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History of the America’s Cup

The Beginning

1851 || 1870 || 1871 || 1876 || 1881


1851 - America Triumphs Over Britannia

A radically designed black schooner from New York went to Cowes on the Isle of Wight to challenge the best British sailboats in their own waters. The stakes: the One Hundred Guinea Cup, a tall silver pitcher that became, with the America’s victory, the trophy of trophies, the Holy Grail of international sailboat racing.

Led by New York Yacht Club Commodore John Cox Stevens, the schooner America defeated Aurora and 13 other British vessels in the Race of Nations around the Isle of Wight on August 22, 1851.


1870 - Magic, et al., Defeat Cambria, 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.

Photo: Copyright Mystic Seaport Museum, from the book "America's Cup '95: The Official Record," published by Tehabi Books.


1871 - Columbia, Sappho Tag-Team Britain’s Livonia, 4-1

The centerboard 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 - Madeleine Dispatches Canada’s Countess of Dufferin, 2-0

Alexander Cuthbert’s 106-foot Countess of Dufferin (pictured left) of Ontario, Canada, mounted the third challenge for the Cup, but 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. This was last time schooners raced for the America’s Cup.

Photo: Copyright Mystic Seaport Museum, from the book "America's Cup '95: The Official Record," published by Tehabi Books.


1881 - Mischief Downs Atalanta of Canada, 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.

Photo: Copyright Mystic Seaport Museum, from the book "America's Cup '95: The Official Record," published by Tehabi Books.

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