The Westerly Yacht Club in Rhode Island, USA has made a change to its policy, after members voted to allow women full membership.


14 July

The members of Westerly Yacht Club have voted to change its policy to allow women as full members.

The rule has been in place since the Rhode Island yacht club was founded in 1928.

Last month, members voted to uphold the policy.

As a result, it faced public criticism, with a cancellation of some events in protest at the rule.

At the time, the Westerly Yacht Club Commodore, Scott Howard stated that the leadership of the club is in favour of changing the rule and it  would schedule another vote in the future.

This vote to allow women as full members was held on 13 July.

It passed by a 79% margin, in line with the club’s bylaws which require a two-thirds majority.


The new policy takes effect immediately.

30 June

This month, the members of the Westerly Yacht Club voted to keep the policy which bars women from becoming full time members.

Founded in 1928, the Rhode Island club does allow wives of male members to become associate members.

However, they are not allowed to vote.

Women who are not married to a male member can’t join.

Under the current rules, if a woman divorces a man who is a full-time member, she will no longer be allowed at the club.

Members voted 207-171 to allow women to become full time members, but a two-third majority is required to change the rules.

Westerly Yacht Club Commodore, Scott Howard has stated that the leadership of the club is in favour of changing the rule and it will schedule another vote in the future.

As a result of the vote, the club has seen some event cancellations and has been subjected to public criticism.

Comic Dave Kane announced he was cancelling his show at the club in January because of the policy.

Meanwhile, Westerly Hospital has said it would not be holding future events at the club until the rules had changed to admit women as full members.

The club, which has 600 members, has also been criticised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island.

Speaking to the Westerly Sun, the union’s executive director, Steven Brown said that although private clubs had First Amendment rights to operate without government interference, that right is not absolute.

“It also seems clear that the ban on women members is not because the club seeks to express some sort of political view about the role of women, but is instead simply an archaic vestige from another era when women were treated as second-class citizens in a wide variety of settings,” he said.

“Indeed, under this antiquated policy, even a woman’s auxiliary status is dependent on her husband not divorcing her or dying,” stated Brown.

The ACLU also said that it believed the action of the club was a violation of the state’s Civil Rights Act and state laws that ban discrimination based on gender in public places.

Kay Cottee

13 Top female sailors

Here's our pick of some of the most inspiring yachtswomen. Who's your inspiration?