Beken of Cowes. Lulworth & Britannia, 1925



R.Y.S. £100 Cup Race

The Royal Yacht Squadron, which hosted the regatta open to all nations the prize being a £100 Cup race round the Isle of Wight, allowed an overseas yacht to enter for the first time in 1851. The yacht ‘America’ was built that year to an innovative new design and had sailed to the Solent in search of racing. Initially excluded from racing against British yachts, she was finally allowed to enter the regatta for the £100 Cup.

With the complex tides and shallow areas of the Solent it was natural for ‘America’ to hire the services of a Pilot and in due course Robert Underwood was employed to guide them through the very tricky waters off the Island. Although the race programme [was advertised ??? as rounding the Nab Light  and then the Isle of Wight, leaving all to Starboard, [some of the RYS sailing instructions did not specify that the Nab Light had to be rounded]  and whilst the four leaders tacked away to round the Nab Light, Underwood directed ‘America’s’ Skipper to press on through the shallow area, missing the Nab Light and saving a very considerable distance. “America” [America was already gaining on the leaders as they approached the Nab Light] took the lead and held it to win the race, although the nearest British boat closed to just a few minutes behind ‘America’ at the finish.

The owners of yacht America took the Trophy was home to the USA.  Instead of keeping the trophy simply as a souvenir of their great victory, the owners repurposed the trophy by creating an international challenge cup contest for sailing yachts and vessels.  In July 1857, the surviving owners officially presented the trophy (the trophy having been informally given to the Club in October 1851) with its conditions—The Deed of Gift—to the New York Yacht Club . The New York Yacht Club accepted the trophy and its conditions, initiating what would become the most prestigious yachting contest.  

Foreign yacht clubs were able to challenge the New York Yacht Club to win the cup and a series of larger and larger yachts were designed to compete.