In 1888 a group of sailing-minded gentlemen met in the rooms of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association to form the St. Lawrence Yacht Club. These men of action wasted little time and accomplished a great deal on the evening of April 7th and the momentum carried through the following days and weeks. A schedule of races was set up with the first to be held on May 24th, only six weeks after the founders convened their first meeting.
In those years, when what would become the Club property was remote country and farmland, one could drink the water in Lake St. Louis. The modern jets landing at nearby Pierre-Eliott-Trudeau International Airport, so commonplace today, could not be envisaged by then. When the first steps were taken to create the Club, the Wright brothers were experimenting with kites and gliders, still fifteen years away from tentative flight with the primitive predecessors of our present generations of aircraft.
Canada was a scant twenty-one years old and the Canadian Pacific Railway had seen the last spike driven to complete the first trans-continental line only two years before. That spike was driven by Donald Smith who would become an energetic and influential Honorary Commodore of the Club, as Lord Strathcona, and whose memory is perpetuated by the magnificent Strathcona Cup. The extent of this man's sphere of influence may only be guessed, some historians claim he was the wealthiest man in the British Empire when he died.
In 1894 H. M. Queen Victoria granted the title "Royal" to the club, and yacht owner-members were authorized to make application to the Admiralty for the necessary personal warrants to fly the blue ensign of H. M. Fleet. It should be noted that the club, having obtained the privilege from Queen Victoria, flew the blue ensign "undefaced". Members owning yachts were required to apply through the Club's secretary to Naval Headquarters in Ottawa and were granted warrants to fly the blue ensign "defaced" with the Canadian coat-of-arms. Since the adoption by the Federal Government in 1965 of a Canadian Ensign this has been flown by the Club and yacht owners-members. In 1901 the club was re-incorporated by act of the Quebec Legislature under the name: "The Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club".
The Club was born when Queen Victoria reigned and the Empire was one upon which "the sun never set". It has flown the blue ensign through the reigns of four subsequent Kings and a Queen, and finally forged direct links with the monarchy in the 1950's. It was during that decade that the Royal Dragon "Bluebottle" visited RStLYC and raced on two occasions. It was in 1954 that the Duke of Edinburgh commemorated these events by extending his royal patronage to the Club. Five years later, when Queen Elizabeth visited Canada, she reviewed the fleet while sailing up the lake in the Royal Yacht "Britannia".
For 125 years the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club's life has been one of wonders for the world around and beyond it. Physically, the Club has changed in many respects, but its raison d'être has remained constant: reflecting a love of boats, the challenge of wind and water, and the urge for competition in one of the most fundamental modes of propulsion.
The kaleidoscope of a century has embraced many people and many events. From the small group of founders, generations have succeeded generations in maintaining, and adding to, the legends and lore of the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club. Exclusive in terms of both numbers and social status of members in those fledgling years, the Club has sailed a course from then until now on the founding principles of sailing and competition. Meanwhile, the lure of water-bound recreation has expanded and become available to a relatively wide spectrum of people and yachts.
A more complete history of the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club can be can be found in our 200 page Centennial Book of 1988. Buy a copy at the office.