History of the America’s Cup – Part 1

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There is no other sailing race that generates quite as much interest as the America’s Cup. Without question nothing quite encapsulates the imagination of its followers as the premier sailing event. The competition itself is actually the oldest one in sport and dates back to 1851. The inaugural race was set around The Isle of Wight, England, and Schooner America ran out winners. Initially the price was named the “£100 cup”; however, it was swiftly renamed as the America’s Cup after the winner. The winners donated the prize to the New York Yacht Club under special terms labelled the “deed of gift”. This meant that the trophy was allowed to be re-won perpetually.

Challengers

The race isn’t held every year, in fact there isn’t even a set time-table for when each race takes place. This is perhaps why there has only actually been 36 races since its inception. The 2021 race which will take place between current holders, The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and challengers Circolo della Vela Sicilia will be the 37th time the prestigious race has been run. The basic premise of the race taking place is when a yacht club meets the rules laid down in the deed of gift. At this stage they are able to challenge the current holders. In the event that the new challenger wins the race they then gain stewardship of the trophy until they themselves are defeated in a challenge.

History, Prestige and Money

You would be right in thinking that the most successful teams have the best boats and the best sailors. Of course, this makes sense; however, there are also some other very important ingredients which determine success or failure. For a considerable time, the involvement of wealthy entrepreneurs to effectively “bankroll” the top teams have been massive. Management and fundraising also play pivotal roles in the challenge to snatch or retain the America’s Cup.

The New York Yacht Club (NYCC) held the trophy for the very first time and managed to keep hold of it during 24 consecutive challenges before the Royal Perth Yacht Club stole it away from them in 1983. At the outset of the competition all the way through to 1967 there was only ever a single challenger. However, for the very first time in 1970 the rules were changed. The NYCC allowed for a series of challengers to battle it out between themselves with the winner being acclaimed as the official challenger.

Global Sponsorship

The competition has been heavily supported with sponsorship from Italian design house Louis Vuitton since 1983. The Louis Vuitton Cup has now become the prize for the winner of the challenger series of races. As you might expect the competition has been subject to many legal wrangles and fights, one of the most memorable revolves around rule changes that were brought in for the 2017 Cup In our next blog in this series we will take a closer look at some of the boats that were used and also the winners in the most memorable races.