This Day in Sailing History, August 22
Published on August 22nd, 2016
On August 22, 1851, the U.S.-built schooner America bests a fleet of Britain’s finest ships in a race around England’s Isle of Wight. The ornate silver trophy won by the America was later donated to the New York Yacht Club on condition that it be forever placed in international competition. Today, the “America’s Cup” is the world’s oldest continually contested sporting trophy and represents the pinnacle of international sailing yacht competition.
The history of the yacht America began with five members of the New York Yacht Club, who decided to build a state-of-the-art schooner to compete against British ships in conjunction with England’s Great Exposition of 1851. Designed by George Steers, the 100-foot, black-hulled America had a sharp bow, a V bottom, and tall masts, making it strikingly different from the traditional yachts of the day.
In June 1851, the America set sail from its shipyard on New York City’s East River, bound for England. Manned by Captain William H. Brown and a crew of 12, the America raced and overtook numerous ships during the Atlantic crossing.
After being outfitted and repainted in France, the America sailed to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to challenge the best British sailboats in their own waters. At Cowes, America welcomed all comers for a match race, but no English yacht accepted the challenge.
Finally, on August 22, the America joined 14 British ships for a regatta around the Isle of Wight. The prize was the Hundred Guinea Cup, a 2-foot-high silver jug put up by the Royal Yacht Squadron.
In the 53-mile race, the America trounced the competition, beating the cutter Aurora by 22 minutes and finishing nearly an hour ahead of the third boat, the schooner Bacchante. Queen Victoria watched the race from her royal yacht, and at one point asked, “What is second?” after seeing the America come over the horizon. Her attendant reportedly replied, “Your Majesty, there is no second.” – Full Story.