by Rob Mundle
The oldest trophy in the history of international sport, the America’s Cup, will be the spectacular centrepiece at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week this month, and while there it will celebrate a remarkable milestone: the 160th anniversary of when it was first contested in 1851.
The venue is as spectacular as the racing.
Sporting history reveals that the contest for this remarkable trophy began before sports such as tennis, soccer, rugby union and cricket, as well as the modern Olympics, appeared on the world stage.
Over the centuries this bold yet ornately styled silver ewer has stood as the ultimate prize in international yachting, and the aura that has surrounded it has drawn some of the world’s most influential and successful tycoons, and its greatest sailors, to the contest.
The Cup is currently held by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club after it was won by Larry Ellison’s giant trimaran, BMW Oracle, in a series against the Swiss defender, Alinghi, in Spain last year. Australian Jimmy Spithill skippered Ellison’s yacht.
This will be only the third time that the Cup has been seen in Australia, so its presence at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week is high recognition of the stature that this regatta now holds on the international sailing scene.
‘We are extremely honoured to have the America’s Cup at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week,’ said the Chairman of Hamilton Island Enterprises, Sandy Oatley. ‘Hamilton Island is already well recognised across the world as an award winning holiday destination, and now the presence of the America’s Cup at Race Week confirms we are also well recognised as an international destination for sailing and boating.’
This year Audi Hamilton Island Race Week will be staged from 19 to 27 August. To date 192 yachts have entered.
With Am Cup (lr)
The America’s Cup visit to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week was organised by Iain Murray, the Commodore of Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Murray is also the CEO and Regatta Director for the next America’s Cup match, which will be staged in San Francisco in 2013. Murray’s direct association with the America’s Cup spans almost 30 years. In that time he has been credited with making significant contributions towards the development of the event, particularly through yacht design and development.
It was on 22 August, 1851 that the New York Yacht Club’s rakish and radical schooner, America, beat the best yachts the English could muster in a race around the Isle of Wight. The stunning victory led to the Americans being awarded the Royal Yacht Squadron’s ‘100 Guinea Cup’, a trophy that had been created for international competition and was being contested for the first time.
Queen Victoria, who was watching from the deck of the Royal Yacht off Cowes, accepted the salute from the American crew as they crossed the finish line then asked one of her aides which yacht was second. The response became a now legendary phrase: ‘Your Majesty, there is no second.’ The British yachts were so far back they could not be seen.
When New York Yacht Club Commodore, John Cox Stevens, and his associates who owned the winning yacht returned home they donated the trophy to the club, their Deed of Gift stating it was to be ‘a perpetual challenge cup for friendly competition between nations’. It was also decided that the Cup should take the name of the yacht that won the inaugural contest, the schooner, America.
For 132 years the America’s Cup remained secure on its plinth in the New York Yacht Club as the symbol of world yachting supremacy. In that time the club had met 25 foreign challenges and defeated each one through what many considered to be fair means or foul.
The history of the Cup changed dramatically on September 26, 1983 when Australia II, which was backed by a very determined West Australian, Alan Bond, shocked the world by ending what was the longest winning streak in sporting history. The radical Ben Lexcen designed yacht with its famous winged keel came from behind in a cliff-hanger series to take the prize four races to three.
During Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Iain Murray and the Vice-Commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, Tom Ehman, will be speaking at forums about the America’s Cup as an event, and the exciting new catamarans that will be competing in the 34th match in 2013.
The cup will be on prominent display at Hamilton Island Yacht Club throughout the week.
Hamilton Island Race Week’s naming rights sponsor, luxury carmaker Audi, is Australia’s largest corporate sponsor of yachting.
More at www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au