Club History

Foundation and history of the club

By initiative of King Leopold I, our yacht club was founded on april 16th 1846, and named "Cercle des Régates". Each of the founders were pioneers, whose life is a story on its own. Our first commodore, Edouard Belleroche (07/04/1792), was owner of the Cercle du Phare, a luxuous institution built around the first lighthouse. He had a place that could be used by the members of the club.

The building was located upon the fortresses of Ostend ; it didn't supply that much room. Therefore the office was located in a street that Belleroche himself had constructed and parcelled out, a street that connected the Geneverbridge with the town. This street was named "Rue du Cercle", after the office of the "Cercle des Régates" that was located in this street. Later on, the name was wrongly translated into "Cirkelstraat".

Edouard Belleroche was sent out to London as a diplomat, and commander colonel Deladriere (1788-1855) took his place as chairman. During the Napoleontic battles he was as much as seven times wounded. He was proud to always wear his legion of honour.

The sailing races, a new rage in Belgium, were organised by the Briton James Lindsay Finch, manager of the "Cercle du Phare", and his son Willy Finch (1854-1930), at the time not yet an artist. Both of them were keen sailors. The other members of the board were officers of our first "Marine Royale" and some town councillors.

In 1853 our club changed its name in "Yacht Club d'Ostende" and the yachts were moored in the first and second trade dock, nearby the Kapellebridge. The white yachts of that time had many crew members on board, and were laying in between three-masters, unloading guano, and the first steamers, bunkering coal. This was enough reason to get our future king Leopold II quite upset. He was not the only one to have this opinion : there were also the notay Louis Delbouille (1825-1987), who was then constructing the fortresses, minister de Smet de Naeyer who designed great plans, and our chairman of the time, baron Louis de Hemptinne, who threw the weight of his influence into the scale.

Excellent architects as Victor Horta (1861-1947) and Georges Hobe were working in the entourage of Leopold II. George Hobe was born in Brussels (07/01/1854), being a son of a furniture maker. He started his career as a decorator. He was given the instruction to build a new clubhouse in the back harbour. It was a delicate concession, on the grounds of the administration of Bruggen en Wegen. In 1918, Hobe was nominated as municipal architect of De Panne, were he designed the famous beautiful villa's, just like he did in Spa. He died in Brussels, in 1936.

Hobe used one of the cross-beams of the zoo-museum to build the present clubhouse. The total cost of the building was 125.000 BEF. The building costs were paid by members of the club, with registrations and bonds. Some old campaigners claimed that the "contesse de Vauban" had most of the shares, at least in the beginning. According to an article, published in "Le Carillon" of 14/15 july 1906, our clubhouse was gloriously declared as being opened on juli 22th, 1906.

Originally the first floor was surrounded by a walking gallery, which probably was abolished due to lack of space. By that time, yachting was not that much a privilege of the elite anymore, and thus much more accessible for more members.

The two world wars entailed lots of damages to the building, that served as a hotel for the army. During the war, the crew of the U-boats used the rooms of the clubhouse as a sleeping place. Searchlights and anti-aircraft was put on the tower. The German occupation didn't bring along that much damage, but the following English occupation was fatal for all decorations in the clubhouse.

RYCO yachtclub can justly be called the cradle of sailracing in Belgium. As the oldest yachtclub of the country, each year, the club organised international sailraces to Dover, Ramsgate and Helgoland. The Ostend-Helgoland race lasted for a long time, and was organised, with intervals, until 2002. In this 150 years of history, famous names can't be missing. One of the most famous members of RYCO yachtclub was Staf Versluys, who participated in the Whitebread around the world race on two occasions. One of his ships, the "Rucanor" is still in the club as "Tomidi" and keeps up her tradition as a long distance racer by taking part in the Tall Ships racing events. During the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, RYCO organised the sailing events. One of our members, Emile Corneille, won the gold medal. In 1985 RYCO became champion of Belgium.

On june 5th 1910 king Albert I gave us permission to wear the title of "Royal Yacht Club d'Ostende".

Due to excessive dredging on the quay of the Tilbury boats, destined to unload the allied transport ships, in 1944 (Antwerp wasn't liberated yet), the south side of the clubhouse sank 10cm, because the building was built on ground of the Spuikom that was filled up. In 1970, some oak sheet piles at the basis of our quay wall broke down, and again the building sank 5 cm. No reason to panic however ; everything has been strengthened.

The articles of association of our company were translated into Dutch in 1974 ; little by little Dutch was becoming the colloquial language. Robert Ouvry, commodore at the time, took the first initiatives to have our clubhouse recognised as a historic building. Because the port of Ostend was having plans for building a new floodgate, there was a risc that the RYCO should have to move to another location. These plans were cancelled, and the recognition of the building was received under the following commodore, Jean Paul Mestdagh (19/02/2002). In 2005 we were granted the renewal of the pontoons, which had been promised years before.

In 2014 a new agreement was signed between RYCO and MDK (Maritieme Dienstverlening Kust) for a period of 27 years. it was also MDK who ordered the renovation of our isle and pontoons (2018-2019).

Also an agreement was signed between RYCO and "Erfgoed Vlaanderen". Goal is the renovation of the building during a period of 20 years. New waterworks next to the clubhouse will decide if this is possible or not.

Today RYCO is a florishing club with a mix of sailers and fisherman (sporters), and visitors superviced by our commodore Rudy Dobbelaere.