Despite its name, the New York Yacht Club, one of the world’s most exclusive private clubs, was not formed in New York. The club was established and originally located across the Hudson River – 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 nominated as its first commodore, and the first clubhouse, officially opening on July 15, 1845, was built in Hoboken on land donated by the Stevens family.
The first club regatta, billed as a “trial of speed,” took place the day after the official opening. The event turned into a regatta held annually and interrupted only by the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the assassination of New York Senator Robert Kennedy.
A few years after forming 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 that point on, NYYC boats won 81 of the 93 races held. The NYYC successfully defended the trophy twenty-four times in a row, establishing the record often regarded as the longest winning streak in all sports.
In 1898 Commodore J. Pierpont Morgan donated three lots on West 44th Street to build a new home for the NYYC. Three years later, the Warren and Wetmore architectural firm constructed a spectacular beaux-arts edifice.
From its humble beginnings with just eight members and a modest clubhouse in Hoboken, NJ, the NYYC blossomed into a 3,000-strong organization dedicated to both yacht racing and design. The present NYYC building on West 44th Street in New York City is a National Historic Landmark.