Illustrated history of Durban yacht club

2009-01-28 00:00

The great challenge for writers of institutional histories — whether about a school, or a university, or a club, or a company — is to record a specific story in such a way that it appeals to more than its immediate participants. Only then will the account be set in its greater context and the full story told.

In recounting the 150-year history of the Royal Natal Yacht Club (RNYC), Sally Frost has done just that, for not only is this a tale of commodores and spinnakers but also a small-craft marine history of the port of Durban and the uniquely Anglo-African society that spawned and sustained it.

As this is a big book brimming with text and illustrations, there is much to be deciphered and digested. Further, it is well written and full of striking photographs, many of which come from the remarkable Edward Caney Collection that captures so evocatively a particular sub-tropical, nautical world.

Also noteworthy is the RNYC’s status as the oldest yacht club in Africa, and its long association with British royalty. As far back as 1891 Queen Victoria granted it the title “Royal”, and this volume has a Foreword by Prince Andrew, in his capacity as Commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club.

No one who embarks on this maritime journey can fail not to endorse Rat’s words in Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows: “There’s nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

John Conyngham

• Salt on the Sails can be bought directly from the Royal Natal Yacht Club ( or from booksellers locally.

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