Riverton Yacht Club
Riverton Yacht Club


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  • Original Incorporation Document
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History of Riverton Yacht Club

This year the Riverton Yacht Club will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. The club is the oldest on the Delaware River, oldest in New Jersey, and one of the oldest in the United States with continuous service. Today's 175 active and contributing members enjoy the same enthusiasm about sailboat racing as did the founding members' in 1865 when the club was officially founded.

Not long after the town's founding fathers purchased the Joseph Lippincott farm there was a need for transportation of building materials and also transportation for the home owners to get to work in downtown Philadelphia. In 1851 the Iron Pier was completed. The pier ran out into the Delaware's deeper water so that any size ferry could land at the pier. Along the sides of the pier, locals could tie up their small craft. Sailboat racing began once the second sailboat arrived in Riverton and continued to grow as more boats appeared on the scene.

Racing boats were divided into three classes; First Class twenty five feet and above; Second Class twenty to twenty four feet; and Third Class under twenty feet. It wasn't until July 1, 1865 that The Riverton Yacht Club was formally organized at 503 Bank Avenue, the home of Edward H. Ogden. That day Caspar W. Morris was elected Commodore, Jacob G. Morris vice Commodore, and Edward H. Ogden Secretary Treasure. The first year saw the membership grow to fifty.

The country was alive with patriotism after Abraham Lincoln's assassination in April 1865. At that time, the yacht club's burgee was designed. The membership chose stars and stripes in a swallow tail flag, much like our pennant burgee that we fly today. In the fall of 1865, the United State Congress passed a law that no private signal could use the stars and stripe design. You will not see another burgee in the US using a design close to ours. The swallow tail design was used until the late 1880's.

With so many members and boats, the club was in need of storage and a meeting facility. In 1881 the clubhouse at the end of the pier was completed. The only stipulation was that the clubhouse must have a waiting room for the ferry passengers. In the early 1900's, club members shot the clay bird sport of trap at the end of the pier during the fall after the sailing season was over. As the shooters got more proficient, the game called for shootesr to move further away from the trap. The building was in the way as they shot towards the river. To insure the shooter was the correct distance from the trap they moved the club house twenty feet closer to Main Street to where it is positioned now. The building has had three major restoration projects over the years. The last restoration, with the help of a grant, brought the club back to its' original design and color with many new amenities.

Racing has continued at the club with today's members sailing a Sunday afternoon series, a Wednesday evening race series that has continued since the early 1930's, plus various other regattas. The Wednesday evening series is the most popular today with as many as 75 boats sailing races that start at 6 p.m. Many of the local residents visit the club that night to sit in the cool evening breeze and enjoy watching the races. Today, as when the club began, there are different types of one-design boats racing. The most active fleets are J/22, Lightning, Mariner, Flying Scott, and two cruising classes: PHRF A, and PHRF B. These are all privately owned vessels. The highlight of the racing calendar is the Governor's Cup Regatta, held during the second weekend in June. This regatta has up to 100 boats and has been held every year since 1949 when the Governor, Alfred Driscoll, donated The Governor's Cup Trophy, a silver Revere bowl, for an overall first prize. Over the years there have been over 100 World, North American, National, America's Cup and Olympic Champion sailors who call Riverton Yacht Club their home. This is a source of pride for all of our members.

The yacht club has been very active in the community. In 1897, yacht club members Charles Davis and Albert Briggs founded the very popular Children's Parade held each year on the fourth of July. The parade, now over 100 years old originally ended at the yacht club for patriotic speeches, yacht races, band concerts, aquatic events, and concluded with fireworks on the pier. Today the parade starts at the yacht club and proceeds to Riverton Park where larger numbers can participate in athletic events for children. The club hosts the popular Fourth of July fund raising Cocktail Party each year on the pier as a community service.

The club has also provided adult and children's sailing classes for many years. Each year over one hundred children learn safe seamanship and sailing skills. This is to ensure the sport of sailboat racing continues. Many of our junior sailing class participants have gone on to the US academies to sail on their sailing teams.

This, our 150th year, will be full of special events, starting with a special opening day ceremony, the Governor's Cup Regatta with a Commemorative Anniversary Dinner, the Duster National Championships, a special demonstration radio control J class model regatta, and our year end Commodore's Dinner.


Taken from the 1899 Riverton Yacht Club year book...

On the opening of the Yachting Season in the year 1865, a few gentlemen, owners of yachts on the Upper Delaware River, met at the residence of Edward H. Ogden, Riverton, N.J., to consider the project of forming a yacht club. After a full interchange of views it was unanimously decided to organize the Riverton Yacht Club, and on July 1st, 1865 an organization was effected, which to-day stands as the oldest yacht club on the Delaware River, and the ninth oldest in the United States. Caspar W. Morris was elected Commodore; Jacob G. Morris , Vice Commodore, and Edward H. Ogden, Secretary Treasurer.

This occurred at a time when our civil war had just closed: President Lincoln had recently been assassinated, and an intense loyal and patriotic feeling prevailed over the country. The Committee appointed to select a club signal, concluded that nothing could be more appropriate than one with thirteen stars in a blue field and the red and white stripes.

Much of the success of the Club is due to Edward H. Ogden, who succeeded Caspar W. Morris as Commodore in 1875, and continued to act in this capacity until the spring of 1895, when he declined re-election, having served for twenty years.

For several years after its organization the Club suffered much inconvenience in not having a club house in which to hold its meetings, and as a place of rendezvous for its members; when funds were subscribed and the present club house was erected on the pier in 1880, and on March 9th, the Club was incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey.

Since this time the Club has enjoyed continued prosperity, until now it has a fleet of eight steam and twenty sailing yachts, and a membership of eighty-nine on the rolls.

The club has always been the rendezvous of the yachting fraternity on the upper Delaware River, and it extends a hearty welcome to all yachtsmen who may be cruising in these waters.


Original Incorporation Document Page 1

Original Incoporation Document Page 2

By Nick Mortgu

Hanging around the Riverton Yacht Club for over 40 years you meet some very extraordinary people. These notes are an accumulation of stories I had related to me by some of these extraordinary people. Thank you Giles and Charlie Knight, Ted Hunn, O.P. Merrill, and Howard Lippincott. The rest comes from books notes and newspaper articles. ( I thought I better launch this before someone says " If you're looking for Club history, talk to the old guy sitting on the bench") Modern history 1940's to 2000 will be added.


*1851 Iron Pier built by town founders as part of the plan for the Village of Riverton. Pier was completed in October. Then Governor Fort made historic trip to Riverton via riverboat.

*1865 Club founded at the home of Edward H. Ogden on July 1st 1865. Casper W. Morris was elected Commodore, Jacob G. Morris was elected Vice Commodore, Edward H. Ogden Secretary and Treasurer. Club burgee was selected with thirteen five-pointed stars in a blue field, with red and white stripes above and below.

*1865 First race was held and won by the Biddle boys. The flag trophy was held for ten years.

*1866 Members boat names: Cora, Cricket, Eddie, Fly, Fairy, Mystery, Echo, Sprite, Sparkle, Little Scud, Ripple, Trooper, Elsie, Undine, Gertrude, Annie, Caroline, Cecile, Sallie, Rebecca, Pet.

*1879 Warf under repair, rotting timbers under water need replacing. During repair passengers must walk a narrow plank to board riverboats.

*1880-81 Club house was built with the stipulation that the club should maintain a waiting room for steamboat passengers.

*1881 RYC was incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey, March 9th .

*1893 15 boats of the mosquito class were introduced to the club. They were fifteen feet in length and had a five foot two inch beam. The boats were a clinker design cat rig. They raced until 1905.

*1895 Commodore Edward H. Ogden declined re-election after serving 20 years as Commodore.

*1896 Members boat names: Nautilus, Athalia, Luretta, Mermaid, Coronet, Frolic, LuLu, Nettle, Olga, Sea Gull, Halcyone, Sprite, Elsie, Onawa, Marie, Caroline, Ivie, Ethel, Suggema, Chandos, Trio, Deerfoot, Conchina, Carol, Carolinita, Folly, Hunteress, Osceola, Quartet, Sulatana, Scott.

*1897 Yacht club members Charles W. Davis and Albert J Briggs originated the idea of a children's Fourth of July parade. Marching to the river for games, patriotic songs and an oration at the river bank.

*1902 A new class of boats brought to Riverton by J. H. Hillman was a twenty six footer one design named "Fiona". Nine members built boats of this class. Eight were raced in a 1904 regatta.

*1906 Joshua Slocum visits RYC for lecture on his circumnavigation. Arrested for maltreating a twelve year old girl on his famous yacht "Spray" and held in Mount Holly jail for forty two days. Local history has it that the old salt may have been relieving himself when the little girl walked to the end of the pier. The girl was late coming home for dinner and made up a story. The old salt was then arrested and later released by Judge Joseph Gaskill. Not sure if he ever gave his lecture.

*1907 Jersey Devil appeared at Fourth and Lippincott. ( I think he was lost trying to find his way home from the Yacht Club on Wednesday Night)

*1908 Clubhouse moved twenty feet closer to bank avenue to accommodate clay pigeon shooting (trap) at the end of the pier. As the members got better at the game they moved further away from the trap. These events were held during the late fall after the racing season.

*1909 membership now over 100 members.

*1914 Membership listed as 140 members. Robert Biddle 2nd Commodore, H.H. Watkins Jr. Vice-Commodore, H.B.Hills Secretary-Treasurer-Measurer.

*1919 club members arrived from Larchmont New York yacht club with new class of boats L.I's . Linton Rigg, R.W. Knight, J.G. Crowell, R.C. Ayres, and T.F. Curley.

*1930 Mr. Rod Stephens purchases Tradscantia ( Trad), from Commodore Ed Merrill, who designed and build the small 26' auxiliary yawl. The three Stephens, sons Rod and Olin, and Mr. Stephens after taking possession of the boat, left Friday night and sailed to American Yacht Club on Long Island Sound via Delaware and Raritan Canal, and New York Harbor arriving Sunday evening. The beginning of a long friendship between the Merrill family and the Stephens.

*1931 RYC member Owen P. Merrill is assistant navigator on Dorade (Sparkman and Stephens design #7) to win Trans Atlantic Race, and 1931 Fastnet Race. Entire crew given a ticker tape parade in New York City.

*1931 16 foot one design adopted as a class boat.

*1933 First Duster Class boat build on third floor of 301 Main street by Jim Merrill and his father Commodore E.K. Merrill. The project was financed by the club, and the Duster could be rented by the hour. John Ayers built the next Duster "Zypher" under the direction of Mr. Merrill. Jim Story and Charlie Knight built "Quacker". As the boat caught on, five more boats were built over the next winter in Mrs. E.W.J. Hunn's cellar at 300 Howard St., under the supervision of Mr. Merrill. The new owners were Bill and Herb Parsons "TOMATER", Bert Shoemaker "COBBLER", Tom Coe "GINGER", Ted Hunn "SNITHER", Lloyde Gladney "SPRINTIN SPLINTER". 40 Dusters were built over the next 10 years. Duster fleet # 1 was chartered, Knute Hunn was the first fleet captain.

*1936 Officers for '36 Dr. Charles Francis Voorhis Commodore, Frank A. Snover Vice Commodore, John Ayres Rear Commodore, Dewees Showell Secretary-Treasurer. Dues were paid by the size of your yacht. Small boats 16 foot and under $10.00 per year. Large boats over 16 feet $20.00 per year. Associate Adult members $5.00 per year . Juniors, boys and girls under 18 $2.50 per year. Two Dusters were for rent from the club "Duster" and "Big Hurry" while Duster class races were being held weekly.

*1937 Members boat names: Comet II, Bob, Voila, Big Harry, SalaRias, Zephyr, Ginger, Sprintin Splinter, Sneither, Secret, Duster, Tomater, Cobbler, Momo, Snapper, Phyhagoras, Luberta, Pearl S, Marie Antoinette, Eleanor, Cozy, Helen C II, Choctaw, Wun Way, Maygo, Comet, Kathryn G, Mary W, Spook.

*1937 Wednesday Night racing consisted of six evenings starting June 9th. (may have started earlier than 1937) Races started at 7pm. Maybe the longest running club series in the country.

*1938 Commodore Edward K. Merrill at age 65 wins Comet Class International Championship sailing "SHUFLY" #265

*1938 Charter of West Jersey Star Fleet granted to include waters of Delaware River, between Delaware River Bridge, Phila. and Trenton, NJ. Charter members included John F. Ayres, John P. Mudd and Stanley B. Lippincott.

*1938 sixteen foot comets fleet #26

*1944 Sea Explorer Ship #1 founded at Yacht Club. A. R. Anderson was the first Skipper. Continued for over 50 years with the Yacht Club as its sponsor.

*1944 Edward K. Merrill elected to Comet Class Honorary Life Membership

*1946 DUES: Active $9.00 junior $5.00. Storage 12' and under $3.00, 12'to 15': $5.00, 15' to 18': $7.00, 18' to 21': $11.00, 21' to 24': $16.00, over 24' $21.00.

*1946 September 7th & 8th. The 1st Duster National Championship was held at Riverton Yacht Club. John Knight was the first national champion with Barbara Lippincott as crew.

*1947 September 6th & 7th. The 2nd Duster National Championship was help at Riverton Yacht Club. The winners again were John Knight skipper with Barb Lippincott crew.

*1949 First Governor's Cup regatta held. Gov. Driscoll presents Governor's cup to first winner Robert C. Thompson sailing a Star.

*1950 July 1st and 2nd. The second annual Governor's Cup was held at club as an open regatta for Comet, Duster, Lightning, Moth and Star Class boats. Robert Lundstedt was the regatta chairman with Dewees Showell Jr. working as his assistant. The following perpetual trophies were given: Commodores cup- Stars, Sidney Lopatin trophy-Lightniings, George Steptoe Washington trophy-Comets, Riverton Borough Cup-Dustres, Riverton Yacht Club Cup-Moths. Saturdays party was held at the Riverton Country Club from 9pm to 1am. It was a dinner dance with B.Y.O.L.. The admission was $1.50. A grand time was had by all.

*1950 Bob Lippincott wins Star Worlds

*1950 Duster National Championship held at Riverton Yacht Club. Marter Carhart wins his 2nd of three Duster National Titles.

*1951 Lightnings introduced to Riverton.

*1951 Marter Carhart wins Duster Nationals for third consecutive time.

*1951 Sail Bags organized as informal ladies auxiliary at yacht club. (Really! That was the name chosen by the ladies. Don't think that would fly with today's yacht club females!)

*1952 Lightning fleet #228 was chartered

*1955 Howard Lippincott wins Comet Class International Championship for fourth time in sailing the same comet " Cirrus"

*1956 "Operation Shipshape" Pier repair is vital for survival of Riverton Yacht Club. $15,000 is needed to get club facilities back in shape after two hurricanes Carol and Diane, John Thompson Chairman.

*1965 Yacht club celebrates its' centennial; Centennial Committee Chairman J. Gardener Crowell

*1968 DUES: Family $42.00, Active $22.00, Junior $15.00, Initiation fee $100.00

*1970 Bottom section of clubhouse removed and replaced. Dr John Bryfogle building chairman, architectural supervision by John Martin. New concrete foundation, sanitary sewer line connected to city system. (Don't even want to think where it went before now!) Club house interior finished by Drs Mills and Bryfogle.

*1975 Howard F. Lippincott and Owen P. Merrill elected to Comet Class Honorary Life Membership

*1982 Comet Class Yacht Racing Association holds its Junior Championship at Yacht Club, August 2,3,4 1982

*1987 Plans are made and money collected for "Light up the Club" program with lights similar to Boat House row in Philadelphia. Project finished in time for Christmas lighting.

*1989 November storm does major damage to clubhouse. Porch, railing and palings replaced.

*1998 U.S. Mariner Class holds National Championships at RYC. Alan and Dianna Crew new national champions.

*1999 Federal ISTEA grant applied for

*2000 Reconstruction of pier

*2001 Deitrich grants of $240K and $140K for outside and club room restoration

*2005 On July 2nd a re-dedication of Historic Steamboat Landing (Iron Pier) following a successful rebuilding of the pier and approach way with monies provided by a Federal TEA 21 grant, and the historic restoration of the meeting room with a grant from the William F. Dietrich Foundation. Local politicians and 50 or so towns people attended the event. After the ceremony there was an open house with refreshments held in the 2nd floor club room.

*2005 September 17th and 18th the US Mariner Association held its 2005 National Championship at RYC. Richard Martin became the third RYC skipper to win the Mariner National Championship. Nick Mortgu 1981 and Allen Crew 1998 were the previous winners.

*2005 November After a 30 year hiatus the yacht club held its 2005 annual dinner at the Riverton Country Club. The event, one of the clubs largest was attended by 200 members and crew. The highlight of the evening was the Honorary Sailing Membership given to Joe Augustyn for his service to the community, the Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation, and the Riverton Yacht Club. It was only the second time the prestigious award was given. The first was given to America's cup Sailor Jon Wright for his generosity to the clubs junior sailing program.

*2006 This was a year of firsts. RYC had its first woman Commodore, Barbara Smyth. It runs in the family. Her grandfather, cousin and husband were all Commodores. Junior sailing race team with Coach Bobby Martin made its first year debut sailing regattas up and down the east coast. Riverton Yacht Club started the Riverton 4th of July parade and it has run for over a hundred years. A new event the Great River Raft Race was held by the yacht club for the town. It was a great success with twenty eight home made rafts participating and a thousand spectators on the river bank. Nick Mortgu, long time member and Past Commodore was rewarded for his long time service to the yacht club and Riverton Steamboat Landing Foundation with an Honorary Life Membership

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First Governors Cup Presentation

Presentation of First Governor's Cup Award

Old Photos at the Historical Society of Riverton website