History of the America's Cup
by
Brownielocks and The 3 Bears



Louis Vuitton Cup (America's Cup)  May 26-June 12 (Finals)

The History of the America's Cup

For 132 years, American yachtsmen successfully defended this Cup against all challengers from countries all over the world. They first competed in schooners and then later in sloops (single-masted boats). From 1930-1937 the American defending boats were all "J" boats, averaging 130 feet in length and masts rising as high as 155 feet above the water. But, by the end of WWII (1939-1945) it became obvious that the size requirements were going to have to be reduced if this competition were to survive.  From 1958 - 1987 the "12-Meter" boats (65 feet) raced.  The end of the "J" boat era was (and still is for many) mourned by yachting enthusiasts.

The race is held every 3 or 4 years. It is the longest-running international sporting event in the world. It is held in the country that is the current holder of the Cup.  Because the United States held the cup for over a century, the contest was always held in the USA, with the cup located at the New York Yacht Club. But the last time the contest was held, it was won by New Zealand in 1995. (Auckland, claims to host more yachting races per capita than any other city in the world.) As I understand it, Australia was suppose to host New Zealand's defense of the Cup from October 1999 through March 2000; but, with the 2000 Summer Olympics and The  Cup Jubilee in 2001, the America's Cup race is now scheduled to begin Saturday, February 15, 2003.

However, until then....

The America's Cup Jubilee, will be held this August 19-25, 2001 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the America's Cup. This International Sailing Event will take place in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, the location of the first America's Cup Challenge in 1851, from Saturday 18th August through to Saturday 25th August. This will be a week of racing, nostalgia, celebration, parties, old friends getting together and also set the tone for the upcoming  America's Cup preparation in 2003.

 

So how did it all begin?

It was originally called, "The Guinea Cup" by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain, which invited the Americans to send a boat to compete in a race around the Isle of Wight. This was held in conjunction with the International Exposition going on in London's Crystal Palace in 1851.   So... Americans, not afraid of a challenge said, "Sure."  :)   It was actually John C. Stevens, Commodore of the New York Yacht Club who agreed to race.  He formed a syndicate to finance the building of a new yacht with the latest technology to take on the world. On August 22nd 1851, at exactly 1000, a gun fired by the Royal Yacht Squadron signaled the start of a race that would change the history of yachting.

The boat was designed by by George Steers and built by William H. Brown.  It was a 100-foot schooner and named, "America."  Her start wasn't impressive in the 53-mile course.  But like the turtle and the hare, well,  by the end of the race she ended up so far ahead of all the other competitors that it triggered this legendary conversation:

"Who is first?" Queen Victoria asked her attendant when one solitary boat could be seen on the horizon through her binoculars.
"The 'America' ", replied her attendant.
"Then who is second?" the queen asked.
"Your Majesty," came the attendant's response, "There is no second."

The low black schooner 'America' 's overwhelming victory heralded the beginning of the modern age of yacht racing and the America's Cup tradition.

How the Competition Works

If you are familiar with the competiton of major league baseball in the US, well it works like that. 

There are two leagues = The Challengers and The Defenders.

Both compete against each other in the pre-season. But once the regular season begins, the Challengers only compete against other Challengers and the Defenders only compete against other Defenders.  

The Winner of the Challengers then competes against the winner of the Defenders.

Here is how Craig Peploe, Manager of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (that currently has the Cup) explained it to me:

"The challenger comes through the "Challenger series", now called the Louis Vuitton Cup.  They sail amongst themselves to choose a winner (whom wins the Louis Vuitton Cup) for the right to challenge the holder of the America's Cup.
 
For example, there are 10 challengers in the Louis Vuitton Cup starting in October 2002. Three from the USA, two from Italy, one each from Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and England.  The winner of the 10 challengers will then face off against Team New Zealand for the America's Cup starting on February 15, 2003."

The location is always in the country of the last winner of the cup, as I said earlier.  However, now we've had some upsets by the Australians and New Zealanders a few times, and America's dominance is over. In 1983, a boat named 'Australia II' owned by the Royal Perth Yacht Club defeated the boat, 'Liberty' owned by the New York Yacht Club, in waters off Newport, Rhode Island. And so the cup sailed down under for it's new home.

This awesome defeat over the United States after all these years by the Australians just caused an international explosion in the Cup race.  In the past, the number of competitors was rather limited (after all how many can afford the hundreds to millions of dollars to build these boats?) to around 10 countries. Today, countries like France, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Japan have declared Cup challenges.

The viewing of the race has grown tremendously through the years also.  The biggest boost comes from television sports networks such as ESPN, as well as other television stations throughout the world, including CNN Sports.  But ESPN since 1990 has broadcast the race LIVE!

Today the IACC (International America's Cup Class) requires that all competitive boats meet a specific rule or mathematical formula when they are built.  The rule takes into account the boat's length, sail area and displacement.  It's the job of the boat designers to come up with the best boat possible that meets all the rules.  

Competitors also study the wind, water temperatures, sea and weather conditions of the area of the upcoming race to help gain an edge on the competitors also.

America's Cup Most Famous Good Sport

Representing the Royal Ulster Yacht Club of Belfast, Ireland, was Sir Thomas Lipton, who was the only challenger from 1899 to 1930. He brought 6 different yachts, all were named 'Shamrock' by the way, to the competition.  Every time he lost! Finally, in 1930, at the age of 82, he was presented with a gold cup made by Tiffany & Company in honor of his five noble challenges.  He was dubbed the "Gamest Loser in the World of Sport."

A Bit About the "Cup"

It only goes to say that if the America's Cup is the oldest international sports competition in the world, then that makes the CUP the oldest international trophy in the world.  

It was originally called the "The Hundred Guinea Cup" after the original name of the race. It was renamed the "America's" cup after the name of the boat that won the race by America.  

It was commissioned by the Royal Yacht Club of Cowes, England, which asked Garrards of London to design a Victorian ewer (aka pitcher) from 134 ounces of silver with a fancy, elaborate handle and immense Victorian decoration.   The result was a trophy 27" high, weighing 16 lbs., and originally cost 100 guineas or $500. Today, the value of the cup is $250,000.  The bell-shaped bottom was added in 1958.

The cup's home for many years was in the New York Yacht Club.  In 1983, it went to Australia. Then in 1987, 1988 and 1993 the United States were victorious and brought it back to it's US home at the NY Yacht Club. But....

In 1995, as we all know, Australia won and the cup is down under until 2003, when the results of it's next home are still unknown.

Unfortunately, in March 14, 1997, a New Zealand native Maori attacked the cup in its display case at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Club Squadron in Auckland. He bashed it over and over with a sledgehammer causing a lot of damage on the 1850 trophy.  Why did he do it?  It seems it was a political statement because the Maori people make up 15% of New Zealand's population and are among the poorest. They have a number of grievances against the country and it's government. The cup was sent to the original maker and has been fully restored. Amazing!

So if the United States won this cup for over a century, ever wonder who came in second?  I did. :)  Since our motto, "Where Things are Almost Just Right" I felt that would be interesting.
Below is a chart of defending champions against competitors since 1851.

The Winners and The Losers
                      1851 - 20
13
 

 

Year

Boat

Nation

 

15 British Yachts

Nation

1851

America

USA

defeated

Aurora

England

1870

Magic

USA

defeated

Cambria  

England

1871

Columbia/Sappho

USA

defeated

Livonia  

England

1876

Madeleine

USA

defeated

Countess of Dufferin  

Canada

1881

Mischief

USA

defeated

Atalanta  

Canada

1885

Puritian

USA

defeated

Genesta  

England

1886

Mayflower

USA

defeated

Galentea  

England

1887

Volunteet

USA

defeated

Thistle  

Scotland

1893

Vigilant

USA

defeated

Valkyrie III

England

1895

Defender

USA

defeated

Valkyrie II

England

1899

Columbia

USA

defeated

Shamrock  

England

1901

Columbia

USA

defeated

Shamrock II  

Ireland

1903

Reliance

USA

defeated

Shamrock III  

Ireland

1920

Resolute

USA

defeated

Shamrock IV  

Ireland

1930

Enterprise

USA

defeated

Shamrock V  

Ireland

1934

Rainbow

USA

defeated

Endeavour 

England

1937

Ranger

USA

defeated

Endeavour II  

England

1958

Columbia

USA

defeated

Sceptre

England

1962

Weatherly

USA

defeated

Gretel  

Australia

1964

Constellation

USA

defeated

Sovereign  

England

1967

Intrepid

USA

defeated

Dame Pattie  

Australia

1970

Intrepid

USA

defeated

Gretel II  

Australia

1974

Courageous

USA

defeated

Southern Cross

Australia

1977

Courageous

USA

defeated

Australia

Australia

1980

Freedom

USA

defeated

Australia

Australia

1983

Australia II

Australia

defeated

Liberty 

USA

1987

Stars & Stripes

USA

defeated

 Kookaburra III

Australia

1988

Stars & Stripes

USA

defeated

KZ-1

New Zealand

1992

America3

USA

defeated

Il Moro di Venezia 

Italy

1995

Black Magic

New Zealand

defeated

Young America

USA

2000

Black Magic

New Zealand

defeated

Praida

Italy

2003

Alinghi

Switzerland

defeated

Black Magic

New Zealand

2007

Alinghi

Switzerland

defeated

Emirates Team

New Zealand

2010

Oracle

USA

defeated

Alinghi

Switzerland

2013

Oracle Team

USA

defeated

Emirates Team

New Zealand

 

2017

Defenders
Oracle Team

USA

Challengers

TBD

 

 

Source:  I read several websites including those I've linked to here.
Plus...
"Holidays and Symbols, 2nd Edition."
by Sue Ellen Thompson
Omnigraphics 2000

Plus...Reece Brailey, New Zealand
And
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Craig Peploe, General Manager

Jim Marshal, "The Sailing Company.com" for informing us of a few errors
and making our site just right! :)

 

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