The first yacht club established on Belfast Lough was, as already stated in these pages, the Royal Northern. That club, as we have seen, after forming a branch on the Clyde, developed into a Clyde club—at any rate, the Clyde section seceded from the original one, and settled at Rothesay. The Royal Ulster, the senior club in the Lough at the present time, was founded in the year 1866. The club soon came into prominence, and its regattas for many years have been visited by the big-class racing yachts which do the round of the principal coast fixtures. Before the season became as crowded as it now is with regattas, vessels were in the habit of crossing to Belfast Lough from the Clyde immediately after the 'fortnight.'
The clubhouse is situated about a mile out from Bangor on the south side of the Lough. For a time an ordinary dwelling-house served the purpose of club quarters, but as the organization flourished and increased in prosperity, larger premises became necessary, and the present handsome club-house was built. It stands on an eminence, whence a magnificent view of the Lough can be obtained. The yachts taking part in the races are never out of sight, while by making an ascent to the tower one looks down on the Lough as on to a chess-board, and every move of the competing vessels can be watched, and oftentimes anticipated. From this elevation one can see new breezes coming into the Lough, or perhaps can see that a certain boat, unless she puts about very soon, will be right out of the breeze she has been holding. In other words, from this coign of vantage one can often see what is about to happen before those aboard the yachts themselves.
The club came into great prominence in connection with the more recent America Cup matches, as it was through the Royal Ulster that Sir Thomas Lipton sent his challenges on three different occasions to the New York Yacht Club, and the representative committee on this side was formed of members of this club.
Belfast Lough has often been referred to as the cradle of the one-design classes, and this form of racing has certainly taken root and flourished in the district. There are several different classes, and the club provides a very full programme of races during the season for the local boats. The competition among the local craft is very keen. The boats in the biggest class are excellent little craft. There is a class of nearly the same dimensions in Dublin Bay, and a feature of the annual regattas is the meeting of representatives of these two classes, between which there is the keenest rivalry.
The club-house is an excellently arranged building, and, in, addition to all the ordinary requirements of a club, contains a number of bedrooms on the top story, which are in great demand at regatta times for members coming from a distance. On the landing of the principal staircase there is an interesting relic of a memorable accident, in the tiller of the ill-fated Valkyrie II., which was sunk on the Clyde. There is an inscription on it as follows: 'Tiller of Valkyrie II. Presented to the R.U.Y.C. by D. C. Kemp. At the start of the race for the Muir Memorial Challenge Cup, Mudhook Regatta, Hunter's Quay, N.B., on 5th July, 1894, the Valkyrie II was sunk after being in collision with the Satanita.'