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History of the America’s Cup

Flurry of Challenges

1885 || 1886 || 1887 || 1893 || 1895


1885 - Puritan Defeats Britain’s Genesta, 2-0

Puritan, a 94-foot cutter designed by Edward Burgess (pictured right), 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.

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


1886 - Mayflower Over Galatea, 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 - Thistle No Thorn in Side of Volunteer, 2-0 Winner

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 - Vigilant Defeats Valkyrie |, 3-0

The defender Vigilant (pictured left) 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 |. The five-race series was closely fought, with Vigilant scoring a come-from-behind 40-second victory over Lord Dunraven’s Valkyrie | in the second race.

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


1895 - Defender Lives Up to Name, Valkyrie |I Withdraws

The controversial series between William K. Vanderbilt’s Defender and Lord Dunraven’s Valkyrie |I ended officially as a 3-0 victory for Defender, designed by Nat Herreshoff (pictured right). 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 Valkyrie |I 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 |I. 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.

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


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