Your questions on flags answered here
Flag and Ensign etiquette - some frequently asked questions
The full and complete answer to any question regarding the wearing of the club's burgee, flags and Ensign will normally be found within the Yachting Bye-Laws. These FAQs provide a quick and ready direct answer to some of members' more common questions.
Permits et al
I am joint-owner of a yacht and I wish to wear the Club's Blue Ensign do all my joint-owners have to be members of RTYC?
No. However, all must be members of a Club which holds a Warrant.
I am joint-owner of a yacht and hold a permit, which lives on board the yacht. May any of my joint-owners put up the Blue ensign if I am not on board?
Only if they are themselves permit-holding RTYC members, or if you are nearby and in effect command of the yacht, and the Club's burgee is being flown from the masthead.
My crew are delivering the boat to a destination where I shall join them. May they fly the Club's burgee and wear the Blue Ensign, in anticipation of my joining them?
They may fly the Club's burgee only if at least one of those on board is a member, and wear the Blue ensign only if that one also holds a Permit in respect of the yacht. If at least one is a member, but none holds a permit, they should fly the Club burgee and a Red Ensign (which is one of the reasons why a yacht that is entitled to a Blue ensign should always carry a Red as well).
My racing campaign is sponsored by a major company, and in return I have added their name as a pre-fix to that of the yacht. Does this effect might right to wear a Blue ensign?>
Probably. If you have added the pre-fix to the name actually painted on the yacht, be it on transom, topsides or elsewhere, this is considered commercial activity or advertising and you may not wear the Blue ensign. However, if you merely enter the yacht under her sponsored name, but do not display the sponsor's name, badge or material on the yacht, you may continue to wear your Blue ensign.
My racing campaign is sponsored by several companies, and in return I carry their company names and/ or badges on the mainsail. How does this affect my permit and ability to wear the Blue ensign?
It is difficult to see how this is anything other than advertising, and as such incompatible with wearing a Privilege ensign. You should not therefore wear the Blue ensign when the branded mainsail (or other sail) is aloft but may do so once the sail is stowed (and you have hoisted the burgee to the masthead).
What about my sail cover? It has the sponsor's name on it also.
This, too, must be considered advertising, and therefore you should either not wear the ensign, or have a sail cover that is not displaying advertising.
Many sail covers have the name of the sailmaker writ large, or perhaps a website address. Is this also considered to be advertising.
It is difficult to see how a sail maker's name writ larger than the usual sail maker's patch on a sail is anything other than advertising: likewise a website address if the site is commercial: for example, the site of a sponsoring or other commercial company.
What exactly is 'commercial activity' when it comes to stopping me wearing a Blue Ensign?
Commercial activity in this context refers to wearing the Blue Ensign when the yacht is being used for anything other than the private recreational activity of the owner (or chaterer in the case of a yacht under charter). Reversed, that means if the yacht is being used for any activity for which a fee is being paid - and irrespective of to whom the fee is paid - then the Blue Ensign may not be worn and a Red ensign should be worn instead. Examples might include hiring the yacht out to a corporate client for business or even private entertaining; using the yacht in a photo- or film shoot that will then be used commercially (a product catalogue or an advertisement, for example) even if no fee is paid for that use; even using the yacht to entertain the owners' business connections is 'commercial activity' if the owners' business is paying. Conversely, a fee paid by the owner or charterer to a commercial organisation for the use of the yacht for his or her own private recreational activity - charter, in other words - is not considered 'commercial activity'.
I don't have full registration but I'm on the Small Ships Register. Is this enough to have a permit?
The Small Ships register is Part 3 (sometimes written Part III) of the British Register and is an acceptable alternative to Part 1 (the so-called Full register). Provided the other conditions of the warrant are met (full membership of the club, British citizen etc) you may have a permit.
I register my yacht abroad, but am a full member of the Club and a British citizen. May I have a warrant to fly a Blue ensign?
No. The club holds the warrant - you are issued with a permit to wear, not to fly, the Blue ensign and the yacht must be on either Part 1 or Part 3 of the British Register.
My yacht is registered in the Cayman Islands, which is a British Protected Territory and ships on the Cayman Islands Register are entitled to wear the Red Ensign and enjoy other privileges of British-registered ships, such as the protection of the Royal Navy. Surely this must mean I am entitled to a permit to wear a Blue ensign?
The Cayman Islands register is a distinct and separate register from the British register, notwithstanding the many British privileges its ships enjoy. To wear a Blue ensign, the yacht must be on Part 1 or Part 3 of the British register. (Note: the Club has recently raised this issue with the Ministry of Defence Naval Law Division, and the foregoing is the official interpretation.)
What about Guernsey; my yacht is registered in Guernsey?
Ships registered in Guernsey are entered in the British register, so your yacht qualifies as being on either Part 1 or Part 3 of the British register.
I am a full member and hold a permit to wear the Blue ensign in my own yacht. I am going on holiday and will be borrowing a friend's yacht. May I transfer my Royal Thames burgee and Blue ensign while I am in command of my friend's yacht?
The burgee yes, the Blue ensign no. As a Royal Thames member you may sail under the club's colours in any yacht but the permit for the Blue ensign is specific to you, and to the yacht named on the permit. You should apply for a charterer's permit in the name of the other yacht, which will be issued assuming all the other conditions laid upon the Club by its warrant can be met.
My boat is a racing boat, my masthead delicate and already encumbered with vulnerable electronic sensors and aerials. It is just not possible for me to get the burgee up there without risking either damage or compromising performance?
Some of the smartest racing boats in the country are owned by Royal Thames members and when not racing fly their burgees from the masthead. If you really do not want to fly the burgee from the masthead, you should not wear the Blue ensign. The burgee must never be flown from the spreaders or the rigging irrespective of anything to do with the ensign. To do so is to treat the Club's Colours with contempt.
My boat is a cruising yacht with even more sensitive equipment at the masthead than any racing boat.
If Oystercatcher (Oyster 65) can do it while cruising the Galapagos and still leave room for a blue footed booby to land so can you.
When should I fly the Club's burgee?
You should fly the Club's burgee when you are on board and in command, be it of your own yacht, a charter yacht, or a yacht belonging to someone else (provided the yacht's owner is not on board when the yacht should fly his burgee). You must also fly the burgee if leaving the yacht on the club's pontoon in Cowes.
Suppose I am a member of several clubs, which burgee do I fly?
Normally, one would fly the burgee of the club in whose waters the yacht is sailing, unless there is good reason to do otherwise. Flag officers normally always fly the broad pennant of the club in which they hold their flag, irrespective of location or pursuit. If attending a meet or other specific event organised by a particular club, one would fly that club's burgee.
Do I take the burgee down at night?
There is no hard-and-fast rule. Generally, the yacht should not be left unattended with the burgee aloft (on the Cowes pontoon is an exception, to show that the yacht is a Royal Thames yacht and therefore entitled to be on the pontoon). Generally the burgee is flown when the yacht is at sea, both day and night. In harbour or at anchor the burgee may be taken down at night, at the same time as the ensign is lowered, to save wear-and-tear or simply if you have one of those burgee staffs that quietly rattles away as the burgee flutters - to allow folks to get some sleep. Equally, there is nothing to say the burgee cannot stay up at night.
What about the ensign?
The blue ensign should be worn only when the permit holder is on board or in close proximity and still in effective control of the yacht; the red ensign at other times when the yacht is manned. The ensign should not be worn when the yacht is unattended.
There is no law that says when the ensign must go up or come down but there are long-established customs which to some carry the weight of Holy Writ. They are based, predominantly, on practice in the Royal Navy. In general, the ensign goes up at 0800 during summer months (May to October), 0900 in winter; it comes down at sunset, or 2100, whichever is the earlier. It follows, therefore, that if going ashore to a party, for example, the ensign should be taken off early rather than risk it being worn after dark and with no one on board. Since the burgee must be flown when the ensign is worn, it follows also that (unless the yacht is so well manned and ceremonially inclined that burgee and ensign halyards can be manned and worked at the same time) the burgee should go up before the ensign is raised, and be taken down after the ensign is lowered.
At sea, the Royal Navy wears its ensign day and night (often changing to a smaller night or sea ensign during the dark hours, merely to save wear on a larger, more ceremonial, ensign). Yachts may do the same - or not, as they wish.
I have on board as a guest a member of another club. May he fly his burgee in my yacht - at the starboard yardarm, say?
Most purists consider the flying of any burgee at the yardarm poor flag etiquette, to say the least. The yardarm is the place for signal flags.If you wish to show your guest a courtesy, it is better to fly his burgee at the masthead, in place of your own.This is especially the case if your guest is a Flag Officer of another club. Our own club rules prohibit the flying of our club burgee inferior to (that is, below) that of any other club and most clubs feel the same way about their burgees.
The Cumberland Fleet
What is the Cumberland Pennant, and when and where do I fly it?
The Cumberland Pennant is the flag of the Cumberland Fleet, the modern version being based on the original 1775 design but a little smaller (in 1775, minimum length of the pennant was 26ft). Today it is worn by yachts of the Cumberland Fleet as a celebration flag when together at a meet or rally, for example, or in foreign parts as an invitation to other Cumberland Fleeters to join company. It is normally worn at the starboard yardarm or spreader, unless a courtesy ensign or flag is there, in which case it is shifted to the port spreader. It may with equal propriety be flown from another part of the ship in the foretrianlge, as a battle flag, for example. The Cumberland Pennant is often presented to yachts, or to other clubs, that join in Cumberland Fleet activities to mark their participation (The burgee is never so presented, being very strictly for members of the Royal Thames Yacht Club only.)
Unlike the Ensign, which may be worn only when the Club burgee is aloft, the Cumberland Pennant may be flown at any time and with any other club's burgee, or none at all. It is thus a very useful way of identifying the yacht as a member of the Cumberland Fleet even when sailing under the colours of another organisation.
What is the Cumberland Fleet, and how do I join?
The Cumberland Fleet was the first name taken (in 1775) by the group of yachtsmen who in 1821 became the Thames, and in 1830 the Royal Thames Yacht club. By definition all Royal Thames yachts are therefore yachts of the Cumberland Fleet, the two organisations being considered the same, merely with different names. In addition, yachts which join in with the activities, particularly the cruising and social activities, of the Cumberland Fleet are considered to be part of the Fleet for that occasion. Many acquire, either by buying or by being given in a spirit of hospitality, a Cumberland Pennant, which they may wear to mark their having taken part in a Cumberland Fleet regatta or rally.
Do I have to have the letters RTYC on the transom to wear the Blue ensign?
Either that, or the Port of Registry of the yacht - that is the law. The Club's Byelaws hold directions as to the manner and style of display the Club initials and badge. You can find a note about that, and where to obtain easily applied transfers, HERE.