London: It`s official! The world`s most prestigious sailing club is lifting a 200-year ban on women becoming members for the first time in its history.
The men-only Royal Yacht Squadron, where even its patron the Queen is not allowed to enter, has voted unanimously to change the club`s rules to allow women members.
The club, based in the dramatic 16th century Cowes Castle on the Isle of White in southern Britain, unanimously voted for the new rules this week.
Of it`s 475 members, 150 attended the meeting -- all agreeing to introduce the rules from Spring next year, CNN reported.
The membership changes require no further vote, but still need to be ratified by all members.
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."
The move has been hailed by women sailors.
British powerboat champion Shelley Jory-Leigh, 43, from Southampton, Hants, called the move "brilliant".
"I thought it was a fantastic surprise when I heard the news. I`m going to become a member as soon as I can." she was quoted as saying by The Mirror.
Keen sailor Princess Anne, who is already an honorary member, is also sure to join the club, it said.
Another likely member is solo round-the-world record holder Dame Ellen MacArthur.
Rod Carr, head of UK Sport, said: "It is so obvious and right that women should not be barred from being full members of prestigious clubs in any sport so I welcome this."
The Queen`s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, is the club`s Admiral, while Queen Elizabeth II herself is a patron -- though not officially a member.
The club has had "lady associates" since the 60s but denied women full membership.