The annual Monaco Yacht Show in September is the ultimate scene for industry networking and headline-grabbing announcements, and this year’s edition certainly lived up to its reputation as the most prestigious yachting event on the calendar with €4 billion worth of megayachts on display. Part of le buzz making its way around the quays was the long-awaited launch of the Gustavia Yacht Club, in the winter sailing paradise of St Barts, with a stand situated at the Lucciana Dock near the YCM. By the end of Yacht Show, the Gustavia Yacht Club, which started accepting applications for members only in August 2016, managed to sign up 125 Founding Members and the Clubhouse wasn’t even open yet. As a not-for-profit association established under French law 1901, the Gustavia Yacht Club was legally set up in June 2016 by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, a Monaco resident, and some of his friends, to provide “a place to gather and talk about yachting, sailing and all the great activities you can do in St Barts”. The French Caribbean island of St Barts, or Saint-Barthélemy as it’s more formally known, has been a magnet for A-Listers, CEOs, oil moguls and the jet-set since the Rockefeller and Rothschild families arrived in the mid-50s, essentially putting this 25 sq km island on the map the same way Brigitte Bardot unleashed St-Tropez when filming “And God Created Woman” in 1956. Perhaps the UK’s “Daily Mail” sums up its extravagance best: “Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is flying the Black Eyed Peas out to perform at a New Year’s Eve party at his lavish (€85 million) estate on St Barts.” So as Sharon Stone and her new sports agent beau Lonnie Cooper frolic on the white sand beaches of St Barths (as the French write), I can now confirm, having peeked a glance at its first AGM notice due on the 20th of December , the new Gustavia Yacht Club is officially on course to becoming one of the world’s most exclusive members-only clubs, long overdue in this yachting hotspot. The Clubhouse, a 100 sqm triplex at rue Jeanne d’ Arc, did a soft opening on November 9, and I’ve learned its Thursday night member’s Cocktails are already well attended With 230 Founding Members, the club has now closed its members list until 2017. Six Founding Members – Sir Stelios; Jason Redlus, Hugues Helffer, Douglas Barrowman, Monaco resident Stéphane Robert and Kevin A. Tedeschi – each dug deep into their pockets to generously donate at least €20,000 to the Club, which earns them the title of Benefactor with their name displayed at both the Clubhouse and on the Gustavia Yacht Club website. (The Benefactor threshold has since been raised to €25,000.) Already the Gustavia Yacht Club has secured four corporate sponsors, Sibarth Bespoke Villa Rentals, International Yacht Corporation (with offices in Monaco and representation in St Barts), Monaco-based Boutsen Design, a design company with expertise in Aircraft, Yachting and Residence Decoration, and French winemaker Château d’Esclans. Two more slots for sponsorship for 2016/17 I hear are about to be announced soon and then the list will close until 2018. The waterfront Clubhouse in the port of Gustavia, the capital of St Barts, named after the King Gustavia III of Sweden, owned by Sir Stelios, who has donated in excess of €300,000 to the club in his own name or through his charitable foundations, will gather members at 11 am on the 20th of December, to discuss the management accounts of the Club, approve the 2017 budget, amend the articles of the association and appoint auditors Messrs Moore Stephens, Chartered Accountants in Monaco. The meeting will also seek approval for the named eleven Board of Directors, to include Chairman (Commodore of the club, Sir Stelios), General Secretary (Ashley Lacour) and Treasurer (Ken Griggs). A Social Committee, who on a volunteer basis will organise “club life”, includes Monaco residents, alphabetically, Letizia Chimenti, Natalie Clifford, Nicholas Frankl, Annabelle Frankl, Lucia Gison-Piggott, Orla Murphy, Irina Peterson and Simon Piggott. The Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Social Committee will serve until the next election in 2019, although it appears two seats will be left vacant for co-opting among future full members who might join, at the discretion of the Board, of course. Accordingly, if you walk into a vacant library at the Monaco Yacht Club later this month, don’t fret. Members have set sail for Gustavia where Commodore Stelios has all hands on deck. Follow life at the Gustavia Yacht Club on Facebook or gustaviayachtclub.org Article first published December 4, 2016.