- Historic Sites
“ah, Your Majesty, There Is No Second”
The fleet and lovely America showed her stern to Britain’s best and gave her name to international yachting’s most coveted trophy
August 1958 | Volume 9, Issue 5
For the better part of three weeks the America lay at anchor off Cowes while streams of visitors went aboard her—the most suspicious among them looking for evidences of a hidden power plant. Having despaired of drumming up a match race, Stevens finally decided to enter her in the open race of the Yacht Squadron scheduled for August 22. The race was run, to the America ’s, glory and Victoria’s disappointment.
Six days later America had a match race with the new English schooner Titania , which had been entered but had not started in the August 22 contest. The stakes were a paltry £100. The course, covered in a fresh breeze, was twenty miles to windward and return. Thanks in part to the novel lines of her hull and in part to the close weave and taut set of her cotton sails, the America won with ease.
Now, having proved to the skeptical British that Americans could build and sail a boat that would defeat all comers, the America passed to other hands. Her sale price of $25,000 was more than enough to cover the cost of her building and of the summer’s campaign; beyond that there were the stakes of the Titania match and the sterling silver Squadron Cup.
It is not a handsome cup. In fact, it is not a cup at all, being more accurately described as an ewer. It cannot even be used as a receptacle for champagne because it has a hole in the bottom. At first there was some thought of having it melted down and converting the silver into commemorative medals for each of the members of the syndicate, but wiser counsel prevailed, and a few years later the Squadron Cup (sometimes erroneously called the Queen’s Cup) was deeded to the New York Yacht Club to be held in trust as an international trophy and to be known as the America’s Cup. Another thirteen years elapsed before it was put up for competition. On that occasion—in 1870 off Sandy Hook—the cup was defended by a fleet even larger than the British one from which the America had cleverly extracted it. Among the defenders was the nineteen-year-old America herself, which finished fourth behind the winning Magic and was still spry enough to put five yachts between her and the Cambria , the British challenger.
In the years that have since gone by, the fame of the America and her cup have ever been linked together. Of all the conclusions drawn from her British visit, that of John Scott Russell, a Scottish-born naval architect of the day, is the most enlightening. He had formulated the so-called wave-line theory on which the Titania had been built, and subsequently he was in part responsible for the famous English steamer Great Eastern . Commenting on the Yankee schooner’s performance, he wrote: “America reaped a crop of glory; England reaped a crop of wisdom.…It was worth the loss of a race to gain so much.” He referred not only to the speedy underbody of the American schooner, but to the close texture and clever cut of her cotton sails. Herbert L. Stone, late editor of the magazine Yachting , once declared, “Taking its name from the gallant schooner that won it, this [the America’s] Cup has become an emblem of speed supremacy afloat, the most famous sporting trophy in the world.”
Into the ornate design of the trophy there were introduced several shields, on the central one of which the names of thirteen of America ’s competitors were inscribed. It is a curious circumstance that the name of the Aurora , which had pressed so close upon the heels of the America in her first great race, was omitted from the list. Its omission was unpremeditated substantiation of the answer given to Queen Victoria—“Ah, Your Majesty, there is no second.”