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T he America's Cup, first awarded to its namesake, the schooner America, in the mid-19th century, is the most sought-after trophy in sailboat racing.

The America's Cup

America's Cup T he America’s Cup, dating from 1851, is the oldest trophy in international sport and is considered yacht racing’s Holy Grail.

Although there is no prize money awarded to the winner, racing syndicates spend tens of millions of dollars mounting campaigns to either defend or challenge for the America’s Cup and prove their technological supremacy at sea.

Because of the enormous cost and preparation required, the event is held approximately every three years. That rule of thumb is being broken this go-round, however. America’s Cup XXX is scheduled for early in the year 2000 in Auckland, New Zealand, with the challenger selection trials to begin in late 1999.

The regatta is governed by three sets of rules, the “America’s Cup Deed of Gift,” the “Protocol for America’s Cup XXX” and the “Conditions of Match.” The Deed of Gift, written more than 100 years ago, established the event and governs it to this day. The protocol—signed April 23, 1996, by representatives of the defender Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and challenger of record New York Yacht Club—sets down the rules for conducting the 30th defense of the Cup. The Conditions of Match, to be issued at least a year prior to the final match, will establish the specific dates of the races, and address a number techical issues relative to conducting the races.

100 Guinea Cup

Originally known as the 100 Guinea Cup, the trophy became the namesake of New York Yacht Club’s rakish schooner America, which won the trophy after defeating 14 British yachts in the All Nation’s Race at Cowes, Isle of Wight, on August 22, 1851. The race was held in conjunction with Prince Albert’s Great London Exhibition of 1851, which paid tribute to the technological achievements of the time.

That first race was to showcase a country’s ability to build technologically superior—i.e., fast—sailing vessels, which were critical to each nation’s economy and the ability to transport cargo across the seas. That tradition of technological superiority remains as the basis for the America’s Cup. Ultimately, it is a race between sailboats. But because of the highly competitive nature of the event, it also requires superior seamanship to win the America’s Cup.

132-year Winning Streak

To encourage “friendly competition among foreign countries,” George L. Schyler, the the sole surviving owner of the America syndicate, assigned the America’s Cup to New York Yacht Club through a Deed of Gift. New York YC subsequently announced it would accept challenges for the America’s Cup from any organized yacht club of a foreign nation.

The club successfully defended the America’s Cup 24 times over a span of 132 years, ultimately losing the ornate Victorian ewer to Western Australia’s Royal Perth Yacht Club in 1983.

During that period, such internationally renowned people as Sir Thomas Lipton, Cornelius and Harold Vanderbilt, William Rockfeller, Sir T.O.M. Sopwith and Ted Turner vied for the “Auld Mug,” as it is affectionately known.


Dennis Conner, who has won the America’s Cup outright a record three times and participated in a fourth winning campaign, was at the helm of the 12-meter Liberty in the 1983 loss to Alan Bond’s Australia |. Conner staged a remarkable comeback to claim the Cup in 1987 and return it to the United States, this time under the San Diego Yacht Club burgee.

San Diego YC defended the Cup three times before losing it to New Zealand’s Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in 1995. SDYC’s first defense, the so-called “catamaran defense,” came at the expense of a tarnished image for the Cup. After quickly dispatching New Zealander Michael Fay’s 133-foot “big boat” on the water, it took a lengthy year-and-a-half year battle in the New York Supreme Court against New Zealand’s Mercury Bay Boating Club before the Cup was officially retained by the San Diego YC.

Gone Again

In 1992, newcomer Bill Koch’s America³ defeated Italian Raul Gardini’s Il Moro di Venezia, 4-1, marking the debut of the International America’s Cup Class yacht. But San Diego’s third defense was not successful. Not even the venerable Dennis Conner, with veteran Paul Cayard at the helm, could stem the New Zealand tide. The Kiwis won by a stunning 5-0 margin to take the Cup “Down Under” for only the second time in its 144-year history.

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron is now the keeper of the Cup, and will defend it in early 2000. A formidible fleet of challengers is lining up to take it away, including the AmericaOne challenge representing San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club.

The challenging clubs will conduct a months-long series of races amongst themselves to determine which one will face New Zealand in the showdown for the America’s Cup. Challenger of Record New York Yacht Club formed the America’s Cup Challenger Association Inc. to conduct the challenger trials, which are scheduled to begin in late 1999 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Please see the America's Cup Fact Sheet for dates and details of America's Cup XXX.

Original name: 100 Guinea Cup
Height: 26-5/8 inches
Material: 134 ounces of silver-plated Britannia metal*
Crafted by: R. & G. Garrard, Queen’s jewelers, London, circa 1848
Cost: 100 guineas (about £100 sterling)
The cup was made for England’s Royal Yacht Squadron as a yacht racing trophy. It was orginally dubbed the 100 Guinea Cup, as that was its worth. A guinea was roughly equivalent to one British pound (£) sterling.
A seven-inch base was added to the America’s Cup in 1958 to accommodate the additional winners’ names.
* Britannia metal is an alloy, similar to pewter.




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