What Is the America’s Cup?
The America’s Cup affectionately known as the “Auld Mug”, is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America’s Cup match races between two yachts and is the oldest active trophy in international sport. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America’s Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging for the cup.
The timing of each match is determined by an agreement between the defender and the challenger. The America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy. It will next be raced for in the southern summer, in the early part of 2021.
Any yacht club that meets the requirements specified in the deed of gift has the right to challenge the yacht club that holds the cup. If the challenging club wins the match, it gains stewardship of the cup. The history and prestige associated with the America’s Cup attracts not only the world’s top sailors and yacht designers but also the involvement of wealthy entrepreneurs and sponsors. It is a test not only of sailing skill and boat and sail design, but also of fundraising and management skills.
The America’s Cup is a gold cup offered originally by the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851 for a 53-mile race round the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. The winner was the United States schooner America. The trophy, originally named the ‘£100 Cup’, was renamed the America’s Cup after the yacht and was donated to the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which made the cup available for perpetual international competition.
In 1857 the syndicate that had built the America gave the cup (thereafter known as the America’s Cup) to the New York Yacht Club, which then offered the cup to all challengers. Subsequent races have been sailed off the American coast. The trophy was held by the NYYC from 1857 until 1983 when the Cup was won by the Royal Perth Yacht Club, represented by the yacht Australia II, ending the longest winning streak in the history of sport.
The NYYC successfully defended the trophy twenty-four times in a row before being defeated by the Royal Perth Yacht Club, represented by the yacht Australia II. The NYYC’s reign was the longest winning streak (in terms of date) in the history of all sports. From the first defense of the cup in 1870 through the twentieth defense in 1967, there was always only one challenger.
In 1970, for the first time, there were multiple challengers, so the NYYC agreed that the challengers could run a selection series with the winner becoming the official challenger and competing against the defender in the America’s Cup match. Since 1983, Louis Vuitton has sponsored the Louis Vuitton Cup as a prize for the winner of the challenger selection series.
Early matches for the cup were raced between yachts 65–90 ft (20–27 m) on the waterline owned by wealthy sportsmen. This culminated with the J-Class regattas of the 1930s. After World War II and almost twenty years without a challenge, the NYYC made changes to the deed of gift to allow smaller, less expensive 12-metre class yachts to compete; this class was used from 1958 until 1987. It was replaced in 1990 by the International America’s Cup Class which was used until 2007.
After a long legal battle, the 2010 America’s Cup was raced in 90 ft (27 m) lwl multihull yachts in a best of three “deed of gift” match in Valencia, Spain. The victorious Golden Gate Yacht Club then elected to race the 2013 America’s Cup in AC72 foiling, wing-sail catamarans. Golden Gate Yacht Club successfully defended the cup. The 35th America’s Cup match was announced to be sailed in 50 ft foiling catamarans.
The history of the America’s Cup has included legal battles and disputes over rule changes including most recently over the rule changes for the 2017 America’s Cup. The America’s Cup is currently held by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, who will defend the Cup in the 36th time. The races have exerted great influence on yachting progress, the large sums spent on America’s Cup yachts having raised the science and art of design to a high level of refinement.