US SAILING was originally organized as the North American Yacht Racing Union (NAYRU) on October 30, 1897. The founding members were the Inter-Lake Yachting Association, New York Racing Association, Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association, Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound, Yacht Racing Association in Massachusetts, and the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club.
The organization's original purpose was to encourage and promote yacht racing and to unify the racing and rating rules in the United States and Canada and throughout the yachting world. In 1898, NAYRU asked Aemilius Jarvis of Toronto and Joseph M. MacDonough of San Francisco to confer with the Yacht Racing Association of the U.K. "upon the measurement rule question and other subjects of interest to yachtsmen." When their efforts were not successful, NAYRU apparently became dormant until Clifford D. Mallory revived it in 1925.
According to the original constitution, NAYRU's authority stemmed from consent of its members and member associations over which it exercised jurisdiction in an advisory capacity. Today, its authority comes instead from an act of Congress (the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978) and a much broader charter to serve America's sailors directly.
In 1927, President Mallory and Clinton H. Crane (later President 1942-1949) attended a conference held by the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU, now known as the International Sailing Federation - ISAF). The purpose was to consider changes in the IYRU measurement rule known as the International Rule, which was beginning to replace the Universal Rule. Two years later NAYRU sent delegates to another IYRU conference, at which a uniform code of right-of-way rules for racing was agreed upon. Those racing rules prevailed until 1948, when NAYRU adopted a new code conceived by Harold S. Vanderbilt.
NAYRU soon developed long and continuous associations with the IYRU and the Offshore Racing Council, which have included initiating unified racing rules in 1960 and simplified racing rules for 1997, creating offshore rating rules such as the IOR and IMS, and developing strong one-design class organizations.
NAYRU inaugurated the Junior Sailing Championship for the Sears Cup in 1931. Today, US SAILING administers 17 National Championships for juniors, adult men and women, and sailors with disabilities, in various forms of fleet racing, match racing, and team racing.
Canada, which was originally part of NAYRU, had formed its own Canadian Yachting Association (CYA) in 1931. By 1974, it had become apparent that American Sailors were in need of their own national sports federation. That need was also dramatically highlighted by the reorganization of the U.S. Olympic Committee at the end of that year.