American Cup Yacht Race History since 1851 from Isle of Wight in Britain

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Milan @media4marinecom

11/12/20203 min read

The America's Cup: A Story in Bullet Points


  • The America's Cup, also known as the Auld Mug, is a prestigious sailing trophy.

  • It is the oldest international competition in any sport, awarded in sailing.

Format of the Races:

  • Match races occur between two sailing yachts: the defender (holding the cup) and the challenger.

  • Races are held every few years, agreed upon by the defender and challenger.

  • No fixed schedule; historically, races occur every three to four years.

Origins and Donation:

  • Originally called 'R.Y.S. £100 Cup,' awarded in 1851 by the British Royal Yacht Squadron.

  • Won by the schooner America, owned by a syndicate from the New York Yacht Club (NYYC).

  • Permanently donated to the NYYC in 1857 under the Deed of Gift, renaming it the 'America's Cup.'

  • Deed requires perpetual international competition.

Challenges and Defenses:

  • Any yacht club meeting deed requirements can challenge the cup holder.

  • If the challenger wins, it gains stewardship of the cup.

  • Early defenses had only one challenger, but multiple challengers introduced selection series from 1970.

  • Prada Cup (formerly Louis Vuitton Cup) determines the official challenger.

Significance and Cost:

  • The America's Cup attracts top sailors, yacht designers, entrepreneurs, and sponsors.

  • A test of sailing skill, boat design, fundraising, and management.

  • Highly expensive; modern teams spend over $100 million each.

Historical Significance:

  • NYYC held the cup for 132 years until defeated by the Royal Perth Yacht Club's Australia II in 1983.

  • Longest winning streak in any sport.

  • Early races were between large yachts; classes evolved over time.

Rule Changes:

  • Post-WWII, the 12-metre class replaced larger yachts.

  • In 1990, the International America's Cup Class replaced the 12-metre class.

  • The 2010 America's Cup saw 90 ft multihull yachts; subsequent races used foiling catamarans.

Current Status:

  • The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron holds the cup after winning the 36th America's Cup in 2021.

  • Defended with AC75 foiling monohull named Te Rehutai.

  • The 37th and 38th America's Cup matches will use AC75 class yachts.

Historical Development:

  • The Cup is an ornate sterling silver ewer crafted in 1848.

  • Named "R.Y.S. £100 Cup" and later officially as the "America's Cup."

  • First challenge in 1870; subsequent challenges and rule changes over the years.

1851: America Wins the Cup:

  • America, a schooner, won the inaugural race in 1851, beating 15 yachts in the Isle of Wight regatta.

  • Queen Victoria famously asked about the second-place yacht, and the reply was, "Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second."

1870–1881: First Challenges:

  • James Lloyd Ashbury's challenge in 1870 led to the first dispute over the format.

  • The 1876 challenge was the first contested between two yachts only.

  • Challenges between 1881 and 1887 saw rule amendments and innovation.

1885–1887: The NYYC Rule:

  • The Deed of Gift amended in 1881 to require challenges only from yacht clubs on the sea.

  • Introduction of a new rating rule by Archibald Cary Smith in response to unsuccessful Canadian challenges.

  • British challenger Thistle was defeated by the American Volunteer in 1887.

1889–1903: The Seawanhaka Rule:

  • The NYYC adopted the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club's rating rule in 1887.

  • Nathanael Herreshoff found loopholes, influencing yacht design.

  • The races between 1889 and 1903 involved innovative designs and controversies.

1903: The 13th America Cup Yacht Race:

  • The introduction of the Universal Rule by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1914.

  • Changes in yacht design and challenges leading up to World War I.

  • The Seawanhaka Rule led to advancements in yacht design.

1914–1937: The Universal Rule:

  • The cancellation of the 1914 America's Cup due to World War I.

  • Introduction of the Universal Rule in 1914, considering overall length and displacement.

  • The 1934 races involved technological advancements and disputes.

1956–1987: The Twelve-Metre Rule:

  • Shift to 12-metre class yachts in 1956 for cost reasons.

  • Challenges from British and Australian teams in the late 1950s and 1960s.

  • Alan Bond's challenges and the historic victory of Australia II in 1983.

1987: The First America's Cup Outside the U.S.:

  • Interest in challenging increased in 1970, leading to multiple challenger regattas.

  • Alan Bond's challenges in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Australia II's victory in 1983, ending NYYC's 132-year reign.

  • Technological controversies and changes in yacht design.

1956–1987: The Twelve-Metre Rule (Continued):

  • Transition to the Twelve-Metre Rule in 1956.

  • Challenges from Britain, Australia, and other countries in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Alan Bond's unsuccessful challenges in the 1970s.

  • Technological advancements, controversies, and the introduction of fiberglass hulls.


  • The America's Cup has evolved through various rule changes, yacht designs, and challenges.

  • It remains a pinnacle in sailing, combining tradition, innovation, and international competition.