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Sussex Motor Yacht Club (United Kingdom)


Last modified: 2014-08-23 by rob raeside
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[Sussex Motor Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 1 March 2008

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Flag of Sussex Motor Yacht Club

The Sussex Motor Yacht Club (SMYC) uses an undefaced Blue Ensign. This club is a separate entity from the Sussex Yacht Club (SYC), which is privileged to have a defaced Blue Ensign.

The SMYC was founded in 1907. At the time, most leading British yacht clubs were less than enthusiastic about the sport of competitive powerboat racing, being devoted instead to sail racing. Racing powerboats was seen as experimental and leading clubs did not offer such competition. The second Duke of Westminster, Sir Hugh RA Grosvenor, was an active powerboat enthusiast and racer, and though a member of other clubs, helped establish the SMYC in 1907, under which powerboats could compete. In 1909, the SMYC had 100 members, its Commodore was the Duke of Westminster, and the Admiralty granted it the plain Blue Ensign, "with a view to encouragement of motor yachts in interest of national defence, the club being of good standing and likely to develop."

The early history of the SMYC is colourful, with exploits of not only powerboat racing, but early aviators as well. For example, Rudder Magazine for May 1909 reports on the Hydroplane Regatta that held at Monte Carlo from 31 March to 11 April 1909, in which the British entry was skippered by the Duke of Westminster. The Duke also raced for the 1909 and 1910 Hamsworthy Trophy. The Times for 13 July 1908 reported that the Duke's boat raced over a 24-mile course, and won by a 3 minute, 13 second margin. The article reflects that the boat reached the then incredible speed of 28 knots: to quote the Times: "Now the Duke of Westminster's boat is the craft on which the hopes of this country rest so far as the principal international event of the year is concerned. [The boat reached] a speed of 28 knots, which would make this 40 foot boat the fastest vessel of her length afloat so far as men know...."

In February 1911, the Club hosted a dinner for early British aviator Oscar Morison, who landed his airplane at Brighton, the first flight to land there.

In November 1921, the club had some 300 members, with 45 boats comprising 2,000 tons, and applied for the Royal title. This was unsuccessful. See documents in National Archives, HO 144/1758/426431 (Royal Style and Arms: Title "Royal" refused to Sussex Motor YC, 1921-22).

In 1931, the SMYC awarded the Britannia Trophy, which had been presented to the Club by the Prince of Wales, for the winners of powerboat races on the Thames. The Trophy was not offered during World War 2, but was awarded again in 1987 for an offshore race from Tower Bridge to Brighton, with an overnight stop at Ramsgate, Kent.

In the 1950s, the Club jointly owned the Stowe's Yard facility with the Sussex Yacht Club (SYC). As noted above, the SYC is a separate entity, with an Admiralty letter for a defaced Blue Ensign.

When founded in 1907, the Club was housed in Middle Street, Brighton. Then, for many years, it was headquartered at 7 Ship Street, in Brighton. The clubhouse housed the ship's bell of the retired cruiser, HMS SUSSEX, where it played a prominent role in club festivities. When a Sussex Division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was created in 1951, SMYC Commodore Fred May presented the commanding officer of the new Division with this bell. The bell now hangs in Chichester Cathedral.

After bankruptcy in 1993, the selling of the 7 Ship Street premises, and inactivity, the SMYC was reorganised at a general meeting of the members on 7 December 2000. Its new headquarters are in Medina House, Brighton Marina, nearby the 7 Ship Street location. Commander Malcolm JD Farrow, RN's work "Colours of the Fleet" at p. 43 notes that although the SMYC was once defunct and bankrupt, it was resurrected and has regained the right to fly the undefaced Blue ensign. In 2001, the club had 33 active members and was rediscovering its history and origins. It has already recovered some of its trophies, including the 1931 Britannia Trophy presented by the then Prince of Wales. It appears on the Navy List's listing of clubs authorised special ensigns.

British yachtsman John Duffy was instrumental in the reorganisation of the SMYC in the early 2000s. The Club celebrated its centenary in 2007.

I attach a depiction of the Club's burgee, which I made using two burgees provided by the Club as the model, and adhering to them as closely as possible. I am an overseas member of SMYC. I give you permission to use this depiction on the FOTW website, in conjunction with a page about the SMYC. As you will note, the burgee does not outline the "birds" and propellor in black, as seen in some other depictions of the burgee.
James T. Liston, 10 November 2009


[Burgee of Sussex Motor Yacht club]image by Clay Moss, 28 July 2014

Given its name, the SMYC (headquartered in Brighton, located within the historic county of Sussex) not surprisingly employs Sussex-related emblems. The six martlets (heraldic swallows) have long traditionally been associated with the historic county of Sussex. A martlet is a heraldic charge depicting a stylized bird with short tufts of feathers in the place of legs. The six martlets have been said by some to represent the original six subdivisions of Sussex. The six-martlet emblem forms the basis of arms granted to the county councils of East and West Sussex in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and also forms the basis for several proposed local flags for Sussex in recent times. The three-bladed propeller emblem denotes a motor yacht club.
James Liston, 22 November 2010