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HISTORY AND EXPLANATION OF THE CLUB BURGEE AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS FLAGS
Only present members of the Rhode Island Yacht Club are authorized to fly our burgee. If your boat is a mastless or single-masted yacht, fly your burgee from the bow staff. Boats without a bow staff should wear a burgee at the truck of a single-master yacht. Modern sailing vessels tend to fly the burgee from the starboard spreader. If your boat has two or more masts, fly your burgee at the truck of the forward mast. If you are a member of two yacht clubs or organizations, do not display more than one burgee at a time. The burgee your boat wears should be that of the group in whose activity you are participating, or whose harbor you are entering.
Burgee’s are registered with the International Burgee Commission and are unique to each yacht club. Hanging from the rafters in the Members’ Room are burgees from yacht clubs that have visited us or that our members have visited. It is a yacht club tradition to not just extend reciprocal privileges, but to exchange burgees.
Flying flags of the proper size also shows that the boat owner is a seaman. The national ensign flown at a flag staff at the stern of your boat should be one inch on the fly for each foot of overall length. All other flags such as club burgees, officer flags, and private signals for use on sailboats should be approximately 1/2 inch on the fly for each foot above the waterline of the tallest mast on the boat. (That is, if the top of the mast is 30 feet above the waterline, these other flags should be 15 inches on the fly.) On powerboats, these flags should be 5/8 inch on the fly for each foot of overall length.
All of the members of the board of directors have flags that they fly in place of a personal flag (if any). You can recognize these officers by his or her flag. The flag officers of the club are the Commodore, Vice-Commodore, Rear-Commodore, Secretary and Treasurer. Each of these has a unique flag. The Commodore, Vice-Commodore and Rear Commodore all have the same design on their flags, an angled fouled anchor surrounded by 13 stars. The Commodore has a white design on a blue field (called an Old Glory Field). The Vice Commodore has a white design on a red field. The Rear Commodore has the design in red on a white field. A past Commodore’s flag has an angled fouled anchor and there are three large white stars next to the hoist also on a blue field. The last two flag officers also have a blue field. The Treasurer has a white acorn on his flag while the secretary has white crossed quills.
The rest of the board is as follows:
Fleet Captain – an angled blue fouled anchor on a white field
Membership – white crossed quills on a red field
Fleet Surgeon (now Buildings and Grounds) – a red caduceus on a white field
House Chair – white crossed keys on a red field
Race Chair – an upright red fouled anchor with the letter R near the hoist and the letter C on the opposite side of the anchor from the letter R. The letters are white and the field is blue.
All other members of the Board of Directors – a white chevron (pointed down) on a blue field.
When you come down to the Yacht Club after opening day, look at the flagpole by the dock shack. When the Commodore, Vice Commodore, Rear Commodore or the Fleet Captain are aboard the club the flag of that officer is flown from that flagpole. Look for it after opening day and you will know who is here.
(Thanks to former Vice Commodore Bill Morris for the above information)