The Royal Yacht Club (eventually the Royal Yacht Squadron) was formed in 1815 in Cowes is generally recognised as the first organiser of yacht racing.
Interestingly, of the 13 rules of the Royal Yacht Club in 1928, there is only one strongly worded right of way rule, but it lives on in similar form today:
“Vessels on the port tack must invariably give way for those on the starboard tack, and in all cases where a doubt of the possibility of the vessel on the port tack weathering [crossing] the one on the starboard tack shall exist, the vessel on the port tack shall give way, or if the other vessel keep her course and run into her, the owner of the vessel on the port tack shall be compelled to pay all damages and forfeit his claim to the prize.”
(excerpt from Mark Rushall's History of the Racing RulesThe Racing Rules of Sailing In 2007 ISAF commissioned Bob Fisher to produce a book to commemorate the centenary of our sport's governing body. Unfortunately it was never published. Here is a chapter on the history of the rules, written for the book by Mark Rushall.)
To read an in-depth history of racing rules download pdf at History of Racing Rules. Mark is one of the UK’s leading sailing coaches, a freelance yachting journalist and a highly successful dinghy and keelboat sailor.