THE AMERICA'S CUP
The America's Cup is the most famous and most prestigious regatta in the sport of sailing, and the oldest active trophy in international sport, predating the Modern Olympics by 45 years. The sport attracts top sailors and yacht designers because of its long history and prestige as the "Holy Grail" of yachting. Although the most salient aspect of the regatta is its yacht races, it is also a test of boat design, sail design, fundraising, and management skills. The cup, originally offered as the Royal Yacht Squadron cup, is now named after the first yacht to win the trophy, the schooner America. The trophy remained in the hands of the New York Yacht Club of the United States from 1852 or 1857 (when the syndicate that won the Cup donated the trophy to the club) until 1983 when the Cup was won by the challenger, Australia II of Australia, ending the longest winning streak in the history of sport. For the first time in 132 years, America had lost the "cup" to another country. The skipper of Australia II, John Bertrand, was quoted in saying, "This puts yacht racing back on the map!"
The America's Cup regatta is a challenge-driven yacht series that currently involves a best-of-nine series of match racing (a duel between two boats). Since the 1992 match, the regatta has been sailed with the International America's Cup Class (IACC) sloop, a monohull boat that has an average length of about 75 feet (23 m). Any challenger who meets the requirements specified in the Deed of Gift, which governs the regatta, has the right to challenge the yacht club that holds the Cup. Since 1983, Louis Vuitton has sponsored the Louis Vuitton Cup as a prize for the winner of the challenger selection series (which was inaugurated for the 1970 match). The America's Cup is a race between the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup and the current holder. If the challenging team wins the cup, the cup's ownership is transferred from the defender's yacht club to the winning team's yacht club.
The Cup itself is an ornate silver-plated Britannia metal bottomless ewer, crafted in 1848 by Garrard & Co. The trophy is inscribed with names of the yachts that competed in the regatta's matches. Bases matching the silver cup were added in 1958 and 2003 to accommodate more names. The cup is one of three or six that were made as off-the-shelf trophies. Sir Henry Paget, the Marquess of Anglesey bought one and donated it for the Royal Yacht Squadron's 1851 Annual Regatta around the Isle of Wight. It was originally known by the Squadron as the "Royal Yacht Squadron Cup" or the "RYS Cup for One Hundred Sovereigns". The Cup subsequently became known as the "One Hundred Guinea(s) Cup", by the American syndicate that won it. As time went by, the Cup was also referred to as the "Queen's Cup", the "America Cup", and the "America's Cup". Today, the trophy is officially known as the America's Cup and affectionately called the "Auld Mug" by the sailing community.
The regatta's origins date back to August 22, 1851 when the 30.86 m schooner-yacht America, owned by a syndicate that represented the New York Yacht Club, raced 15 yachts representing the Royal Yacht Squadron around the Isle of Wight. America won by 20 minutes. Apocryphally, Queen Victoria asked who was second; the answer famously was: "There is no second, your Majesty."
Volunteer turning Sandy Hook Lightship on Sept. 27, 1887
during the seventh America's Cup
The surviving members of the syndicate which owned the America donated the Cup through a Deed of Gift (written in 1852) to the New York Yacht Club on July 8, 1857. The trophy would be held in trust as a "challenge" trophy to promote friendly competition among nations.
Stung by this blow to contemporary perceptions of invincible British sea power, a succession of British syndicates attempted to win back the cup, but the New York Yacht Club remained unbeaten for 25 challenges over 113 years, the longest winning streak in the history of sport. Matches were held in the vicinity of New York City from 1870 and 1920, which includes the "Herreshoff Period" between 1893 and 1920, when cup defenders were designed by Nathanael Herreshoff. From 1930 to 1983, the races were sailed off Newport, Rhode Island for the rest of the NYYC's reign.
One of the most famous and determined challengers was Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton. Between 1899 and 1930 he mounted five challenges, all in yachts named Shamrock, two of which were designed by William Fife. One of Lipton's motivations for making so many challenges was the publicity that racing generated for his Lipton Tea company, though his original entry was at the personal request of the Prince of Wales in hopes of repairing trans-Atlantic ill-will generated by the contentious earlier challenger, Lord Dunraven. Lipton was preparing for his sixth challenge when he died in 1931. The yachts used during the Lipton era were very large sailing sloops; for example, Shamrock V, which is still sailing today, measures 120 feet (36 m) long.
After World War II
After World War II, the huge and expensive J-class yachts were replaced by the much smaller 12-metre class yachts, which measure from approximately 65 feet to 75 feet (20 to 23 m) overall. The New York Yacht Club's unbeaten streak continued in eight more defenses, running from 1958 to 1980. The inventor of the cunningham sail control device to increase performance, Briggs Cunningham, skippered the Columbia during its 1958 victory in the first challenge after 1937. Alan Bond, a flamboyant and controversial Australian businessman made three challenges for the cup between 1974 and 1980, failing all three times, including a loss to Ted Turner in 1977, who skippered Courageous. He returned in 1983 with a golden spanner which he claimed would be used to unbolt the cup from its plinth, so he could take it home.
In 1983 there were seven foreign challengers for the cup. Bond's campaign, representing the Royal Perth Yacht Club, won the elimination series for the "right to challenge" the NYYC, the prize for which was the Louis Vuitton Cup. In the challenger series, Bond's Australia II, skippered by John Bertrand and designed by Ben Lexcen won easily. The Australians recovered from a bad start to win the America's Cup 4-3 in a best-of-seven format and break the 132-year winning streak.
Beaten skipper Dennis Conner won the Cup back four years later, with the yacht Stars & Stripes representing the San Diego Yacht Club, but had to fend off an unprecedented 13 challenger syndicates to do it. Bond's syndicate lost the Defender series and did not race in the final.
Shamrock III would lose to Reliance in 1903
The changing face of the Cup
Technology was now playing an increasing role in the yacht design. The 1983 winner, Australia II, had sported its innovative winged keel, and the New Zealand boat that Conner had beaten in the Louis Vuitton Cup final in Fremantle was the first 12-metre class to have a fibreglass hull construction rather than aluminium. The New Zealand syndicate had to fight off legal challenges from Conner's team who were demanding that "core samples" be taken from the plastic hull to prove that it met class specifications (requiring damaging the yacht hull by drilling holes in it). "Why would you build a plastic yacht unless you wanted to cheat?" said Conner at a press conference. The legal challenge, apparently a successful attempt to unsettle the New Zealand challenger, created a legacy of bitterness between Team New Zealand and Conner.
The end of the 12-metre era
In 1988, soon after Stars and Stripes' victory had redeemed Dennis Conner's reputation but before the San Diego Yacht Club had publicly issued terms for the next regatta, a New Zealand syndicate, led by merchant banker Michael Fay, lodged a surprise "big boat" challenge under the original rules of the cup trust deed. The challenge, which was said to be a return to the tradition of the J-boat, used a gigantic yacht named New Zealand (KZ1) or the Big Boat, giving the defenders little time to prepare. Fay had challenged using the maximum size yacht possible — even larger than a J-class yacht - which was swiftly built and presented for the contest. Conner's syndicate, however, recognised that a catamaran was not expressly prohibited under the rules. Catamarans, due to lower mass to sail area ratios and other factors, are in general vastly quicker than monohulls. Conner did not leave anything to chance, however, and commissioned a cutting-edge design with a wing sail, also named Stars and Stripes. A legal battle ensued over whether Conner or Fay had broken the rules or merely skirted the edges of them. The teams were directed by one American court to compete in a farcical race which New Zealand predictably lost by a huge margin. A second court then awarded New Zealand the cup, only to have a third court decide the San Diego Yacht Club should hold the cup. The New Zealanders asked the court to look to the spirit of the deed — their position was based on the fact that the deed provided for a "match" between two yachts, and a multihull against a monohull could not be called a "match" in any sporting sense. The Americans' black letter argument — that there was nothing expressly prohibiting a multihull in the Cup deed — prevailed in the third court.
In the wake of the 1988 challenge, the International America's Cup Class (IACC) of yachts was introduced, replacing the 12-metre class that had been used since 1958. First raced in 1992, the IACC yachts are the ones used today.
2007 America's Cup
It was announced on November 27, 2003 that Alinghi would defend the America's Cup in 2007 in Valencia, Spain, the first time since the original 1851 Isle of Wight race that the America's Cup has been held in Europe. The deadline to challenge for the 32nd America's Cup was April 29, 2005, by which time 11 challengers from 9 countries had submitted formal entries.
The challenger selection series, the Louis Vuitton Cup 2007, began in Valencia on April 16, 2007 and concluded on June 6, 2007 after 122 matches. Emirates Team New Zealand won the challenger series and will meet Alinghi between June 23 and July 7, 2007.
America's Cup 1992 America3
Most wins by country
America's Cup challengers and defenders
Deed of Gift
The Deed of Gift is the primary instrument that governs the America's Cup regatta. The current version of the Deed of Gift is the third revision of the original Deed. The original Deed was written in 1852 and forwarded to the New York Yacht Club on July 8, 1857.
After the 1881 Cup match, the New York Yacht Club officially returned the Cup to George L. Schuyler, the sole surviving member of the syndicate that owned America to rewrite the deed to discourage inland-based, Canadian yacht clubs from challenging the Cup. The New York Yacht Club was disappointed with the lack of competition and the poor build of the yachts of the Canadian challenges of 1876 and 1881. Because the Canadian challenger dragged his boats through the Erie Canal both times he challenged and because his yacht clubs were situated on inland lakes, the second Deed incorporated, among other things, the following rules: the challenger's yacht club must be located next to the sea or on the arm of the sea and that the challenging boat must sail to the site of the contest on her own bottom. The second Deed was accepted by the NYYC in 1882.
In 1800, the challenging yacht's hull was longer than it was originally stated by the challenger; this alarmed the N.Y.Y.C., but they rectified the situation by handicapping the challenger. Although the N.Y.Y.C. successfully defended the Cup that year, it spurred them to rewrite the Deed. Once again the club officially returned the Cup to Mr. Schuyler. The third Deed is much longer and couched in legal terminology; it is unlikely that Mr. Schuyler himself authored the document. The third Deed tightened the rules for challenging; for example, it explicitly stated that the challenger must not exceed the dimensions provided to the holder of the Cup. The new version of the rules created an uproar among many British yachtsmen who claimed that the new rules made it impossible to challenge. No one challenged until six years later when a British lord set forth his first of two challenges.
After the Second World War, the N.Y.Y.C. amended the Deed by changing the requirement regarding waterline length: the minimum water-line length from 65 feet to 44 feet (20 m to 13 m) to allow the use of the 12-metre class. In addition, the rule that the challenging boat had to sail on her own bottom to the site of the match was eliminated.
In 1985 a second amendment was made to allow for matches to take place during an antipodean summer.
America's Cup in the media
The America's Cup series of races, particularly Dennis Conner's quest to regain the Cup after losing it to Australia and winning it back in the subsequent series, was used as the inspiration for the 1992 film Wind starring Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey.
Traditionally, commercial airships or blimps built by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, of Akron, Ohio, USA, have been named after former America's Cup winning boats. Paul W. Litchfield, an early chairman of Goodyear, envisioned airships as "the aerial yachts of the wealthy" and began the tradition of naming blimps after A.C. boats, in 1925, with the christening of the Pilgram. The tradition continued with Goodyear blimps named Stars & Stripes, Columbia, Ranger, Rainbow, Enterprise, Resolute, Reliance, Defender, Vigilant, Volunteer, Mayflower, Puritan and America.
Yacht America in 1851 by Currier & Ives
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