Despite its name, the New York Yacht Club, one of the most exclusive private clubs in the world, was not formed in New York. The club was established and located across the Hudson – in Hoboken.
The idea was born during an outing on John Cox Steven’s yacht Gimcrack. While on the boat, a group of eight friends decided to form a club with the sole purpose of racing sailing yachts. Stevens was designated as its first commodore and the first clubhouse, officially opened on July 15, 1845, was built in Hoboken on the land donated by the Stevens family.
The first club regatta billed as a “trial of speed”, took place the day after the official opening of the clubhouse. The event turned into the annual regatta held every year and interrupted only by the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II and the assassination of New York Senator Robert Kennedy.
A few years after opening the club, John Cox Stevens and other club members bought the schooner-yacht America. In 1851, the NYYC entered a sailing competition in the Isle of Wight, England, a hotbed for the yachting sport at the time. The America earned a decisive victory and the race was renamed the “America’s Cup.” From then on NYYC boats won 81 of 93 races. The NYYC successfully defended the trophy twenty-four times in a row, which is often regarded as the longest winning streak in all sports.
Around 1898, Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan donated three lots on West 44th Street to build an entirely new clubhouse. The spectacular beaux-arts building was constructed in 1901 by the Warren and Wetmore architectural firm.
From its humble beginnings with just eight members and a modest first clubhouse in Hoboken, NJ, the NYYC grew to over 3,000 members dedicated to both yacht racing and design. The present NYYC clubhouse on West 44th Street in New York City is a National Historic Landmark.