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Multiple Yacht Club Burgee Etiquette

by Harry Blake

One of our members who belongs to more than one yacht club asked me if I had a clue about the etiquette of flying yacht club burgees on a boat. Like if you belong to Tiburon and Corinthian and you go on a TYC cruise to the Corinthian YC, which one do you fly? Or do you fly both? And if so, which one is on top? Since I was clueless, I asked the burgee-meister of Paradise Cay (if not the world), Sally Huse, if she knew the answer. This was no doubt one of the only questions regarding flags of any sort that Sally wasn’t sure of, so she sought professional help. (Unlike me, she will actually try to get to the truth, rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind and then trying to justify it for months to come.) I was so impressed with the level of her research and the peak it gives us into some of the best yacht clubs in the U.S., I wanted to share it with all of you, even though you may not have to deal with this problem, which ranks way below what’s for dinner tonight. Sally e-mailed a few of what many would consider the best yacht clubs in the country and asked them this very question. In every instance, her e-mails were returned promptly, and the answers reflected that the clubs took her question very seriously. Here then, are the actual e-mails from four top-notch clubs that Sally put this question to:

New York Yacht Club
Dear Miss Huse,
Only one yacht club burgee should be flown at any one time. If you are in the home waters of one yacht club, you should fly that yacht club's burgee. If you are in "neutral" waters, you can fly either burgee. If you are in neutral waters, but on a cruise sponsored by a yacht club, however, you should fly that yacht club's burgee. I consulted the New York Yacht Club's highest authorities in researching this question. I hope I have been able to help you.
Sincerely, Bill Watson, Librarian

Editor’s note: The New York Yacht Club’s annual summer cruise is the grand daddy of them all. Most years they forego putting their Frers 85s in the belly of a C5 Galaxy to get to Sardinia, or the like. In these years they simply race from port to port up and down the northeastern coast. On these deals I’m told that you can hobnob (or perhaps brush up against) Walter Cronkite, Ted Turner, and many more very famous people. Point here is, there is no club that knows more about how to deal with members of multiple clubs flying burgees at various locations. The next club Sally asked is a frequent stop when the big Frers maxis head northeast. 

Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.)
My name is Michael Smith. I am the Dockmaster at Eastern Yacht Club. Jeff Wargo forwarded your E-mail to me. I am new to this form of communication, so please excuse any mistake in web etiquette. Proper etiquette for flying a club burgee is not to fly more than one at a time. While in port at a particular club, one should fly the appropriate burgee to the yacht club that one belongs to. If a dual membership to clubs in the same port exists a choice must be made to fly one or the other. The above is opinion based on questioning members of the Eastern Yacht Club, as well as, information on pages 581 through 590 of the 1999 Chapman's Piloting. Aside from flying flags, members of multiple clubs and organizations often display crossed burgees on the varnished nameplates on their vessels. I have seen as many as four different clubs represented on one yacht. If you would like to speak with me further on the subject, I can be reached at the Eastern Yacht Club waterfront at 1-781-631-4059.
Sincerely; Michael S. Smith, Dockmaster

Editor’s note: So we’ve heard from a librarian, and now we get to hear from a Dockmaster. The Eastern Yacht Club is one fine club. It’s located right across Little Harbor from Ted Hood’s original sail loft in Marblehead. Who sees more burgees than a dockmaster? He’s got to be cringing day-after-day (in the summer) about the tasteless use of burgees. Probably makes him want to puke most of the time.

San Diego Yacht Club
When vessels owners belong to more than one yacht club, only one burgee is flown; usually the club's where the yacht is based. However there are exceptions: A. When a vessel is, for instance from SDYC NHYC and also belongs to Catalina Island Yacht club; this vessel would fly the Catalina burgee while in the vicinity of Catalina.  B. If the vessel belongs to SFYC and SBYC; based at SFYC but participating in a SBYC event {no matter where} it should display the SBYC burgee.  In summary, only one burgee is flown depending on the location and /or the event.
This information has been provided by John X. Tsirimokos, Protocol Advisor for the San Diego Yacht Club.

Seattle Yacht Club
The short answer if you are a sailor the highest place of honor is the starboard halyard on spreader. You decide which is the senior club, in your mind. Other pennants would be flown under it in declining order of importance, e.g. when in Canada, you fly the Canadian courtesy flag on top, then the SYC burgee and then your officer’s or house burgee. Editor’s note: What makes life so interesting is that not everybody is alike or agrees with each other. I believe (but God knows I’ve been wrong before) that the Seattle YC is the club that Craig McCaw (of the former McCaw Cellular) belongs to and will use as his vehicle to challenge for the next America’s Cup. Laurie Davidson, the designer of the Cup-winning Kiwi boats has already signed on, and a few more New Zealand defections to Seattle are expected.

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