The Royal Yacht Squadron - lady members at last

Royal Yacht Squadron
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They've taken their time. What has often been called the world's most prestigious sailing club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, based in the dramatic 16th century Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight south of England, has just this week decided to invite ladies to be members.

The elite club unanimously voted for the new rules. Of its 475 members, only 150 attended the meeting -- but, in typically British fashion, all politely agreed to introduce the rules from Spring next year, with no dissensions.

Founded in 1815, the yacht club has an illustrious place in British history, launching the first ever America's Cup -- so named after the New York Yacht Club beat their English rivals in their boat 'America.'

In 1826, the club also started the annual Cowes Week sailing regatta, which kicked off last Monday and features more than 8,000 sailors from across the world.

The Squadron's grand castle marks the start line for Cowes Week races, firing cannons over the water.

However, ladies, before you join the rush to join, to become a member, you must still be voted in through another member.

The Queen's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, is the club's Admiral, while Queen Elizabeth II herself is a patron -- though she has never been able to be a member. There is no record, of course, of her ever wanting to do so.

British sailor Dee Caffari, the only woman known to have circumnavigated the globe three times, told CNN that the change in rules could encourage more women to join the sport.

'Many yachts have women amongst the team members so this now allows the club to better reflect the sport of sailing. It also highlights the uniqueness of our sport that it is one of the few sports that allow men and women to compete on a level playing field.'

Next time I am winding a winch geared for muscles twice as strong as mine, I'll try to remember that...