There is No Second Place

Like any story, we have to start at the beginning. Before foiling monohulls, multihulls, spinnakers and carbon fiber. This story begins even before J-Class yachts made their debut in the yachting world and in a time where the crew positions included physically move ballast below-decks from one side of the hull to the other during tacks.  

"America" the schooner that won the very first America's Cup

1851 America’s Cup: The schooner ‘America’ as she appeared for the Royal Yacht Squadron regatta August 22nd, 1851. painting by W. G. Wood after a photograph by N. L. Stebbins

The inception of America’s Cup all started in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1851 with John Cox Stevens, the first-ever commodore of the New York Yacht Club. He didn’t know it at the time, but the 101ft schooner, America, he’d commissioned by Geroge Steers would lead to what has been called the world’s oldest sporting championship and a 167 year-long legacy of innovation, competition, and skill.

Stevens grew up the eldest son of a Revolutionary War veteran and steamboat pioneer in Jersey. After building a series of his own yachts, founding the New York Yacht Club, and introducing Cricket to America, Stephens had a thirst for something more. He gathered a 6-person syndicate to commission the building of a magnificent schooner to be a competitive Yankee thoroughbred in British waters.

The race around the Isle of Wight

1851 America's Cup: The lines plan of the American schooner 'America' drawn by George Steers. PICTURES OF YESTERYEAR - Managed by PPL PHOTO AGENCY - Copyright Reserved 1851 America's Cup: The lines plan of the American schooner 'America' drawn by George Steers. CREDIT: Bob Fisher Archive/PPL

1851 America’s Cup: The lines plan of the American schooner ‘America’ drawn by George Steers. CREDIT: Bob Fisher Archive/PPL

On August 22, 1851, a mere 4 months after her launch, America was set to race in Cowes against 15 of the finest yachts and skilled crews that the Royal Yacht Squadron could muster. She was a gamble and ahead of her time. She was built for speed and featured innovative, machine-woven, flat cut sails. Contrary to the rounded bows of the era, America’s bow was concave. The design offered the least resistance to the flow of the water over her bow. And they knew she was fast. On her journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Cowes, the crew recorded impressive 200+nautical mile days.

At the blast of the starting gun, 15 yachts took to the course, racing to defend Britain’s honor. It was a quick 54-nautical-mile race circumnavigating the Isle of Wight. The prize was the “Auld Mug” or the “£100 Cup”, a 27-inch cup made of 134 ounces of silver and worth £100. There were no handicaps and sources say a south-westerly wind prevailed, aided by a strengthening east-going tide. Bets were heavily in favor of Stevens’ Yankee schooner.

There is No Second Place

The "Auld Mug" or "£100 Cup" was renamed "America's Cup" in 1851.

The “Auld Mug” or “£100 Cup” was renamed “America’s Cup” in 1851.

Needless to say, America won the race coming in 8 minutes ahead of her closest competition, a 57 ft. cutter christened Aurora. Of the 15 yachts that started the race, only 5 crossed the finish line. Queen Victora who had come to watch the finish reportedly asked which boat was in second place. The famous reply was “Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second.”

The “Auld Mug” was claimed by the Yanks and renamed the “America’s Cup”. Shortly after her victory, Stevens sold America. However, the legacy of the yacht remained intact. In 1857, the challenge for America’s Cup was declared with the deed of gift. In 1970 the very first America’s Cup Challenge on American waters took place in Newport, Rhode Island.

What would follow is a 167-year-old championship that would birth some of the most innovative yachts and technologies in history. USA 76 would enter the scene in September 2004 as a Challenger in the 32nd America’s Cup the Malmö-Skåne Louis Vitton Cup.

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