The America’s Cup

In a century and a half it has produced six sublime, increasingly expensive boats—and competition so ferocious it is beginning to transcend national allegiances

Big yachts have been sailing for the America’s Cup since 1851, which makes it the oldest international sporting trophy in continuous competition. That it has survived for so long seems to defy common sense. No contest could seem more anachronistic than a four-hour race held miles from shore between two otherwise useless objects moving slower than a good marathon runner and maneuvering under rules so complex that even the participants cannot agree about them. But if the America’s Cup survives and thrives, it is precisely because it is so anachronistic.Read more »

The America’s Cup Challenge — 1903

“They tell me I have a beautiful boat,” said the challenger, Sir Thomas Lipton. “What I want is a boat to lift the Cup.”

The record of competition for the America’s Cup is a patriot’s dream. After twenty-four challenges for the trophy, first awarded to the schooner America in 1851 after she defeated a fleet of British rivals, America has never lost. In this hopelessly one-sided history, 1903 stands out as a classic confrontation. In that year the Irish millionaire Sir Thomas Lipton, by now almost as famous for his yachting as for his tea empire, was making his third try for the Cup.Read more »

Barnacle Ben, The Sailor

The yacht America was a well-travelled twenty-two-year-old when, in June of 1873, Ben Butler bought her for a mere $5,000. (He was the only bidder at an auction kindly arranged by cronies in the Navy Department.