On September 25 (October 7) 1846 Nicholas I signed the Charter of the Imperial St. Petersburg Yacht Club — the first official yacht club in Russia.
The history of sailing sport in Russia dates back to the times of Peter I, when in April 1718 the Emperor set up the “Neva Poteshny Fleet” (literary: Neva Amusement Fleet) in St. Petersburg. With a special decree Tsar ordered not only his admirals, shipwrights and doctors, but also dignitaries, bishops and even monks “who abide in St. Petersburg, to sail across the Neva River if the wind permits”. He granted them “perpetual and hereditary possession” of 141 vessels, and prohibited to use them for transportation or any other needs, “because vessels have been granted to be used like carriages and coaches on the road, and not like dung carts”. Meanwhile on the Fontanka River bank opposite the Summer Garden was established a “particular” (civil) shipyard responsible for building fairly small sport and travelling ships for “…the beauty of the reigning city, as well as for amusement of citizens, but still more for the best training”.
After the death of Peter I the “Neva Poteshny Fleet” ceased to exist and it was only in 1840s during the reign of Nicholas I, that the first St. Petersburg Imperial Yacht Club was officially registered.
To run this institution a special committee was set up which included Duke A.Ya. Lobanov-Rostovsky, Rear-Admiral M.A. Putyatin, I.A. Ribeaupierre, Count I.A. Shuvalov, Duke B.D. Golitsyn and Count F.K. Apraksin. Among its honorary members were Admirals F.F. Bellingshausen and M.P. Lazarev — discoverers of Antarctica, and also Admiral F.P. Litke — explorer of the Arctic Ocean, initiator of foundation of the Russian Geographic Society and its vice chairman.
The first paragraph of the society’s charter read that the yacht club was given the name of the Imperial. Accordingly in the picture of its flag (the white with a blue cross) appeared an image of the Imperial crown. The charter also stipulated that only noblemen, who owned “a sailing vessel not less than 20 t in weight, which did not have a trading purpose” were allowed to become members of the yacht club.
At first the member list of the yacht club numbered only 19 people, who possessed five yachts. These were mainly representatives of military élite, court officials, representatives of foreign states’ diplomatic services.
On July 8 (20) 1847 members of the yacht club held the first sailing race in Russia, which brought together seven yachts. The winner was called the tender “Varyag”.
As long as the club’s yachts were equaled to military vessels with a right to hold St. Andrew’s Flag during long voyages, their permanent crew often included Navy officers and Guards depots sailors, seldom hired sailors.
An active work of the Imperial St. Petersburg Yacht Club members lasted only for about 12 years, which was caused by the Crimean War and loss of interest to sailing sport (more and more often members of the yacht club were buying more comfortable steam vessels, unlike yachts). The last sailing race launched by the yacht club took place in 1859.
In 1860 was officially set up the first public St. Petersburg River Yacht Club, with a larger number of members but smaller sized yachts.
Until 1917 about 70 sport associations, which practiced sailing, rowing and other sports were operating in Russia.Lit.: Ларионов А. Л. Из истории императорских яхт российского флота // Гангут. 2000. № 22-24; Леонтьев Е. П. Школа яхтенного рулевого. М., 1974; Санкт-Петербургский Императорский яхт-клуб // Большая иллюстрированная энциклопедия яхт-клубов. М., 2005.
From the Presidential library materials: