week long series of cruises and races in the Solent originate from Cowes, in the mouth of the Medina, and Ryde along the Isle of Wight’s northeasterly coast. The local Cowes Castle has housed the Squadron since 1854, which began formally in 1815 as a club which required ownership of a 10-ton yacht or larger to join, making for an exclusive membership roll from the beginning. The elite of society and government have been members through the club’s nearly two centuries of existence, and the highlight every year are races and full regatta of the first week of August. The 1851 Regatta was held over the famous 53-mile course won by the Schooner AMERICA.
It is a bright, breezy day for yacht racing, and the Cowes Week wraps with the Squadron’s final challenge and follows with a spectacular fireworks show. The competitors are herein flying their personal burgees; so this is a match of individuals for prizes, and undoubtably wagers. The Squadron members have put away their official Royal Navy White Ensigns - the only non-Royal Navy group allowed to fly it -and many are on hand to watch the match race between two of the grand schooners of their age. Seven yachts raced in the first 1826 Regatta, and thirty-seven pairs raced in 1864, with Schooner Yachts COMET and MAD CAP among the honored winners.
LADY EVELYN; an elegant cruising schooner once owned by Archibald Kennedy and named for his first wife, Lady Evelyn Stuart. Kennedy was the third Marquis of Ailsa, and is one of the most important proponents of Scottish yachting and shipbuilding. The schooner was designed and built by William Fife at Fairlie, Ayrshire in 1870. She measured 94.5' L with a 18.5' beam. This was the first of a fleet of yachts owned by the Marquis, whom raced in the 1870s the cutter yachts FOXHOUND, BLOODHOUND and SLEUTHHOUND, winning more than 100 prizes. He also earned his master’s certificate in 1874, and was a prominent member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, through where he must have met Fowles.
It is a bright day for sailing, with cumulus clouds reaching upward as they linger over the western edge of the Isle of Wight, with the universally recognized Needles headland in view. The schooner’s graceful lines hold a purer white sails aloft, and flies the Royal Yacht Squadron’s White Ensign, which was also the signal of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves. The Marquis was a prominent member of several clubs, and when his steam yacht MARCHESA was ready in 1878, he sold LADY EVELYN to Francis Pym of Hertfordshire who sailed her for more than 10 years, and then sold her to a New York owner. This is a beautiful and soothing marine narrative of a schooner in her prime, by an artist recognized as a master of his genre.
The premier artist of yacht racing in the south of England, Arthur Wellington Fowles was present to capture John Jameson’s Cutter IREX winning the Cup at the Royal Albert Yacht Club Southsea Regatta in 1888. The crew and owner/captain Jameson are being saluted by three men in a small boat, while the entourage aboard the yacht club’s excursion steamer enthusiastically fire the victory gun and probably begins settling wagers, all beneath the club’s Special Blue Ensign. Established as the Albert Yacht Club in 1864, gaining the “Royal” status the next year, it joined with Portsmouth’s Royal Naval Club in 1971. It has enjoyed the patronage of kings and officers throughout its history. The club’s namesake was an avid yachtsman and member.
IREX, a 88' Composite Cutter built in 1884 by J.G. Fay & Co. from a design by A. Richardson, would also win the Queen’s Cup at the Royal Clyde Yacht Club Regatta and 14 other prizes in the 1888 season, for a total of £910. This followed only the Watson-built YARANA’s 30 victories in 39 starts, and close behind both would be Lord Dunraven’s new cutter PETRONILLA, and his growing aspirations to compete for the America’s Cup. IREX would beat both in this regatta of “sixties” down from her home port of Southampton. Shown at the finish in the Eastern Solent, a Portsmouth fort is in view on the elevated headland, most probably Southsea Castle. It is an accurate and complete view of a period yacht racing moment, done in fine detail by the accomplished artist.