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The Royal Yacht `Victoria and Albert' at Anchor Off Cork, 1849 Giclee Print

The Royal Yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’ at Anchor Off Cork by Atkinson, 1849

Ah, Gentlemen and their toys. The height of luxury and one of the most expensive accessories of the 19th century aristocracy was a yacht. Yacht, is actually derived from a Dutch word of similar sound with different spelling. The original ships were light and fast created for the Dutch Navy. Yachts patrolled and destroyed pirate ships in Dutch waters and occasionally transferred important persons. One such preeminent figure was Charles II, who was so pleased with his yacht transport, he commissioned one for himself as holiday-boat. Of course, to maintain favor and class “all his friends” followed suite. To translate into modern parlance, remember when HUMVs/Hummers were first driven by the military and then tricked out for billionaire playboys, which other citizens scoffed at for its ridiculous size and unnecessary power? Now, Hummers are more common, but still not the carriage of choice for the average resident. Similar, premise.

As the industrial revolution gave way to more advance technology for the military to use, yachts grew out of favor for patrol ships. They begun to take on its current general “pleasure boat” connotation. The personal ships of the wealthy became more well-appointed with luxury comforts. The yachts themselves varied greatly in size and sails; from the diminutive 30 foot yacht to colossal yachts of today exceeding 130 feet. It was not long after Charles II, when the owners began racing their boats. By the 1800s yachting sports club exploded in popularity.

There is something rugged and manly handling a ship. The call of adventure, the salt spray, the sun beating down, the wind in the hair, and muscle power to maneuver. Or the verbal authority to leave it all to the servants. . .