Flag Officer Board in the Club House
The name of Ranelagh has long been associated with yacht sailing on the Thames. The third Viscount Ranelagh was a close confidant of that pioneer of yacht racing, King Charles II who reserved several of his yachts for "up river" sailing.

In 1775, the Cumberland Fleet, from which evolved the Royal Thames Yacht Club, assembled off Lord Ranelagh's house at Chelsea, then transformed into the famous Ranelagh Gardens and a sailing match took place from Westminster to Putney Bridge and back. The result of this event was that sailing rapidly developed in these reaches of the river until 1840, after which the fleet continued "down river" races only.

Some time after 1856 the Ranelagh Yacht Club, flying a blue burgee with the letters "RYC" in white, and with headquarters at the "Swan" at Battersea commenced racing between Battersea and Putney, its upper turning mark being opposite the then Lord Ranelagh's house at Fulham, just down river of the old wooden bridge. These races continued until the construction of a succession of new bridges limited the Club's activities and lead to its decline.

However, on February 16th, 1889, eight sailing men met at the "Star and Garter" hotel, Putney and resolved to form the Ranelagh Sailing Club. A Club House was established on the unspoilt reach above Putney Bridge and a new impetus given to yacht racing on the Thames. Several members of the Ranelagh Yacht Club joined the new club. Others who joined were members of the 2nd South Middlesex Rifle Volunteers, the nucleus of which was formed of Ranelagh Yacht Club men in 1859, and which was commanded by the 7th Viscount Ranelagh from its inception until his death in 1885.

During 125 years of existence, the Club has consistently encouraged dinghy sailing and some 100 years ago open races were given for the West of England Conference class, the forerunner of the 14ft International dinghy. The Club was at an early date affiliated to the YRA, now known as the Royal Yachting Association, and has fostered the development of dinghy classes suited to the River Thames. In 1928 winter racing was commenced and has since proved so popular as to become more important than the summer program when many members compete in events all over the country.

One of the very early Ranelagh races (May 1889) Over the years the club has organised many "Tideway Races" from Putney to central London and back, sometimes with more than 100 participating boats.

Given the great location of Ranelagh Sailing Club, there are many pictures, drawings and paintings of the activity on the water, often made by people unrelated to the club. One of the earliest images showing racing at Ranelagh Sailing Club is a sketch published on May 25th, 1889, in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (see below). Even the famous French photographer Robert Doisneau shot pictures of Ranelagh dinghies on the river in Putney ("La Tamise" October 1950). The connections with media go further. One of the major club trophies has been sponsored by the Evening Standard for the winner of a Tideway Race. And every year, Ranelagh sailors compete for the BBC Easter Trophy.

Members of Ranelagh Sailing Club were closely involved with the development of the Merlin Rocket and National Twelve dinghies and over the years, Ranelagh has provided many leading helmsmen. In recent years, the single handed classes, the Solo and the Laser, have been added to the boats, which are regularly sailed in competition at Putney.