The Columbine, Cowes and The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork … More Racing Around in Yachts!


The honours board that is on the wall in the platform of the Royal Yacht Squadron with our John Smith Barry’s name very prominent for all to see to this day

John Smith Barry did indeed enjoy racing his yacht Columbine.  One account from the sporting magazine dated august 24th 1835 of the ‘Cowes Regatta’ describes

The beautiful King’s cup was won by Mr Smith Barry’s Columbine beating The Corsair, The Fanny and The Albatross. The vessels that contended were from 90 to 70 tons and all were built by Mr Ratsey.  His most gracious majesty’s beautiful cup will for the first time find its way to the sister isle, and grace the sideboard of the hospitable and liberal proprietor of cove island in Cork Harbour”.

The King’s Cup is a silver gilt trophy that was presented to the royal yacht squadron by King William IV in 1830 – the names of the winners of the Kings Cup are written in gold on an honours board that is displayed on the platform at the castle that is the home of the Royal Yacht Squadron to this day. The Royal Yacht Squadron was founded in 1815 by a group of friends and quickly became a favourite of the aristocracy, its regatta at Cowes being one of the most fashionable events of the season.


The wonderful signal book that belonged to Columbine and is in the possession of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven

However, yachting for pleasure, in an organised social form, blossomed in Ireland long before England.  The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork was active from 1720 to 1765, its members met fortnightly (coinciding with the spring tides) between April and September to sail and dine.  Once a year their admiral received the honours of the flag, ‘attended with a prodigious number of boats with their colours flying, drums beating and trumpets sounding.  The Water Club’s boats – cutters of the type used by pilots and revenue officers – carried out manoeuvers rather than racing, the spectacle made livelier by frequent signalling with guns and flags, clouds of smoke and the Irish genius for conviviality!

Huge thanks to Sally O’Leary for writing this super follow up blog to