Discover the best yacht clubs in the world

Published 15 November 2023

Renowned for their historic sailing traditions, stunning locations and exclusive membership, the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world offer a unique social hub for like-minded yachting enthusiasts to enjoy. As social venues go, the worlds these clubs inhabit have the upper hand, particularly during some of their regattas. Burgess takes a look behind the scenes at some of the best yacht clubs in the world. 


What is a yacht club: History

Founded in 1720, the Royal Cork Yacht Club was a forerunner and became the first formally established yacht club in the world. Before this time, yachts were typically owned by royalty, but as non-royals began to purchase or build their own yachts to sail and race, clubs began to form to aid in the organisation of such races and regattas.  

Be a part of something exclusive and prestigious

Then, and now, few institutions compete with the exclusivity and prestige of a yacht club. Whether founded by a prince, boasting a rich history and tradition, or as a recent addition to the most highly ranked yacht clubs in the world, being an esteemed member of any of these yacht clubs is the pinnacle of yachting for many. The majority of the clubhouses are located in iconic seaside settings (or in major cities, as is the case for the New York Yacht Club) and have world-class amenities. Upholding sailing traditions to this day, every yacht club will organise regattas and racing, and a few have also become training centres for young sailors.  

Enjoy the members-only facilities and host social events

Members can also benefit from club facilities which can include anything from grand and stately rooms for entertaining and socialising in, to swimming pools, concierge services, high-end restaurants, and, most importantly, a yachting community to socialise and network with. With all this typically comes a high joining and membership fee and a rigorous application process, including recommendations and meticulous screening, meaning that the resulting membership pool are a close-knit community of generally like-minded people.  

What to wear to a yacht club?

Remaining traditional, most yacht clubs have specific guidelines for dress code inside their clubs. Depending on the time of day or event, the dress code for men is usually collared shirts or polos rather than t-shirts, with trousers rather than shorts and closed-toe shoes. Ties are not usually required for lunch, and, given the locations of most of the clubs, light colours and light fabrics are also advisable.  

Be comfortable and look elegant at the same time

For ladies, tops should not be strappy or too casual, while skirts or dresses should be a suitable length. Trousers for ladies are also acceptable at most clubs, while footwear of any style, other than trainers or flip flops, are allowed. Hats of any sort are usually also forbidden inside.  

The best yacht clubs in the world

There are thousands of yacht clubs in the world but only a handful are considered to be elite. Whether famed for their historic sailing traditions, their sumptuous settings or their excellent facilities, one thing all of our selected yacht clubs have in common is their exclusive and respected membership.  

The Royal Yacht Squadron  

Not quite the world’s oldest club, but one of the most famous of the historic ones, the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) was established in 1815. Originally set up as a local club by 42 original members with an interest in yachting, its royal association began just two years after its founding when the Prince Regent, later King George IV, became a member. Later on, when he acceded to become King, it was then renamed the Royal Yacht Squadron and its clubhouse is Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight, UK.

The Royal Yacht Squadron holds a lot history

The club has always attracted famous and illustrious members. As well as George IV, Nelson’s Captain at Trafalgar Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy was a founder member, and later the explorer Robert Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic). These famous members and royal associations secured its reputation as one of the most influential yachting establishments. It was RYS’s commodore who originally challenged the New York Yacht Club and their racing yacht America to a round-the-island race in 1851 – a contest now known as the America’s Cup (see NYYC below). The RYS also initiated the regatta racing rule which mandates racing yachts to give way to the vessel on the starboard tack (a rule which must have saved countless accidents since its inception).  

Watch all the reading action from the shore

Today the club hosts several regattas, the most famous of which is Cowes Week. There are just over 500 members of the Royal Yacht Squadron, 75 of whom are Naval members and 60 of whom are Honorary members.  Only British yacht club members are permitted to fly the White Ensign on their yachts – a unique privilege for Squadron members only those dates back to 1829 when it was gifted to them by King William, who was himself a member. Membership to the club is by recommendation from existing members and subject to a secret ballot.  

New York Yacht Club

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) was established in 1844 by John Cox Stevens. He was the owner of the schooner America, with which he triumphed against a fleet of British yachts in 1851 in what became the prequel to the America’s Cup race named after his vessel. Between 1857 and 1983 the NYYC then successfully defended the cup a further 25 times, before eventually losing it to the Royal Perth Yacht Club’s yacht AUSTRALIA II. This was and still is the longest winning streak (in terms of years) in any sport.  

The club held it's first Annual Regatta on 17 July 1845

From transatlantic victories to its famous ‘cruises’, the club has been a founder of many of yachting’s great firsts. Since losing the cup to Australia in 1983, the club has welcomed younger sailors to its two clubhouses: one in a stunning Beaux-Arts building in Manhattan and the other in a grander waterfront location in Newport, Rhode Island.  The former is a jacket and tie establishment, and the latter provides members with access to the ideal sailing conditions promised by the deep waters around Rhode Island. Today, the club’s burgee, which only club members are permitted to fly, is recognised the yachting world over. 

Yacht Club de Monaco

Founded in 1953 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco, the Yacht Club de Monaco is a relatively new entrant to the scene which nevertheless holds a unique position in international yachting. Created from the old Société des Regates, its aim was to promote yachting within the Principality, and judging by the number of yachts which populate Monaco’s Port Hercule it has certainly succeeded. The Club is twinned with several clubs, including two of the world’s leading yacht clubs – the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the Real Club Nautico de Barcelona. Members are therefore able to participate in sporting activities held between clubs and access each other’s clubhouse and facilities.  

Soak in the beautiful view of Port Hercules

The Yacht Club de Monaco’s major focus is racing, but the social scene is not far behind. This is a club with such an exclusive members’ list that although it is the place to be seen, the members remain discreet. His Royal Highness, Prince Sovereign Albert II, has been Club President since 1984 and is also responsible for the clubhouse that opened in 2014.

Located at the heart of the Principality overlooking Port Hercules, the futuristic-styled Norman Foster designed building resembles a yacht with a series of deck-like terraces, all offering spectacular views over the Mediterranean. A fantastic venue for socialising and entertaining with all manner of events for the yachting community, including exclusive parties and events throughout the Monaco Yacht Show, the clubhouse is also home to the 1909 Restaurant, the Sunrise Restaurant, the Aquarama Riva Bar, Observatory Deck, and the Ballroom. Members also have access to a large outdoor swimming pool and lounge deck area.  

Explore the surroundings and experience the Monaco nightlife

Membership is extremely limited and prospective candidates are rigorously vetted. Applications must be supported by two existing members and if successful, they are welcomed with a party and dinner in their honour. Given its exclusive nature, a formal dress code for day and evening wear is mandatory for all.  

Yacht Club Costa Smeralda

Founded in 1967 by HH the Aga Khan, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) is one of the leading yacht clubs in the Mediterranean. Amongst the world’s most eminent yachting destinations, Sardinia’s Porto Cervo and the surrounding waters are the club’s main draw. This coastline provides ideal conditions for sailing and as a result the club hosts some of the world’s most prestigious regattas, including the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the Rolex Swan Cup, and the Giorgio Armani Superyacht Regatta.  

Yacht Club Costa Smeralda has so much to offer its members from dining to amenities

Aside from its impressive racing calendar, the YCCS has become one of the most luxurious locations for superyachts throughout the summer season. With an impressive social scene, the clubhouse literally buzzes with high-profile members stepping ashore from their yachts to enjoy its many amenities. The clubhouse itself also offers a panoramic pool terrace, al fresco dining, a wellness centre and spa, and a member’s lounge and bar, while also located within walking distance is the Pevero Golf Club and Cala Granu Beach.  

Indulge in Smeralda's al fresco dining at a range of restaurants on club grounds

Membership is strict, with a new member having to be proposed by two current members. A Club Uniform is available for YCCS members and must be worn if participating in certain events when members are officially representing the Club. Evening attire also requires the typical clubhouse attire, with long trousers and a shirt (no t-shirts) and closed shoes for men, while ladies must wear a suitable length skirt or trousers.  Along with the Yacht Club de Monaco, the YCCS is twinned with the prestigious New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron.  

St Francis Yacht Club 

The St Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) is one of the world’s most prestigious sailing clubs. It is also one of the oldest American yacht clubs, having been founded in 1927 when a few members from the San Francisco Yacht Club decided to move their clubhouse from Sausalito to Belvedere.  

Today, the Mediterranean Revival-style clubhouse affords dazzling views over the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the infamous Alcatraz. More importantly, it provides access to some of the most spectacular sailing waters in the world, with berthing on the shores of San Francisco Bay and access to the private Tinsley Island in the Sacramento Delta.  

St Francis Yacht Club is located along the San Francisco Bay offering picturesque views

St Francis Yacht Club members enjoy a busy schedule of racing events, including the Rolex Big Boat Series. The Club also hosts a series of social events within its clubhouse dining and multiple event spaces. The dress code for social engagements is formal, with clubhouse attire post 6pm requiring jackets for men and the equivalent evening dress for ladies. Membership to the club is by invitation only, with nominations sponsored by between one and three existing members based on the level of membership required.  

Dubai Marina Yacht Club

It may not hold the historic prestige of the other yacht clubs featured here, but what the Dubai Marina Yacht Club lacks in history it certainly makes up for in facilities and luxury. Located in the heart of New Dubai, the Club is one of the largest yacht clubs in the world, encompassing five marinas located along the Persian Gulf coastline. Enveloped by soaring skyscrapers on either side, the Club House Marina lies at the heart of the Dubai Marina Yacht Club, while the West Bay Marina is perfectly located for ease of access to the sea. 

Great weather and a skyscraper backdrop, what more do you need?

East Marina and the Marina Promenade offer an array of restaurants and shopping arcades, and the Marina Mall is the entertainment and retail hub. Member lounges are spread across the facility, including the Aquara Lounge and the Yots Sports lounge.  Amenities across all marinas include several member lounges and a 24/7 concierge service. Being a Dubai Marina Yacht Club member allows for berthing perks, a 24/7 concierge service, access to water taxis, pools, and gyms, and invites to yachting events dedicated to showcasing the region’s geography and culture.  

Grand Bahama Yacht Club

With its easily navigated deep-water marina on the island of Grand Bahama, the Grand Bahama Yacht Club in Freeport is one of the most prominent marinas in the Caribbean. Welcoming large yachts to its convenient location just to the north of The Bahamas archipelago, the Club is a designated Bahamas Port of Entry and often the first port-of-call in The Bahamas for yachts coming from Florida.

Grand Bahama Yacht Club offers members a range of activities from tennis to big game fishing

Membership of the Grand Bahama Yacht Club includes access to the turn-of-the-century modern clubhouse with its European architecture and lush tropical landscaping. It also has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and 24/7 security.  

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

Founded in 1944, The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) has become Australia’s most prestigious yacht club. Host to the famous Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the club has world-class facilities for both the sailing elite and its members, who also enjoy access to the club’s comprehensive sailing programme.

Nothing like sailing under the Sydeny Harbour Bridge on a sunny day

Nestled along the Rushcutters Bay foreshore, the modern clubhouse enjoys stunning harbour views, a large 213-berth marina, function rooms, and other clubhouse amenities including a bar and lounge. Membership to the CYCA is on a referral basis.  

Barbados Yacht Club

The Barbados Yacht Club is located on Carlisle Bay and as such it provides access to stunning beaches and ideal sailing conditions that the Caribbean is known for. From the beach bar to tennis to a host of sailing programmes, members benefit from a wide array of both sailing and social activities.  

Attend regattas hosted by the club or explore further into Barbados

Like many of the other clubs in this list, the Barbados Yacht Club hosts a variety of regattas, including the Mount Gay Rum Barbados Regatta along with recreational activities like tennis and sailing programmes, while the clubhouse also has a restaurant and bar for socialising. Membership to the Barbados Yacht Club is through a monthly ballot and is based on sailing performance.  

Explore the world of yachting. Speak to our team of expert charter brokers today.


To find out more about Burgess’ yachts for sale and yachts for charter, please contact a Burgess broker. Alternatively, get in touch with one of our offices directly: London, Monaco, New York, Miami, Singapore or all other locations.

Yachts, prices and availability are correct at the time of publication.

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