From the 1932 Olympic Code, drafted by the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club (RCYC):

Corinthianism in yachting is that attribute which represents participation in sport as distinct from gain and which also involves the acquirement of nautical experience through the love of the sport rather than through necessity or the hope of gain.

Corinthian ideals of amateur sportsmanship well precede the modern founding of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club (UK) in 1872. The ancient city of Corinth, Greece (now Korinthiakós), hosted the Isthmian Games, which were held the first and third years of an Olympiad, and predated the first Olympic Games by at least 100 years. The games traditionally honored the sea god Poseidon and included festive music and chariot racing. Winners were crowned with a pine wreath.

The evolution of the modern application of the term "Corinthian" is somewhat contentious. There is some fairly strong though anecdotal evidence that the term was used derisively by upper-crust yachtsmen in the mid-1800s. At that time wealthy yachtsmen did not actually sail their boats but hired others to do it for them. To distinguish themselves from the roguish sailors who did sail the boats, they sarcastically labeled them Corinthians.

Over the course of the years, the term got completely turned on its head, and Corinthian became a term of respect for any amateur yachtsmen. It was first used by the RCYC, and today there are dozens of yacht clubs throughout the United States with Corinthian in their titles.

Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club was founded on a Sunday in October 1934, when the gaff-rigged schooner Gaviota sailed into the new harbor at Montrose. She was from New England and had been built for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt had a great affection for the sea and often explained that his lengthy voyages allowed him to personally assess the world situation instead of relying solely on White House briefing books.

At the request of the Chicago Park District, the owners of Gaviota, Richard J. Frankenstein and William S. Ahern, transferred their mooring from the over-crowded Belmont Harbor to the new, empty harbor facility at Montrose. Both Frankenstein and Ahern later became commodores of CCYC.

Frank Heyes, their first mate, also played an important part in the formation of the new club. He acted as secretary in the framing the club constitution and the original bylaws. He also designed the CCYC burgee: The "Y" of the burgee symbolizes the three branches of the Chicago River while the two stars represent Sail and Power. The "Y" is called a municipal device and can be found throughout Chicago, often hidden in the architectural ornament gracing many buildings and bridges.   

These founders of CCYC received a permit from the Chicago Park District to erect and maintain a club facility adjacent to the harbor, which would serve the boating citizens of the Chicago area. Construction of the club house started in 1936.

Through volunteer efforts, the membership has continued to maintain and improve the club's facility at no cost to the City of Chicago. The club constitution of CCYC specifies the promotion of sailing and instruction in proper small boat handling. That proud tradition, which started with the Dinghy Fleet, has continued through the development of the numerous fleets and Crew School that CCYC offers today.

In 2009, CCYC celebrated its 75th anniversary. The club membership has grown to over 500 regular and crew members, and the club house and its surroundings continue to evolve with improvements aimed at making CCYC the most comfortable, relaxed and inviting yacht club in Chicago.