Singapore Invites All To Come Yachting
Prepared by Harold Stephens
Travel Correspondent for Thai Airways International
It wasn’t always that way. Thirty years ago the Singapore government wasn’t very keen on yachting. The few yachting clubs the Republic did have were tucked away in hard to reach coves and waterways. After all, the government reasoned, a yacht club takes up space, space that can be used for container ports, and container ports make money.
The concept is changing. Yacht clubs are springing up all over Singapore, and most of them are premier clubs.
The oldest yacht club in Singapore is the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club. Once called the Royal Yacht Club of Singapore, it dates back to Singapore's early days as a British colony, founded in 1826. The club’s big changes came on 1 July 1919, when a group of sailing enthusiasts met at the Singapore Cricket Club to revive the old club. The meeting was a success, and the founders turned their attention to the construction of a new seaside clubhouse at Trafalgar Street in Tanjong Pagar. In 1922, the Club was host to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, who agreed to become the Club's first Royal Patron. The Club thus became the Royal Singapore Yacht Club, or RSYC.
The Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942 and interned the commodore but, at war’s end in 1945, the Trafalgar Street clubhouse was repaired and reopened. Thanks to the efforts of Henry Worham, the Club's precious trophies were saved from the Japanese and returned to the Club. The Club's fleet revived rapidly, and soon featured several classes of boats, including skiffs, dinghies, and Dragon Class yachts. Sailing races were held every Sunday.
I recall visiting the club in 1960 when it was located at Tanjong Pagar. I arrived on a sailing yacht, the Fairweather, and I must say Singapore was much different then. Although quite rustic, the club was a welcoming sight for visiting yachtsman. The location was ideal.
A few years later, in 1965, the RSYC had to leave its Trafalgar Street clubhouse to make way for the new PSA container terminal. The Club reclaimed five acres of mangrove swamp along the Sungei Pandan and built a new clubhouse. With the changing political situation, the RSYC changed the "Royal" in its name to "Republic." In 1971, I joined the club when I outfitted my schooner there. Unfortunately, the Pandan River was controlled by the tides and access to the club was restricted.
In the early 1990s, the Club found another site, in the same general area at 52 West Coast Ferry Road. In August 1999, the RSYC moved to its new, modern clubhouse, which was certainly a far cry from the old location on Pandan River.
The club today is conveniently situated near the city at West Coast Park, near the junction of West Coast Highway and Clementi Road; it also offers easy access to the Southern Islands and Indonesia's Riau Archipelago, both favourite boating destinations.
The Marina offers modern berthing and marine support facilities both to members and visiting international boats.
Another old standby in Singapore is the Changi Sailing Marina. It was started in 1936 as the Changi Garrison Yacht Club, by a group of British soldiers from the royal engineers stationed there before World War II.
Beside full sailing facilities, the club is also equipped with a 20 metre swimming pool, F&B outlets offering both Western and Eastern cuisines, an air-conditioned library and rest area. These facilities are open to members and their guests only.
But it was time for change.
The government began to think that perhaps yacht clubs are a viable industry. They still had the idea that they didn’t want it in the down town area, so they authorized the building of a new club at the northern tip of the island near the new bridge.
Raffles Marina is a full-fledged country club, offering first class, comprehensive country club services. Whatever you fancy, you can choose to relax by the landscaped resort pool, pump iron in the gymnasium that boasts state-of-art equipment, sweat it out in the aerobics room, play table tennis or simply relax by the pool and watch stunning sunsets. And, with a movie-house quality theatrette, 19 fully furnished guestrooms, a games room with some of the more entertaining video games today. You might say the club has moved up scale. Visiting yachtsmen don’t have to sleep on their yachts. They can have a room for S$200 a night.
Moving into the year 2000, the government finally realized that there could be a gold mine in yacht harbors. The fist one to come up in the downtown area was the ONE°15 Marina Club
Nestled within the exclusive Sentosa Cove enclave, ONE°15 Marina Club is part of the emerging hip, upscale luxury neighborhood that is positioned to become one of the world’s most well-integrated waterfront lifestyle communities. Evoking the glamour and elegance of Monte Carlo, ONE°15 offers world-class marina facilities and is replete with a comprehensive range of luxurious private club amenities catering to both boaters and non-boaters alike. It derives its name from its latitude which is One degree, Fifteen minutes North laitude. Its longitude is 348 degrees, 48 minutes East.
ONE°15 Marina Club is honoured to be awarded Best Asian Marina/Yacht Club of the Year in the 5th Annual Asia Boating Awards. The perfect destination to enjoy the luxury marina lifestyle, ONE°15 Marina Club offers an extensive range of club facilities: From gourmet cuisine to well-appointed club rooms; from a modern fitness centre to an elegant spa;
from hosting your own private parties to lavish black tie events.
Seeing that there was a need for yacht clubs but not a membership club, Keppel Marina opened up right across from Sentosa. It’s an open yacht club, membership not required. The marina has 168 berths, which can accommodate super yachts of up to 280 feet. The Marina features a world-class concrete pontoon system.
The marina at Keppel Bay sets new standards in marina construction and services. The south-end of the marina is protected by winged attenuator pontoons, which are two metres deep, weighing approximately 8300 kilograms per unit, while the north-end has a fixed breakwater. These ensure that boats berthed within the Marina remain sturdy and well-protected.
The SAF has two clubs on Singapore and there are kayak clubs and water ski clubs. And there is talk about new clubs opening up in the near future.
The cost of sailing and owning a boat today does not come cheaply. There was a time when all a person needed was determination. Cruising the oceans, we can safely say, began with Joshua Slocum, Harry Pidgeon, Vito Dumas, Alain Gerbault and Ed Boden, to name a few. Back then it didn’t take much to realize that dream.
Times have changed but we can still dream. And for those interested in that dream of boats and sailing, Singapore is a good place to visit.
Next week we take a peek at yachting in Malaysia.
E-mail: ROH Weekly Travel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: The article is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the view of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.
The Raffles Marina in Singapore
Not like old marina with rickety bars
More yachts than imaginable
Moorings outside the clubs
The new Republic of Singapore Yacht Club
The old RSYC
More than yachts at today’s yachts clubs
Sailor’s old bars no more
Some of today’s sailors do go out
Read the author’s