Sea History 116 - Autumn 2006

Page 22

America's Cup Racing-The Oldest Competition in Sport by Halsey C. H erreshoff h e America's Cup is the ultimate consideratio ns. In 1851 the British orga- dispute also began , when it was co ntended prize of yacht raci ng, but its his- nized an Industrial Wo rld's Fair in Lon- that America did no r ro und all the m arks to ry is much more. The evolu- don to promote develo pment by offering of the co urse. The Race Co mmittee tion of the C up involves huge advances the "civilized" countries o pportunities to sportingly ruled that the instructions we re in design, race strategy, seamanship, man- exh ibit their best products. One of the vague and America's captain had not been agement of personalities and fortunes, se- organizers was a naval architect, and it properly info rmed . Wilton presented the crets, sportsmanship, and national pride. fo llowed that ships and boats wo uld be Hundred G uineas C up to Stevens, who accepted it on behalf of the In competition fo r a period New York Yacht C lub. of 15 5 years, it is the oldest and most distinguished troFirst defenses: 1870-1887 phy in all sport, outdating Stevens and the other the Wo rld C up, Davis Cup, America syndicate m embers Stanley C up, Walker Cup, deeded the Cup to the New and all others of significance. U ntil the recent excesses of York Yacht Club in 1857 as a "Perpetual Challenge C up big-time m odern profesfo r friendly competition besional sports, more talent, tween foreign countri es " (aceffort, and money have been devo ted to the America's tually between yacht clubs). The mag nan im ous and C up than to any other sportstraightforward deed of gift ing competitions. From the and its subsequent revisions standpoint of naval architecture, America's C up intensity The schooner America that started it all. H er design was inspired by the have been the foundation fo r shing schoonersfor their st>eed andfine lines. H er cotton, "flat" sails were h fi h 1 t e nest yac t-racing event has inspired countless design fi just as high-tech at the time as modern A merica's Cup boat sails are today. . h Id breakthroughs, fallo ut from m t e wor , but have a1so which benefit all yach ts today to an ex- incl uded. Lo rd W ilto n, Commodore of led to bitter dispute, som e of which has tent generally unrealized by chose who sail the Royal Yach t Squadro n, invited Ameri- been sacrilege to the deed's lofty intent. cans to send a yacht over to race. The New No r until 1870 was there another them . As with any boar, the ultimate goal York Yach t Club's commodore, John Cox race fo r the Cup . Again it was a fleet race: that led to the vessel's creation in the first Stevens, and a fo unding m ember, Geo rge the English Cambria against rhe New place is what drives the design . America's L. Schuyler, were intrigued by the sugges- Yo rk Yacht Club fleet, predominantly C up boats are built solely fo r speed, m a- tion . N aval architect George Steers mod- schooners. The American schooner Magic neuverability, and reliability to best a eled a handsome, refin ed version of the proved victo rious. This was the last time single m arch race rival around a closed fishing schooners of the time, known for America's C up boats competed in a fleer course. Size, weight, wetted surface, hull their speed and agility. America was con- race. Since then, early contenders compete for the chance to m eet the defender in a fo rm, light but strong co nstruction, effi- srru cted a t the New Yo rk ship ya rd o f match race. cient rigs with good sails, sea kindliness William H . Brown. Modern shipbuilding entrepreneurs Distinctly different vessel types and maneuverability are requirements that must be fulfilled in the overall design. will be interested in the contract. The de- evolved on the opposite sides of th e AtBold innovation has been rewarded , bur, signer and builder we re to be paid the sum !antic. D riven by rhe Thames Tonnage nearly always, extremes have failed. In a of $30,000 fo r the 100-ft-long schooner Rules rhat taxed commercial vessels using series of yacht races in a variety of wind if the vessel co uld beat all competitors in a fo rmula based on their beam , the Engand sea conditions, an overall good boat a series of trials; otherwise they wo uld get lish sailed narrow, deep craft. As a result, nothing-certainly the extreme of any English yachts of the rime tended to race wins nearly every time. For 132 years (185 1 to 1983), the naval archi tectural contract! (As it turned poorly- too deep and narrow to carry US enjoyed the longest winning streak in o ut, there was insufficient time fo r the sail well. The American boats, in contrast, all international sports history. To under- trial races, so Steers and Brown serried for were wide and shallow-we had the better stand America's Cup history, it is best to $20,000 .) of the extrem es. Nor until 1887 did EngThe race starred from ancho r and land adopt an improved m easurement rule examine seven chronological divisions. fo llowed a course aro und the Isle of that abandoned the excessive penalty fo r W ight- some 53 miles. By no means beam . America: 1851 In the 1870s, Edward (Ned) BurThere was no real yachting as we know it ahead all the way, America finally took in the middle of the nineteenth century. charge and handsomely beat her English gess of Boston evolved as the designer The first event of what came to be known rivals (eight cutters and six schoo ners). of the America's C up defend ers. In the as the America's Cup stemmed from other That day, the America's Cup tradition of years 1885 , 1886, and 1887, he designed