Douglaston Yacht Squadron, and Sappho

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Sappho burgee Sappho   


The Douglaston Club building and the grounds on which it stands have an interesting cultural and long running history. Prior to the building of the house in 1819 the property around it was in the possession of such notable Queens families as the Hicks, Van Zandts, and Van Wycks. The Van Zandts built the house after acquiring most of the property included on the peninsula.

The next major occupant, George Douglas, bought it in 1862 and added it to property to the south that he had purchased in 1835. After his death the property moved to his son William P., an international traveler, sportsman and sailor. He defended one leg of the Americas Cup race in 1871 in the Yacht Sappho. The current burgee (pennant) of the Douglaston Yacht Squadron is an adaptation of William P.’s personal symbol.

In 1918 the Douglaston Country Club became the Douglaston Club and in 1921 with 144 members the Douglaston Club bought the Douglaston Inn for $61,000. The by-laws stated that the Club is a members only non-profit organization to promote and stimulate cultural, educational and recreational activities for the benefit and participation of its members and to provide a clubhouse for such purposes.

In 1927 the Douglaston Yacht Squadron was formed with 77 members and became the Douglaston Yacht Squadron of the Douglaston Club of Douglaston, Long Island, New York. Its objective was to encourage the sport of yachting, to promote the science of seamanship and navigation and to provide and maintain a suitable anchorage and facilities for the recreation and use of its members.

Over the years the club has been involved in activities with the Douglas Manor Association and other community organizations. Some are the July 4th games, the Country Fair, dinner dances, meetings and socials, as well as many happy family affairs such as weddings, birthdays and special occasion celebrations.

Built in 1819 the club house has a long and colourful history. Presently it has 5 tennis courts, a full size pool, 3 bowling lanes, dining/bar service and a new state of the art kitchen, and the Douglaston Yacht Squadron remains an integral part of the Club and provides nautical and land based programs for the club’s seafaring members.


One of the great racing schooners of the day and an America's Cup defender in 1871, Sappho was a 145' LOA, 121'LWL keel schooner built in Green Point, Brooklyn, in 1867. A development of the yacht America, she was first owned by Richard Poillon, her builder, who built her on speculation. The next year, looking for a buyer in England, he took Sappho to Cowes, and she sailed in an Around-the Island Race there and finished last. SAPPHO's efforts in 1868 may not have been successful for her then owner, but she helped restore friendly Anglo-American sporting relations, which had been fractured during the Civil War. James Ashbury soon issued the first challenge for the America's Cup since it was put into play in 1857.

Sappho was sailed back to New York in 1868 and acquired for $50,000 by 24-year-old William Douglas. "A spirited and wealthy young yachtsman," according our great yachting historian, W. P. Stephens, he put her in the hands of a successful builder and skipper named Bob Fish, who made alterations that turned her into a winner.

In 1869 SAPPHO returned to England under Douglas and Fish (making the passage to Queenstown in only 13 days, 9 hours), and in May 1870, she raced Cambria in three races - two of which were highly unusual 60-mile one-legged courses to windward. She easily beat the English yacht. Ashbury somewhat smudged these contests with complaints of one sort or another about conditions and handicaps. Sappho sailed back to New York to some acclaim.

Willie Douglas served as rear or vice commodore of the NYYC between 1869 and 1874, but declined invitations to be commodore. He was a generous donor of expensive racing trophies and built a defence candidate for the 1885 America's Cup, but as his money grew thin, he stepped back from yachting.

Sappho was sold in 1876 to Prince Sciarra de Colonia who raced her in the French Riviera. Upon the prince's death, Sappho was acquired by George Marvin who sailed her until she was scrapped at Cowes in 1887.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


    Back to top


    The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

    The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

    As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

    Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

    Contact Us

    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024