The America Cup

The first event was the idea of a group of New York businessmen who, in 1851, sailed the schooner America to England and beat all contestants in a race around the Isle of Wight for a prize of 10BP. In 1851 America beat Queen Victoria’s yacht to take the Cup. The famous reply came when she asked “who came second?” and received the response “Your Majesty, there is no second!” America then went on to win the Royal Yachts Squadron’s 100bP Cup. This yacht ended Britain’s domination of the seas forever.

This was the start of a winning streak, the USA won all the races from 1870 to 1980 – a total of 24 times, until the trophy was taken away by the Australians. For the next 100 years, America was the winner of all the races held in New York. The owners of America returned to the States and presented the trophy to the New York Yacht Club to become the challenge cup for future races. The Cup was named The America Cup in honour of the winning boat.

The America Cup has been contested 35 times since 1851, and the 36th will be held in Sardinia in 2020. Since the first contest in England over the next 160 years, only four nations have held the Cup. These are the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Spain. Sir Thomas Lipton from Britain (a tea baron) was the challenger for the next five events from 1899 to 1930. He never won but was the introducer of sponsorship to the America Cup, which opened the sport to more funds to redesign and build better and faster boats. In 1939 the J-class of the yacht was introduced. Harald Vanderbilt was to defend the Cup for the New York Yacht Club is one of these spectacular yachts, and this was, once again, a win for the USA.

The race was halted for the Second World War and only restarted in 1958 when a new class of yacht was introduced – the 12meter. In 1970, as there was more than one challenger, a race was held to ascertain which boat was the best challenger. This has changed the rules, and now there can be more than one challenger. In 1983 Australia entered a yacht with new, secret improvements to her keel, which enabled her to win the Cup. In a tightly contested race, Australia managed to get into the lead to win the Cup from the USA for the first time in 132 years.

The next race will be held in Auckland, New Zealand, between the 6th and 12th March 2021 when the defending team, the Emirates Team New Zealand, will defend the Cup against the winner of these Challenger races. The race courses for the challenger and main event will be held in the Hauraki Gulf, running south along the North Shore beaches, around the North Head and up to the Auckland harbour bridge, across the Eastern Suburbs, and out the Tamaki Strait, to Waitemata Harbour. The race passes close to the land, which will give spectators magnificent views.