THE BEGINNING (1851-1920)



Vigilant - 1893
Herreshoff Museum)
 
 
Defender - 1895
Herreshoff Museum)
 
 
 
Resolute - 1920
Herreshoff Museum)

 1870 - NEW YORK (USA)
MAGIC (USA) def. CAMBRIA (UK) - 1 / 0
The 90-foot schooner Magic (R.F. Loper) led a fleet of 14 sailboats from the NYYC in a single 35-mile race off New York, defeating Great Britain’s Cambria, which was owned by James Ashbury.

The 108-foot Cambria, designed and built by Michael Ratsey of Cowes, finished 10th overall, beaten also by the namesake of the America’s Cup.

 1871 - NEW YORK (USA)
COLOMBIA/SAPPHO (USA) def. LIVONIA (UK) - 4 / 1
The schooner Columbia, designed and built by J.B. Van Deusen, and a second schooner, Sappho, from the board of C. & R. Poillon, easily defeated a second challenge from James Ashbury and Michael Ratsey’s schooner Livonia.

Columbia won the first two races, but lost the third after losing a jib stay and her steering gear. As was the custom at the time, Sappho was allowed to sail in the next two races of the seven-race series, winning them both.

 1876 - NEW YORK (USA)
MADELEINE (USA) def. CONTESS OF D. (CAN) - 2 / 0
Alexander Cuthbert’s 106-foot Countess of Dufferin of Ontario, Canada, mounted the third challenge. This was last time schooners raced for the America’s Cup.

Defender Madeleine—owned by John S. Dickerson, designed by J. Voorhis, and skippered by J. Williams—was unbeatable in the two-race series, as she had been for the previous three years.

 1881 - NEW YORK (USA)
MISCHIEF (USA) def. ATLANTA (CAN) - 2 / 0
The 68-foot cutter Mischief, owned by NYYC member Joseph Busk of England and designed by A. Carey Smith, quickly dispatched, 2-0, a second challenge from Canadian Alexander Cuthbert, who sailed Atalanta.

Mischief was originally a trial horse for the David Kirby-designed Pocahontas, but sailed so well during the trials, she was selected to defend the Cup.

 1885 - NEW YORK (USA)
PURITAN (USA) def. GENESTA (UK) - 2 / 0
Puritan, a 94-foot cutter designed by Ed Burgess, defeated Genesta, designed by J. Beavor Webb and owned by Sir Richard Sutton.

It was the closest match yet, with Genesta winning the first race after her mainsail was punctured by Puritan’s lengthy bowsprit. However, Sutton, a noted sportsman, asked that the race be dismissed, not wanting to claim such an easy victory.

Puritan, owned by a Boston-based syndicate headed by General Charles Paine, then won the next two races, but the second one was the closest race to date: a mere 1 minute, 30 seconds separated the two sailboats.

 1886 - NEW YORK (USA)
MAYFLOWER (USA) def. GALATEA (UK) - 2 / 0
Designer Edward Burgess claimed his second victory over J. Beavor Webb, his British counterpart, when the 100-foot Mayflower sent the lavishly appointed cutter Galatea back to England after two races.

The Mayflower, and others like her, was characterized as a "skimming dish"" for her broad beam and shallow draft.

 1887 - NEW YORK (USA)
VOLONTEER (USA) def. THISTLE (SCOT.) - 2 / 0
The George L. Watson-designed Thistle set several America’s Cup precedents with an innovative design and a hull kept hidden behind a tarpaulin. The 108-foot sloop was thought to be Britain’s best chance yet for recapturing the America’s Cup.

But the precedent that counted most—winning—was also maintained, as the Edward Burgess-designed Volunteer came from behind to take the first race, and led from start to finish in the second race of the three-race series. The Cup was saved again.

 1893 - NEW YORK (USA)
VIGILANT (USA) def. VALKYRIE II (UK) - 3 / 0
The defender Vigilant signalled a new era for the America’s Cup and sailboat design. The 125-foot sloop was the first of six Cup defenders designed by Nathaniel G. "Nat" Herreshoff, known as the "Wizard of Bristol" (Rhode Island) and considered by many to be the father of modern sailboat design.

However, designer George Watson designed another fast sailboat in Valkyrie II. The five-race series was closely fought, with Vigilant scoring a come-from-behind 40-second victory over Lord Dunraven’s Valkyrie II in the second race.

 1895 - NEW YORK (USA)
DEFENDER (USA) def. VALKYRIE III (UK) - Abandon
The controversial series between William K. Vanderbilt’s Defender and Lord Dunraven’s Valkyrie ended officially as a 3-0 victory for Defender, designed by Nat Herreshoff.

However, Defender only won a single race, the first, on the water. As the two sailboats approached the starting line in the second race, the mainsail boom of the George Watson-designed Boat hit Defender’s topmast stay, which broke. Defender’s crew made emergency repairs, but could not overcome the handicap. The race committee reversed the outcome, however, disqualifying Valkyrie.

The angry Lord Dunraven blamed the incident on the large spectator fleet crowding around the starting line. In protest, he had his sailboat withdraw from the third race immediately after crossing the starting line, ending the series.

 1890 - NEW YORK (USA)
COLOMBIA (USA) def. SHAMROCK (UK) - 3 / 0
This series marked the entrance of Thomas Lipton onto the America’s Cup scene. But the outcome became a recurring nightmare for the beloved yachtsman from Britain. Lipton and his Shamrock sailboats challenged a record five times for the "Auld Mug," but left empty handed after each one.

The third in the legendary line of Herreshoff sailboats was the 131-foot Columbia, which sported a fin keel and 90 tons of lead ballast. The William Fife-designed Shamrock was a quick boat, but proved no match for Columbia, which was skippered by the renowned Charlie Barr.

 1901 - NEW YORK (USA)
COLOMBIA (USA) def. SHAMROCK II (UK) - 3 / 0
Nat Herreshoff’s Columbia proved faster than any newer designs and was selected to defend the Cup a second time. Lipton, on the other hand, commissioned George Watson to design the 137-foot Shamrock II, and with her 14,000 square feet of sail, she looked like a winner.

But Columbia came from behind in all three races to take the series. The third race was the closest. Just two seconds separated the huge sloops as they crossed the finish line, but Columbia, the smaller of the two, had 41-second time allowance, giving her a 43-second victory.


 1903 - NEW YORK (USA)
RELIANCE (USA) def. SHAMROCK III (UK) - 3 / 0
It was no accident that the defense syndicate headed by two of the biggest names in U.S. industry, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William Rockfeller, built the largest sailboat in the history of the America’s Cup. Herreshoff was again commissioned to design and build it, launching the bronze-and-steel sloop Reliance.

The massive sailboat was 143 feet long, had a 116-foot boom, and carried in excess of 16,000 square feet of sail. And again Lipton’s sailboat, this time Shamrock III, was out-matched, losing the last race by such a large margin that she was forced to retire before finishing.

 1920 - NEW YORK (USA)
RESOLUTE (USA) def. SHAMROCK IV (UK) - 3 / 2
Lipton’s fourth challenge, the one he came closest to winning, was postponed six years because of World War I. But it seemed worth the wait.

Armed with his Charles Nicholson-designed Shamrock IV, Lipton thought he had the Cup at last after his shamrock sailboat won the first two races over the NYYC’s Resolute. The third race Shamrock IV also won boat-for-boat, but the 107-foot sailboat won on handicap.

In the final two races, the Herreshoff-designed Resolute was not seriously challenged. The Cup remained in NYYC.