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East Cowes

The Origin Of The America Cup

The First Race Around The Isle of Wight In 1851

This is an article found in the 3rd June 1899 edition of the Isle of Wight County Press, which in turn quotes an article from an October edition of the Windsor Magazine from the same year.

“In the later part of the year 1850 it began to be rumoured in English yachting circles that the recently formed New York Club had determined on building a clipper schooner yacht to cross the Atlantic and to compete during the year of the Great Exhibition with the crack yachts of this country, in order to show the owners of British boats what the Yankee fast sailing yachts were capable of. In the days before the laying of the first Atlantic cable, news from America filtered but slowly through the channel of the comparative infrequent transatlantic mail boats, and although from time to time reports, more or less authentic, had been brought to England by eyewitnesses of the splendid sailing qualities of the Yankee yachts in general, but little credence was attached to the statement “that they the fastest in the world ” and but scant respect paid to the options that the best built Yankee built boats could “ show their heels to any British built boat afloat”. However, on the truth of the rumour of the building of such a clipper yacht for the purpose being to some extent confirmed, Lord Wilton, the commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, addressed a letter to Mr John C. Stevens, the commodore of the New York Yacht Club, mentioning that he had heard of the building of the new boat and of the proposed visit to English waters, inviting all and every member of the New York Yacht Club, who should come over to witness her performances, 5to be visitors to the Royal Yacht Squadron Club House at Cowes, offering them a cordial welcome, and ending up with an expression of opinion, that yachtsmen in this country would gladly avail themselves of any improvement in shipbuilding that the industry and skill of your nation have enabled you to elaborate. The upshot of a courteous and unassuming reply to this letter of Lord Wilton was that as a very numerously attended meeting of the Royal Yacht Squadron, held at the Thatched House Club on May 9th 1851. It was unanimously agreed to give a cup of the value £100, to be open to yachts belonging to all nations, subject to sailing regulations of the Royal Yacht Squadron, the course to be round the Isle of Wight. This Royal Yacht Squadron cup of £100 is the trophy which we now style the America Cup, but which by some curious mistake is usually termed in America the Queen’s Cup. It’s not the Queens Cup at all. During the spring and early summer of the year 1851 there was a great deal of more or less unreliable gossip afloat concerning the new clipper yacht which was going to ‘lick creation’ and as to her wonderful sailing powers. And what she would do if she came up to expectations of her designer and builder. Mr William H. Brown, a well-known and by reputation, extremely skilful shipbuilder of New York, had undertaken to build a schooner that would out sail any other vessel at home or abroad, and had indeed, agreed to make the purchase of her by the new York Yacht Club contingent on her success. His offer was accepted by the club and the yacht was built. Her appearance at Cowes on July 31st, created a perfect furore. Thousands of spectators were on the look out for her arrival. There is hardly need to state that the race fixed for Friday August 22nd, 1851, the Royal Squadron cup for all yachts of all nations was the one absorbing event of the Cowes Week in that year. While the race was in progress the Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert, with the Queen and other members of the Royal Family on board- including the Prince of Wales, a little boy in his tenth year, dressed in a white sailor suit –steamed out to the Needles, accompanied by the Fairy with Lord Alfred Paget on board. The yachts not being in sight the Fairy was deputed to go round the Needles and to signal to the Victoria and Albert, which had returned and lay in Alum Bay, how the race was going. When at length the signal was made that the competitors were in sight, the signal was made ‘Who leads’ the answer being returned ‘The America’. To the further question ‘Who is second’ came the reply ‘There is no second’-a summing up of the situation which recalls the old time placing ‘Eclipse first and the rest nowhere’. The America was not taken back to New York, being sold to the Hon. John de Blaquiere for 5000 sovereigns; but Commodore Stevens and his friends took the cup back to New York, and in memory of the famous victory of the America, presented it to the New York Yacht Club as a perpetual challenge trophy, open to yachts of all nations, but to be held by no individual person, but to remain for all time the property of the club to which the yacht that last won it belongs, and when challenged for, to be sailed for on the waters of the club then holding it”.

This is the cup which sir Thomas Lipton and his Shamrock are hoping to bring back to this country when the next set of races are held in October, see program below:

The following are the dates of the races between Columbia and Shamrock in 1899

  • 1st Tuesday October 3rd
  • 2nd Thursday October 5th
  • 3rd Saturday October 7th
  • 4th Tuesday October 10th
  • 5th Thursday October 12th

The cup was again won by the American boat Columbia, details can be found on the web site www.americascup.comExternal link image.

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:20

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