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America's Cup

History, Rules & Trivia

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George Wickes founded a silversmith operation in 1722, which would later become the famous R&S Girrard & Company that was asked to become the official royal jewelers for Queen Victoria in 1843. In England, the Girrard silver shop became a popular attraction and the prime location for purchasing upper-quality household items and gifts of fine silver for elite special occasions. To accommodate the masses, the Girrard Company kept lines of ready-made silver items on hand; silver trophy awards were popular in England.

A brief history of the America’s Cup yachting races:

The America’s Cup sterling silver trophy was made in 1848 by the Girrard Company in England. This special trophy was displayed with three to six identical copies for sale at the Girrard establishment when Henry W. Paget, First Marquess of Angelsey, purchased one of these elaborate Rococo-style awards as a gift to friends at a local yacht club. The Girrard silver trophy became the prize for the Royal Yacht Squadron’s year-1851, annual racing event around the Isle of Wight. The America’s Cup races were born in England.

Originally, the America’s Cup trophy was known as the Royal Yacht Squadron L100 Cup or, R.Y.S. L100 Cup that indicates a trophy worth 100 British Pounds. The R.Y.S. Cup was mistakenly engraved as the ‘100 Guinea Cup’ after the 1851 race by people who did not understand that the Guinea reference gave more worth to the award than actual value. The America Cup is affectionately called the ‘Auld Mug’ by yacht racing enthusiasts and is also commonly known as the ‘Queens Cup’ in honor of the founding of the yacht race.

Notes about the original America’s Cup race:

In 1850, Commodore John C. Stevens was a member of the original New York Yacht Club. Stevens created a six-person organization to build a sailing vessel to compete for money in the popular English yachting events. This organization contracted with boat-designer George Steers to create the 101-foot schooner yacht called ‘The America’. The America first launched on May 3, 1851; on August 22, 1851, the yacht: America raced with 15 Royal Yacht Squadron vessels around the Isle of Wight to win the R.Y.S. Cup.

Commodore Stevens and his organization owned the R.Y.S. Cup as payment for winning the year-1851 annual Royal Yacht Squadron races. Their vessel, America, arrived at the finish line eight-minutes before the next boat to finish; when Queen Victoria asked who placed second, she was told that there are no second place awards in yacht racing. On July 8, 1857, the Commodore Stevens organization donated their award to the New York Yacht Club on stipulation that their America Cup would become a perpetual race trophy.

The America’s Cup trophy was transferred to the New York Yacht Club through a legal document called: Deed of Gift of the America’s Cup. The Deed of Gift detailed the rules and regulations that had to be met before the America’s Cup could change hands into the possession of future yachting race winners. The Deed of Gift rules are the official rules that are used in every America’s Cup yacht racing event. While boating styles continue to modify and change over the years, the Cup cannot be awarded unless all rules are met.

The America’s Cup Official Rules:

(Quote from Public Records:)

This Deed of Gift, made the twenty-fourth day of October, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven, between George L. Schuyler as sole surviving owner of the Cup won by the yacht AMERICA at Cowes, England, on the twenty-second day of August, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one, of the first part, and the New York Yacht Club, of the second part, as amended by orders of the Supreme Court of the State of New York dated December 17, 1956, and April 5, 1985.


That the said party of the first part, for and in consideration of the premises and of the performance of the conditions and agreements hereinafter set forth by the party of the second part, has granted, bargained, sold, assigned, transferred, and set over, and by these presents does grant, bargain, sell, assign, transfer, and set over, unto said party of the second part, its successors and assigns, the Cup won by the schooner yacht AMERICA, at Cowes, England, upon the twenty second day of August, 1851. To have and to hold the same to the said party of the second part, its successors and assigns, IN TRUST, NEVERTHELESS, for the following uses and purposes:

This Cup is donated upon the conditions that it shall be preserved as a perpetual

Challenge Cup for friendly competition between foreign countries. Any organized Yacht Club of a foreign country, incorporated, patented, or licensed by the legislature, admiralty, or other executive department, having for its annual regatta an ocean water course on the sea, or on an arm of the sea, or one which combines both, shall always be entitled to the right of sailing a match of this Cup, with a yacht or vessel propelled by sails only and constructed in the country to which the Challenging Club belongs, against any one yacht or vessel constructed in the country of the Club holding the Cup.

The competing yachts or vessels, if of one mast, shall be not less than forty-four feet nor more than ninety feet on the load water-line; if of more than one mast they shall be not less than eighty feet nor more than one hundred and fifteen feet on the load water-line.

The Challenging Club shall give ten months' notice, in writing, naming the days for the proposed races; but no race shall be sailed in the days intervening between November 1st and May 1st if the races are to conducted in the Northern Hemisphere; and no race shall be sailed in the days intervening between May 1st and November 1st if the races are to be conducted in the Southern Hemisphere.

Accompanying the ten months' notice of challenge there must be sent the name of the owner and a certificate of the name, rig and following dimensions of the challenging vessel, namely, length on load water-line; beam at load water-line and extreme beam; and draught of water; which dimensions shall not be exceeded; and a custom-house registry of the vessel must also be sent as soon as possible. Center-board or sliding keel vessels shall always be allowed to compete in any race for this Cup, and no restriction nor limitation whatever shall be placed upon the use of such center-board or sliding keel, nor shall the centerboard or sliding keel be considered a part of the vessel for any purposes of measurement.

The Club challenging for the Cup and the Club holding the same may, by mutual consent, make any arrangement satisfactory to both as to the dates, courses, number of trials, rules and sailing regulations, and any and all other conditions of the match, in which case also the ten months' notice may be waived.

In case the parties cannot mutually agree upon the terms of a match, then three races shall be sailed, and the winner of two of such races shall be entitled to the Cup. All such races shall be on ocean courses, free from headlands, as follows: The first race, twenty nautical miles to windward and return; the second race an equilateral triangular race of thirty-nine nautical miles, the first side of which shall be a beat to windward; the third race (if necessary) twenty nautical miles to windward and return; and one week day shall intervene between the conclusion of one race and the starting of the next race. These ocean courses shall be practicable in all parts for vessels of twenty-two feet draught of water, and shall be selected by the Club holding the Cup; and these races shall be sailed subject to its rules and sailing regulations so far as the same do not conflict with the provisions of this deed of gift, but without any times allowances whatever.

The challenged Club shall not be required to name its representative vessel until at a time agreed upon for the start, but the vessel when named must compete in all the races, and each of such races must be completed within seven hours. Should the Club holding the Cup be for any cause dissolved, the Cup shall be transferred to some Club of the same nationality, eligible to challenge under this deed of gift, in trust and subject to its provisions. In the event of the failure of such transfer within three months after such dissolution, such Cup shall revert to the preceding Club holding the same, and under the terms of this deed of gift. It is distinctly understood that the Cup is to be the property of the Club subject to the provisions of this deed, and not the property of the owner or owners of any vessel winning a match.

No vessel which has been defeated in a match for this Cup can be again selected by any Club as its representative until after a contest for it by some other vessel has intervened, or until after the expiration of two years from the time of such defeat. And when a challenge from a Club fulfilling all the conditions required by this instrument has been received, no other challenge can be considered until the pending event has been decided.

AND, the said party of the second part hereby accepts the said Cup subject to the said trust, terms, and conditions, and hereby covenants and agrees to and with said party of the first part that it will faithfully and will fully see that the foregoing conditions are fully observed and complied with by any contestant for the said Cup during the holding thereof by it; and that it will assign, transfer, and deliver the said Cup to the foreign Yacht Club whose representative yacht shall have won the same in accordance with the foregoing terms and conditions, provided the said foreign Club shall, by instrument in writing lawfully executed, enter with said part of the second part into the like covenants as are herein entered into by it, such instrument to contain a like provision for the successive assignees to enter into the same covenants with their respective assignors, and to be executed in duplicate, one to be retained by each Club, and a copy thereof to be forwarded to the said party of the second part.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the said party of the first part has hereunto set his hand and seal, and the said party of the second part has caused its corporate seal to be affixed to these presents and the same to be signed by its Commodore and attested by its Secretary, the day and year first above written.


CLUB H. D. Hamilton. by Elbridge T. Gerry, Commodore (Seal of the New York

Yacht Club) John H. Bird, Secretary

(End Quote from Public Records)

1870-1887 America’s Cup Trivia:

In 1868, railroad tycoon James Lloyd Ashbury became involved with the America’s Cup races. His ‘Cambria’ topsail 188 ton, 1868 design, schooner encouraged English racing enthusiasts to consider regaining the America’s Cup for their country. On August 8, 1870, the ‘Cambria’ raced against seventeen other schooners to place eighth, behind the original aging ‘America’ vessel. Ashbury tried more than once to win the coveted prize.

On or about 1885, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club suffered through an unfavorable series of events while transporting their yacht over land to attend an America’s Cup event. To streamline future delays, new rules were added to the Deed of Gift clauses that required all ships entering the America’s Cup yachting events to arrive at the race location on their own power. America’s Cup vessels could not be built on lakes and then transported.

1899 - 1931 The Lipton Years:

Thomas Johnstone Lipton was born on May 10, 1848 in Glasgow, Scotland to lower-middle class parents who owned a small food shop. At the age of thirteen, Lipton dropped out of school to help his family earn money. In 1864, Thomas J. Lipton signed into a sailing position as a cabin boy aboard a mid-size steamer that ran between Scotland and Ireland; shipmates told young Lipton stories about sailing to America. By 1865, Tom Lipton had sailed to the USA to spend five years exploring the odd-jobs marketplace.

In 1870, Lipton sailed home to Scotland and began to conquer the tea industry. As a working man, Thomas Lipton opened a chain of 300 successful grocery stores between 1870 and 1888, during the era when chain stores were a novelty. In 1888, Lipton became convinced that he could package tea at a reasonable cost for his lower-income customers. By 1899, Charles Lipton had a fortune to spend on attempts to win the America’s Cup races. Between 1899 and 1930, Charles Lipton raced five times for the Cup trophy.

King Edward VII and King George V became friendly with Lipton through their shared love for the yacht races. Thomas Lipton was awarded a special prize for his non-stop efforts to win the America’s Cup for Europe; ‘The Best of All Losers’ Cup was created for Thomas Lipton. Due to the colorful ‘Losing Lipton’ publicity from the America’s Cup races, the Lipton Tea Company became a huge success in America.

Sir Thomas Lipton participated in the America’s Cup races through the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. Birth-status prevented Lipton from racing for the prestigious Royal Yacht Squadron; however, the Royal Yacht Squadron did grant a special membership to Sir Lipton before his death in 1931. Traditionally, the prestigious yacht clubs in Europe were interested in preventing the commoners from mixing with the wealthier bloodlines.

1914-1937 America’s Cup Universal Rule

After the America’s Cup events in 1903 started to produce some unusual construction ideas for yachts, the Universal Rule was added to the mandatory Deed of Gift racing clauses. The Universal Rule added requirements for shipbuilders to achieve an overall length and specific water displacements while outfitting their vessels for yacht racing events. Then, the America’s Cup ships were to be divided into classes to ensure a brand of fairness as newly discovered technologies began to change the nature of yachting.

The Universal Rule package of requirements was not well-liked by the British Yacht Racing Association and the American Yacht Racing Club because it allowed the older styles of completely outfitted and heavier yachts an advantage over the skinned-down yacht designs that were built solely for speed. The New York Yacht Club was in possession of the America’s Cup when the Universal Rule package was adopted. The Universal Rule acted to keep Europeans interested in winning the America’s Cup.

In 1929, Thomas Lipton was attempting his final America’s Cup race at the age of 79. Despite the Wall Street crash of that year, the New York Yacht Club had four entries to defend their Cup against the Lipton threat of a win for Europe. In part to accommodate the U.S. Vanderbilt family entry, the New York Yacht Club relocated the races from New York to Newport, Rhode Island. Harold Vanderbilt skippered his ‘Enterprise’ to a win over the heavy wooden Lipton ‘Shamrock V’ vessel that was not using a duralumin mast.

When Lipton died in 1931, Sir Thomas Sopwith, an aviation specialist, purchased the ‘Shamrock V’ in England to be rebuilt for the next America’s Cup race. The New York Yacht Club adopted a rule after the 1929 race that limited mast weight to only 5,500 pounds so that the American duralumin masts no longer held unfair advantages. In 1934, the Royal Yacht Squadron issued a challenge for the Cup, listing the new steel-clad and aeronautically designed, Sopwith ‘Endeavour’ as the challenging vessel for the race.

While the Sopwith ‘Endeavour’ from England was obviously the fastest vessel in the 1934 America’s Cup race, it lost to the Vanderbilt ‘Rainbow’ representing the New York Yacht Club. Sopwith had created an excellent example of a racing yacht; however, he had not been able to hire the experienced crew from the ‘Shamrock V’ for the ‘Endeavour’ to boast on race day. The United States was able to retain possession of the America’s Cup award against all odds, upsetting the gentlemen betting against the U.S. on the sidelines.

The America’s Cup War Years

During World War I and World War II, the America’s Cup races stopped. After World War I, the sport of yachting was a popular pastime and the racing events were quick to reinstate themselves through new challenges. However, after the 1937 America’s Cup race that was won by Vanderbilt over the Sopwith ‘Endeavour II’ efforts, the Cup races disappeared for 20-years to accommodate World War II and the after wartime lifestyles.

The problems that all yachtsmen were facing after World War II were directed by the Universal Rule that sanctioned huge J-class yachts as the proper America’s Cup racers. After the war, J-class yachts were simply too expensive for any sports enthusiast to make for an entry into the America’s Cup races. The New York Yacht Club was forced to update racing standards before the America’s Cup yachting competitions could continue.

1956 to 1987 America’s Cup 12-Meter Rules

In 1956, American yachting enthusiast Henry Sears led the campaign to replace the J-class America’s Cup yachts with modern 12-meter vessels that measure between 65 and 75 feet from end-to-end. These smaller yachts would allow the wealthy yachtsmen and yachting teams to produce affordable ships for racing. After the 12-meter rules were added to the America’s Cup Deed of Gift requirements, the Cup races resumed in 1958.

In 1958, the Royal Yacht Squadron had a syndicate chaired by Hugh Goodson that sent the ‘Sceptre’ to challenge the United States for their America’s Cup. The ‘Sceptre’ lost to a yacht called ‘Columbia’ that was navigated by Henry Sears. In 1962, Australia joined the America’s Cup races with a challenge from their 12-meter vessel named ‘Gretel’ that lost the race; New York Yacht Club held onto the America’s Cup from 1851 until 1983.

Alan Bond, an Australian businessman, lost at the America’s Cup challenges three times before entering the 1983 races. In 1983, Bond arrived for the Newport, Rhode Island races carrying a golden wrench that he claimed would be used to unbolt the America’s Cup from its plinth so that he could carry it to Australia. There were seven entries into the 1983 qualifying Louis Vuitton Cup races that year; Alan Bond won the America’s Cup.

In 1987, Dennis Conner traveled to Fremantle, Australia to challenge the Royal Perth Yacht Club for the America’s Cup races. Dennis Conner was representing the United States through the San Diego Yacht Club from Southern California. The Conner yacht, ‘Stars and Stripes 87’ easily won the Louis Vuitton qualifying races and went on to win the 1987 America’s Cup challenges to bring the coveted Cup trophy back to America.

The America’s Cup 12-meter races between 1956 and 1987 often had media highlights that featured and explained the newest technologies being used in yacht constructions. As a part of the 12-meter rules, hull constructions had to be certified as the same thickness in all areas to prevent adding an element of speed through hollow-core bows or sterns and the use of layered laminates that can include unseen lightweight interior-core materials.

By 1987, an undercurrent of distrust was running through the America’s Cup festivities as boats arrived made from plastics, fiberglass and unusual wood choices or metal blends. At times, core samples were drilled from hulls; untrasonic viewing machines were used to examine interior construction elements and tempers occasionally flared. Further, there were purists that resented the Louis Vuitton qualifying races preceding main Cup events.

1988 America’s Cup Legal Troubles

Not long after the San Diego Yacht Club won the America’s Cup trophy for the United States, New Zealand yacht racers issued a surprise challenge for the Cup. The syndicate led by Sir Michael Fay from New Zealand officially challenged the San Diego Yacht Club to proceed for an America’s Cup race under the original legal document ‘Deed of Gift’ requirements. The challenging yacht ‘New Zealand’ was huge, a full 90-foot vessel.

Under the original ‘Deed of Gift’ rules, extra racing provisions could only be added if both sides agreed to the rule changes. The New Zealand Fay syndicate was suggesting that the San Diego Yacht Club be forced to quickly fund, build and race a yacht between 70 and 90-feet long, or forfeit the America’s Cup trophy as being unfit to meet the race requirements. The New Zealand ‘Big Boat’ challenge entered the U.S. court system.

The San Diego Yacht Club lost their battle in court. After months of careful scrutiny, the original ‘Deed of Gift’ document had to be followed because the New Zealand group had followed the rules to issue an honest challenge, in a vessel that qualified under document guidelines. The argument that San Diego Yacht Club could not afford to prepare for the America’s Cup races was a moot issue; a proper ‘Deed of Gift’ challenge had been made.

San Diego Yacht Club decided to enter a fast-running catamaran vessel under the original ‘Deed of Gift’ rules. The original America’s Cup guidelines did not forbid the entry of a catamaran; however, this type of multi-hull vessel was also not mentioned on the legal document. Now, with both New Zealand and California attempting to best the America’s Cup system, the 1988 Cup races were won by the San Diego Yacht Club catamaran.

New Zealand was upset over the catamaran win and took the San Diego Yacht Club back to court to determine if a catamaran was allowed under the original ‘Deed of Gift’ rules. New Zealand felt that a catamaran was not the type of boat that the original ‘Deed of Gift’ rules had been written for; however, the final New York appeals ruling sided with the San Diego Yacht Club catamaran. San Diego Yacht Club kept their prized award.

1992 International America’s Cup Class

After the 1988 shenanigans between the Fay New Zealand ‘Big Boat’ and the San Diego Yacht Club catamaran, the America’s Cup races devised an International America’s Cup Class (IACC) set of rules that voids the 12-meter class used between 1956 and 1988. In 1992, Italy issued a challenge to the San Diego Yacht Club from billionaire Raul Gardini and his ‘II Moro di Venezia’ yacht; billionaire Bill Koch won this race for America.

In 1995, the Louis Vuitton qualifying races for the America’s Cup were made memorable through the media news presentations that globally broadcast the unfortunate sinking of the oneAustralia entry. During these media announcements, yacht racing history, facts and current events were used as “filler” around the shots of the sinking ship. All thoughts turned towards the ‘Mighty Mary’ first female team, on yacht ‘USA-43’ - still racing.

The 1997 America’s Cup Facelift

After New Zealand won possession of the America’s Cup in 1995, this stunning silver relic went on display at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron clubhouse. Between the mid-1980s and 1995, the America’s Cup challenges had become political affairs that were subjected to lots of bad press, rumors and gossip. In 1997, a small-time criminal tried to put an end to the fuss by smashing the America’s Cup with a big sledgehammer.

The London-based Garrard Silver Company that originally made the America’s Cup in 1848 offered to restore the Cup, free of charge, for the global community of yacht racing enthusiasts. The culprit was placed into prison, and the smashed America’s Cup spent three months in London being restored to its original condition. Traditionally, as yachts win the America’s Cup challenges, their names are engraved onto the Cup. In year-2003, and extra 20cm base was added to the America’s Cup to ensure space for new winners.

Year 2000 to 2010: More Creative Disputes

During the year 2000, the United States performed poorly at the qualifying Louis Vuitton qualifying races. The Italy vessel ‘Prada Challenge’ from the Punta Ala Yacht Club was defeated by the New Zealand entry in the Auckland races. This America’s Cup race was disputed through the court systems, with New Zealand retaining possession of the Cup. Year 2000 marked the first time that Cup legal disputes occurred without USA involved.

In 2003, the Louis Vuitton qualifying races saw interesting strategies used by the Swiss contender: the ‘Alinghi’ yacht. Members of the New Zealand 2000 team were enlisted to sail the Swiss yacht that was sponsored by the Geneva, Switzerland SNG yacht club and pharmaceutical billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli. SNG won their America’s Cup challenge against New Zealand in part through using the New Zealand racing team to man the boat.

In 2007, SNG Switzerland chose to hold the prestigious America’s Cup challenges in Valencia, Spain. These races would mark the first time that the America’s Cup race was held in the UK since the original 1851 Royal Yacht Squadron events. Emirates Team New Zealand won the 2007 Louis Vuitton qualifiers and lost the America’s Cup race by one second, to the ‘Alinghi’ vessel that was representing the Swiss SNG yacht club.

The Swiss SNG yachting club was in possession of the America’s Cup trophy at the start of year 2010. Switzerland accepted a challenge from a newly formed Italian yacht club that was seeking to keep the America’s Cup races running in Valencia, Spain. When the Spanish CNEV yachting club and the Swiss SNG club posted their agreed-upon rules for the 33rd America’s Cup competition, America sued to determine CNEV eligibility to race.

On April 2, 2009, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the Italian CNEV yacht club did not meet the requirements to compete under the original ‘Deed of Gift’ requirements. This court decision allowed the Golden Gate Yacht Club to challenge the Swiss SNG club with a one-on-one competition under the original ‘Deed of Gift’ guidelines. The prestigious US Golden Gate Yacht Club won the 2010 possession of the America’s Cup.

The 2013 San Francisco Bay America’s Cup Races

Club Nautico di Roma from Spain challenged the San Francisco Golden Gate Yacht Club to the 34th America’s Cup race; however, after funding troubles with a sponsor, this Italian club withdrew their challenge. On May 12, 2011, the Royal Swedish Yacht Club moved into the position of the official challenger for the event. Unlike prior years, the America’s Cup competition will include winged-sail catamarans in a class called AC-72.

Leading up to the 2013 America’s Cup event to be held in the San Francisco Bay area of California, there will be America’s Cup World Series races in multiple global locations between year 2011 and the dates set for the qualifying rounds and finals in San Francisco. The America’s Cup qualifying rounds and finishing races take place in California over a series of summertime weeks. Sausalito, California is a nearby community to stay in for the exciting San Francisco Bay 2013 America’s Cup yacht racing festivities.

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