Though probably best known for founding The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in 1956, His Royal Highness was also involved in the work of many more charities and organisations which reflected his wide-ranging interests including conservation, the military and engineering, as well as his passion for getting afloat. Well-known for his love of sailing, as well as his long-standing naval career, The Duke of Edinburgh started sailing while he was at Gordonstoun School in Scotland. He sailed frequently with Prince Charles in the Dragon Class keelboat Bluebottle, which was a gift to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh on their marriage from the Island Sailing Club in Cowes, Isle of Wight. The Duke sailed the boat competitively for a number of years.
In 1948, Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh were listed as new members of the RYA and given Honorary Membership. At the 1956 RYA Annual General Meeting, The Duke of Edinburgh was elected as President of the RYA for the first time. Following his election, the Council was regularly invited to hold one of its meetings on board HMY Britannia during Cowes Week.
Upon learning that The Duke of Edinburgh was to step down from his role as President in 1970, the RYA Council resolved to launch an appeal to the membership with a view to presenting the Duke with a model of the 63ft royal racing yacht Bloodhound to thank him for serving 14 years as President.
The longest serving British consort then resumed the role of RYA President in 1975 and presided over his last Council meeting as President at the Little Ship Club in 1980. At that time, the then Chairman Brian Southcott said: “The membership knew of his keen interest and were grateful for it. His willingness to chair every General Meeting during his presidency had been very much appreciated.”
A regular attendee at Cowes Week on board HMY Britannia, The Duke of Edinburgh became a friend of the boat designer and legendary sailor Uffa Fox, racing in Cowes Week in 1957 in Bluebottle. He also frequently sailed with Uffa on Coweslip, the most famous of the Flying Fifteen keelboats. Together, they had great success sailing competitively, including winning the Britannia Cup in 1952. In 1962 at Cowes, Coweslip nearly sank when she was hit by a gust of wind and capsized, throwing both Uffa and the Duke into the water.
Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive, today paid tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh: “As a sailing community we share the nation’s sadness following the loss of Prince Phillip. He will be missed by the RYA family and we pay tribute to not just a keen, competitive and successful yachtsman, but also an outstanding President of our Association who dedicated many years to helping protect and promote our sport.
“In 2011, I was lucky enough to attend one of the celebrations for his 90th Birthday at Trinity House, of which HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was Master until succeeded by HRH The Princess Royal the same year. His affinity for the sea and camaraderie with his fellow mariners shone though.”
The Duke served as Admiral of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, Isle of Wight, and was also patron of the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, having become Admiral of the Club in 1952.
IIMS thoughts are with Her Majesty The Queen and the entire Royal Family at this time.